8. Screw Around with a Rod Belt or Harness Midfight
"We had run 80 miles or so from Key West during an SKA tourney in 2002. And the first bait over was hit by an incredible king - it actually skyrocketed, and I could see it was, conservatively, a good 75 pounds. As the fish was taking a 200-yard run, and I've got my hands full trying to follow the king with the boat, someone's putting a belt on the angler. I look back just in time to see him trying to get the rod butt into the socket of the belt - and not winding, long enough for the line to slacken. Right then, the hook pulls out of the king's mouth, and we had lost that tournament. It's maddening!"
- Capt. R.T. Trosset, Key West
It's so maddening, in fact, that Trosset says, "Now, I usually hide the rod belts and only bring 'em out when a fish is really under control." The skipper, who runs the 31 Yellowfin Spindrift, acknowledges that, when wearing the angler's cap, even he has found himself guilty of belt-tending and momentarily dropping his focus from the fight. "Wait until you're running down-sea if possible; that's a good time to belt up midfight, if you can." Or, he advises, have a belt or harness on at the outset, and make sure the butt is seated in it before the "fog of battle."
"Many fish are lost when the angler is too focused on his rod belt and not on the fight," agrees Panos. He points out that making this mistake causes an angler to also make the fatal rod-tip-wrap mistake.
Even the very act of someone putting a rod belt on a hooked-up angler can create a very unhappy ending, says Yust. Ignore that and keep you eyes on the prize. "I've seen them [fishermen] stop to look down at the belt and space out, stop reeling and let the line go slack."