All electricians know that fish tapes are absolutely indispensable tools. If you don’t have one, it will make your job much more difficult!
But thanks to fish tapes, anyone doing wiring can pull wires through conduits in walls, ceilings, and floors without having to drill holes. Much less mess and far less stress.
Sometimes called a “draw wire” or “electrician’s snake”, a fish tape is a long, thin, flat steel wire often wound up inside a donut-shaped wheel with a sturdy handle.
If you’re a professional electrician, or just doing some home DIY involving wiring, you’ll need a fish tape that saves you time and effort.
But which are the best fish tapes on the market today? There are so many options out there, it’s tough to decide which one will actually suit your needs.
I’ve done my research, and analyzed the pros and cons of six of the top fish tapes on the market today.
If you’re in the market for a new fish tape, and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, check out my list below of the top 4 fish tapes to suit your needs.
My personal favorite is the Klein Tools 56335 Fish Tape due to its strength, length, and durability. It’s perfect for professionals as well as home DIYers. I specifically like that the distance marks are laser-etched, so they will be visible for a long time to come.
But there are other options, for different applications. Let’s see which fish tape could be the best one for you.
|Best fish tape||Images|
|Best overall fish tape tool: Klein Tools 56335 Flat Steel|
|Best compact fish tape: Gardner Bender EFT-15|
|Best low friction design fish tape: Southwire 59896940 SIMPULL|
|Best fiberglass fish tape: Ram-Pro 33-Feet Cable Rods|
|Best glow in the dark fish tape: Klein Tools 20-Foot Glow|
In this post we'll cover:
- Best fish tape – buyer’s guide
- 5 best fish tapes on the market today reviewed
- Fish tape FAQs
Best fish tape – buyer’s guide
This is one tool where quality really counts. A good quality fish tape makes a professional electrician’s job so much easier, but for those who know, an inferior fish tape can be a nightmare!
Bad fish tapes are hard to pull in and out, have lower push strength, and are prone to kinking and breaking. So, it is important to purchase a good quality fish tape and to know what features to look for in the products on the market.
Professionals all agree that the best fish tapes are:
- Made from strong material, usually steel, which pulls smoothly and easily, and doesn’t curl.
- The design of the case should allow for smooth and quick retrieval and stop the tape from kinking.
- The case should have a large and slip-resistant handle.
- The tool should be rust resistant and durable.
Laser-etched footage markers on the tape make it that much more useful – it measures the length of the conduit so that you can now know the exact length of wire needed.
So before you buy a fish tape, these are the 4 things that I always check before making my final purchase. These will help you narrow down the exact fish tape for your personal and professional needs:
Length and tensile strength
The length is the first thing to consider when buying fish tape.
A medium-length tape, around 15 to 25 feet, is probably adequate for most DIY purposes. But, for industrial and professional electrical work, a longer length tape is needed, perhaps up to 125 or even 250 feet.
The thickness and tensile strength of the tape is another important consideration. The larger the size of the conduit, the thicker and stiffer the tape needs to be.
Bear in mind that longer fish tapes are heavier and harder to work with. Tape lengths typically range from 15 to 400 feet.
Fish tapes come in a variety of materials, including steel, stainless steel, and fiberglass.
Steel is a good, general-purpose, fish tape material. Steel tape is durable, low cost, and known for its push and pull strength.
Stainless steel has all the qualities of steel with the added benefit that it is rust resistant and is ideal for use in underground conduit that often contains water and condensation and in coastal areas where there is more humidity.
Laser-etched footage markers have expanded the use of fish tape not only as an installation tool but also to measure conduit to allow electricians to accurately know the length of wire needed and thus reduces waste.
Fiberglass or nylon fish tape is generally used by professional electricians when there is a high risk of conductivity. It has lower push strength though and tends to curl.
Case design and easy pull
Ease of spool-out and retrieval of the tape is, just like with extension cord reels, largely dictated by the design of the case. Cases should allow for smooth, quick retrieval, while also preventing the tape from kinking.
Retainers keep the tape properly positioned at the opening and prevent breakage. Ergonomically designed handles are stronger, slip-resistant and large enough to grasp from the top or the side, even when wearing gloves.
The quality of the materials used in its manufacture and design will define the lifetime of your tool.
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5 best fish tapes on the market today reviewed
After having researched the various fish tape available on the market, tested a few of the products, and taken note of the feedback from users, I have selected the five that I believe offer the best features in terms of quality, value for money, and durability.
Best overall fish tape tool: Klein Tools 56335 Flat Steel
This is my top fish tape tool as it is great for the pros and DIYers. Strong, long, and durable, you can’t go wrong with the Klein Tools 56005 Fish Tape.
Made from tempered, high- quality steel, this fish tape extends to 25 feet. This length is more than adequate for electricians doing light commercial and residential installations.
The high tensile steel tape holds stiff for long runs, and it easily manages heavy-duty wire pulls. It has a flat, plastic slotted tip which prevents snagging and easily accepts wire attachments.
