Put Your Butt Where It Matters

Capt. Mike Genoun May 24, 2010

There is much more to a stand-up rod belt than what meets the eye. We took a close look at a number of the leading models, and this is what we learned…

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OW-FB Photo: Steve Dougherty

Step into the cockpit of any well-equipped sportfisher, regardless if it’s a tricked-out outboard-powered center-console or turbo diesel battlewagon, and there is certainly one accessory you will find ready, waiting, and always within easy reach—a stand-up rod belt.

Each angler is built different, as is each rod belt. Since stand–up belts are typically long‑term investments, I highly encourage you try the belt on before making a final purchase…

While gleaming fighting chairs complimenting the cockpits of multi-million dollar Merritt’s are best suited for heavy 80lb. and 130lb. class trolling gear when tackling massive marlin and behemoth bluefin, around Florida we conquer different challenges. For us, stand-up rod belts are clearly the way to go. Other than the exceptional slob swordfish or goliath grouper hauled up from the depths, it’s rare for us to see fish above the hundred pound mark. Even the largest dolphin, sailfish and wahoo we encounter—the three most popularly targeted pelagic predators—rarely approach triple digits. Hence, all of our fishing is done standing up, with popular open boat designs ideally suited for unrestricted maneuverability. Now consider that tackle trends are heavily favoring lighter, more manageable gear, and it’s easy to see why stand-up fishing is so popular amongst Florida’s offshore crowd.

For additional support and increased leverage, seasoned vets fishing the world’s richest oceans regularly employ stand-up fish-fighting tactics against even the largest billfish and tuna. Big game anglers push the envelope by adorning back, kidney and shoulder harnesses, which support wide gimbal plates worn across the upper thighs. The equipment and proper stand-up fish-fighting techniques were pioneered and perfected in the Pacific by San Diego’s Long Range fleet and soon made their way to the Northeast and beyond. By utilizing the entire body, properly fitting harness systems enable determined anglers who aren’t afraid to go head-to-head against powerful fish the ability to exert tremendous pressure without the risk of fatigue or injury. Recently, I opted for a harness system against a pair of Guatemalan blue marlin and wouldn’t have wanted to beat these magnificent fish any other way. However, my greatest stand-up achievement remains an 824-pound giant bluefin tuna I beat after an exhausting four-hour battle. While we should, no doubt, look closely at complete harness systems in the future, this editorial focuses on what’s most relevant to Florida’s angling community—light to medium-duty stand-up belts.

Here in the Sunshine State, the vast majority of our blue water pursuits result in relatively manageable fish, so resident and visiting anglers equip themselves with conventional and spinning outfits in the 12 to 50lb. class. With gear that is far less bulky than yesteryear’s pool cues, the benefits of light-duty rod support shine bright by allowing anglers to focus exclusively on fighting fish rather than fighting tackle. However, with stand-up rod belts designed in a wide range of sizes and styles, it’s easy to see how selecting just one can be a daunting task. To follow are a few considerations that should help you make an educated choice, but remember this one very important point; stand-up fish-fighting tactics take time and experience to master. Nothing replaces time on the water, but when you do get the rhythm down and know exactly when to apply the heat and when to back off, you, too, will you reap your equipments’ full rewards.

Do You Really Need A Big Rod Belt?
Not surprisingly, the size of a rod belt matters, as one size does NOT fit all. Small, plastic or leather models designed for use with very light tackle may offer a place to rest your butt, but not much more. On the other end of the spectrum, high-grade stand-up belts rated for 80 to 130lb. gear feature large faceplates manufactured of sturdy aluminum or some sort of high impact composite. Backed by a thick layer of padding, the large plate distributes pressure evenly across the entire upper thigh region rather than only at one point—your groin. The faceplate is extremely important, because the basis for effective stand-up fish-fighting requires a solid foundation to support the pressure transmitted to the rod butt by relentless fish. In addition, with lines getting thinner and equipment continuing to get lighter, stand-up fishermen are now capable of applying more drag pressure than ever before—sometimes upwards of 60lbs. of drag!

