Best Fillet Knives Reviewed and Rated
If you’re like me, there are few things in this world that bring you as much enjoyment or serenity as hunting. Hunting is one of the oldest hobbies and activities out there, and although it isn’t necessarily for everyone, it’s proven to do nothing but increase in popularity over the years. It can sometimes be hard to get your kids and young ones away from the TV or tablet, but once you do and get them exposed to the great outdoors and everything that it has to offer, they’ll never ever want to go back.
Even if you don’t have kids or little ones, just going out yourself into the great outdoors can be a truly wonderful experience and a great breath of fresh air. With our constantly busy lives, jobs that are increasingly more and more demanding, and everything else, it can sometimes feel like we never have time for a break.
Hunting is one of the best ways to relieve your mind of any stress that builds upon it throughout the day, and whether you’re an experienced hunter or completely new to the hobby, there’s always more to learn about the sport. One of the most important things to keep in mind is ensuring that you outfit yourself with the best gear possible. I’m not saying that you should go out and spend a fortune on all of your hunting gear, but you should be familiar with what you own, plan on buying, and what you’re using.
Of all of the tools that you most commonly use while hunting, one of the most important and most frequently used ones is that of the fillet knives. Fillet knives are critical for properly cleaning an animal once you’ve got it, and while you could grab the very first one that you see in stores or online, doing your homework and a bit of research beforehand will go a long way in ensuring that you end up with the best fillet knives possible.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Elk Ridge ER-028
- Strong Performing
- Gerber Gator
- Rugged and Durable
- Havalon Baracuta
- Folding Design
In this guide, I’ll be talking about everything there is to know about the best fillet knives for hunting. I’ll go over the best brands to consider, the different factors to keep in mind when you’re shopping, frequently asked questions about fillet knives, etc. This is the most comprehensive guide you’ll find online about best fillet knives, and with that being the case, we’ve got a lot of info to go over.
So, without any further ado, let’s get things started!
- Bubba Blade
- Elk Ridge
Factors to Consider When Buying a Fillet Knife
When looking at best fillet knives, you’re more than likely going to be most focused on the actual blade of the knife above all else. While this is certainly a big area of importance to keep in mind when shopping for your next fillet knife, something that’s just as important is the handle. You want to make sure that the handle of the fillet knife you buy is going to be comfortable in your hand when using the knife and that it will provide for enough grip to ensure that it’s as safe to use as possible. It can be quite easy to slip and cut yourself while using a fillet knife, so finding one with a handle that’s sturdy, comfortable, and grippy is one of the most important factors to keep in your mind when involved in the shopping process.
Similar to the handle, the sheath for your fillet knife is another important factor that you might not initially think of at first. A lot of filet knives come with their own sheath bundled with it, but there are some out there that don’t come included with their own sheath. Sheathes are essential for not only keeping your blade in the best possible condition but also for keeping you and other people safe when going to grab your knife from a drawer or something else.
With your next fillet hunting knife, you’ll want to make sure that the blade flexes to some degree. Shorter knives are generally more on the flexible side of things, whereas longer knives usually have a tendency to be a bit stiffer. You don’t want your knife to flex too much to the point where it’s difficult to use, but you do want to make sure that it isn’t rigid as a rock.
Safety and Maintenance Tips
- Always store your knife in a sheath
As I mentioned above, storing your fillet knife in a sheath is one of the best things you can do to ensure that it keeps the blade of the knife as sharp as possible. The sheath will prevent it from coming into contact with items that will wear the blade down, and it will also protect you and loved ones from unwanted cuts and whatnot.
- Regularly sharpen your knife
No matter what kind of knife you own, one of the most important things about owning one is to remember to regularly sharpen it. So many people simply buy a knife and then don’t do any sort of maintenance with it to ensure that the blade stays as sharp as possible, but this will do no good at all for your blade. Keeping your knife’s blade as sharp as possible won’t only deliver you with more efficient cuts, but it will also keep your blade in much better shape for a considerably longer amount of time. Going too long without sharpening your blade has the potential to cause serious damage, so although it might be a pain at times, keeping your blade sharpened on a regular basis will do wonders for it in the long run.
