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3 Ways to Get a Grip on Game Fish

Grippers aren’t expensive, and can save you from broken lines, lost tackle, and even sliced fingers if you’re chasing toothy predator fish.
Grippers aren’t expensive, and can save you from broken lines, lost tackle, and even sliced fingers if you’re chasing toothy predator fish. (Zacx/)

While the cologne of fish slime and a case of bass thumb are certainly time-honored signs of angling prowess, there’s a better way to handle certain species than by hand alone. While obviously not appropriate for a six-inch brook trout or panfish, using a lip gripper is the most secure way to bring in more cantankerous fish quickly and safely under control. In saltwater, where toothsome critters are the norm, a simple lip gripper puts distance between your fingers and the snapping jaws of common brawlers like bluefish, mackerel, and barracuda. Here are a few options to consider.

Plastic Grippers

A fish gripper makes it easier to hand toothy fish with one hand.
A fish gripper makes it easier to hand toothy fish with one hand. (Rapala/)

You needn't spend a fortune to enjoy the core benefit of even the most expensive fish gripper, which can run well over a hundred dollars. A plastic version will hold fish just fine. Attached to a lanyard, they are a great lightweight tool that makes handling fish from unstable positions, such as a kayak, much easier.

Integrated Scales

A gripper with an integrated scale means you don’t have to handle a fish you plan to release more than necessary.
A gripper with an integrated scale means you don’t have to handle a fish you plan to release more than necessary. (Piscifun/)

If you want to bump up the functionality, or if weighing fish is important to your style of angling, look for a steel gripper with an integrated digital scale. Bring the fish under control, weigh it, and get it back in the water (or into a cooler) in the same motion.

Combo Packages

If you don’t want to lose your tools in the water, make sure you secure them to a strap around your wrist.
If you don’t want to lose your tools in the water, make sure you secure them to a strap around your wrist. (Zacx/)

Looking for ultimate value? A combo kit sold with both a gripper and pliers puts two essential angling tools right in the palm of your hand. Just make sure each is sold with a lanyard or wrist loop to avoid fumbling it overboard when the action gets hectic.

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