Best Fillet Knives for Anglers Reviewed: Sharp, Flexible, and Secure in Your Hand

Best Fillet Knives For Anglers 2021

The Best Fish Fillet Knives – For cleaning fish, a good fillet knife can be a vital tool. These long, thin knives are sharp, flexible, and comfortable in the hand. They make it easy to produce fillets for your table. Every serious angler should have at least one.

Do you know what makes the best out of the rest?

We can help you find the right fillet knife for your needs. You’ll find detailed buying guides and reviews of top fishing fillet knife brands below.

Here’s a quick look at the top fishing fillet knives.

  • KastKing MadBite
  • Rapala Fish ‘N Fillet– The Best Traditional Fillet Knife
  • Rapala Soft Grip – Best Modern Fillet Knife
  • Dexter-Russell SaniSafe Narrow Fillet Knife
  • Morakniv Fillet Knife
  • Bubba LiIon Cordless Electric Fillet knife Best Electric Fillet Knife

Review of the Best Fishing Fillet Knives

KastKing MadBite

KastKing Fillet Knife 9 Inch, Professional Level Knives for Filleting Fish, Boning Meat And Processing Any Food....

Blade length: 6″, 7″, or 9″.

Sheath: Yes

Steel: G4116

KastKing is well-respected among anglers. They know the demands of real-world fishing.

This is true for their MadBite fillet knife as well as their reels and pliers. I really like their fillet knife lineup.

MadBite knives’ handles are made of soft polymer, which provides a secure grip even when your hands are laden with slime or blood. A lanyard loop is also included, which is handy for those who work around water.

These handles are large enough to fit most hands and they can be shaped to accommodate a variety grip styles.

I’m very proud of that!

Madbites come in fillet knives sizes 6-8, 7-8, and 9 inches. They are made from Thyssen-Krupp’s 4116 stainless. This steel is perfect for fillet knives, thanks to the addition of chromium (5% of the total alloy).

It can be hardened to 56 RC and is flexible, tough, yet easy to sharpen. It can be resharpened in just a few seconds with any decent sharpening medium.

The blade shape is very nice. It has a slight belly at the tip and a straight edge near the handle.

The black finish on these blades is not something I love, but it’s cosmetic.

Every knife comes with a protective blade cover, not a sheath.

Overall, the MadBite Series are excellent fillet knives and you won’t regret it.

Pros

  • Comfortable and grippy handles
  • Three blade lengths available
  • Excellent steel
  • Overall, great blades

Cons

  • These knives would be great in a sheath.

Rapala Fish ‘N Fillet– The Best Traditional Fillet Knife

Rapala 6' Fish'n Fillet Knife / Single Stage Sharpener / Sheath

Blade length: 4″ to 6″ and 7 1/2 inches.

Sheath: Yes

Steel: “European stainless.”

The classic Rapala is the most well-known fillet knife in all of the world. It has probably been used on more fish than any other!

The Rapala, a traditional Finnish design that is highly capable, is based on it.

Although the handle is made of simple wood, it is very sturdy and can be used even when covered in slime. This is due to centuries of refinement in the shape and material of the handle.

You have plenty of room for your hands, but the handles grow larger as the blades get longer. The 4-inch handle is likely too small to comfortably use in the field for most adults.

No-name European stainless is used to make the blades. This could be because the steel can vary from one batch to another. It is extremely resistant to corrosion, easy to sharpen and maintains a sharp edge for quite some time.

Every knife comes with a leather sheath in the Scandi tradition.

These knives have been my own, and some of them were rehandled by a friend. These knives are well worth the money.

Pros

  • Comfortable, time-tested wooden handles
  • Three blade lengths available
  • Excellent steel
  • Overall, great blades
  • Excellent sheaths

Cons

  • Modern materials may be desirable by some anglers.

Rapala Soft Grip– Best Modern Fillet Knife

Rapala 7 1/2 Inch Soft Grip Fillet Knife / Single Stage Sharpener / Sheath

Blade length: 4″ to 6″, 7 1/2 inches, and 9 inches

Sheath: Yes

Steel: “European stainless.”

You can take Rapala’s original design and add a soft rubberized handle to increase grip. This will make the best fillet knife money has ever seen.

The textured grip is strong no matter what slime or blood are on it. It also protects your hand from sliding onto the blade.

The traditional Rapala blade design and quality are identical. Each knife comes with a black leather sheath.

Pros

  • Comfortable, grippy rubberized handles
  • Four blade lengths available
  • Excellent steel
  • Overall, great blades
  • Excellent sheaths

Cons

  • ?? ??