10 Best Fillet Knives
1. Elk Ridge ER-02
Some complain it's uncomfortable to hold
2. Gerber Gator
Holds its edge
Requires good experience in filleting to be used at its best possility
3. Havalon Baracuta
Owners of this knife seem to really love, and the only real downside I was able to find is that some people have said that the initial blade it comes with seems to be a tad bit duller than the other replacements.
The price is a bit on the high side of this list, but when you consider the fact that you’ve got 5 total blades with this thing, you’re really getting 5 fillet knives for a really solid price.
4. Rapala Fish’n Superflex
The knife comes with blade sizes of 4-inches, 6-inches, and 7 ½-inches, so you’ve also got a nice selection when it comes to picking out the exact size that you want in regards to the blade. And, factor in the tooled leather sheath, and you really are looking at one of the most impressive, no-frills fillet knife that money can buy.
Very thin blade
Non stick coating
Handle is a bit small
5. Schrade 167UH
Comes with a leather sheath
Blade can snap if flexibility tested too much
The Kershaw Fillet Knife may not have all of the features that some of the other knives on this list have, but it does come with one of the lowest prices you’re going to find. Being able to get a fillet knife for hunting of this caliber at a price this low truly is amazing, and if you’re looking to save as many dollars as possible, this deserves to be one of the first knives that you look at when you go out shopping.
Allows good maneuverability
Very easy to sharpen
Mot eligible for shipping outside the US
Handle is a bit uncomfortable
7. Columbia River 3085
The length of the item as a whole is 11.6-inches, and it features a weight of about 1.8 ounces. Additionally, the knife comes with its own nylon sheath to add an extra layer of protection to ensure that everything stays looking as good as possible. Couple all of this with a comfortable handle and extremely affordable price tag, and you’re looking at one of the best affordable options out there for a really great fillet knife for hunting.
Tail lock safety bar
8. SOG HT201N-CP
The same thing can actually be said for the handle itself. The handle is constructed out of a glass-reinforced nylon and rubber mold that offers an extremely comfortable feel in the hand, and there’s also a sheath included with a snap closure to keep the blade safe and secure at all times when you aren’t using it. The handle and sheath are both black, but the blade features pleasant orange accents to keep things visually interesting. The price here does tend to be a bit on the higher side of things, but when you consider the fact that you’re essentially getting three knifes in one, the value is actually quite impressive for the amount that you’ll end up spending.
Fits very comfortably
9. Bubba Blade CCA
Essentially, if you’ve got a lot of work piled up for your next fillet knife, this is going to be one of your best choices.
Thumb and finger pads
Non stick coating prevents rust from forming
Handle too large
Rust and slip resistant
Easy to control
A little longer
Criteria For Evaluation
In the top ten we had a lot of favorites, with the Elk Ridge standing out as the best available. We narrowed the list down considerably with a lot of fillet-specific features. Since fillet knives are used outdoors and in the kitchen, we balanced our criteria to reflect that. This was an important inclusion for RV and home owners that used the knives on a daily basis. The top ten had a lot of quality choices that were close to one another in features. Every knife on the list is a great buy, even for the most casual of users.
Blade Material and Handle Quality
The first two criteria we looked at are the most important when choosing any knife; blade material and handle quality. Stainless steel differs in quality based on the brand or the composition of materials used to make the final product. One brands stainless steel will always be different from the other. And when you’re talking about the coated fillet knives, it goes into a completely different category. We rated knives on their initial sharpness out of the box, how long they maintained sharpness, and how strong the blade was without sacrificing flexibility. Handle quality was an easier criteria to measure since the materials were similar across multiple brands. This is also where we did a lot of filtering of the lesser quality fillet knives, based on their lack of comfort. Every knife on the list had to pass the ‘sweat test’, an evaluation that is more about safety than comfort. A good handle won’t slip when your hands get sweaty, and it also won’t soak up water. This feature keeps bacteria and accidents to a minimum for all top tier fillet knives. A common theme with the products that remained was the lack of wood handles, which by all accounts is considered inferior to manmade materials (for longevity).
Next up, the products that remained had to pass multiple durability tests. It’s important to note that we didn’t concentrate on durability outside of the intended use of the product. So finding the breaking point wasn’t the priority with the durability tests. We instead looked at how well the fillet knives performed in real-world situations that required extended uses per day. Products that wore out quickly were considered low quality and kept off of the list. The high-end choices were fine in everyday use with the aid of weekly sharpening.
