The fifth member of the team is a hook remover, designed to extract hooks from fish, not people. It's an amazingly simple piece of equipment, constructed of a stout piece of stainless steel rod, with a U-shaped crook in one end and a wooden handle on the other. It allows me to remove the hook without ever touching the fish. To remove the fish, hold the line or leader in one hand, put the bend of the tool inside the bend of the hook and sharply pull each in opposite directions.
I especially love this tool whenever I catch a catfish, which is just about every time I go fishing around Charlotte Harbor in Southwest Florida!
My tackle bag carries a handful of storage trays, each loaded with the lures, rigs and terminal gear that's suited for a specific type of fishing. The trays come and go depending on the day's fishing venue, but a few of my proven "tools of the trade" go with me on every fishing trip.
The most often used tool is a pair of top quality pliers in a nylon clip-on sheath. The pliers are the master of the multi task, and help me remove hooks from fish, clip lines and leaders, snug up knots and pinch split shots. I'm an old school kind of guy and I've been using the same style of parallel jaw Manley pliers for several decades. Eventually I will probably drop them overboard, and when that day comes they will be replaced by a newer updated style. But for now, if it ain't broke...
I always carry two knives. One cuts bait. The other cleans fish. I don't like to pick bones out of the fish I'm eating, so I fillet every fish destined for the table. My 30-year old fillet knife, a wooden handle, stiff-blade Forschner, is babied like a child, kept razor sharp and spotlessly clean. My go-to knife is a plastic handle Dexter-Russell. The handle is well worn and the blade sports a few nicks and stains, but it has served me well. Both knives live in leather sheaths to protect the blades and my fingers.
A pair of stainless steel shears gets as much, if not more, action than my bait knife. It trims pieces of fish and squid into perfectly shaped baits, and makes quick work of shrimp. Unlike the other tools, my scissors have been "re-purposed" and when new were used to cut up chickens in a poultry processing plant. This inexpensive, utilitarian tool has served me well.
The next tool in my bag has the distinction of being used only once in the past ten years, and that's a good thing. It's a pair of very heavy duty side cutter pliers, strong enough to cut through the shank of a good-sized fish hook, and that's why they are in my bag. When my fishing partner buried a hook in his thumb past the barb, the cutters easily and quickly chopped the split ring of the lure's treble hook, which was attached to an unhappy bluefish, then cut clean through the hook so we could push it, point first all the way through the end of his thumb.
Tools of the Trade