Overview: For the most part I am a catch-and–release angler. There are a few exceptions though. Walleye – I flat out love Walleye and I can’t think of a legal-sized Walleye that I’ve ever sent back. Pike – while we release about 95% of the Pike we catch on our Canada fishing trips, we always fillet up a few for either lunch or dinner. Salmon and Steelhead – again these fish are mostly caught and released but there are times that, when legal, I keep a few for the grill.
I was getting really sick of wrestling - or maybe a better word would be sawing - through these catches with my current fillet knife. I wanted something that had a really good blade, offered a nice handle with a solid grip – even with wet hands and that was big enough to handle larger fish but not so large that it became unwieldy. My choice was the White River Knife & Tool 8.5” traditional style (also offered in Step up) fillet knife with the cork handle.
The first test of this knife was a winter Steelhead that I caught in a local river. Next, we were able to run it through its paces on some good ole Canadian Pike. Next up, a couple of Walleye. And last, I used it for some of the finish work on a buck that my youngest son shot this past September when we butchered it ourselves. Here’s what I found.
What I like: The Blade. Comparing this blade to my old blade is like comparing a Ferrari to a Pinto. Not even in the same Galaxy. The full-tang 440C stainless blade is insane sharp and has just the right amount of flex to make both heavy and delicate cuts. It was able to work through the bigger cuts on all the fish with zero problems – like a hot, well knife I guess, through butter. It was also able to make the extremely thin and delicate cuts when removing the skin from the fillets and took the “silver skin” off the back straps and other cuts of venison from my son’s deer with precision.
The handle. White River offers this knife with either cork or canvas Micarta handles. I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a cork handle. Call me traditional, but I just like the feel of a cork handle, so this choice was easy for me. The handle is very high quality cork. It’s also very light (it floats) and provides a solid grip even with wet/slimy hands.
The Sheath. The high-end leather sheath that came with the knife features White River’s “Stay Put” technology where the sheath wraps over the back of the knife handle and snap attaches, keeping everything together and in place.
The warranty. Here’s what White River’s website says: “Customer Satisfaction matters to us. Which is why we guarantee every knife for life. If you are not 100% satisfied with your White River Knife, return it for repair or replacement, free of charge, no questions asked”. I’ve met the family that owns and runs this Michigan-based company and I know that these aren’t just words – it’s how they do business.
What I don’t like: I’ d have to really stretch to find something about this knife that I don’t love. In my mind the only drawback, for some, might be the price, with an MSRP of $130. That being said I believe the quality of this product well surpasses the price: razor sharp full-tang 440C Stainless steel blade, high quality cork handle, leather sheath with a Lifetime Warranty and all made in the USA for $130? I’m in. With proper care this knife will last a lifetime and can be passed on to the kids.
Perfect for: For me, this knife excels at both heavy and detail work on medium and larger sized fish and can also be used for butchering game. The blade is razor sharp and has a good combination of backbone and flex and the cork handle provides excellent grip even with wet hands. Combine that with a lifetime warranty and you've got a filet knife that will last a lifetime.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5