And this is where the extras criteria came in, which gives favorable advantages to fillet knives with accessories. The most common accessory is the sheath, which doubles as a knife sharpener if it’s made of leather. Some products even offered complete kits for sharpening their knives, while others kept it as an all in one package. Preference wasn’t given for either type, and we rewarded products for the quality of the extras rather than the quantity. Brands like Rapala earned a high spot on the list for their beautiful but functional tooled sheaths.
Usability and Design
Fillet knives don’t really need instructions, so judging their usability is about extra features. This includes company-specific things like polished brass ferrule, PTFE non-stick coating, full tang and even comfort features like gator grip. Usability as a criterion puts marketed features front and center for the user since they are all about improving the experience. This criterion helped us decide a lot of close matches on the list, with some fillet knives usability rating higher than its peers. Rankings that were improved with the usability criteria favored brands that were innovative. There are a lot of popular names at the top of the list that decided to mix things up with their features. Design was all about the visual points, so we didn’t view it as a con if a product failed this criterion. Some of the stunners on the list like the Schrade 167UH gained a lot of compliments from magazines. Looks aren’t everything, but it is hard to deny the appeal of good looking knives to a buyer. Consumer decisions can be shaped by the design of a product, so naturally, near the end of organizing the top ten, we noticed the better-looking fillet knives dominating the list.
Pricing was a criterion we considered leaving off of the list, but added it for one reason; balance. At this point in our rankings, several products were evenly matched. We identified similar fillet knives and separated them by price, with the lower of the two being the better value. It instantly gained a higher spot on the list to help with the variety of the listed products. Products that included a lot of extras were not included in this criteria. Their price was justified with the value of the knife package as a whole rather than the fillet knife itself.
Our last criteria was size, and it only affected a couple of products on the list. We gave a score based on the number of sizes the company made available to the consumer. It was a refreshing change from not having a choice at all with sizes, so a couple of products on the list (like Kershaw and Rapala) scored huge with this criteria. This was great for buyers that wanted to purchase different sized fillet knives and keep them all within the same set. With products that had a good design, it helped them even more in this category.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When Is A Fillet Knife Necessary?
A: When filleting fish or meat, there is no better knife. The reason it is preferred for these actions has to do with the control it gives the user. Fine cuts are possible and easy enough for anyone to accomplish even if they’re not professional cooks. Fillet knives are essential in any kitchen and are also specialized tools used by outdoorsman when they need to make precise cuts. Some other uses for the knives are trimming fat, removing fish scales and even getting rid of the webbing in A:smaller game. Using the knife on citrus fruits also has a benefit, and will let you get rid of the parts of fruit you don’t want. Fillet knives have a place for garnishing purposes, so in many ways can be considered the perfect knife.
Q: What Are Some Characteristics To Pay Attention To When Buying A Fillet Knife?
A: A good fillet knife is available at all prices, but you will notice that they are never dirt cheap. The quality of the materials used to make a top grade fillet knife should never be cheap, and that is why you won’t get good mileage out of a generic brand. At the top of the list of things to look for, top grade stainless steel is the leader. A larger blade is always preferred to a smaller one, but variety is a good thing. Lastly, the handle needs to provide a nice grip while also being comfortable to hold at weird angles.
Q: How Does A Fillet Knife Differ From Other Knives?
A: Knowing when a fillet knife would be the best tool for the job comes down to knowing how it differs from other knives. A boning knife is thin like a fillet knife, but lacks flexibility. The blade is straight while a fillet knife blade is curved. These two differences show that the boning knife was made for power cuts while the fillet knife was made for precision. With the many innovations of both types of knives, it isn’t uncommon to see certain features crossover between the two. But for the most part, their core functions remain the same even with physical changes.
Q: Can A Fillet Knife Be Too Short?
A: Fillet knives range in size from 4 to 9 inches in length. There are some that go under and over this size, but the standard industry sizes that you will find the most of will follow the 4-9 inch rule. To look into it further, some of the most sold sizes are 4, 6, 7.5 and 9 inches. It is a big jump from 4 to 6 inches, so anything lower than the smallest size would make it less effective as a precise cutter. So yes, fillet knives can be too short to the point where they are ineffective for normal use.
