Fishing can be fun — and frustrating. However, a well-tooled fisherman will not only catch and eat more fish but also have an easier time doing it. Consider the following items to make your next angling experience more bountiful.
Clippers: Simple fingernail clippers are an invaluable aid in making fast lure changes. Say you have a lure that you want off your line. Simply clip the line, and the knot from the lure itself, properly dispose of the line with the rest of your trash.
Feel the line with your finger, then make sure to cut the line above where it may have been stressed or frayed, from being pulled over rocks, hung around itself, or frayed from the business end of a fish. This way, the next lure will be tied with strong and non-twisted line. Then after tying on the next lure, closely trim the excess line from the knot with the clippers, making the lure ready for presentation.
Knife: I don’t use a knife as much as others while fishing do, though some people trim their line with them. A knife will work in a pinch. Knives are important for other outdoor chores. Bring one along so you won’t use your fillet knife to cut rope.
Swiss Army knives and multi-tools come in handy in the backcountry, whether you are pulling a splinter from your foot with tweezers or opening a can.
Fillet knife: A fillet knife is another matter. A fillet knife is necessary if you are going to keep and cook your catch. Make sure it is sharp. I still remember with regret the four-pound smallmouth I mangled with a dull fillet knife on the Buffalo River of Tennessee. It was about dark when we pulled up to camp. It had been a while since my friend had been fishing, and he failed to check or sharpen his fillet knife before we embarked. I failed to bring my own. His knife was dull. If I had known what little meat would be left after mangling the fish I would’ve sent it back to fight another day.
When purchasing a fillet knife, make sure it is sharp and has a good sheath. Today’s blades have a locking feature and a snapping sheath, because a sharp fillet knife will cut anything with which it comes into contact. Consider bringing a whetstone to keep it sharp.
Hemostats/pliers: Hemostats are used to separate your lure from the fish. For years, I used average hospital-type hemostats. They worked better than sticking your fingers in a fish’s mouth trying to extract the lure.
Hemostats are good but pliers — especially needle nose pliers — are best. Pliers deliver more “torque” to get the hook out of a fish, and the wire cutting edge below the gripping part of the pliers can cut off an embedded hook. Moreover, pliers can handle bigger fish, such as those toothy specimens in the saltwater backcountry. Needle nose pliers are the best choice, as they are more maneuverable.
On the other hand, if going for panfish on Boone Lake, or seeking brook trout in upper Paint Creek, odds are you won’t be unhooking anything of large size, therefore a simple pair of hemostats will do. And where weight is an issue, such as while backpacking, standard hemostats are preferred.