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IGFA Changes Long-Contested Rule
by Jason Schratwieser
fighting-chair
Dave Ferrell

As I’ve mentioned in some of my other blogs, IGFA Angling Rules are easy to follow and not particularly onerous for anglers. However, a couple of our rules have been hotly contested over IGFA’s nearly 75 years of existence. And at the very top of the list are IGFA’s rules regarding the use of safety lines. Prior to IGFA’s January board meeting, IGFA’s rules related to safety lines said:

A safety line may be attached to the rod provided that it does not in any way assist the angler in fighting the fish, and A harness may be attached to the reel or rod, but not to the fighting chair.

As such, there was no provision for physically tethering the angler to the fighting chair or any other part of the boat, for that matter. During my 10 years at IGFA, I don’t know how many letters — several from famous captains, anglers and crew members — I’ve received wanting to change this rule. As per IGFA protocol, these requests were channeled up to the IGFA Angling Rules Committee for deliberation. However, until recently, the IGFA Rules Committee always chose not to change this rule because of concerns that anglers may use safety lines to transfer the burden of the fish from themselves to the boat.

Probably the most adamantly against any change to the rule was former IGFA board member, record holder and legendary angler, the late Stewart Campbell. Many thought it was strange that Campbell was so strongly set against changing this rule because he, himself was once pulled overboard while fighting a large blue marlin in Madeira. The whole episode was caught on camera and the video instantly went viral.

However, in late 2013, another request for a rule change was sent to the IGFA Rules Committee and, after serious deliberation, a motion was made and approved at the 2014 board meeting to change IGFA’s rules for safety lines to: A safety line may be attached to the rod, reel, or harness provided that it does not in any way assist the angler in fighting the fish.

The intent of this rule change is to allow the inherent safety associated with physically tethering the angler to the boat, but at the same time to not allow the safety line to go tight during the fight so that the strain of the fish is transferred from the angler to the boat thus assisting the angler in fighting the fish. Let’s face it: Lots can go wrong when you’re big-game fishing. Sportfisher cockpits are replete with hazards such as big, sharp hooks and knives, as well as the occasional marlin that jumps in for a visit. But at least now you don’t need to worry about being yanked overboard while fighting a monster fish.