Sport Fishing - - CONTENTS -

After a long fight, your fish is fi­nally whipped. The leader reaches the tip­top, and now’s the time to land your catch. What’s the best tool for the job? A gaff isn’t re­ally an op­tion un­less you’re land­ing an am­ber­jack, tuna or mack­erel for din­ner. In­stead, a net or lip-grip­per de­vice is the bet­ter op­tion.

Chances are both tools have a valu­able role on your boat.

Grippers are mainly for han­dling and con­trol­ling fish, not nec­es­sar­ily land­ing them, says Katie Mitchell, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager at Bass Pro Shops. A net pro­vides an im­me­di­ate end to the fight with a quick scoop. Grippers can also make short work of land­ing and han­dling fish from a low-pro­file boat or kayak.

Set­ting nets aside, lip grippers come in a va­ri­ety of de­signs, ma­te­ri­als and prices.

“With a grip­per, you have full con­trol of the fish, the hooks aren’t tan­gled in a net, and the fish’s slime coat isn’t com­pro­mised from the net’s mesh or from ly­ing on the boat deck,” says Dan Quinn, field pro­mo­tions man­ager at Rapala. “Plus, grippers are much eas­ier to stow and take up less space.”

The main styles of lip grippers are tra­di­tional T-style grips, pis­tol grips and float­ing plas­tic grips. Nu­mer­ous com­pa­nies sell lip grippers, in­clud­ing Baker, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley Fish­ing, Bo­gaGrip, Cuda, Mus­tad, Evo­lu­tion Prod­ucts, The Fish Grip, Rapala and oth­ers.

“Floaters are very pop­u­lar with kayak and wade fish­er­men,” says Mitchell. “T-style and pis­tol grips tend to hold more weight and have more tor­sional rigid­ity when han­dling large or ag­gres­sive fish.”


Tra­di­tional fish grippers are mostly made from alu­minum or stainless steel, and de­signed with a pair of claw arms that clamp tightly around a fish lip. Th­ese grips fea­ture a han­dle that

fish­er­men can grab with a fist, or a han­dle shaped like a T. Most lip grippers come with a non-T-style han­dle but uti­lize a T-con­fig­u­ra­tion or other mech­a­nism to open the jaws.

All lip grippers han­dle a fish boat­side. The an­gler can opt to leave fish in the wa­ter while avoid­ing sharp teeth or hooks. More-ex­pen­sive grips fea­ture a built-in scale to weigh fish.

“When used prop­erly, grippers make han­dling av­er­age-size fish much eas­ier,” says Stephen Britt, Berkley’s se­nior prod­uct man­ager. “One an­gler can lift the fish from the wa­ter and keep con­trol over the fish while an­other an­gler re­moves the hook quickly for re­lease.”

The best-rec­og­nized tra­di­tional grip­per is likely the Bo­gaGrip. A prime ex­am­ple of a true T-han­dle grip­per is the Baker 7½-inch T-han­dle Grip ’n’ Re­lease. In be­tween those two op­tions, there are ad­di­tional unique styles sold by dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“My busi­ness part­ner, Charles Camp, came up with the idea for the Bo­gaGrip while look­ing at a toy that uti­lized a lazy-tong prin­ci­ple,” ex­plains Gary All­dredge, of Eastaboga Tackle Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany. “He then used his 30 years of fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and skills as a ma­chin­ist to in­cor­po­rate this prin­ci­ple — along with an ac­tu­at­ing and locking mech­a­nism, a spring shock-ab­sorber sys­tem and scale — into a tool for han­dling fish.”

Since then, the fish­ing in­dus­try has tried to im­prove on the orig­i­nal. In­no­va­tions are avail­able in some of

the new mod­els on the mar­ket to­day. The Cuda Grip & Scale and Mus­tad Fish Grip­ping Tool both in­cor­po­rate stainless-steel jaws and a 50-pound scale. Berkley’s Big Game Lip Grip fea­tures a built-in re­tractable tape mea­sure. Rapala’s 50lb. Fish Grip­per uti­lizes a dig­i­tal scale.

