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Tool Review

Abel Pliers are Pricey but Exude Quality (continued)


Price & Applications: Abel Pliers are available direct from Abel but I purchased both of my pairs from local fly shops. It was just one of those things (just like fly reels) that I wanted to hold in my hand before making the final purchase. These are not your standard pair of 20 dollar pliers, this is a precision instrument, at least that is what I told myself to justify the cost. In the case of my trout patterned pair I really do feel like these are a functional work art. The detail in the fish pattern finish is impressive and still durable enough to be used in harsh environments. 


The lanyard helps prevent accidental loss of a very expensive pair of pliers


Throughout our tests I found that Abel #4 pliers are good for both bass angling and fly fishing and are ideal for those anglers that enjoy both pursuits. The pliers do an exceptional job grabbing small objects including tiny flies as well as possess the ability to clamp down weights and cut through wire. Though I didn’t experience catastrophic damage to the jaws or cutter on either pair of my pliers should they become damaged or the cutters become to dull for use all you need to do is send them to Abel and for 20 dollars they will replace the steel jaws and properly align them.


The very fine tipped jaws is great for removing hooks without damaging flies and fish


So let’s get to the worst part of these pliers, the cost. If you are looking for a pair of pliers just to get the job done this is NOT it. These pliers are for enthusiast anglers looking for a premium “tool” that transcends just what a pair of pliers should be. Much like many fly fishermen are willing to pay for a one of a kind collector’s reel the Abel Pliers are just as much of a work of art as they are a functional tool, especially if you opt for a special finish. I feel like the pliers should bear numbering just like Abel’s fly reels.


The larger #4 pliers have an integrated bottle cap opener


Keep in mind the real competition with Abel are pliers comes not from traditional offerings but from brands including Van Staal, FishPond and Accurate. The Van Staal Big Game Pliers come complete with a leather sheath and lanyard for $359 dollars, the Fishpond Barracuda Pliers with a cloth sheath retail for $139 dollars, and Accurate Piranha pliers without a sheath or lanyard retail for $134 dollars. In standard form the black Abel pliers retail for 150 dollars with a lanyard and the leather sheath is 40 dollars additional. For 190 dollars the Abel #4 pliers is relatively inline with the premium competition and the #2 Abel Pliers are 20 dollars cheaper. All Abel products carry a lifetime warranty that covers the repair or replacement of parts due to defect in material or workmanship.


Even though the jaws are great for delicate flies they are also good for treble hooks


Though the customization options are admittedly very cool I only recommend the selection for anglers looking for that truly exclusive gift or personal tool. These finishes are not cheap! A solid finish color change is 50 dollars additional and an artistic or fish patterned finish is 125 dollars addition, basically your almost paying for another pair of pliers to get that special finish. While it certainly adds a lot of character to these pliers it is a lot of extra money that is hard to justify. The nice thing is that anglers have plenty of choices to choose from should they wish to splurge.


Whether you are fishing for trout or stripers and using fly or conventional gear the Abel pliers are an excellent tool


Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

Abel #4 Pliers Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Excellent construction quality, not your run of the mill pliers, this pair is machined like a premium fly reel and they feel that way 9.5
Performance Excellent performance with freshwater applications, these pliers are great for handling small flies and treble hooks. The cutters are phenomenal and bested all of the other pliers we had in the lab, no broken cutters here 8.5
Price 150 dollars without a holster, ouch. Add in a customized finish and were talking about $315 dollars with a holster. This is a premium tool with a price that matches 5
Features A sealed spring, bottle opener, replaceable jaws and an excellent cutter, the only thing missing is a split ring option 8.5
Design (Ergonomics) Light in weight and easy to grip these pliers also come with a lanyard but the holster is an expensive option 8
Application Great for fly anglers and also good for bass anglers as long as you have another tool to change out split rings quickly. Very good for anglers that dabble in both fly and conventional techniques 8.5

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Extremely refined, machined from aluminum and has a very premium feel L Expensive pair of pliers, but competitive with other premium pliers offerings
J Ergonomic design feels good in hand L Positioning of cutters can be somewhat awkward for some cuts
J Jaws are very good for detail work  
J Exceptional cutters can cut through braid easily  
J Tons of customization options  


Though the customized version is quite expensive they are truly a functional work of art.


Conclusion: The Abel #4 pliers are best for freshwater anglers and while the lack of split ring jaws may be a turnoff to some the ability to work with very fine hooks is going to be a worthy tradeoff for others. Great for fly anglers these pliers are exceptional for anglers that fish for a wide variety of species utilizing both conventional and fly techniques. When it comes to a pair of pliers that can address everything from tiny flies to big treble hooks the Abel #4 pliers is just about as refined a solution as you can find, and while not cheap they are in many ways the definition of “premium pliers.”










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