From removing hooks to untangling knots, the right tool can make all the difference.
By Gibbs Milliken
A few well-designed gadgets will help make sure that your fishing hours remain focused on the fun. Of the hundreds of tools available to anglers, some are truly essential for safety, while others are just extremely handy. One of the most ingenious is the Folstaf, which can help avert dangerous falls. The unit is carried folded in a small belt-sheath. When removed by its cork grip, the pole sections instantly bungee-jump together into a full-length (41 to 59 inches) rigid aluminum staff that can be used as a probe and as a support for crossing rough terrain or wade-fishing in swift and unpredictable waters. ($125, Folstaf, (607) 397-9133, www.folstaf.com).
Another safety device, the Petzl Duo Headlamp, offers hands-free lighting to anyone night fishing or navigating dark trails and watercourses. It is a waterproof unit with two lighting modes. General illumination is provided by 14 LED bulbs, or for long distance lighting, just flip a switch for the stronger quartz halogen adjustable beam spotlight. ($114, Petzl Duo LED 14/ Halogen with battery belt pack, Petzl America, (801) 926-1500, www.petzl.com).
Among the handiest of fishing tools are the Bassmasters Line Clippers that include a knot pick, serrated lure tuner, hook file and flat head screwdriver. With an oversize thumb bar, it is easier to use than conventional clippers. For accessibility and to prevent loss, they are best carried on a neck lanyard or clipped to a pocket or vest. ($3.99, Line Clippers, #21-421-800-00, Bass Pro Shops, (800) 227-7776) www.basspro.com).
Handling fish with sharp teeth and spines can be painful. The Baker Stainless Hookout has a trigger-style grip that activates rounded pincer jaws at the end of a long shank, allowing quick and easy extractions without injury to you or the fish. The tool comes in two sizes, standard 9-1/2 inches or short 6-1/2 inches. ($14.89, Standard Stainless Hookout, $11.99, Shorty Stainless Hookout, Academy Sports & Outdoors, (877) 999-9856, www.academy.com)
Top-rated among saltwater anglers and professional guides wanting the ultimate in durability are the 6-inch Van Staal Titanium Long Nose Pliers that can stand years of service in the marine environment. The spring-loaded, channel-cut jaws have maximum holding and cutting power. Designed for rigging terminal tackle, they come with replaceable tungsten cutters; a textured nonslip metal finish, coiled lanyard and leather belt case. ($279, Combination Pliers Set, Van Staal, (800) 718-7335, www.vanstaal.com).
A must-have tool for positive hook-sets is a Diamond Hook Sharpener with a groove to put a fine point on dull hooks. The self-contained unit is small, lightweight and clips in any pocket like a writing pen. The diamond-coated rod will also sharpen both cutlery and tools. ($5.95, Diamond Sharpener Model S, Eze-Lap Diamond Products, (800) 843-4815, www.eze-lap.com).
Long-handled dip-nets can make it much easier to land larger fish, but those nets are a nuisance to carry and often tangle with other gear. To avoid these problems, try the Spro Stowaway Net that opens with the flip of the wrist. This net features a light and sturdy carbon graphite extension handle with locking sections for either a short or long reach. Fully extended it is 5-1/2 feet in length with a 2-foot soft mesh net. After use, the unit quickly collapses and is secured by a Velcro strap for easy stowage and transport. ($79, Stowaway Net, Spro Corp., (770) 919-1722, www.spro.com).
Most of these tools are designed for marine conditions, but even stainless steel requires oiling to prevent rust. Anglers find they enjoy the sport more if they keep their gear to a minimum. This is fine so long as you have a few essential items that help to keep your baits or lures in the water. Nothing is more frustrating than to spend half an hour untangling a backlash with only your fingernails to pick out the knots.