Safety in Stand-Up Gear

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Rule number-one: the angler has a dedicated spotter holding on at all times.

Recently I was offshore trolling for tuna and billfish, when a close call reminded me how important safety is when you’re battling big fish with stand-up gear. After a drag-screaming strike a teenage angler grabbed the rod, planted it into his fighting belt, and began clipping on to the reel. As he did so the fish surged, he lost his balance, and stumbled towards the back of the boat with his father in hot pursuit. The dad grabbed his belt and hauled back at the very moment his knees hit the transom and his feet left the deck. As he fell onto the reel the drag lever was somehow shoved forward, but the fish didn’t slow down one bit and the line snapped with a bang. Whew – for once, we were glad a fish broke off. The next time someone clips into stand-up gear with a large pelagic on the line, remember:

fishing stand up gear

Rule number-one: the angler has a dedicated spotter holding on at all times.

  • Safety Rule #1 There should always be a spotter hovering behind the angler, holding onto the back of his or her belt or the fighting belt. No ifs, ands, or buts, this is critical. If the angler is alone on deck when the fish hits, they should leave the rod in the holder until mustering the crew – never yank it out and start fighting the fish solo.
  • Safety Rule #2 Be thoughtful about who grabs the rod in the first place. When a rod goes off in such a way that you know a mammoth sea creature is on the line, it might not be the wisest move for the youngest or smallest angler aboard to take the rod even if it’s their turn.
  • Safety Rule #3 The angler should never do the clipping. Trying to hold the rod, reach for the straps, and get the clips onto the reel lugs all at the same time is a bad idea. It distracts the angler from focusing on keeping their balance and forces him or her to reach across the reel, which sometimes leads to accidentally hitting the drag lever and either tightening or opening the drag by accident. Instead, the angler should plant the rod butt in the gimbal then lock his or her arms out while holding the rod high on the grip, sitting down and leaning back against the force of the fish. When a helper has the clip in-hand, the angler can then pull back until the lug is within range.


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