A lip grip device is an essential item for catfishing that I keep on my guide boat. I keep lip grips clamped on to the railing of the center console at all times so I always have them handy.
Lip grips are a great tool for because they are compact and easy to store and they are a great help in landing catfish and handling catfish, especially when it comes to larger blues and flatheads.
When I am fishing for trophy blue cats in the winter I always carry my big dip net with me so I have it readily available to land a big trophy but during the rest of the year I rarely carry a dip net with me on the boat. It is just one of those items that takes up a ton of room and once I have bumped into it or tripped on it a few times I just get annoyed with it wish I didn’t have a big dip net in my boat.
Instead of carrying my dip net if I catch a big catfish (outside of the winter) I just use my lip grips to land the fish. Simply putting the wrist strap on my hand and opening the “jaws” of the lip grip and when the fish gets to the side of the boat I will grab it by it’s bottom lip and pull it in the boat with the lip grip.
The lip grips functions well and I have never had a fish come loose from the lip grips nor have I ever had one break.
When I do land them with my dip net, I immediately grab their lips with my lip grips and use the grips to pull them from the net.
In addition to being a helpful tool for landing (getting them from the water to the boat), lip grips are also very helpful for managing the fish once you have them in the boat, making it easier to control them from flopping around or rolling in the floor of the boat while you are trying to remove a hook from their mouth. If you are handling larger catfish by hand when you have them in the boat or are removing hooks from their mouths it can often times be a painful process like what happened in the blue catfish finger munch video (if you haven’t seen this you need to watch it).
Catfish have rough patches around their lips and they will often times bite time (and stay that way) for extended periods of time. When this happens, typically the first instinct is to pull the hand out, which is generally a very bad idea. If you do rip your hand out it typically comes out a scraped up bloody mess.
I use the Berkley Big Game Lip Grips and have had the pair I use for going on 6 or 7 years now with no issues. I use the basic stripped down model that is a lip grip and also has a tape measure in it but Berkley makes another model that has a digital scale built into them as well.
I use these in combination with my digital scales to weigh larger catfish by keeping the lip grips attached to the catfish and then placing the hand strap of the lip grips to the hook on the digital scale so I can get a quick weight on the catfish and not have to worry about the fish thrashing around and flopping loose from the scale.
Once I have weighed the catfish I put the hand strap back on my arm and place the catfish into the water, assuring it is moving normally and is going to swim away without having to be “burped” and then I release the jaws and live release the catfish.
In addition to the Berkley Big Game Lip Grips like I use there are some “higher end models” as well like the Rapala Lock and Weigh and also the Boga Grip which both have scales built into them that will handle heavier weights. With the scales built into the lip grips you can land, weigh and release the catfish all with one tool. Most of these models are IGFA certifiable.
If you are going to spend money on lip grips at the very minimum buy the base model Berkley Big Game Lip Grips with no scales built into them. These are built rock solid and will last you for years and years and will not break from bouncing around in your boat, tackle box or from handling a fish.
In recent years there have been a number of companies marketing plastic lip grips. They all look the same and are available in just about every color of the rainbow. While these may be okay for handling smaller fish, they are not going to hold up to an significant abuse or to handling a catfish of substantial size. While the metal lip grips cost a few more dollars up front they will last you much longer than the plastic models that are really not made for landing and handling catfish of any size.
Again, the metal lip grips like the Berkley Big Game are going to cost you a few more bucks up front but would you rather pay $10-$15 for a plastic grip that is going to last you a short time and you are going to have to replace or $20-$25 for one that will last you for years?
Think of it like a toy Tonka truck. Would you rather buy an “old school” metal Tonka truck that even the roughest of kids cannot tear up or a plastic one made in China that will last six weeks.
If you plan on spending any significant time catfishing I highly suggest that you get a pair of catfish lip grips, these are one of those “must have items”. If you plan on catfishing for TROPHY catfish whether it be flathead or blue catfish then a pair of lip grips is an absolute MUST HAVE.
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