Since the dawn of angling, one question has forever remained upon the lips of wives, husbands, brothers, and colleagues. That of course is -- "how much did that lunker weigh?" Before the advent of accurate scales and fish-weighing devices, a typical answer was usually formulated by the unexacting science of pretend digits and irrational exaggeration. Many of you may have come to know this as "the fisherman's lie."
A great advantage of a spring scale is not having to rely on batteries for power.
The new breed of weigh scales have advanced in leaps and bounds, now offering the user a quick and easy weight of that trophy catch. Best of all they are accurate, and as much as it can hurt our pride when the reading is low, they can help put the "truth" back into fishing again.
Narrowing Down the Choices
Anglers have two choices when it comes to scales -- spring or digital. Both have their merits, and of course disadvantages, and deciding which one is right can often be made by factoring in fishing style, size of specie, cost, and ease of use.
Spring scales are a rudimentary and basic-style type of apparatus. When a fish is hung from the affixed hook, a spring lever is pulled downwards along a lined weight chart. Where the lever stops is the final weight of the fish -- pretty simple stuff, really.
Spring scales run the gamut in prices, and with this style, the more money you spend, the higher level of accuracy you can expect to receive. Cheap and inferior springs can weaken and stretch, resulting in weights that can be way off base. Think of this in terms of an elastic band - the more you stretch it, the greater the chance of it losing its elasticity. (This becomes obvious when the scale does not read "0" at rest.)
For those looking for a ballpark weight, spring scales will certainly do the job. The lower-end models may not be as accurate as those in a higher price range, but they do provide a quick and easy readout for those that aren't quite as occupied with ounces or tenth's of a pound.
Another advantage of a spring scale is not having to rely on batteries for power. They will work whenever you need them, as the power to run them is derived from the basic laws of physics.
Look for strong, comfortable handles. I prefer the models that allow you to slide a hand through a hoop when lifting, as opposed to clenching the sides of the unit itself. This can be particularly handy when dealing with overly large fish, or those that are thrashing or moving about. Rubberized handles will also provide added comfort, and will be less slippery when wet as opposed to the metal variety.
Another interesting feature is a "weight slider" -- a mechanism that slides down with the original slider, giving you a semi-permanent record of the weight. This slider will stay in place, allowing you to see if your next fish is bigger or smaller, while also keeping track of your record as the season progresses -- definitely worth the money in my books.
Although most spring scales are manufactured to be rust-resistant, there are still a few out there that fall below standard. Make sure the unit you purchase is made from aluminum. This alloy will protect your investment for years to come, maintaining it in perfect working order, and completely rust-free.
Stainless steel hooks are the norm for spring scales. Choose a hook size that will be adequate for the species you most routinely target. Small hooks will leave you at a disadvantage when weighing large fish (such as pike or catfish), so pick accordingly. A medium-sized hook will usually work well in most situations.
When choosing a digital, the first consideration is how much of a weight it can register.
Digital (LCD Display)
Digital scales are the cream of the crop when it comes to weighing devices, and their advantages are easily recognized.
Digital scales work on the premise of a hook and LCD display, digitally showcasing the weight on a screen. Weights are very accurate, and the process is quick and effortless.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when buying a scale of this variety.
When choosing a digital, the first consideration is how much of a weight it can register. Common styles available will weigh fish up to five-pounds, up to ten, 20, and 50. For those that chase large fish, go with the highest weight limit you can find. A slight bit of accuracy may be lost the higher up you go, which isn't necessarily true in the lower-limit scales available. If you only target bass in the northern climes, a 10-pound scale will give you the most accuracy, and will be adequately sufficient for your chosen species. Keep in mind that the higher the weight range, the greater the price will generally be.
Large LCD screens are a definite plus when out in the elements, as reading a small screen during pouring rain or a blinding sun can prove very difficult. Bigger is certainly better, and your eyes will greatly appreciate it.
Handles are important, especially when hoisting large fish, so make sure they are sturdy and strong. My preference is for the "through-the-handle" kind, as these will ensure a perfect grip, and will alleviate slipping or dropping. It goes without saying to choose a unit that is completely waterproof. Most units on the market are, but it is still a good idea to double check.
Many digital scales will now store the weight of your fish, giving you an easy-to-access record book when out on the water. This function will also prove useful to tournament anglers, where culling for ounces can often mean the difference between first place or second.
Batteries are the brains behind a digital scale, ultimately giving life to the LCD screen. Most batteries will outlive the life of your scale, as the average is somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 hours. It is a good idea to look for a scale that will function at this level, as the last thing you need is a dead unit while a record fish sits in the livewell.
Some units will come with a built-in battery, while other will require you to purchase batteries separately. A built-in battery indicator is also a nice plus, but only seems necessary for those without a long shelf life.
Built-in and automatic battery shut off is a prerequisite for a digital scale. Most will shut off after 1 minute has elapsed, saving valuable battery power and putting an end to leaving the switch on and draining the unit. If the unit you are interested in doesn't have this feature, my advice is to keep on looking.
Scales have put an end to the guessing game of fish weights. The new breed are accurate, fast, and long lasting, ensuring many years of effortless service when out on the water. Add a weigh scale to your arsenal this coming season, and see how fun and fulfilling it can be to know exactly how much that lunker really weighs.