Dexter- Russell SaniSafe Narrow Fillet Knife

Sani-Safe S133-9-PCP 9' Narrow Fillet Knife with Polypropylene Handle

Blade length: 9″

Sheath:

Steel: Steel from the proprietary 420-series stainless

Sani-Safe knives by Dexter Russell are widely used in American kitchens and have proven their worth time after time.

This knife, while not a common kitchen knife, is perfect for outdoor use.

Although they are the most grippy of the knives on this list, the handles made from white, patterned plastic are very comfortable. I am not complaining and I doubt you will either. Professional anglers have many uses for these knives, including cutting bait and cleaning fish.

This is a great statement.

The blade measures 9 inches and is one of the most flexible on the list. It’s also relatively straight, with very little belly at the tip. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preference. The 420-series (most probably 420A), steel is extremely resistant to corrosion and easy to sharpen in the field.

You won’t find a sheath for these knives, so think about it before you make your final decision.

Pros

  • Comfortable, grippy handles made of plastic
  • Nice blade length for most jobs
  • Excellent steel
  • Overall, great blade

Cons

  • No sheath

Morakniv Fillet Knife

Morakniv Fishing Comfort Fillet Knife with Sandvik Stainless Steel Blade, 6.1-Inch

Blade length: 6.1″

Sheath: Yes

Steel: Sandvik 12C27

Morakniv’s no-nonsense field knives are world-famous. They bring simplicity and Scandinavian design to cutting tasks. Their fillet knife is no surprise.

The handle is a traditional Swedish shape made of plastic polymers. It provides a firm grip even in the most difficult conditions. This fillet knife is perfectly sized to fit all hands. The tool also disappears during work, so you won’t have to think about grip.

This is a high compliment that can be given to a handle.

The blade is made of outstanding Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, Morakniv’s standard stainless. It has proven its worth in all situations and for every task. It resists corrosion, sharpens easily and maintains a razor-sharp edge.

Mora steel was a great choice for me. I have won many knives.

The blade measures 6.1 inches and is suitable for most fish. It also makes it a great compromise for smaller fish.

Every knife comes with a simple but effective sheath. This is a Mora hallmark.

Pros

  • Comfortable, grippy handles made of plastic
  • Nice blade length for most jobs
  • Outstanding steel
  • Overall, great blade

Cons

  • Only one length of blades available

Bubba LiIon Cordless Electric Fillet knife– The Best Electric Fillet Knife

Blade length: 7″, E-FLEX blades, 9″, E-FLEX blades, 9″, E-STIFF blades, and 12″. E-STIFF blades

Sheath:

Steel: Titanium-coated stainlesssteel

Many anglers will use electric knives to fillet large quantities of fish. A cordless electric knife is a better choice than a manual one if you plan to take an electric knife out into the field.

My favorite choice on the market is Bubba’s cordless filet knife.

The battery pack includes two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries as well as an AC outlet for charging them. The battery life is exceptional. No other brand comes close!

Anglers with smaller hands might not like the grip. Rubberized grips provide good grip, even in the most unpleasant conditions.

The electric knife has four blades. There are two lengths available: the shorter, more whip-like length of 7 and 9 inches and the longer, more rigid length of 9 and 12 inches.

This knife can handle almost anything together. The titanium coating is more gimmick than performance-enhancing, but the no-name stainless doesn’t rust and seems to stay sharp for a long time.

If you need to sharpen, consult an expert or purchase new blades. This is the problem with full-serrations.

This electric knife is a great choice if you are able to stomach the bad. It has a long battery life and lots of cutting power.

Pros

  • Comfortable, grippy handles made of plastic
  • For most jobs, you will need a good blade length and stiffness.
  • Good steel
  • Amazing battery life
  • Cordless!

Cons

  • Ugly!
  • You’ll need to replace your blades if they become dull.

How to Choose a Fillet Knife

Fillet Knife Basics

The purpose of a fillet knife, or fillet cutter, is to remove fish fillets with the least amount of waste.

Two of my fillet knives, rehandled with stag.

This is a skill that requires a blade that is long, thin, flexible and able to feel bone. It also needs to give you the ability to slide around or maneuver around them.

A Tramontina boning knife I use in my kitchen.

Boning knives look similar, but have stiffer blades that don’t work well with fish.

Kitchen vs. water: Wustof and Henckels are where?

It may be a mystery to you why we don’t include the excellent fillet knives from Henckels and Wustof on this list. I can assure that it’s not due to quality!

It’s a simple design instead.

