The use of lip gripping devices in angling is always a controversial issue. Personally I use them & I will tell you why.
After suffering a treble hook in my finger on two occasions I decided that keeping my fingers away from the danger area is paramount to me. Any fish with a hook in its mouth especially a lure with two or three sets of treble hooks on them is a risk to both the fish and the angler.
Apart from the flailing hooks as your bass instinctively wriggles about, the bass has its own impressive armoury that can inflict a deep cut through bad handling. Sharp spines on the dorsal fin, sharp points on the end of each gill cover. Additionally, on the cheek and behind the eye, there are serrated projections that open out when the fish flares its gills. Small bass do this instinctively as a defence mechanism & the larger fish never lose this inbuilt reaction to a threat.
I try to land my bass as carefully as possible & as I release them all, I want to do my best to see that they swim off in tip top condition. I play the bass to my feet & either net, boga, or slide them ashore on a wave depending on my location, state of the sea, ground type etc.
Now with the bass out of its natural environment I don’t want to do it any further damage to its eyes, mucus layer coating, scales, fins, gills etc. I don’t throw a tea towel over it (if using some sort of towel, be sure to wet it with sea water first), or use my knee on it to hold it still so that I can get the hook out, I don’t put any fingers up the gill plate that could easily damage the sensitive gill rakers. I use a boga grip to hold its head where I want it, therefore doing minimal damage to me and to the fish. Ideally I would use an unhooking mat or similar & if I was weighing it I would use a sling.
How many fish have you dropped from waist height on to the sand, rocks, concrete harbour structure, boat deck etc. because the fish has slipped from your grip? We have all done it. That does far more damage to the fish than someone using a boga type grip on the lip of a fish & supporting the mid section of the fish with the other hand.
I place the bass back in the water still attached to the boga & swim it until it is revived, then I release it to swim off.
In my opinion a boga grip does less damage to a bass than the hook with your lugworm on it or the treble hook on your lure, as long as you don’t hold the fish unsupported by its head from the device . Think about the damage unwittingly that you could be doing to your bass that you are returning to the sea by bad handling. So get a grip & get a lip grip. But remember get a grip that other anglers recommend as not all grips are equal.
Author: Nigel Fairclough