Despite the excitement of slugging it out with a big, powerful game fish, there’s an inherent danger in being strapped into a harness. Mola maintains that a mate should stay with the angler throughout the fight, standing by to grab him should he slip or lose balance (many harnesses have safety handles on the back for this very purpose). This is especially so when it’s rough and or when the boat has low gunwales. Mola also recommends having a safety line on all big-game outfits. Should the unthinkable occur, the restraint will keep the angler within quick reach of help. And some harnesses have release clips that attach to the reel. It’s a good idea for anglers to keep a knife or cutting tool accessible.
It’s not only going overboard that is a concern, but also falling against a rocket launcher, chair or gunwale should the line part while there is pressure on the fish. That’s why I stood directly behind Morel and had Megan take my place when I needed to grab the wheel. With us standing by him, Morel was not going to go overboard or fall back into the cockpit and injure himself.
No doubt, when there’s a tough fight on tap, nothing helps make short work of a big, powerful, stubborn fish better than a good angler in a comfortable rod-belt-and-harness setup. I saw the scenario play out yet once again off Bimini this past summer. So did Dave Morel.
Rick Mola’s Top Five Harness Tips
1. It is critical that the harness and gimbal are properly positioned on your body. The harness should fit comfortably across your hips. The gimbal belt should be positioned across your thighs.
2. Adjust the straps accordingly. When the rod butt is in the fighting belt and the harness is clipped to the reel, the straps should be adjusted so the tip of the rod, when it’s lifted, is at a 60-degree angle.
3. The reel drag should never be too tight. With an 80-pound-class reel, the average person should not set more than 20 pounds of drag for safety reasons. There are exceptions for experienced, fit anglers who often use up to 24 pounds of drag, but they must be careful.
4. Make sure the pin in your fighting belt is maintained. If there is a nut, it should be tightened before each trip. Without the pin, your belt is useless.
5. Test the equipment on land first. It is important to make sure the gear fits well and is properly adjusted to your body. Tie the end of your line to a fixed object, then bend your knees, lean back a little, and keep pressure on the harness and belt and rod and reel for up to a half-hour, which is how long you would likely fight a fish.
Belt and Harness Companies
Pro Stand-Up Tips