The Hookout is specifically designed to get hooks out of fish that have swallowed them, but I have found it’s excellent for getting a grip on anything in a tight space. My dad got mine for me in the early ’70s. It was part of my fishing tackle box and I used it many times to retrieve fishhooks. I don’t fish anymore, but use it all the time around the house.
I keep one in the kitchen drawer since it’s especially useful for retrieving items from the garbage disposal (bottle caps, sippy cup valves, etc.). It’s also great for automotive work — retrieving hardware that has fallen into a tight space or, god forbid, down the carburetor throat.
It’s perfect because it doesn’t require a lot of space to open up, unlike needle nose pliers. The maximum jaw opening is only about 3/8″, but the Hookout has a powerful grip. It’s useful anywhere you would need some very long skinny needle nose pliers. The jaws are hollow, though, so you’re much less likely to drop what you have just grabbed. It does not work like pliers. Instead, when you squeeze the handle, it pulls on a long rod inside the tool and that in turn pulls the little jaw closed. It’s spring-loaded, so it opens when you open your hand.
I have the zinc-plated version that’s about 9 ” long. It looks somewhat cheaply made, but I’ve tried to bend it by over-squeezing the handle and it won’t bend or distort. If I bought another one, I’d be tempted to pop for the more expensive stainless steel version — just because I have a weakness for things stainless — but the zinc-plated one has held up very well. I kept it clean and made sure it never saw salt water. After 30 years, it still looks almost new.