The right stand-up rod belt for you will vary depending on your style of fishing, but remember this. Just like one size does NOT fit all, all rod belts are NOT created equal. The angles and exact geometry of the faceplate deserve special attention. Ideally, you want a rod belt that doesn’t constrict your movement. You must be able to comfortably maneuver and always be able to get a sure footing without restriction. Each angler is built different, as is each rod belt. Since stand–up belts are typically long-term investments, I highly encourage you try the belt on before making a final purchase, and always buy the highest quality product you can afford.

All stand-up rod belts offer some form of padding behind the faceplate for added comfort—some are just thicker and more durable than others. The cushion distributes and absorbs the load without leaving behind any painful bruises. The padding serves a secondary purpose by providing a nonslip surface, preventing the belt from sliding side-to-side when battling the “one.” Look for padding that will last through many seasons of hard use while providing the necessary support.

The precise position of the gimbal cup on the faceplate is also important. A cup positioned too low will force the faceplate to lean in and dig into your upper thighs. A gimbal cup that is positioned too high will not adequately distribute the applied force. After personally testing nearly a dozen popular belts, it appears a number of leading manufacturers have spent a great deal of time and effort researching and developing the perfect cup position, while others have neglected this very important step.

Since most offshore rods are built with a gimbal butt, a rod belt equipped with a pin across the gimbal cup is essential. The pin acts as both an anchoring point and a hinge point, preventing the rod from swinging wildly and allowing the angler to maintain constant, directional pressure while always using the spine of the rod to apply maximum resistance. Light tackle anglers prefer a vertical pin rather than horizontal, claiming it provides better balance when fishing medium-duty spinning outfits. Pacific anglers have also found it easier to extract a rod butt from a vertical pin rather than a horizontal pin when cow yellowfin shoot under the boat and they need to maneuver in a hurry. Fumbling around for even a second could spell disaster against a 200-pound tuna. Whatever the case, leading manufacturers have answered the call with pin configurations that can be positioned horizontally or vertically, or removed altogether for rods designed without a gimbal butt.

The final consideration is how easy it is to slide your rod butt down and into position. The last thing you want to do is spend precious seconds scrambling when a greyhounding sail is dumping your rapidly depleting spool. A gimbal cup with an open V-shaped design allows rods to effortlessly slide down and into position with the angler never having to take his eyes off the action. That doesn’t mean rod belts without this feature aren’t worthy of your consideration, because they certainly are. This is just one of many factors to consider.

Rod belts typically fasten around an angler’s waist with an adjustable nylon-webbing strap with a plastic, quick-snap buckle or Velcro closure. Most setups work just fine, however, we did test one mid-size belt with a strap that didn’t adjust small enough for an average built angler. Private boaters prefer straps with plastic buckles because they are easier to keep adjusted for individual fit, and because the plastic buckles deliver a solid connection you can count on. Charter boats prefer Velcro because the strap quickly adjusts to fit different anglers. The downside is that Velcro has a tendency to foul. It’s happened to all of us. A third option also exists. Play Action Products offers a snap-on stand-up rod belt that simply slides around your waist and springs into place. In this case, one size fits most.

A common confusion is precisely where to wear the belt. A properly worn stand-up belt positions the rod at an optimum height for applying maximum resistance. Generally, the lighter the tackle, the closer to the waistline you can wear the belt. Dennis Braid, owner of Braid Products and a dedicated angler fueled by a passion for stand-up fishing, recommends positioning the gimbal cup a few inches below the waistline when fishing 20 to 30lb. line. With 50 to 80lb. gear, where substantially more pressure is applied, Braid suggests positioning the gimbal cup no less than five-inches below the waistline. This sits the rod butt lower and allows the angler to reach further up on the foregrip for increased stability and pulling power.

