I've tried several lip grips for sea bass, as handling them in the kayak is one of the least enjoyable aspects of fishing for them. Not only do the smaller fish come armed to the gills with sharp spines (literally - even the gill plate itself has a spike on it!), they can often have what can only be described as a bit of "an attitude" on being landed. Larger sea bass lose that spike on the gill plate, and the spines on their dorsal fin are also less needle-like. So handling big sea bass is no problem, it's the school bass you have to watch out for and schoolies (2lb-3lb) tend to be what we catch the most. When your kayaking, it can be heart stopping experience to watch a thrashing fish of any size with three sets of razor sharp treble hooks flapping about between your legs. And I'm not just talking about the prospect of repeatedly puncturing those expensive waders or drysuit!
My first set of lip grippers was the Berkley TEC Pistol Trigger Grip fish handling tool. Unlike the glowing review on TackleTour.com, my experience was largely one of frustration. The first fish they had to deal with was a 10lb cod. Guess what - the Berkley Trigger Grip couldn't get round the lips of the fish! But worse than this, when I finally got to test it on some smaller sea bass, the bass twisted and spun wrecking their mouths as the jaws of that particular tool do not rotate. Black mark number two against the Berkley. I finally gave up on the Berkley when after two trips, despite rinsing it down after each trip, it started to stick. Yep, the jaws would jam open just at the critical moment, and you would have to try and shake them or knock them against the fish to get them to close. I was close to throwing the Berkley Trigger Grips in the sea in disgust at one point, but thought some lubrication would sort out the problem. It didn't. The tool is just not saltwater proof.
My second try out was the Lipper Fish Gripper. This looked promising - it's basically an ultra-cheap set of plastic molegrips for fishing. And they float. Unfortunately, being plastic, they are too big and clumsy to fit in the small mouths of little bass, and it's the little spiky ones we need to control! So after that I pretty much gave up, as I couldn't face paying £100 plus for the Eastaboga grips. And the beautiful Japanese lip grippers for smaller fish that you can find online are even more expensive than the Bogas.
But this year, after contemplating various waterproof / bite proof gloves, I had another go to see if our favourite online auction store could come up with a cheap Chinese version. Guess what? It did! The sellers claim that the Kase Pro Aluminium Lip Grips are Japanese designed for smaller mouthed fish, such as sea bass and sea bream. Well, after finding them on auction for £37 including P&P I took the plunge. You should be able to pick them up for between £30-40 including UK delivery (Bazlur, who has commented below, has said he was able to find them on ebay for $30 USD - though delivery charges to your country may be different).
Update: It has come to my notice that there is a minor design flaw with these lip grips, in that the swivelling EVA handle can sometimes fail to swivel if the lower threaded alloy ring on the handle is tightened up too far against the EVA. Unfortunately, just turning the EVA handle on its own can "grip" the lower ring and make it tighten in the same direction, eventually causing the ring to tighten up so hard against the EVA that it stops it turning altogether. This could easily have been solved if the manufacturers had put a threaded locking nut or ring for the lower alloy ring to tighten up against instead of tightening up directly against the EVA material itself. The design flaw is more a minor annoyance than a major issue, but I still wanted not to have to keep re-adjusting that lower ring to make the handle swivel, so I put a small spot of araldite on the threads of the lower alloy ring to lock it in a position so that the EVA handle can continue to rotate freely. This seems to work and the handle rotates without a problem. Once it's done you can re-calibrate the scales as usual.
Mid-season update on damage to fish: As I mentioned earlier, I'd report back on whether the sharp edges on the inside of the jaws damage fish mouths, and I'm afraid to say that they do. Sometimes if a fish wriggles about vigorously they can even put a hole through the fish's jaw. However, the culprit is the sharp edges of the "hooked" inner part of the jaws. By filing these angular corners smooth and round, the grips work just as well and do far less damage:
|By filing off the sharp exterior edges, you stop the tool from putting holes in things it shouldn't, like dry bags and dry suits.|
|By filing off the sharp interior edges, you stop the tool putting a hole through the fish's lower jaw.|