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July 02, 2013

Big Fish from a Center Console

Special tips to help even the odds when you pursue big game in a smaller boat

Battle Smartly
With most fish, the successful strategy is simply keeping the angler facing their quarry, and occasionally bumping the boat in gear to keep a tight line. We’ll occasionally crab backward to help our angler regain line, if needed.

When we hook a powerful, long-running fish, I’ll maintain speed for 30 to 45 seconds, then slow the boat and pivot halfway around to the fish, but not enough to run over the uncleared lines. I’ll put the angler alongside the console, and then slowly motor toward the fish, while the ­cockpit and lines are cleared.

We strive to contain the fight to the first third to half of the reel’s line capacity, and keep our angler tight to the fish. By chasing a fish from the bow, we retain maneuverability and forward progress, especially when in rough seas.

When the fish beelines into the depths, we’ll motor up on it, reclaim line, and maintain a vertical angle; the angler remains amidships if we believe the fish has enough power to come up and make another long run.

Critical points during the fight include backing off the drag during long runs (see sidebar), and then advancing the drag back to the original fight setting when the fish is close.

End of the Line
The endgame should find the fish settled and within a hundred yards of the boat, then the angler moves back into the cockpit. The final 100 feet are the most crucial. I’ll often engage the autopilot to hold a straight course, and put just one outboard in gear. This keeps the fish swimming toward the angler, who is pumping and winding it closer. I’ll adjust the speed and direction of the boat if necessary. When the leader is taken, or gaff sunk (tuna, big dolphin, wahoo), the angler should back halfway off the drag to prevent a pulled hook or broken line if the fish surges. Should that occur, wait until the fish settles, then advance the drag to the fighting pressure, and repeat the steps above until the fish is fully subdued.


Safety First!

Pursuing large big-game fish aboard a center console calls for stand-up tackle. If you strap into a harness with heavy tackle, be safe.

  • Keep a spotter behind you ready to assist should you slip or fall backward when the hook pulls or the line breaks.
  • Use safety lines from the reel to the boat, at the very least, and preferably from the back of the harness to the boat.
  • Keep a cutting device, one that can easily slice through braid, secured to your harness with a cord.