The best fishing gaff of 2020

Bob Beacham

Gaff hooks are very sharp. Always remember to cover the point when not in use, and don’ t leave it lying around on the deck or the bottom of the boat. They are supposed to go in the fish— not your foot.

You would think that choosing a fishing gaff would be pretty simple, right? A hook and a handle. How complicated could it get?

A quick look at the huge choice might make you think again. There are numerous sizes and materials, and prices run anywhere from $20 to over $100. Can there really be that much difference?

As with any tool, you can usually make do. But it's always better to have the right one for the job. So, we've been looking at all the current offerings -- and at whether the old standards are still best, or if modern materials improve performance. Our guide also includes our updated list of top picks for the year, including two new models and one long-standing favorite.

Best fishing gaffs of 2020

1. Aftco's Fiberglass Fishing Gaff: From one of the top names, a superbly crafted general-purpose model that's a joy to use. Aftco has appeared on our list before, but this model is a newcomer.

2. Kufa Sports' Telescopic Gaff: Easy adjustment provides good versatility on this model, which has long been a favorite of ours. Low price makes it very affordable, and with care, it should last years.

3. Promar's Elite Fishing Gaff: Another new entry on our list, this model features super-light carbon fiber, which is also extremely strong. Its compact size is perfect for kayaks and other small craft.

You'll find more detail on each at the end of the article.

What makes a good fishing gaff?

What we're focusing on here is the fixed fishing gaffs that most anglers are familiar with. There are flying gaffs (where the head is attached to a rope and detaches from the shaft when launched), but those are for large game fish and should only be used by experienced skippers.

So, what are the key features? Length is one, and it depends on the boat you're fishing from. If you're in a kayak, a short gaff is obviously necessary. On offshore motor boats, it will largely depend on the reach you need from gunwale to water. Telescopic fishing gaffs offer versatility, but if the clamp comes loose you could be in trouble. Over about four feet, they're mostly solid.

Hook size is also important. What's quoted is the gap between shaft and tip. A three- or four-inch hook is common. Kayakers sometimes use smaller. At the other end of the spectrum, those up to seven inches can be used for big game fish. They are invariably stainless steel, which is strong and rust-resistant -- though not all stainless steels are the same. Better types are usually numbered, like 316, for example. It gives you the chance to look up specifications if you want the very best gaff.

Shaft materials affect durability, weight, and often cost. Aluminum is common because it's cheap, easy to manufacture, relatively light, and resists corrosion. However, if the tube gets dented or kinked, it can bend or split under pressure. Fiberglass is lighter, and can flex a little without damage. The gaffs usually have good strength, but fiberglass can crack or split under heavy impact. Carbon fiber is the premium material. It's very light, yet immensely strong. It's also highly resistant to saltwater, diesel, oils, etc. Unfortunately, it's also expensive.

Finally, there's the grip. Cheap fishing gaffs use EVA foam, which is the same stuff used on many fishing rod butts. There's nothing wrong with it, but those wrapped with fabric tend to give higher friction, and thus a more secure hold.


Q. Is a barbed fishing gaff more secure?

A. It is, but the damage to the fish is often not survivable. With more focus on catch and release when sport fishing, barbless hooks have become the usual choice. That doesn't guarantee the fish can be returned, but it is more likely.

Q. Can I use a gaff everywhere?

A. Our research suggests that gaffs are legal for saltwater fishing everywhere. Not for freshwater fishing, though. Most states either ban or limit their use. Ice fishing may be an exception, but you'll need to check local rules.

In-depth reviews of best fishing gaffs

Best of the best: Aftco's Fiberglass Fishing Gaff

What we like: Thick-walled tube adds strength, with gentle taper to allow a small amount of flex. Stainless hook is permanently secured. Handle area is wound with high-grip fabric.

What we dislike: Nothing. The only thing that might put you off is the price.

Best bang for your buck: Kufa Sports' Telescopic Gaff

What we like: Corrosion-resistant aluminum handle is easy to stow, but adjusts quickly between 30 inches and 46 inches. Comfortable foam grip. Strong stainless steel hook can be replaced if necessary.

What we dislike: Fittings can rust, so gaff should be rinsed and dried after use.

Choice 3: Promar's Elite Fishing Gaff

What we like: Shaft is extremely strong and very durable. Three-inch stainless steel hook is big enough to handle substantial fish. Hand-wrapped, epoxy-coated grip is high friction for secure hold.

What we dislike: Float is a nice idea but can get in the way, and will need to be removed to use with rod rests.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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