Safety In Stand-Up Gear

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David battles a monster bigeye tuna, on stand-up gear.

Battling hundred-pound-plus fish on stand-up gear is no small feat. It takes every bit of stamina, grit, and fish-fighting skill you can muster. But when it’s approached correctly by an angler who’s in good shape, you can successfully battle absolute sea-monsters while standing on your feet. In this picture my son David is hitched to his first bigeye tuna, which pulled the scales down to 230-pounds. A sea monster? indeed.

David battles a monster bigeye tuna, on stand-up gear.

Fighting on stand-up gear, however, can be dangerous. Safety is crucial but it can be challenging. It’s possible to get muscle tears, strains are not uncommon, you can get thrown off-balance and yanked into a gunwale, and in the worst-case scenario, pulled over the side and into the drink. If you want to go mano-a-mano against a sea creature, remember these safety rules:

  1. The angler should always – no exceptions – have a “spotter” gripping the back of the harness at all times. As you see in the picture, this not only prevents getting yanked overboard but also helps the angler keep his or her balance.
  2. The angler must always know what to do if they end up in the water. The gut reaction of many people is to attempt get out of the harness, but this is the wrong move. Instead, the first and most important thing is to slide the lever drag back. That immediately releases all tension on the line, so the fish can’t drag you down.
  3. No one likes giving up mid-fight, but when an angler gets tired he or she needs to hand off the rod. Fatigue leads to making mistakes.
  4. Never try to thumb the spool. Instead, make all tension adjustments with the lever drag. Using your thumb will likely lead to burns if the fish decides to make a hard run, and if the line gets wrapped around a finger (especially braid) it will cut through the skin like a knife through butter.
  5. Anglers can’t go barefoot. This is a mistake on any fishing boat, where stepping on a hook isn’t exactly unheard-of. But in a knock-down, drag-out fight, you’re likely to get pulled up to the gunwale more than once. It’ll be impossible to put your feet down lightly, and you probably won’t have 100-percent control over where your feet land. Broken toes are a common result.

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