No self-respecting angler will leave the house for a day of fishing without a good-quality knife.
Having the right tool at the right moment can make all the difference, and a decent blade is invaluable for all kinds of uses when you’re on the water.
As the very best fishing knives available in 2021 come in all shapes and sizes, I thought we should take a look at a few of the top examples.
And even if you’re not into the sport – they make great gifts for someone who is.
A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow.
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
KastKing are never too far away when it comes to reviews on quality fishing tools and gear, and their bait and fillet knives are some of the best available for use in the field.
The five-inch bait knife is super-strong, made from highly durable stainless steel, with a razor-sharp edge on the bottom, and a serrated edge on the top.
Able to handle frozen bait with ease, you can also cut chunk or cut plug bait with the leading edge with no problem, and the gut hook provides an extra function to help cut fishing line.
Name to trust in fishing.
Protective sheath included.
Very highly rated.
Non-Slip super polymer grip.
The scabbard isn’t the best.
Make sure you’re choosing the right knife.
An outstanding selection of bait and fillet knives from KastKing, this particular model is a versatile, practical, and durable bait knife that will handle just about anything you ask of it on the water.
Now, I might be getting a little sentimental with this one, as it’s the first fishing knife my father bought me. I will try and be as unbiased as possible.
Victorinox needs little introduction, and their multi-use Swiss-Army knives are nothing short of iconic.
This makes for a beautiful gift for the fisher-person in your life, with 18 functions including a fish scaler and hook disgorger, and it comes in that stylish, trademark red livery with a silver fish emblem.
It was amazing, right up until it fell out of my pocket during a family vacation circa 1987.
Compact, pocket-friendly design.
Very highly rated.
Too small for handling larger fish.
You don’t need me to tell you how good these things are, probably one of the best pocket knives for fishing there is.
Another company that requires little introduction, Finnish company Rapala have been producing top-quality fishing gear since 1936.
This particular product is their six-inch fillet knife, which has that all-important full tang blade, with a classic birch handle to finish this beautiful piece off.
It comes with an attractive, fine-tooled leather sheath, as well as a single-stage sharpener for use in ensuring the already keen edge operates at peak performance.
One of the most popular fishing knives in the world, this gorgeous tool from Rapala would look great in any angler’s gear collection.
Name to trust.
Progressively tapered blade.
Not the most practical grip.
Regarded as one of the best fillet knives ever made, this is a beautifully crafted piece that would make a great gift for a chef or a fisher-person alike. Just make sure you pick up a pair of quality fishing gloves so you can grip that handle better.
A choice of three different fishing knives are offered here, all in the same range from Plusinno, all made with their durable, rugged quality.
They all feature premium 5CR13 stainless curved blades which offer perfect flexibility for handling all kinds of fish and bait, with a fully textured, rubber-grip handle that won’t slip from your grasp.
Designed for safety and comfort, these fishing blades are suitable for use in all conditions, and come with a snap-on protective sheath to save your fingers.
The only problem is in choosing the right one.
Bait knife cut hook.
Easy to clean.
Sheath locking tab isn’t the best and might break.
I’ll admit I was totally reaching for a downside to these knives, as they’re top-drawer quality and any angler would be happy to have them in their equipment arsenal.
Hang on a second – why are we doing all the work when it comes to cleaning fish?
Surely there’s a knife out there that can really take the strain in this day and age. Well, Bubba has the answer.
This is their battery-powered, cordless electric fillet knife, which comes in a convenient, durable EVA carry box and features four, different length blades.
Not only that, they’re all coated for protection against saltwater use, and the unit itself has a non-slip, rubber grip with an ergonomic trigger.
Get the job done safely and in double-quick time with an electric fishing knife.
Name to trust.
LED Battery-life indicator.
Removable, easy-clean blades.
Very highly rated.
Will take up more room compared to a pocket knife.
This is a game changer. Sure, it might be a bit more expensive, but the fact that it comes with interchangeable knives, and will have you carving up fish like – an electric knife through fish – ensures it’s a real winner.
Speaking of outstanding reviews, just take a look at this knife from Morakniv. It would have been a sin not to include it in this review, given just how awesome and popular it is.
Made with super-high quality Swedish steel, this is one of the most versatile knives on the market, and can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
Just over four inches in length, it’s a great tool to have handy in your tackle box, with a patterned, high-friction grip that offers control and performance in all conditions.
The tang is deceptively long for such a knife, ensuring that you have a durable, reliable blade offering power and precision – no matter the task.
Solid, belt-clip sheath included.
Large choice of cool colors.
Not a dedicated fillet or bait knife.
Hey, even if you’re not going to use this for cleaning fish or preparing bait, it’s worth having one as part of your gear set up anyway. An outstanding knife and an outstanding price with outstanding reviews – what more do you want?
Last but by no means least we return to another Bubba blade with this seven-inch, tapered fillet knife.
With a full-length tang for unbeatable balance, power, and control, the stainless steel, non-stick blade offers a precise cut in all conditions.
Ideal for fishing, boating, and hunting, it comes with its own synthetic sheath for safety, and features a non-slip grip with ergonomic trigger point for added security.
Ti-nitride coated for protection against rust and corrosion, you can take this blade anywhere and it will get the job done.
Name to trust.
Quality safety sheath with belt loop.
None to speak of.
An excellent fillet knife to finish with, great tang, super-sharp, precision tip, and flexible to handle bones. Top marks to Bubba for this one – get it in your collection.
How to Choose the Best Fishing Knife – What to Look Out For
If it’s your first time purchasing a fishing knife, perhaps you’re looking for a gift, or you just need a refresher to know what’s out there – check out the tips and advice in the buyer’s guide, below.