“A big de­ter­min­ing fac­tor [in the qual­ity of the scale on the grip­per] is the cost of the spring,” says Val Osin­ski, of Evo­lu­tion Prod­ucts Inc. “Our en­try-level Econo Scales fea­ture a cor­ro­sion-re­sis­tant alu­minum body and stainless jaws but have an en­trylevel spring. Our higher-end mod­els have stainless con­struc­tion and a bet­ter spring for in­creased ac­cu­racy.”


Shaped sim­i­larly to a hand­gun, pis­tol­style fish grippers fea­ture a trig­ger that opens and closes a set of jaws at the muz­zle. No bul­lets needed, just a com­fort­able grip, lan­yard and stainless-steel jaws on mod­els such as Berkley’s Pis­tol Lip Grip and Bass

Pro Shops’ Pis­tol Fish Grip. Berkley’s ver­sion also fea­tures a 30-pound scale.

“Pis­tol mod­els are de­signed based on hand er­gonomics,” says Britt. “Th­ese shapes sup­port the an­gler’s abil­ity for best per­for­mance. Fish­grip er­gonomics help max­i­mize hand strength and re­duce fa­tigue.”

In gen­eral, pis­tol grips can’t han­dle larger fish be­cause this style of mod­els doesn’t al­ways in­cor­po­rate 360-de­gree mo­tion of the jaws like most tra­di­tional grippers. (Of course, there are ex­cep­tions, such as Berkley’s Pis­tol Lip Grip.)

“Com­plete 360-de­gree ro­ta­tion is for when a big fish goes wild at the boat so the jaws don’t torque but do keep a firm grip on the lip,” points out Capt. Rick Con­stan­tine, Cuda’s gen­eral man­ager.


A fi­nal fish-han­dling-de­vice op­tion is a plas­tic, float­ing fish grip. Most metal grippers need a float at­tached to a lan­yard to keep the tool from ac­ci­den­tally sink­ing to the seafloor. Plas­tic grips float, negat­ing that po­ten­tial draw­back, but they lack some fea­tures of T-style, tra­di­tional or pis­tol grips.

The Fish Grip was the first plas­tic grip­per tool to mar­ket, and it’s been a main­stay ever since.

“We like to think we started the plas­tic lip grippers,” says Brian McCarthy, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager for United Plas­tic Mold­ers, par­ent com­pany of The Fish Grip. “Some lo­cal tour­na­ments were mov­ing to­ward no-punc­ture de­vices only, and we needed some­thing to hold redfish.”

The Fish Grip is avail­able in two mod­els: The orig­i­nal Fish Grip han­dles 100 pounds, and the ju­nior model holds 26 pounds. The com­pany re­cently up­graded its ma­te­rial from a copoly­mer with polypropy­lene to a pro­pri­etary com­pos­ite poly­mer made from cel­lu­lose wood fibers, says McCarthy.

Rapala and Bass Pro Shops have their own ver­sions of float­ing fish grippers, each for un­der $15. The Rapala Float­ing Fish Grip­per is avail­able in 6- and 9-inch ver­sions, with ba­sic fea­tures such as a quick-re­lease open-and-close mech­a­nism.

“When you squeeze the grips, look at the jaws,” points out McCarthy. “Make sure the jaws don’t open no mat­ter how hard you squeeze — it could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween land­ing and los­ing a fish.”

GRIP THE LIP: The widely pop­u­lar Bo­gaGrip keeps fin­gers safe from ra­zor- sharp teeth of fish like this blue­fish.

From left to right, Mus­tad’s Fish Grip­ping Tool, Rapala’s 50lb.

Fish Grip­per, Berkley’s Big Game Lip Grip and Cuda’s Grip & Scale. Far OHIW ƓVK JULSSHUV KDQGOH hard-to-con­trol species VXFK DV ŴRXQGHU

This an­gler uses a grip­per to gain con­trol of a triple­tail be­fore get­ting a quick mea­sure­ment. ,I \RX SODQ WR UHOHDVH WKH ƓVK VXSSRUW WKH ERG\ with your other hand and hold hor­i­zon­tally.

Pis­tol grips, such as the Berkley Pis­tol Lip Grip and Bass Pro Shops Pis­tol Fish Grip, were en­gi­neered for bet­ter hand er­gonomics. In­set, Berkley’s in­cludes a 30-pound scale.

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