Many fillet knives are designed for kitchen use and come with attractive handles. These knives are designed to be used by home chefs and cooks, so they don’t require a secure grip.

Fish slime and blood are common in the field where most of the filleting takes place. Prepare yourself if you have never tried to grasp something with that powerful combination of fish slime and blood.

There is nothing in the world as smooth as slime or blood.

Handles that are not safe for use in these conditions are rare among premium-quality kitchen knives.

Grip

When evaluating a filet knife, the first thing I look at is its handle.

This may seem strange, since the blade is what you use to cut the steel. However, if you cannot control the length of the steel, the knife will not be useful as a tool.

I find enough handle to give a full-handed, firm grip. However, this all depends on how big your hands are. In each review, I noted the handle sizes.

To combat slime or blood, I like texture. It gives me grip for when my hands get really soiled.

While some anglers love finger grooves, I don’t. You may find that a more simple handle shape is better for you, but your mileage might vary.

Blade Length

A good rule of thumb when filleting is to have a blade that is at least twice the width of the fish. This gives you enough length to make saw cuts if needed.

Long blades are required for large fish such as this Cobia.

Too short of a blade can lead to multiple passes and wasted meat.

Steel

It’s easy to become a knife snob in the knife industry. Many enthusiasts make their decisions based on steel “quality.”

Steel is an alloy made of carbon and trace elements. It’s what is added to that carbon, as well as the crucial heat treating that makes it what it is.

Stainless steel is an alloy made of iron and carbon, with additional elements such as boron, chromium or cobalt, manganese.

The harder the blade can be made, the more carbon it has. The steel can be strengthened by adding other elements, such as ductility or wear resistance.

Knife steel begins its life in the kiln. Here, it is heated to re-arrange chemical and crystal structures. The steel is made brittle by this heat, which hardens it quite a bit. Tempering is used to bring the steel back up to strength. Manufacturers want a knife that is both hard enough to hold an edge and soft enough not to break, crack or chip. This is the most crucial step in making a great knife.

It’s a lot like baking. A chocolate cake and a cake made with carrots are similar, but it’s what you do to make them different.

Steel works in the same way. 1095 and 440C both are steel. But it’s what you do to them that makes them what are.

Super steels such as ZDP-189 and CPMS30V are great for knives. They hold an acceptable edge for a long time and can get really sharp. However, to achieve that level of edge performance they cut out nickel and chromium which provide better corrosion resistance.

This is especially true when filleting fish. I would trade some edge holding and toughness for better corrosion resistance.

Let’s concentrate on three key considerations when choosing a fillet knives:

Corrosion resistance

A good fillet knives can withstand saltwater and blood damage without any problems. This is not about cosmetics. I don’t care whether my fillet knives stain. It’s the corrosion at the edge that worries me.

It’s as simple as this: After filleting the cooler with fish, you wash your knife with soap and water and then put it away for next time.

It will be quickly destroyed by rust on the blade edges.

Is it really so dry? How does the humidity compare?

Even minor corrosion can cause a sharp edge to become dull.

I prefer very corrosion-resistant steels for my fillet knives. I believe you will, too.

Do not worry about “premium steels” and stick with the simpler stuff that is known for high resistance to corrosion.

Sharpenability vs. Edge Holding

These are almost always diametrically opposite in most cases. This means that edge holding is worse as sharpenability increases (and vice versa).

Super steels such as V3 or ZDP-189 can be used for general purposes because they can keep an edge for a very long time. This is great for camping trips or when you have to remove a lot of cardboard boxes.

However, for filleting the edge holding times don’t matter.

A fillet knife should be able to hold its edge throughout your work. However, due to how much better they perform when razor sharp, it is more important to be able to quickly get a blade to a point.

This is because an edge that is not as sharp or as smooth as possible doesn’t fillet well. A good edge, however, really isn’t.

You want to use a sharpener to sharpen your fillet. It’s not necessary to do so, but a few quick passes with a sharpener will get you back to work with a razor-sharp edge.

Why not fold?

I have many folding knives and use them for everything, except filleting.

It is difficult to clean this Buck fillet knife.

Why not?

There are two reasons that come to my mind immediately. First, fixed blades are more secure and easier to use with a good sheath.

The second is hygiene. It is very difficult to clean folding knives properly, especially with the presence of fish slime or scales.

Last Thoughts

You can see that quality tools don’t have to be expensive. All of the knives in our list can be used to make a lot of fish on your next fishing trip.

As you can see, the Rapalas are highly rated, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the great alternatives such as Morakniv.

We hope this article helped you choose your next fillet knife. If not, we would love to hear about it.

Leave a comment below

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.