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Tools Review

Fishpond Barracuda Pliers offer a lot, but not enough (continued)

Operation cont'd: The Barracuda is also armed with stainless steel cutters which we found exceptional for mono, gel spun, and even certain wire lines. What surprised us was how poorly the Barracuda performed when it came to cutting braid, which was exactly what I hoped it would excel at. The stainless steel cutters also required a great deal of pressure to cut through the many fibers in braided lines, and in many case I found myself peeling away fibers or having to saw through the lines leaving a very messy cut. The only time that it would cut through braid quickly and effortlessly if there was a very heavy lure pulling the braid absolutely taught. This is fine when you have a 6oz saltwater iron on the end of the line, but not so good when you are cutting off a bass drop shot rig above the leader. Unfortunately as months went by the stainless steel blades only got duller, and it is a good thing we could switch them out, but in comparison the very Rapala Stainless Steel pliers I had complained about cut through braid better than the Barracuda.

Watch out, don't hold the Barracuda too high up the handle, it is possible to pinch yourself on the back as you compress the jaws

Pliers like the Van Staal FP7000 cut through braid much easier due to the fact that they are armed with tungsten blades rather than stainless steel. While stainless steel offers quality corrosion resistance it doesn’t have the best wear resistance. Tungsten carbide is widely used in tools that require wear resistance because of Tungsten’s high strength and  high hardness. In fact Tungsten tooling is sometimes used when machining materials such as carbon steel and stainless steel. If Fishpond had an optional Tungsten cutter selection we would definitely pursue the upgrade.

A look at the back side of the pliers

Throughout our tests we remarked how good the Barracuda’s sheath was designed. Fishpond shows off their expertise in the sheath’s quality construction and not only is it very functional but it just looks plain cool. The sheath is molded to stay open at all times and is the perfect fit for these pliers. Unlike other pliers that fold shut or leather ones that you sometimes feel like you have to fight your pliers into the Fishpond sheath just plain works. Not only does it hold the Barracuda securely it also feels light and comfortable when strapped on your belt.

When it came time to cut braid the Barracuda struggled

Durability: Throughout our tests the Barracuda’s spring never lost counter pressure in our tests and continues to perform as intended, an area that we have seen fail in lesser pliers in the past. The jaws remained as good as new throughout or tests and we had to change out the cutters once. Changing out either the jaws or the cutters takes only a few seconds and a 3/32” Allen wrench. The sheath proved to be very durable as well, and even as I was climbing over rocks while fly fishing or throwing the holstered pliers back and forth in the boat the sheath not only protected the Barracuda but looks just as good as the day it arrived.

Even when pressing hard we had to work the braid a bit and sometimes it still wouldn't cut through...

It is important to note that the stainless steel jaws and cutters will rust after contact with saltwater, and to prevent this it is good to use a rust inhibitor to treat these surfaces. At a very minimum it is a good idea to rinse and wipe the pliers after use in any saltwater application. In our tests we deliberately did not use an inhibitor and only rinsed the tool off after inshore fishing, and it proved to be enough to stay clear of any signs of rust.

....resulting in a messy cut. Scissors worked much better

Price & Applications: The Barracuda retails for $139.00 and replacement jaws or blades cost $20.00 each. In comparison the Abel 6.5” pliers retail for $150.00 for standard black, or $225 dollars for gold or platinum and a leather sheath is an additional $40.00. The Van Staal Titanium 7” pliers are the most expensive and retail for $329.99 per copy, and come with a leather sheath. Both the Fishpond and Abel pliers are machined while the Van Staal is forged. On the opposite end of the spectrum you have our traditional Rapala Stainless Steel Pliers which retails for $10.99 for the 6.5” model. 

Where the Barracuda proved to be excellent was putting leverage on big hooks even when they were embedded deep

So why would someone spend so much more on a pair of pliers than the $10.99 Rapala Stainless Steel option? After all the cost of replacing the cutters alone on any of these pliers is more than a whole new set of the Rapala pliers, or countless other versions available from manufacturers like Bass Pro, Rising, or XTOOLS. As with expensive reels the answer is refinement. Pliers like the Fishpond Barracuda offer fine machining, reduced weight, and a unique feel, and even though they may not have all the features of a much cheaper pair they still shine in certain categories. There are also pliers that bridge the mainstream to premium price gap offering many of the features of premium pliers but not all the refinement or light weight, Browning pliers are a good example of a quality mid-range option.

The stainless steel jaws and cutters can be changed out with a Allen wrench

Most anglers will simply go for the sub 20 dollar pliers option, and what really motivated me to look for a premium pair of pliers was one that I hoped would do everything normal pliers can do but also slice through super lines like butter. Unfortunately the Barracuda cut through everything well apart from braid. The Barracuda is usable for a wide range of applications, but is missing some of the necessary features for proper lure tuning. This is not a pair of pliers that can do it all, but it is among the most cleanly machined and lightweight designs out there. If I had to rank the usability in order I would say the pliers are best for bass fishing, then fly, then salt.

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)

Fishpond Barracuda Pliers Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The Barracuda makes use of quality materials and the construction is actually what we would consider "great" when it comes to both the pliers and the sheath 8
Performance The overall performance had me torn somewhat. The positive features like light overall weight a quality spring were evened out with lackluster performance cutting braided lines and no option for different replacement jaws or cutters 5
Price Any pair of pliers, even premium ones over 100 dollars is going to be expensive for anglers but when you consider the price versus other premium pliers like that from Abel or Van Staal the Fishpond Barracuda looks a whole lot more reasonable 6
Features Perhaps the best feature of the Barracuda is the light overall weight of the tool, the second is the very well designed holster other than that the tool lacks some of the features found on even the most common pliers, this isn't out of character for premium pliers but still something to consider nonetheless 5
Design (Ergonomics) The overall design of the Barracuda is appealing but there are some flaws like the ability to pinch yourself if your hands are too far up the pliers. We would have ranked this a 5 (mediocre) overall but gave the pliers bonus points once again for the excellent and very ergonomic sheath 5.8
Application The Barracuda can be used in a number of different applications ranging from fly fishing to saltwater, unfortunately the jaws of the pliers make it a bit more difficult to handle very small lures, and the lack of a split ring nose limit the ability to work with large hooks/split rings 6

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 Quality construction L Cutters are not great for braid
J Lightweight design L No split shot crimp or split ring option
J Excellent carrying sheath L Costly for pliers, reasonable in comparison to other premium pliers
J Spring loaded  
J Replaceable jaws and cutters  


Conclusion: The Barracuda offers a lot but is missing some of the features to make it a truly great solution. The lack of a split ring tool or ability to sever braided superlines with ease hurt the Barracuda’s usability and the thick flat jaws while great for gaining leverage on large hooks made it difficult for detailed precision handling of tiny lures. The best part about the pliers may not actually be the pliers themselves but the brilliant sheath that comes bundled with the tool. The sheath looks great, is perfectly form fitting, durable, and actually comfortable to wear. As far as premium pliers go the Fishpond Barracuda is actually on the reasonable side, now only if those cutters were sharper and harder wearing and until that time my quest for a “do it all” pair of pliers continues and I find myself still carrying a small pair of scissors with me on the boat just for braid.










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