Without a scale to weigh your fish, you’re just guessing. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about angling over the years, it’s that “educated guesses” tend to grow with each telling.
Yes, I’ve known a few people who could assess a bass to within a few ounces just by eye, but they’ve been rarer than 10-pounders. For the rest of us–and for any organization that certifies records–an accurate scale is a must.
What should you look for in a fishing scale? Should you go for digital or analog? A hook or a gripper? Are the expensive options worth it? Will the cheap scales perform?
We’d like to help you answer these questions, so keep reading!
In this article, we’ll fmovies take a close look at some of the best options available, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and offer our recommendation for a top pick.
What We Consider When Selecting a Fishing Scale
Digital vs. Analog
Right off the top, it’s worth asking the obvious question: digital or analog?
Digital scales – are typically easier to read, and some feature memory that can record your catch’s weight. They require batteries, though, and are far less durable than analog alternatives. They tend to be less expensive than quality spring scales, but accuracy can suffer.
Analog or Spring Scales – Analog scales are entirely mechanical, and the top-end models use a carefully calibrated spring to assess weight. Without the need for batteries, and with no electronics to worry about, they’re typically very durable, but they can be a bit harder to read than digital alternatives. It’s also worth noting that good analog scales can be very expensive. That said, they’re amazingly accurate.
Gripper vs. Hook
Many scales come standard with a large hook that’s intended for the lip or gill of your fish. Others use a lip-gripper, essentially a spring-loaded clamp that can hold a fish by the lip without harming it.
Gripper models tend to be more expensive than hooks for reasons that we don’t need to explain. Overall, we think selecting a model with a gripper is a good idea. At the very least, we suggest adding a gripper to the hook on models that don’t already offer one.
First, hooking a struggling fish through the lip or gill is likely to injure it. If you practice catch-and-release fishing, enough said.
But second, those large hooks can be a pain to work with when you’re juggling a struggling fish, and for some species, hooking them in the mouth with a short hook is a terrible idea–think shark, pike, and anything else with a maw full of teeth.
It’s easy enough to buy a gripper, slip it over the scale’s hook, and–if necessary–affix a short length of plastic tubing to hold it in place.
Here’s one example that A. Jay, a frequent poster at Bassresource.com rigged-up:
“Will Wetline,” using the same scale, has a different approach:
Long battery life is important for digital scales, and you certainly don’t want them failing unexpectedly! With some digital scales, even low batteries can affect accuracy, so it’s a good idea to keep spares on hand and to make sure to change them often.
We’re only reviewing digital scales that take standard AA or AAA batteries. There are some products that use watch batteries, but these can get expensive and be hard to find if you’re not carrying spares.
An inaccurate scale is worthless.
A good scale should deliver repeatable precision, fish after fish and season after season. But be aware that many digital scales suffer accuracy issues when weighing fish below 3 pounds or so, and if you’re tournament fishing, you want to be sure you have a scale that can handle these little guys with no problems.
Durability and Water Resistance
A fishing scale should be able to absorb the bumps and bruises of outdoor life. From a hard knock on a gunwale to a drop on the dock, these little accidents shouldn’t kill it.
A sudden storm or the occasional splash should be tolerable, too, but obviously, mechanical scales have the advantage here. In fact, our research reveals that even the best digital scales should be kept high and dry if at all possible.
We’ll carefully discuss this issue in each review.
Finally, cost is something to consider.
A really top-notch analog scale is going to be expensive, but it should last the rest of your life!
By contrast, a very inexpensive luggage scale probably can’t take much of a beating, but they’re cheap enough to buy en masseor replace as needed.