What is a Fishing Knife?
As simple as it may seem, this is actually a worthwhile question, because fishing knives come in all shapes and sizes.
So, it’s important to identify each, and what they’re used for, so you make the correct purchase when you’re ready to do so.
Some of these knives are designed with a long, thin, razor-sharp, flexible blade. More commonly known as a filleting knife, they’re used for cleaning up and deboning.
You can find such knives both in an angler’s tackle box and in the kitchen knife block at home.
Some fishing knives have a waved edge that isn’t razor-sharp. They’re also used for cleaning up a fish, with a particular emphasis on descaling.
Bait fishing knives are designed to prepare chum and bait for use when fishing. They will have a sharp serrated edge, and often feature a cut hook for snipping line.
Finally, multi-purpose knives have been included in the review, which are useful for a variety of outdoor activities, such as hunting, camping, survival, and, of course, fishing.
The type you choose will depend on what you need the knife for, where you’re using it, and what kind of fish you’re using it on.
Fixed or Folding?
Again, this will come down to personal preference – as well as the who, what, why, where, and when of fishing knife use.
Folding knives are preferable if you need to transport the tool, or if you’re short on space. They can fit just about anywhere and are really handy to keep around.
However, their compact size isn’t practical if you’re tackling larger fish, or if you need a longer blade for a particular task.
And regardless of the quality, a foldable knife is just never going to be as strong as a quality fixed blade in the same class.
Of course, the inevitable trade-off is that knives with fixed blades can offer practical length, but they don’t travel as well.
Still, a good fixed blade fishing knife should provide full-length tang for balance and improved control, pose no danger of folding or shutting during use, and will likely be more durable overall.
I highly recommend getting both versions just to keep all bases covered – and good pocket knives are always useful in arms reach.
Blade Type and Length
The type and style of the blade is very important for choosing the right fishing knife for your needs.
For filleting knives, they need to be razor-sharp, flexible, and with a curved, tapered edge that will help in cleaning the fish and slicing through skin and bone.
For bait knives, you should be looking for blades with sharp, serrated edges and the inclusion of a cutting hook.
How long you need the blade to be will depend on what you’re using it for. The larger the fish – the longer it will need to be.
When it comes to fishing knives, aside from the blade, the single most important part of the tool is the grip.
Even if you’re not angling in wet conditions, handling slippery, slimy fish is a challenge, and the last thing you need is a knife that’s going to skid out of your grasp. It’s happened to the best of us.
If you’re using it in the field, look for knives that have an ergonomic, rubberized grip. Some even come with trigger-style molds where you can better position your fingers for additional stability and control.
A true test of the quality of a good fishing knife, is how well it’s going to stand up to the elements. For this, you’ll need something that is rugged, tough, and durable.
Most knives will be able to handle freshwater with little issue, but it’s how a blade does in saltwater conditions that you should pay attention to.
If you’re fishing saltwater, look for a knife that has been treated with anti-corrosion coatings or finishes, to improve its longevity and ward off the rust.
Again, it depends on what you need it for, but by and large, a good fishing knife will come with many of the qualities outlined below.
A durable, stay-sharp blade that – depending on where it’s being used – will have been treated with an anti-corrosion coating or finish.
An ergonomic, rubberized, non-slip grip that is easy and comfortable to hold, while offering the best control.
A balanced tang that is the full width of the blade for power and durability. Nobody likes those cheap knives that snap off at the handle.
The right length for your needs is important.
And they should come in under your budget.
If all those stars align, you’ll have found yourself a quality fishing knife.
How should you clean a fish gutting knife?
First thing’s first – it’s important that you never put a fishing knife in the dishwasher. The washer cycle and detergent will damage the tool eventually.
Always clean your fishing knives (and other fishing gear) as soon as you can – to prevent nasty odors and bacterial build up.
Gently wash your knife in warm, soapy water, taking care when cleaning the blade. Trust me – switching off even for a second at this point will leave a mark.
Thoroughly dry your knife using paper towels – even if the blade has been treated with anti-corrosion technology. You don’t want water to stay on or near the blade any longer than necessary.
Return your knife to its sheath or pouch if it has one, or consider a chef’s roll bag as the best possible knife storage option.
What is the best length for a fishing knife?
Again, it depends on its use.
A six-inch fishing knife is best for panfish, trout, and bass. Whereas a nine-inch knife is more suitable for the likes of bluefish and cod.
And then, of course, there’s everything in between.
If you’re serious about fishing – and in particular cleaning the fish yourself for consumption, I would recommend getting a selection of blades so you have the right size to suit every fish and occasion.
A professional chef doesn’t just use one knife for everything – nor should you.
How do I sharpen a fishing knife?
I can tell you how NOT to sharpen a fishing knife – by using a honing steel. It’s a common misconception that this puts an edge on the blade, when all it’s doing is straightening the blade and preparing for it to be sharpened.
For true sharpening, you need to use a whetstone. Check out the video below for how the pros do it.
How do you use a filleting knife?
Around the world, culinary cultures have their own techniques for using a fillet knife, and you should find one that works for you. Some skills are easy to learn, others are very difficult and can take time and practice to master.
But for a basic guide to filleting a fish, check out the video below, as a good example of how to do it in the field – which can often be very different from fish prep in the kitchen.
Choosing the best fishing knife in 2021 might not be as simple as picking the tool with the sharpest blade.
There’s a lot to consider – especially when it comes to the how, where, and when you’re using it.
Let me know in the comments which knife you’ve gone for and why – and don’t miss the opportunity to subscribe to our newsletter for more fishing tips, advice, and reviews direct to your inbox.
Stay safe, stay sharp, tight lines, and happy fishing!