To ensure that you can rely on your chair when you need it most, it’s gotta be sturdy. That’s why Pompanette uses marine-grade 316L stainless steel on the main structure and claims to be the only manufacturer to offer a stainless steel leg plate. On the other hand, Savannah, Georgia-based Release Marine says its chairs have minimal metal-to-metal connections and moving parts, thereby reducing rattle, wear, maintenance, and the risk of something breaking or going wrong. Release’s vice-president and co-owner Jimmy Dewberry confirms: “You could tow a dinghy from our fighting chair.”
But it’s not just about the chair. Many boatbuilders not only design their battlewagons to be big and fast, they also lay out cockpits with fighting chairs in mind, usually laminating in aluminum or steel backing plates on the underside of the cockpit which the chair pedestal bolts into.
And then there’s your boat. You need to consider certain things in selecting a chair, like the size of your boat and the square footage and layout of her cockpit. Are there hatches in the sole or tanks beneath? Is there even room for a fighting chair? Is your boat set up for cruising and fishing, and if so, are you willing to sacrifice the space that a fighting chair requires? Your answer to these questions will largely dictate the size and type of chair you need. After that, says Donahue, it’s just a question of making a CAD drawing of the chair that’s best for you and picking a custom color to blend in with your boat or one that will stand out and be the focal point of the cockpit.
Budget is another consideration, as are the kind of fishing you plan to do and with whom you plan to fish. Cost can vary greatly, from about $3,000 for a lightweight chair with aluminum parts to $19,000 for a stainless steel and teak model complete with rocket launcher. But although materials and mounting techniques can vary, the basic shape and design of the chairs remain the same. “The angler who day fishes out of his home port on weekends with his wife and kids is obviously going to require a different chair than the serious tournament fisherman,” says Murray. Donahue adds that Pompanette works closely with clients to find the most cost-effective chair for their needs, which might end up being smaller although no less capable than what they originally had in mind.
What’s next in fighting chairs? As boats get bigger and beamier, more chairs use offset stanchions and pedestals to help anglers reach the corners. And that’s where the hydraulic chair, the next big thing in fighting chairs, comes in. Both Murray and Pompanette are developing versions which, with the push of a button, can actually do much of the fish-fighting work for you, making it essentially a hands-free operation. And Release just partnered with Applied Concepts to produce what it calls “the war seat,” which will be made of composites and offer enhanced ergonomics to give the angler more leverage on the fish and reduce some of the stress that occurs between the angler and the rod.
A good fighting chair is a financial investment, and to get the right one, you’ll also have to also invest some research. But if you have any doubt whether it’s worth it, think back to your last “one that got away” story, and then ask yourself: Can you afford not to?
This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.