Q: What Is Considered Good Material?
A: The blade of a fillet knife is usually made from high-grade stainless steel. Companies use different grades, so buyers should look at the feature list to find out what type of stainless steel is being used. And if an in-house material is used to make the blade, any additional features will help you decide if it is a better fit for your needs. High-grade stainless steel will be reflected in the overall cost of the fillet knife, so be wary of cheap options that promise top tier stainless steel. A bad blade on the knife will make it useless even if sharpened correctly.
Q: Are The Knives Durable?
A: Regardless of quality, a fillet knife is less durable than other knives when used incorrectly. Tight cuts and precision are its strengths, so if you try to brute for it then there is a chance it will break. Fillet knives are flexible, thin and light compared to other knives. The most pressure you want to put on the tip is when you are picking the pit out of fruit. Even with the most expensive fillet knife in the world, there is a chance of breaking when it is used for the wrong tasks.
Q: When Is It Safe To Put A Fillet Knife In The Dishwasher?
A: For professionals, outdoorsman, and consumers this is where things get a little confusing. Even if the manufacturer states that their fillet knives are dishwasher safe, technically you still don’t want to depend on that method of cleaning. A good knife sharpening kit with some oil will always be the best method for cleaning any knife. Not only will it prolong the life of the product, but it will make sure that your best knives are always at their sharpest. Fillet knives depend on fine cuts, so always try to have them in top shape when needed.
Q: Why is The Handle Important?
A: How well you execute a cut will come down to a combination of things, including the handle. Don’t overlook the importance of the handle with a fillet knife. It should be comfortable, have a nice grip and be made of quality material. You don’t want it to slip around while in your hands, but you also don’t want it so rough that it gives your hands blisters. One other overlooked aspect of handle quality is how easily bad materials can soak up bacteria. Consumers will notice this when the handle begins to smell or crack in certain areas.
Q: How Does An Electronic Fillet Knife Compare To Traditional Sets?
A: There are pros and cons to each, yet the drop in precision is a known con. Traditional fillet knives will give you incredible control over short and long cuts. It’s hard to make a mistake when using a well-toned fillet knife, and that is why the change to an electronic knife can be jarring. Users that don’t have steady hands will have a much better experience with an electronic fillet knife. The precision is good, and they won’t have to worry about making bad cuts while preparing a meal. As a bonus, electronic knives have swappable tools that are easier to maintain than normal knives.
Q: Do All Sets Come With Accessories?
No, but there are great benefits to the ones that do. Extras like sharpening tools are always a plus. They save money upfront so that you don’t have to make a separate purchase. A fillet knife with included sharpening tools is always a promising buy when you want an all in one set. Sheaths are nice to have, but if the set will be used primarily in the kitchen, it’s unnecessary. The focus on sheaths will only come into play if the fillet knife is used for outdoor hunting and activities.
Q: Do I need to sharpen my fillet knife blade?
A: Absolutely. This will help to ensure that the blade of your fillet knife stays in the best condition possible, and as a result of this, your cuts will be as clean and effective as can be. It can certainly be easy to slack off with your sharpening, but it really does go a long way in ensuring the overall quality and safety of your cuts.
Q: What’s the difference between blade size?
A: With fillet knives for hunting, you’ll notice that blades come in a variety of different sizes. The main difference with the length of the blade is the flexibility that it offers. Knives with shorter blades will feature more flexibility, whereas longer blades will have a tendency to be a bit stiffer.
Overall, making the best decision when picking the best fillet knives for hunting for your particular case shouldn’t prove to be too much work. The main things you’ll want to keep an eye out for are the length of the blade, the material the handle is made out of, and what kind of knife it is. Traditional knives are usually a bit more affordable, but if you want to get something with interchangeable blades or anything else, expect to pay a little more.
All of the knives mentioned in this guide are some of the best that money can buy, and while I strongly recommend all of them, the amount of money you want to pay will result in how many included goodies or features you’ll get. You can spend a very small amount of cash for a really solid fillet knife for hunting, or you can pony up a few extra dollars to get something a bit fancier. The ultimate decision will come down to how much you’re willing to spend to get the best fillet knives and what your current budget looks like.
Happy shopping and hunting!