Although a few brave souls have caught giant marlin weighing close to or more than 1,000 pounds on stand-up gear, the majority of big fish are targeted by anglers using a fighting chair — and for good reason. With the proper instruction and setup, a reasonably fit person in a chair can exert, and maintain, up to 80 pounds or more of drag on 130-pound tackle when conditions and fish behavior allow. Drag kills, and when you chase a fish down and put that much drag on it as soon as it ceases its initial run, you can roll it over in a very short time.
With that said, a lot of newcomers balk at using heavy gear and are intimidated by the prospect of transferring the outfit from the covering board to a secure position in the fighting chair. They also don’t readily take to the idea of being strapped to the fishing rod. These factors, coupled with the fact that few crews really know how to set up anglers properly in the chair, can cause some chair anxiety in people used to stand-up fishing.
While fishing on the charter boat Kathleen B. with Capt. Peter Bristow, I found out how he keeps all of his anglers, representing a wide variety of sizes and shapes, properly adjusted in their harness. To make sure each angler on board can quickly lock into the right setting on the harness, Bristow makes a chain out of gate clips that won’t stretch and is super easy to adjust for each angler. Once you get the person in the chair, you just pull up to the right clip, detach the extras and put the clip on the harness lug.
Now all you have to worry about is the gimbal height, the angle of the footrest and how far to extend it — all incredibly important in setting up the angler properly. (The fact that Bristow has a personally designed and handmade heavy-duty chair in his cockpit that can adjust to fit almost any size person makes his job much easier!)