Using a game chair can be the key to a successful catch for big game anglers, but only if you use it properly and know what you’re doing. It takes precise adjustments, good fighting technique, and pacing to succeed. Here is how you do that.
Game chairs, also called fighting chairs, offer a significant advantage over stand-up techniques. They allow for better control of all major muscle groups used when fishing, especially the most powerful muscle group – the leg muscles. However, correctly setting up and using a game or fighting chair is important as it can strongly impact the angler’s comfort, efficiency, and overall enjoyment when tackling larger gamefish.
Stand-up fishing has its place amongst good anglers, and it can also be a lot of fun, but if you’re serious about battling bigger fish, a proper game chair is a must, specifically at night or in harsh sea conditions.
Also, with a well-balanced technique and a good bucket harness, there will be less fatigue on the angler during prolonged fights with that 300-pound tuna you’re fighting against. It is essential, however, to understand that your chair needs to be set up and used correctly from the get-go.
Every modern, quality game chair should have an adjustable, removable footrest. It should be adjusted so that when you are hooked up to a fish at full drag or have reached the top of your reeling stance, you are standing with a straight leg. It is crucial that your body is never over your toes.
Wait to adjust the footrest after battling your fish. Any time you are strapped into a harness with upwards of 30-plus-pounds of drag, you should concentrate on the task. Altering the footrest at this game stage could cause you to lose your balance.
The footrest must be out far enough, so your body is the pivot point. Too close, and you feel like you will fall forward when the rod is loaded. Also, because there are more than a few moving parts to get your heavy-tackle fight adequately organized, the footrest may need to be readjusted after you factor in the bucket harness and the length of your straps.
The bucket harness sits under the angler’s backside, allowing them to stand in the chair and use their body weight and leg muscles to pull back on the rod tip. This is more energy efficient than pulling on the rod and resting with your arms and upper body. When using heavy tackle, you must be directly connected to the rod and reel. The weight is too unmanageable, with a 500-plus-pound animal pulling you around. Using a chair without a bucket harness causes you to use your arms as you would with light tackle, and you’ll find yourself quickly tired from pumping the rod up and down.
Some buckets are fitted with chains, some with ropes, and others have nylon straps. Modifying these straps so that you are standing with your knees locked keeps you comfortably attached to the fish and tightly seated in the bucket, giving you stability. This lets you battle the fish by leaning back to lift the rod and standing up as you wind down to gather the line. Then, you’ll want to fine-tune the bucket straps to benefit your best stance.
Next, adjust the straps so that when the rod is fully loaded, you have complete control with your center of gravity toward the rear.
If the straps are too tight and the reel is too close to your chest, you will quickly find yourself over the top. Likewise, you’ll stretch too far to reel down if the straps are too long. However, once you are connected to a fish, the entire bucket assembly will extend one-half to 1 inch, so setting the straps on the verge of being slightly tight should be perfect once put under load.
Getting to the Chair
Once the fish is hooked and taking drag, you will need to move the rod from the rod holder to the chair. (If you are tournament fishing under International Game Fish Association rules, you must do this alone, with no help from the crew.)
Prepare yourself for not only the weight of the rod itself but also the amount of drag on the fish. If you slowly pull back the drag to a reasonable amount, you can easily lift the rod and bring it to the chair. The best way to remove the rod from the rod holder is by going straight out at the same angle.
A safety line should be attached to the reel seat, so be aware of it as you maneuver the rod to the chair. It helps to put one leg over the gimbal and on the opposite side of the footrest, then set the rod butt in the gimbal, positioning your rear end in the bucket and your feet on the footrest. While holding on to the rod, put the strap clips on the reel and reengage the drag back to strike unless otherwise directed. Letting the captain know you are set and ready to fight the fish will keep them from guessing and backing up before you are prepared.
Just because your partner has grabbed the leader doesn’t mean your job is done. As soon as they take a wrap, back the drag off in case they have to let go. You don’t want the fighting drag to be engaged while the fish is on the leader. The line pulling tight at full drag could rip the hook from the fish, forcing it to fly back at the cockpit.
It would help if you also watched for any slack line or leader that could get tip-wrapped (little knots of braided line affixing themselves around the tip of your rod when you get aggressive with the rod tip) or tangled around your crewmember’s feet, neck, or body. Reel in the slack as they wire the fish until there is nothing left to reel or the swivel reaches the rod tip.
Having the bucket harness and the chair work together harmoniously allows you to fight a big fish effectively.
There is a wide variety of game chairs available on the market. Unfortunately, some of the cheaper options available become more of a hindrance rather than an assistant for catching bigger fish. More expensive designs certainly are popular options used in many of the world’s fishing hotspots.
As long as a good quality chair is assembled and positioned correctly and good technique is used, your game chair can become an essential, satisfying, and valuable tool.