WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Reeling in a 150-pound fish while controlling a 40-foot yacht on the high seas sounds like a sure way to go for a swim. But in the waters around the island of Hawaii, battling ocean creatures alone is precisely what one man prefers to do.
In normal sport fishing, one person runs the boat while the other sits in the fighting chair, frantically holding on for dear life until the fish wears out or escapes. Geza Csige, a Hungarian immigrant and retired computer dealer from Santa Ana, Calif., runs the boat and fishes at the same time. He's been doing it for five years now.
"Here on Kona we get some big fish on the line, and trying to winch him in is difficult when you're at the helm," said Csige in a telephone interview from Hawaii. "When the strike comes, I get down to the deck, then I have to control the boat while cranking on the rod."
That's the way he used to do it. Soon he will be taking his new 40-foot, Costa Rican-made Gamefisherman out to sea with a unique electronic device that will simplify his frenetic one-man fishing shows.
The addition to his boat is an electronic throttle wired into Csige's fighting chair. Mounted on the teak panel on the left side of the chair, two chrome-plated brass levers control the boat's 375-horsepower Volvo engines. The chair cost $10,000. It was custom-made by Rybovich Spencer Group, the renowned maker of sport-fishing yachts and accessories in West Palm Beach.
Steering from the chair has its limitations. The throttles have no left-right control over the propeller. Instead, Csige will give short bursts of power to either the left engine or right engine, just enough to keep the stern of the boat facing the fish. The technique will work in either forward or reverse.
Csige, whose name is pronounced Seej, said he doesn't intend to try his solo style of sport fishing in a tournament, where other captains might be scared out of the water by a boat zig-zagging around like an aquatic Headless Horseman. Yet all would be under control. With a camera mounted on the front of the boat and a TV monitor in the back, Csige can avoid obstacles ahead with his back turned.
"I have tested it out. It works fine," he said. "You can sit there and maneuver the boat, but I haven't gone fishing with it yet. I haven't had a chance to outfit the boat yet."
Greg Camery, manager of Rybovich Spencer's chair department, said he received the order for Csige's electronic chair on June 14. Less than three months later, it was shipped to Hawaii, where it will be wired onto the boat.
"There wasn't a heck of a lot of technology involved," Camery said. "We put the controls on the left side so he could hold the fishing rod with his right hand and control the boat with his left. We had to install the control so it wouldn't get in the way of his knee when he's in the chair."
To Camery's and Csige's knowledge, no one else makes a fighting chair with engine controls. Csige's, which also comes with a double footrest to accommodate him and his young son, won't necessarily be the last.
"We probably wouldn't build one and have it sitting there," Camery said, "but if somebody came in and asked for one, we'd build it. I hope we sell more of them."
Jack Robertson, sales manager for Blackfin Yacht Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, said he knows of people who fish alone in boats with normal cockpit configurations, but he has never seen anything like the Rybovich electronic chair.
"It sounds pretty wild," Robertson said. "I don't know how you'd be able to hold the rod with two hands and run the controls with a third."
The Rybovich chair might not reign long as the ultimate toy for the solitary sport fisherman. Already, Csige is waiting for engine controls that operate on voice commands. Such a system would allow him to keep both hands on his fishing pole.
Csige said the software is being developed by a New Jersey company called Articulate Systems. He said the system could be in place as early as next summer.
"I've been fishing by myself since 1987, so I always think in terms of fixing up the boat electronically and mechanically so I can do everything myself," he said.