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July 03, 2007

Get a Grip!

Fishing pliers have become cutting-edge, high-performance tools

Some people may think manufacturers have lost their grip on reality when they produce high-end fishing pliers carrying price tags of $100 or more. Why not go to Wal-Mart and pick up a simple set of needle-nose pliers for $3.99 to keep on the boat? Well, for many reasons.

Inexpensive pliers meant for use on terra firma will most likely disappoint you in the saltwater arena. If the pliers have cutters, they probably won't snip monofilament cleanly. And forget about cutting braided line! As the carbon steel corrodes, it will leave ugly rust stains on everything from your fishing shorts to the boat's gelcoat. And just when you need them most, you'll reach for the pliers to unhook a fish - only to find they've seized up and become useless under a thick coat of rust. Fishing pliers - even those costing much less than $100 - deliver years of service because they're built with corrosion-resistant materials and designed to function as angling tools.

Your Money's Worth
Weekend warriors who don't feel ready to put the price of a new reel toward acquiring a high-dollar hand tool should at least make sure their pliers are made of corrosion-resistant material. Though not 100 percent rust proof, stainless steel represents a strong and relatively inexpensive material that resists corrosion in saltwater settings. For $16 or less, you can find stainless fishing pliers from Hi-Seas and Coast Cutlery. Coast's Pro Fish models include a feature that anglers may not use every trip, but will certainly appreciate when the need arises: a split-ring opener.

Manufacturers of top-end reels such as Accurate, Alutecnos and Van Staal apply their metalworking experience toward crafting extraordinary fishing pliers. These tools cost from $135 to more than $200. What does that much cash buy? Most importantly, you get a precision tool with a useful life span that will probably outlast yours.

Ben Secrest, sales manager for Accurate Fishing Products, explains why it's worth the money to buy a set of Accurate Piranha pliers. "We make them with high-quality materials. The handles are not die-cast; they're cut and machined from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminum," he says. "That gives you the best of both worlds: extreme durability and light weight. Then we anodize the aluminum for corrosion resistance."

The stainless-steel jaws and cutters receive a Teflon coating for enhanced  corrosion resistance. Although replaceable (one Phillips-head screw secures each cutter; two hold each jaw insert), these parts should last a lifetime under normal use. Accurate offers "split-tip" jaws for metal-jigging fanatics and other anglers who must open split rings frequently.

A diamond-grid pattern helps the jaws clutch hooks when releasing fish or grasp tag ends when cinching knots. After completing that knot, the Piranha's cutters can trim monofilament and braided lines. "We designed the cutters to sever Spectra cleanly," Secrest says. "Like a pair of scissors, they make a perfect cut    without fraying the line."

Another very strong, light and corrosion-resistant alloy - titanium - has become more widely used in the tackle industry. At least two manufacturers, Donnmar and Van Staal, offer titanium pliers with replaceable cutters that cleanly slice mono, braid and wire. The price tags on these tools reflect the precision workmanship as well as the costly raw materials.

Offshore Interests
Secrest recommends the 7-inch Piranhas for inshore anglers and guides who deal mainly with monofilament and braided lines. Accurate's customer service manager, Matt Harper, says the 7- and 8-inch models are essentially the same on the business end. "The 8-inch Piranha works better in offshore applications because the handles are a little longer and broader through the grip for more leverage."

The Ichiban Mono Rigging & Cutting pliers, Krok Billfisher and other tools designed specifically for use by big-game anglers feature heavy-duty construction to withstand the rigors of cutting thick mono and wire. While long-nosed pliers prove ideal for reaching in and removing relatively small hooks from the mouths of inshore fish such as snook or seatrout, the stout, blunt jaws of offshore pliers instill more confidence when grabbing and holding large hooks.

Cutting wire takes effort, and wide handles cushioned with rubber or other material protect the mate's mitts when putting the squeeze on heavy leaders. Non-slip handles also provide a sure grip that facilitates the task of unhooking a marlin at boat-side.