fishing pliers

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Pliers with side cutters make excellent all-around fishing tools, but are they the best choice for cutting line?

Every angler needs a line cutting tool. Many of us store our favorite pearly white line cutters behind our lips, but using your teeth to cut line isn’t ideal. I used to do it because my dad did it, but then I noticed two things: First, a lot of hardcore fishermen had some pretty serious grooves in their front teeth from biting line. And second, unless you’re part rodent, you can’t gnaw through braid no matter how hard you chomp.

In the years since, I’ve been through a number of different line-cutting tools. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each type.

Knife

PROS: You probably already have a knife for cutting bait or sitting in your pocket, so there’s no need to buy anything. A sharp knife easily cuts braid or mono of any diameter.

CONS: A challenge to use if the boat is in motion. You can slip and cut yourself, especially if the blade is less than razor-sharp. It’s difficult to cut the tag ends of knots short. You might drop your very expensive Benchmade H2O overboard in 70 feet of water. (On another note, don’t ask me where my Benchmade H2O is.)

Nail clippers

PROS: Cheap. Small. You can put them on your key ring so you always have them. They’re unlikely to injure you. Cuts monofilament very well with little effort.

CONS: Easy to lose, and you probably will unless you put them on your key ring. All but guaranteed to rust fairly soon in a saltwater environment, especially if left in a tackle box. Not ideal for cutting braid, and some clippers won’t cut braid at all.

Scissors

PROS: Can be had cheap. If you get the ones made specifically for fishing, small and easy to store. If you get serrated blades, they’ll cut both mono and braid like buttah. Less likely to cut you than a knife.

CONS: Cheap scissors rust. Easy to lose, so you’ll probably have to replace them before they get too rusty anyway. Tiny scissors are a pain to sharpen. If the blades aren’t serrated, they do a truly terrible job of cutting braid.

Plier cutters

PROS: If you have your pliers, you have your cutters — just one tool to carry. With most (but not all) models, the blades are replaceable if dulled or damaged. Side cutters work well for both braid and mono.

CONS: Must be inspected prior to purchase, because if the blades don’t line up or there’s a gap, they’ll never cut right. Inline versions (blades at the back of the jaws instead of on the outside) do a poor job on braid. Cost ($25 to $350, depending on how fancy you are).

The Snip

PROS: Cuts mono and braid with ease. Blades lock closed when not in use. Self-retracting lanyard keeps them out of the way until needed. Carabiner clip attaches to clothing. Rust-resistant blades. Available in multiple variants (lighted, magnified, long-jawed, heavy duty). Costs less than pliers.

CONS: 420 stainless steel blade material is soft and dulls easily. Not the easiest tool to sharpen. Costs more than scissors.

The verdict

When I’m out fishing, I always carry a knife in my pocket and pliers with side cutters on my hip. I have been known to use both when cutting line. But lately I find myself gravitating strongly toward The Snip (the original short-jawed version). The only issue I have with it is that on the water I wear microfiber shirts, so there’s no good place to clip it on. The solution is a simple neck loop, which keeps my Snip very convenient and ready to go. I don’t have to reach into my tackle bag or pocket — it’s just right there when I need it. Winner, winner, snapper dinner!

As the Fish Coach, Capt. Josh Olive offers personalized instruction on how and where to fish in Southwest Florida. Whether you’re a complete beginner or just looking to refine your techniques, he can help you get past the frustration and start catching more fish. Lessons can be held on your boat, on local piers or even in your backyard. To book your session or for more information, go to FishCoach.net, email Josh@FishCoach.net or call 941-276-9657.

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