Don’t make the same mistake many anxious anglers make by attempting to get the rod butt into the rod belt too fast. The first few precious seconds after a fish has been hooked are often the most crucial, as 90-percent of all fish lost can be credited to angler or tackle failure in the first or last 30-seconds of the fight. Rather, once a solid connection has been made, manage your equipment. Get a feel for what the fish is doing and establish a solid footing before carefully positioning the rod butt where it belongs.

Whichever stand-up rod belt you decide on keep quality, comfort and functionality in mind as you consider the many available options. Select a belt that suits your particular style of fishing and you can expect many years of stand-up fish-catching success.

OW-FB

Rating: 12 to 50 lb.
Material: Anodized Aluminum
Dimensions: 11″ x 5 3/4″
Padding: 32mm Triple Layer Neoprene
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Strap: 1 1/2″ Nylon w/Plastic Buckle
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $79.99
Contact: 626.332.8989

AL-349CB

Rating: 30 to 80 lb.
Material: Artificial Leather/Nylon Webbing
Dimensions: 13 1/2″ x 9 1/4″
Padding: Internal Pad
Weight: 1 lb.
Strap: 1 1/2″ Nylon Strap w/Plastic Buckle
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Galvanized
MSRP: $49.47
Contact: www.izorline.com // 562.531.6000

Brute Buster #30900

Rating: 50 to 80 lb.
Material: High-Impact Plastic Composite
Dimensions: 15″ x 9″
Padding: 15mm Air Filled Foam
Weight: 2 lb. 15 oz.
Strap: 2″ Nylon w/Velcro Closure and Safety Release Clips
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $118.99
Contact: www.braidproducts.com // 661.266.9791

Socorro AFB-2

Rating: 50 to 80 lb.
Material: Anodized Aluminum
Dimensions: 15 1/2″ x 9″
Padding: 25mm Closed-Cell Eva Foam
Weight: 2 lb. 14 oz.
Strap: 2″ Nylon w/Plastic Buckle
Gimbal Pin: Adjustable/Removable
MSRP: $159.20
Contact: www.aftco.com // 800.452.3726

400

Rating: 50 to 130 lb.
Material: High Grade Plastic
Dimensions: 16″ x 7″
Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.
Padding: 11mm Molded Rubber Pads
Strap: 2″ Nylon w/Adjustable Down Straps
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $86.88
Contact: www.playactionproducts.com // 800.327.4643

Ninja Belt

Rating: Up to 130 lb.
Material: Anodized Aluminum
Dimensions: 18 1/2″ x 12″
Padding: 20mm Closed-Cell Foam
Weight: 3 lb. 8 oz.
Strap: 2″ Nylon W/Velcro Closure
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $179.99
Contact: www.sumotackle.com // 760.758.3184

Soft Stand-Up Belt

Rating: 50 to 100 lb.
Material: Anodized Aluminum
Dimensions: 19″ x 11″
Padding: 20mm Padding
Weight: 2 lb. 9 oz.
Strap: 1 5/8″ Nylon w/Plastic Buckle
Gimbal Pin: Hinged Cup w/Fixed Horizontal Pin
MSRP: $149.00
Contact: www.alutecnos.com // 786.221.5639

2SKB-7450

Rating: 60 to 100 lb.
Material: High-Density Polyethylene
Dimensions: 19.5″ x 9″
Padding: 8mm Molded Foam Pads
Weight: 2 lb. 8 oz.
Strap: 2″ Nylon w/Velcro Closure
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $115.99
Contact: www.skbcases.com // 714.685.5232

Extra Large Special

Rating: Unlimited
Material: Powder Coated Aluminum
Dimensions: 19 3/4″ x 10″
Padding: 20mm Closed-Cell High-Density Neoprene
Weight: 3 lb. 6 oz.
Strap: 2″ Nylon w/Velcro Closure
Gimbal Pin: Removable/Stainless Steel
MSRP: $215.00
Contact: www.smittybelts.com // 541.855.1831

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