An Invention Born of Necessity: The Fish Tape

Some time ago, a resourceful electrician discovered that getting conductors through tight spaces could be simplified by “fishing” a stiff length of wire through the cavity first to pull those stubborn conductors through. The basic function and purpose of fish tape has remained unchanged throughout the years, but the technology, ergonomics, and specialization have improved enormously.


Fish tape tends to be an unsung hero of the electrician’s tool lineup. Many of us readily admit that the abuse our fish tape endures is more significant—constantly being dropped on bare concrete, their cases beaten and blemished—all while doing one of the most important jobs that electricians are tasked to do.


You probably find fish tape useful for any situation in which you need to route conductors through a hard-to-access area, and of course are particularly useful through plastic or metal conduit.  Commercial and industrial electricians use them to tackle long conductor runs through pre-bent conduit. Residential electricians use them for routing through attics, walls, and difficult-to-reach tight spaces. Tape lengths range from 25–50 feet for short-run work and 100- and 200-foot lengths for larger projects.

The IDEAL Difference

There’s wide variety of options to choose from when considering a fish tape purchase, and that includes manufacturers. IDEAL has been an electrician-focused company for over a century, and our products are built to the rigorous requirements that professionals expect. We simply make the best-in-class fish tapes, and it shows.


Enclosed in a durable plastic housing, our fish tape reels are designed to withstand the abuse that a real professional will undoubtedly throw at them. We’ve drop-tested our tapes, run them over with work trucks, and tossed them onto concrete floors countless times. They’re built to withstand this type of abuse, so they can be depended upon every time you show up at the job site.  


Both tape payout and easy retrieval is dictated by the case design. Our Tuff-Grip™ cases are engineered for smooth, quick retrieval, while also preventing kinks. With ergonomically designed handles, they’re slip-resistant and can be handled from any angle, even when wearing gloves.


For added convenience, our tapes come with laser-etched 12” increment markers, allowing you to instantly measure conduit or conductor length. This expands their usage as an installation tool since they empower electricians to measure more exactly and reduce jobsite waste.

Selecting Your Fish Tape

Fishing conductors can be a frustrating task, so picking the correct tool for the job is critical. With a variety of different tape ends, leaders, and reels, it’s important to understand the differences between all of them, and in which situations they’re appropriate.


If you’re a DIYer, perhaps you want a small hand-sized tape that can be fed out easily for small jobs around the house. For those doing light residential work where energized circuits may not be present, a basic but hefty mid-length blued steel tape may do the trick. A discerning pro could be a bit pickier due to the fact they may be working around potentially live circuits and in environments where moisture may be present.


Tape length and tensile strength are of paramount importance when selecting the right type of fish tape. In some commercial installations, up to 15 wires at once might be pulled into a new empty conduit run—so strength matters. With larger conduit, fishing materials need to be stiffer to prevent kinks and hang-ups with fishing or pulling. Some types of tape bend well forward and backward, while others make lateral moves easier, making challenging runs through numerous conduit bends a breeze.





Blued Steel

Durable, low-cost, and manufactured from the highest-grade carbon steel, this tape is and known for its push and pull strength. Sturdy enough for those extra-long runs, the high tensile strength of this tape makes it ideal in situations where large bunches of wire are being pulled.


Stainless Steel

All the qualities of steel with the added benefits of increased rust resistance, which is especially important in situations in which water or condensation may be present. Electricians in coastal areas may opt for a stainless tape, due to the accelerated oxidation that could occur in a damp, salty climate.


Braided Steel

This specialized type of steel combines the high tensile strength of steel with a significant increase in flexibility. Enclosed in an ultra-hard nylon jacket, our Zoom™ tapes are extra slippery for increased maneuverability and have the added benefit of protecting cables and being easier on electrician’s hands. Their round shape makes them more omni-directional, making those tough bends less challenging.



The other downfall of metal tapes is obvious: they introduce the potential of a short, possibly injuring the professional as well as causing considerable property damage. Many large corporations and contractors may mandate use of nonconductive tapes for this very reason. Both our S-Class® and Volt-Guard™ Fiberglass Fish Tapes are non-conductive, and a better choice when working near live circuits. A high-quality fiberglass core provides column strength for optimum pushing and pulling capability, and the round shape allows an omni-directional capability perfect for multiple bends or bends that change planes.

Accessories & Field Repairs



Those extreme bends may require even more flexibility, so discerning professionals may opt for a leader. These pliable attachments help guide the tape around challenging conduit bends, especially those that may not occur on the same plane. Constructed out of a strong but flexible steel mesh material, leaders are a great option for challenging pulls.



Steel tapes come with the tried-and-true formed hook, and our stranded and fiberglass tapes come with an eyelet attachment (available in both metallic and non-metallic). Swivel-ball end attachments can also be connected to steel tapes to prevent wires from twisting during pull, preventing binds and kinks.


Repair Kits

It’s always important to be prepared while on the job site, so field repair kits are available for all our tapes. With both crimp-on and adhesive leader kits, you’ll fully prepared should a tape break on location. Replacement cases and tapes are also available in worst-case scenarios.


With a variety of materials to choose from—along with numerous eyelet and leader options—professional electricians can be assured they can use only the best for their specific job site challenge.  If disaster strikes while in the field, repairs can be done quickly and easily with our ready-to-use repair kits.


Durability, capability, and ease-of-use are all equally important on the job. That’s why our case design, manufacturing process, and materials selection all adhere to the highest possible standards of excellence—to keep you focused on your work.