Pliers, braid snip, line-cutter: The essential hand tools of the Florida offshore fisherman.
I did my time as a charterboat mate in high school. The captain of the first boat I ever mated on made me a leather sheath for my pliers on my 16th birthday. Down at the marina we all knew who the serious fishermen were. They had a knife and pliers on their belt. In fact come to think of it, once winter rolled around and we all switched to bottom fishing, the knife and pliers were joined by a hand towel attached to the belt.
On today’s fishing scene, we are releasing more fish than ever before. Long ago I decided we would stop pulling billfish and tarpon out of the water for pictures. I also decided there would be no more exhausted billfish thrashing against the side of the boat while we either tried to get the leader lined up with the plier blades to cut the fish free or have somebody bring a knife into the fray. Too much could go wrong if you combine a knife, excited anglers, and a thrashing fish. If you carry a shielded safety knife similar to the Blue Reef line cutter, you can release a fish, or cut the leader as he slides into the box, much faster, and with almost zero chance of injury.
The new styles of braided fishing lines changed everything when it came to pliers. The pliers I carry were a gift from my wife, and far more expensive than any I would buy for myself. After having to change cutter blades three times in the pliers’ first year, my buddy at the tackle store informed me they were never intended to cut braid. For that reason I have added a pair of dedicated braid snappers to my tool belt.
For new anglers looking to join a crew of more experienced anglers: A good start would be to be “that guy” who always has a good pair of fishing pliers, a line cutter, and a pair of braid snips instantly on hand. Whereas a line cutter works fine on braid, it is too bulky to trim a monofilament leader knot.
When it comes to fishing pliers, there are two basic styles. Those with the cutters on the side, or those that have the cutters inside the pliers themselves. For the most part it’s easier to work with the ones that have the blades inside, but you run the risk of dulling the edges while using the pliers to grab and hold something. All the best pliers have carbide or titanium blades and all the better ones can be replaced. Cutting wire and cable will dull your blades, and they’ll need to be replaced annually if used regularly.
Braid cutters are popping up everywhere. You can get by with a small pair of stainless scissors such as Fiskars, but you run the risk of poking yourself in the leg, if they are in your pocket. Tools such as the Boomerang braid snips can snip your braid while helping preserve the edge on your plier blades. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2017