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January 22, 2009

Get Up, Stand Up

Get into the stand-up game and don't give up the fight with the fish of a lifetime.

For truly large fish - giant tuna and grandermarlin - there is no better method of fighting them than from a chair in the cockpit of a big boat. But for more than 40 years, thanks to an innovative group of West Coast anglers and East Coast big-game enthusiasts, more anglers worldwide have been able to give up the chair and stand up for themselves.
 
 Stand-up fishing originated on the decks of long-range tuna boats out of Southern California, where big yellowfin tuna, wahoo, striped marlin and a host of other pelagics were regular targets. Then, in the mid-1980s, a stand-up explosion occurred in the offshore world. Big-game anglers started chasing big marlin, sharks and giant bluefin tuna on stand-up. Today it continues to be one of the most effective ways to fight and land a variety of hard-fighting fish, and it gives anglers with limited space and resources the ability to land the fish of their dreams on a moment's notice.

Why Stand Up?
One of the key advantages to stand-up tackle is the variety of species you can target. For our purposes, focus on 30- to 50-pound-class tackle - the most  applicable line classes for the widest variety of anglers. Within reason, some of the biggest fish in the ocean can be taken on them. So why stand-up? South Florida big-game enthusiast Marsha Bierman was one of the anglers responsible for popularizing the technique during the 1980s. She loves the man-versus-fish aspect of fighting big fish - sans chair.

"Stand-up is more of a one-on-one between the angler and the fish," says Bierman. "Plus you can start the fight faster than when transitioning into a chair, and you are able to use much lighter, easier-to-handle equipment as opposed to traditional, bulky trolling outfits."

Several key elements give anglers a distinct advantage. First, shorter rods combined with low-riding fighting belts and harnesses allow fishermen to exert maximum pressure on fish by using their entire body rather than relying on their lower back and arms. It's the same concept as using the entire body to hit a golf  ball. Given energy-efficient form, stamina, strong tackle and equipment,  anglers - including women and children - can best exceptional fish on a regular basis.

And the same lighter outfits that allow you to target billfish, tuna and other bluewater species are a good choice for wrestling bottom dwellers like ambjerjack, big grouper and others from their rocky lairs.

Setting Up
First, let's focus on an outfit that would meet most anglers' needs: This is a setup that could be used for chunking tuna in the canyons, drifting at night for swordfish, dropping for reef and bottom dwellers off South Florida or trolling for billfish, tuna, wahoo and other pelagics just about any place they're found. Such an outfit is possible thanks to advances in reel design, drag materials and super-thin braided lines. Today's  angler can target and catch larger fish on lighter, more nimble outfits than ever before.

My personal favorite starts with a fast-action, 30- to 50-pound stick from 5 to 5 1/2 feet in length.
When picking tapers, I agree with Bierman that a  fast-taper blank with a stiff butt and softening tip in the last quarter is the way to go.

"A parabolic action, which bends all the way through the butt of the rod, puts more pressure on the angler than the fish," says Bierman. "And that totally defeats the purpose of stand-up fishing."

For lighter stand-up,  5- to 8-inch-long aluminum or slick fighting butts with gimbals are tops. The shorter butt allows you to generate more pull during the stroke while reducing strain on the lower back. Elongated foam foregrips allow the angler to reach farther up the rod to apply more pressure, but more on that later. Such rods are more maneuverable than traditional boat rods when retrieving baits from a spread, dropping back to a fish or feeding a live bait to the bottom. Guides are a personal preference; many prefer all rollers, but in my experience, the best all-around setup starts with a roller stripping guide, followed by  five or six ring guides, finishing up with an oversized roller tip-top. A number of manufacturers have rods that fit the bill off the rack, but if you want to be even more specific about your requirements, seek out a quality custom rod builder.

Next, pick a high-quality, 30-pound-class two-speed reel like the Penn 30VSW, Fin-Nor 30SA , Daiwa SLT30 or Shimano Tiagra 30A. Two-speeds are a major plus as they allow anglers to use high gear to retrieve mass quantities of line, then shift to low gear when down and dirty with fish.  The final pieces of the equipment puzzle are the stand-up harness and fighting belt, and they are critical ones that should not be overlooked, according to Puerto Vallarta-based big-game skipper Josh Temple.