• Published:November 15, 2017
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Are there any big-game fish that are too large for stand-up tackle?

These days, sitting in a fighting chair is often eschewed in favor of strapping on a harness and belt. Advances in gear ranging from stand-up rods and reels to kidney harnesses has helped make it possible to tackle the largest oceanic beasts while standing tall, but knowing the proper stand-up technique is key to success.
Bigeye and yellowfin tunas, blue marlin, and virtually any hard-fighting blue-water monster can be tackled safely and effectively with stand-up gear, if you follow these five important tactics.


1. Make sure your gear is working for you, not against you. A modern, high-quality kidney harness and gimbal belt will allow you to sit back against the fish’s pull, and expend very little energy while exerting gobs of pressure. But this is only true if the belt and harness are properly fitted and positioned.

Think of your rod like a lever and its junction with your body via the gimbal and lugs as a fulcrum. When you sit back against the force of the fish’s pull, your body weight becomes a counterforce working against the fish. To apply pressure, the fulcrum needs to be properly positioned. The butt of the rod should rest in the gimbal thigh-high, and the lugs should rest against the straps of the harness at the angler’s waist. The ultimate goal is to allow the angler to comfortably exert the maximum amount of pressure with the minimum amount of effort, and body size, height, and even arm length can all play a role.

The very worst way to start a stand-up fight is by trying to adjust lug straps and belts while a person is hanging on for dear life as a berserk fish rips 30 pounds of pressure off the reel. Prevent this chaos by predetermining who’s going to fight the next fish, and adjust the gear prior to any hook-ups. The best-case scenario is to carry multiple sets of stand-up gear, and pre-fit a dedicated belt and harness to each angler ahead of time.
"The very worst way to start a stand-up fight is by trying to adjust lug straps and belts while a person is hanging on for dear life..."
2. Match every angler with an assistant. Can a lone angler take on a 30-pound yellowfin without assistance? Of course. But when a 300-pound bigeye is on the end of a line, having a dedicated crewmember look out for the angler is imperative.

The first reason is basic safety. If you have a fish this big on the line and enough pressure on the drag to stop it, then there’s a possibility the angler could lose his or her balance and get yanked over the side. So, the assistant’s main job should be to stay close enough to the angler that you can grab the belt and/or harness, just in case.

The second reason is to coach the angler. Immersed in the battle, even an experienced angler may miss small but critical details. Maybe the drag lever got bumped out of position, line is piling up unevenly on the reel, or a piece of seaweed is about to get cranked into a roller guide. Having a second pair of eyes to watch out and pass on information is a big help.

3. Use your mobility to your advantage. When you’re locked into a chair you depend on the captain to maneuver the boat when it comes to changing position. With stand-up gear, you can quickly and easily slide from one corner of the cockpit to the other.

This mobility is a big help during multiple hook-ups. Dodging over and under each other to prevent crossed lines is obviously much easier, and in some cases, you may be able to encourage a fish to keep moving in one direction or another.

It’s also a big advantage when fighting big bluefin, in particular. Bluefin of a hundred pounds or more often react negatively to the sound of diesels shifting into and out of gear. Being able to move around allows the captain to minimize maneuvering, so you can get the fish into a spiral and keep it there, inching them closer and closer to the gaff.

4. Keep your left hand on top of the reel, and use it to guide line, not to support or pull on the rod. Remember, the whole point of strapping into stand-up gear is to create that fulcrum and apply pressure by sitting back, not by pulling on the rod with your arms.

If you find it necessary to use your left hand to support the rod, this is a dead giveaway that the stand-up gear hasn’t been properly fitted and adjusted. That said, many anglers will still use their left arm as a matter of habit. Sometimes you’ll even watch an angler who is properly outfitted with stand-up gear pull on the rod with their left arm so much that the lug straps droop with slack. This is an enormous and unnecessary expenditure of energy, yet people do it all the time. Keep that left arm up and off the rod.

5. As the end game draws near, be ready to pop off the lug clips and step out of the stand-up gear. If a fish surges towards the props or the line is about to rub against the side of the boat, you need to be prepared to free the rod and reel at a moment’s notice. But removing the clips from the lugs is the job of the mate or coach, not the angler. It’s far too easy for an angler to bump the drag lever as they move their hand from the reel handle to the clip. Many fish have been lost this way.

Beyond these five stand-up specifics, you’ll want to follow the standard playbook for fighting fish. Apply constant tension, never allow any slack in the line, use short strokes instead of long rod pumps to gain line and move the fish, and never let the fish rest.