The laser etched markings, in one- foot increments, help to measure the length of the conduit runs as well as the length of tape left to play out. The markings cannot fade or be rubbed out.
The polypropylene case and handle offer the maximum impact resistance. The raised finger-grips give it excellent hold and the full-grip handle makes it comfortable to carry.
This tape is perfect for running under carpeting or through insulation, where penetrating strength is needed.
The versatile design of this tape and the competitive price make it a very attractive option for electricians, engineers and even DIYers.
- Length and tensile strength: This fish tape extends to a maximum of 25 feet, which makes it ideal for light commercial and residential installations. The high tensile steel tape holds stiff for long runs, and it easily manages heavy-duty wire pulls.
- Material: The tape is made of high-quality steel with laser-etched markings. The case is made of polypropylene plastic which is hard wearing and impact resistant. The tape has a flat, plastic slotted tip which prevents snagging.
- Case design and easy pull: The polypropylene case and handle offer maximum impact resistance. The raised finger-grips give it excellent hold and the full-grip handle makes it comfortable to carry. The case design allows for smooth, quick retrieval, while also preventing the tape from kinking. Retainers keep the tape properly positioned at the opening and prevent breakage.
- Durability: The quality materials used to manufacture this tool – high-quality steel and a polypropylene case- ensure that this is a long-lasting and durable product.
Best compact fish tape: Gardner Bender EFT-15
The Gardner Bender EFT-15 Mini Cable Snake is a very compact tool which is light and portable and easy to store.
Made of low-memory steel, the tape will not curl during extension.
It extends to a maximum of 15 feet, so it is ideal for short runs – installing speakers, home networks and other common home electrical uses.
The casing is strong and durable, and the fingers fit comfortably into the deep grooves, making for easy manual retraction. Manual retraction also prevents the snapback which can happen with other fish tapes.
The casing also has a belt clip which can be attached comfortably and safely to your electrician’s tool belt.
The flat, plastic eyelet tip stops the tape from scratching surfaces as you snake through tight spaces and allows you to connect the cable to the fish tape without having to use additional materials.
Extremely well priced. Perfect for non-conduit situations.
- Length and tensile strength: The tape extends to a maximum of 15 feet, which makes it ideal for short runs and for domestic use.
- Material: Made of low-memory steel, the tape will not curl during extension.
- Case design and easy pull: The casing is light weight with deep grooves where the fingers fit comfortably, for easy manual retraction. It also has a belt clip. The low-memory steel makes for smooth, easy extension. It has a no -snag plastic tip to stop the tape from scratching other surfaces.
- Durability: Casing is strong and durable.
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Best low friction design fish tape: Southwire 59896940 SIMPULL
Southwire’s 1/8 inch-wide high-quality blued steel fish tape comes in five different lengths – from 25 feet to 240 feet. The bluing adds a level of rust-resistance to the steel which makes it more durable.
This fish tape comes in two different leader options which give it wider application and versatility. One of them is a swiveling flexible metal leader that easily glides through the conduits.
The other is a non-conductive, glow-in-the dark type which is especially useful for installation over existing wires. This is one of the most useful features of this fish tape in my opinion.
The high- quality steel ensures that it pulls smoothly and easily, giving the tape a longer life. The laser-etched markings cannot fade or be erased and offer exact measurements for accurate wire length.
The ergonomic impact-resistant case makes it tough and durable, and the large handle is very handy, especially for gloved hand.
- Length and tensile strength: This tape is available in different lengths- from 25 feet up to 240 feet, for serious industrial applications. The tape is made of blued steel which makes it strong and durable.
- Material: The tape is made of high- quality steel that moves smoothly and holds stiff for long runs. The case is tough and impact resistant.
- Case design and easy pull: The high-quality steel ensures that it pulls smoothly and easily and the laser-etched markings, in 1- foot increments, won’t fade or be rubbed out by frequent use.
- Durability: The bluing of the steel gives the tape a level of rust-resistance which makes it more durable. The impact-resistant case makes it strong enough for the harshest work environment.
Best fiberglass fish tape: Ram-Pro 33-Feet Cable Rods
The Ram-Pro 33-Feet Fiberglass Fish Tape is certainly one of the most versatile fish tapes on the market, when it comes to length and flexibility.
It comes as a set of 10 rods, each 1 meter in length, which screw together, providing a working length of 10 meters in total (33 feet). However, if a longer length is required, more rods can be added.
The rods are made of high quality non-conductive sturdy fiberglass with solid brass connectors and eye/hook ends.
The hook and eye attachments make for smooth and easy pushing and pulling of cables and there is an acrylic bar that flexes to any angle required.
The rod shafts are yellow in color to increase visibility. Multiple rods can be connected, to extend the length required. There is a plastic tube holder for storing the rods.
This tool is useful for difficult wiring installations. The flexibility of the fiberglass makes for smooth and easy movement of the cords through the toughest spaces, without sparking fires.
- Length and tensile strength: The length is variable – from one meter up to 30 meters or 33 feet, but it can be extended by adding additional rods.
