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PLAYING BY
THE RULES

By Capt. Andy Siegel

  Every time I hold a fishing pole in my hand, I remember the joy I had fishing as a kid. My head was filled with fantasies of battling big bass on light tackle, like Hemingway’s Nick Adams, going after the legendary trout in the short story “Big Two-Hearted River.” At the age of 12, I became obsessed with the idea of setting world records and how to follow the techniques and regulations that make it possible. I would spend hours at night reading about catches of huge fish on light line and the famous people who pursued them. It seemed to me that the rules had to be followed to have any credibility or right to brag about any catch, even if it was not a world record.
  In fact, following the rules made fishing more fun, and that feeling has stayed with me. Adhering to the details laid out in the IGFA rules regarding sportsmanship was a challenge that added legitimacy to my efforts far beyond just fishing for food. For me, respect for these rules equates to respect for the art of fishing, and respect for the fish that we catch as well.
  Lately certain techniques in fishing that are not sporting have been increasingly used by the recreational offshore crowd, to the detriment of sportfishing. My hope is that I can show you how and why following established rules in fishing will lead to your greater satisfaction in the sport.
  All sports are governed by rules because participants need standards upon which to engage. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) was formed in 1939 to codify the rules that govern sportfishing, establish world record categories, and to certify world records. Over the years the IGFA has adjusted the rules to keep up with technology and trends. By standardizing variables in fishing, the rules allow comparisons of angling achievements. These rules are straightforward, detailed, and free for anyone to read or download at https://igfa.org under the tab “What We Do” and the topic “Angling Rules.”
  It is not hard to know the basics: Only the angler can handle the rod unassisted, one angler per fish. The leader can be handled by someone else once it is within reach or in the top rod guide. If the fish is to be kept, it can be gaffed or netted by more than one other person. There are specific requirements for leader lengths and line class, gaff and net lengths, hook configurations and many other details that must be understood and followed, but there is no rocket science.

IGFA rules define how to leader a fish to finish off a fight with a fish of a lifetime.
IGFA rules define how to leader a fish to finish off a fight with a fish of a lifetime.
The author with a big bull mahi-mahi.
The author with a big bull mahi-mahi.

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