Getting the Gear
  |  First Published: December 2011

I think it’s great to see so many young people getting into the sport. Things are moving and growing so rapidly it’s amazing. There is now a huge abundance of gear out there, unlimited resources and a whole ocean to discover. This is a real prime time in the evolution of spearfishing.

One of the critical factors in the spearfishing journey is breath hold. The most important thing is to continue to spend as much time as you can in the water. The more you practice and the more relaxed you are the better you will get. Be patient and stick with it and you will improve without even noticing. One of the tricks to making this happen is getting hold of a good mate who is just as keen as you. If you can do this you will tend to feed off each other’s keenness and drive for improving and catching bigger fish and you can’t help but move in the right direction.

The second thing you need to do is consider getting involved with a spearfishing club or get yourself into a spearfishing or freediving course. You will learn things that would have taken you ten times longer to work out on your own (if ever) if you are mixing with the right people. And this applies not only to young up and coming learners – I was talking to a local guy the other day who is the real ‘old salty sea dog’ of spearfishing in the Coffs Harbour area. This guy has been spearfishing forever and when not spearfishing he has spent a lot of time working on professional fishing boats. For some very experienced people it can be a bit of a matter of pride that holds them back from attending one of these things – they have been diving for so long they figure what could a simple beginner freediving course teach you? Recently he completed part 1 of a freediving course and he was absolutely amazed at the simple things most of the course attendees (including himself) have been doing wrong for so many years. He just wishes he had done this 20 years ago.

I’m always a bit wary to ensure young spearfishers clearly get the message that spearfishing is far from being just about freediving – it’s just as much about hunting. However freediving is no doubt a massive and key part of spearfishing and if you can fast track your learning curve and at the same time enhance your safety then why not?

After addressing these two key points, a whole new world of information will begin to unfold in front of you. The extent of information out there on the internet is amazing, especially in terms on the physiological aspects of breath hold freediving – I suggest you start by Googling something like “freediving physiology” and read as much as you can.

As for what to look for when selecting a speargun, there are a number of things that you need to think about before you even get to the shop and more to look for once you are there. The first is to make a decision on the length of gun you want. The gun length should be based on the type of spearfishing you do and the fish you target. If you are a relatively novice, shore base diver then I would suggest a gun around 1–1.1m. Be careful here, as some guns are measured in different ways – when talking 1m long I’m generalizing to aluminium barrel type guns which are usually measured as the length of barrel (between the front of the handle/trigger and the back of the rubbers fitting). If you are at a reputable spearfishing store they will know what you mean.

In terms of materials, you will mostly be selecting between aluminium, timber or carbon. Carbon is not necessary at a novice level and the first two are both very robust and relatively cheap. Aluminium can be a good choice if you are on a budget and looking for simplicity and low maintenance, however, on the opposite side of the coin a timber gun can last you a lifetime if you are willing to look after it. I have both and use either depending on conditions and the fish I’m chasing. Try to choose a gun that has as little flex as possible, and be wary of small, flimsy barrels that look like they will be very light and easy to move about in the water – remember that once a gun is in the water it is nearly weightless and this is unlikely to be much of an issue. There are an incredible number of great guns on the market now. As a beginner on a budget looking for a good, simple, all round weapon that will suit our conditions it’s very hard to go past some of the home grown products. I’m not going to go into specific brands here, but if you do your research it’s not hard to find a choice of several brands that are Australian made and will do a great job.

One advantage most of the Australian brands have is that nearly all of them have picked up on the specific needs for our conditions and fish and fitted them out to suit. Most of the South African and US brands are built to similar specifications. Be wary of some of the European brands that still come with quite short 6 or 6.5mm shafts on their off the shelf guns. These can cause major issues if you happen to run into a nice sized fish like a mulloway, and you are likely to end up with a seriously trashed shaft that can never be used straightened again. I should add here that some European brands have also picked up on this and are now offering guns that are built to handle Australian conditions. My recommendation would be to always go for at least a 7mm spear.

You should also always check the quality of the flopper – ideally it should be large and solid, sitting flush on the shaft, and it should swing freely and fall open without any pressure, but should also lock in the open position once fully open. Floppers should also not open beyond about 75-80 degrees – a flopper that opens to 90 degrees provides opportunity for a fish to potentially lever between the flopper and the spear tip and will result in many lost fish. In addition you don’t want a flopper to be too close to the end of the shaft, which again can allow a fish to lever against the flopper and pull the spear tip back through. Ideally a flopper will also be fixed with a solid pin that is located nearly as far from the end of the shaft as the flopper is long.

The next thing to look at is the handle of the gun. Again there may be some personal choice here between a rear handle type setup or more mid handle type gun. If you are not sure I suggest you try to get the feel of a few different ones before making a decision. Ideally this would be by actually trying each gun in the water, otherwise just grab and extend each one in the shop and get a feel for what you like. You should take care to select a gun with a handle that feels very comfortable and natural in your hand. Always try disengaging and re-engaging the shaft in the trigger mechanism a few times to ensure it is easy, smooth and consistent.

Check that the gun has a solid, robust setup at the front of the gun for the rubbers. My suggestion for a relative novice would be to go for a gun that only has one rubber. Anything between 16 and 20mm is likely to be fine, however, be very wary of short thick rubbers that seem very strong but have little apparent stretch – many off the shelf guns are actually over-powered which can result in very poor accuracy, many missed fish and a very frustrated diver. You are better off being under-powered rather than over-powered – you can always shorten the rubber later on. You should also take note of the type of bridle fitted to the rubber – make sure it looks like it’s easy to change if it wears out. Some gun manufacturers have designed some very good fittings that allow the bridle to be changed easily without needing to touch the actual rubbers. My preference is a cord bridle, and my suggestion would be to try and steer clear of cheap metal bridles.

Some other things to look for include solid stainless steel snap swivels, strong and well fitted line cord, and a robust line clip arrangement that easily releases the line when the trigger is disengaged. If at all possible, when you go to buy a new gun, try and seek the advice of an experienced spearfisher and preferably even take that person with you to the shop. Many things can come down to preference, but if you do your homework and have a hunt on a few of the spearfishing forums you will also get some good inside tips that will help to point you in the right direction.

Happy hunting. - Glenn George

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