- Material: The rods are made of high quality, non-conductive fiberglass, with solid brass connectors and eye/hook ends. The rods come in a plastic tube holder, for storage when not in use.
- Case design and easy pull: The loose rods don’t have a rolling case, but come with a handy transparent storage case to keep them safe and together.
- Durability: Fiberglass does not rust, and the solid brass connectors make this a hard wearing tool.
Best glow-in-the-dark fish tape: Klein Tools 20-Foot Glow
This fish tape from Klein Tools is also made of fiberglass, with a nylon tip, and has the unique feature that the whole cable is glow-in-the-dark.
This means that even in tight dark spaces and corners you will be able to see your fish tape clearly.
The clear housing allows you to charge the glow easily in sunlight or lamplight. The cable can also be removed from the case completely, for greater flexibility.
Putting it back in the case is a breeze with the clear alignment markings.
Because the anchor end features a stainless-steel fish rod connector, any of Klein Tools fish rod accessories can be attached to the end of the fish tape. This allows this fish tape to also function as a super-flex glow rod.
The smooth fiberglass allows the cable to easily be fed throuhg tight and crowded spaces. It makes the tool lightweight and easy to handle as well, ideal for lighter tasks.
- Length and tensile strength: 20 feet of durable, lightweight, and smooth fiberglass for flexible feeding.
- Material: The cable is made from glow-in-the-dark fiberglass with a nylon tip. A stainless steel connector is also included to attach any of Klein Tools fish rod accessories.
- Case design and easy pull: The clear impact-resistant storage case allows charging the glow-in-the-dark while in the case. The cable can be removed completely for more applications.
- Durability: Fiberglass is less durable than steel and stainless steel, but this cable won’t break or kink easily.
Fish tape FAQs
After these reviews, you might still have some questions left about fish tape. Let me get into some of those.
Why is it called fish tape?
So, what’s up with the name?
The “fish” part of the name actually refers to the act of attaching electrical wires to the end of the tape, which has a hook-like eye, and then pulling the tape back through the conduit with the wires in tow.
Just like fishing, you ‘catch’ the wire on the end of the hook and pull your ‘catch’ towards you!
What is a fish tape used for?
Fish tape (also known as a draw wire or draw tape or an “electricians snake”) is a tool used by electricians to route new wiring through walls and electrical conduit.
How to use fish tape?
Professional electricians will use fish tapes almost every day. But if you’re doing a home DIY project, I’ve put together some information below on how fish tapes work, and how to use one efficiently.
Fish tapes usually come in varying lengths, from 15 feet up to 400 feet.
Feed the tape
To pull the tape out of the wheel, you press a button or pull a lever on or near the handle. This releases the tape and allows you to simply pull it out of the wheel.
You then feed the tape into the conduit as you unwind it from the wheel.
When the tape emerges at the other end of the conduit, a helper attaches wires to the end of the tape, which has a hook-like eye, then you pull the tape back through the conduit with the wires in tow.
To wind the fish tape back in, grip the center of the wheel with one hand and turn the handle with the other. This winds the tape back into the casing.
To attach multiple wires to a fish tape, strip the outer insulation from the wires and wrap the bare wires through the eye on the end of the fish tape.
Twist a strand around all the wires attached and wrap the whole head of the wire connection with electrical tape.
Adding wire-pulling lubricant makes it move more easily. When a job calls for a large wire in a conduit, electricians may use a fish tape to pull in a rope, then use the rope for the wire pull.
Although the steel wire is both stout and flexible, it’s not a good idea to pull an excessively heavy load with this tool
What can I use instead of fish tape?
- Rigid cable: If you have a large cable on hand, you might be able to use a rigid cable as fishing tape. You will need to make sure to cover the end with a piece of cloth or plastic to prevent it from catching.
- Plastic tubing: If you have a piece of plastic tubing on-site, it can be a good alternative.
What is the most commonly used fish tape?
Steel and stainless-steel fish tapes are the most popular materials. Stainless steel tapes resist rust and corrosion, allowing for longer tool life.
Suitable for a wide range of applications, the standard, flat steel fish tapes continue to be popular.
What is fiberglass fish tape used for?
Fiberglass fish tapes measure the depth of conduit runs and determine the amount of tape left to pay out. Designed for flexibility and easy navigation through conduit runs.
What do you do when the fish tape gets stuck?
One tip on getting it unstuck, if you have some left, coil it up and use the coil to rotate the fish tape. Flip it around a half dozen times and see if that helps get it unstuck.
Sometimes you do have to sacrifice a fish tape. I’ve never had any trouble cutting them with my linesman pliers.
Which is better? Steel or fiberglass fish tape?
Steel tapes are selected for durability and tensile strength. While fiberglass fish tapes are used for their nonconductive value.
Now that you are aware of the features that you should look for when purchasing fish tape, you are in a strong position to be able to select the very best tape for your specific needs – whether you are a professional electrician or a DIYer.
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I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.