Spearfishing is perfect for any age, one of the best ways to bring family and friends together, and makes for the best stories! We promise, once you start spearfishing, you’ll do it for the rest of your life. If you’re new to spearfishing and deciding whether to invest in a polespear or speargun, there are a few things to take into consideration. Alli Penovich explains.
What Kind Of Diving Are You Doing?
If you’re doing shallow inshore diving around a lot of structures where you don’t need much range, I would recommend a polespear. I absolutely love my polespear for inshore diving. It’s easy to maneuver and you don’t have to worry about a shooting line or reel line getting wrapped around structures. If you’re diving offshore in some deeper wrecks or reefs, spearguns are the way to go. The only gun I had for the longest time was very versatile. I used it to land plenty of reef fish and blue water fish as well. It’s not to say that you have to choose one or the other, though, but I do recommend taking some time to learn some pros and cons about both before pulling the trigger.
Another factor when deciding between the two is price. Polespears tend to be a bit more affordable depending on the route you go: fiberglass, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Generally, an entry-level polespear will do a lot less damage to your wallet. On the other hand, there are some great entry-level spearguns that will absolutely get the job done at a minimal cost. You can put as much money into it as you want depending on the set up- float and float line or reel. Dive shops love talking about spearfishing so visit a local one and the staff will be more than happy to help! Dive shops are great at setting you up with reasonable gear that will be right for the type of diving you’re doing. They won’t just give you the biggest ticket item to get a sale out of you. I worked in a spearfishing/ freediving shop for years and there’s nothing better than building a relationship with a customer and setting them up with their first spear, be it a polespear or speargun!
How I Got Into Pole Spears
Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by the ocean and everything in it- diving, fishing, spearfishing. Living in Florida also meant the Bahamas were just a short flight away. I was very blessed to spend much of my summers in the Bahamas growing comfortable in the water. It was here that I was first introduced to spearfishing firsthand and where I shot my first fish. Although it took me years to have the desire to put a spear in my hand and actually use it, I learned so much from the hours I spent on the surface. I would always follow my dad and my brother around watching how to hunt different fish, what bottom to look for, what holes to check, and what tricks work on our favorite fish. When I did actually shoot my first fish, a coney grouper, and yes we did filet and eat it all 4 inches of it, I was hooked and never looked back.
My favorite part of the Bahamas- aside from the pristine, white-sand beaches and crystal clear, blue water, is that only a polespear or sling is permitted to harvest fish when spearfishing. This makes hunting a bit more challenging and more simple. Just a spear, a band, and the hunt. Due to the limited range of a polespear, you have to rely on technique more so than with a speargun. You have to close those extra feet to get the shot and I love the challenge of stalking a fish and taking that shot when the fish starts to get a little too curious.
Polespears are more primitive and the purest form of spearfishing. With limited range, I rely on the technique and tricks I have improved over the years and there’s nothing more satisfying than working a fish for a while and finally calling it in close enough to take the shot! I also love that if I swing and miss on a dive which unfortunately does happen, I can reload on the same dive and get another shot at the fish. We always only take what is needed from the ocean but with a polespear, I will take shots on fish I would normally let swim by with a speargun. Those fish are some of my favorite fish to hunt though! Blue runner and yellow jacks are always a good chase, I love seeing if I can get closer and closer until either I take the shot or they make a split-second move and are out of range for good. These species of fish often get looked over but they make great ceviche!
I might lean more towards team polespear due to the memories I have associated with it. Some of my favorite memories are heading to the Bahamas with only veggies and rice and relying on the ocean for our only source of protein. Every time we head out my dad would say, and still does, better get something or we’ll be eating PB and Js for dinner. It’s been almost 15 years of going to this island and we have yet to resort to a PB and J sandwich! I love the pressure of trying to find fish for dinner and the excitement of handpicking what ends up on our plate. I personally despise PB and Js so I will make sure there is fish in the cooler at the end of the day!
Spearguns do hold a special place in my heart as well. All of my current and past world records have been acquired with a speargun. There’s no doubt that I get excited every time I pull the trigger on a speargun. There’s far more power and more punch with a gun than a polespear. I have found over the years that when I’m spearing with a gun I am more selective. Mostly because I hate swinging and missing with a gun. You can’t reload a gun on a single breath and it takes some effort to load the bands. By the time you reload, your chance on that fish is most likely over. A lot of the days I spend in the water with a speargun are filled with a lot of drops down with no fish to show when I surface. I don’t generally shoot fish I would otherwise shoot with a polespear- triggerfish, blue runners, yellow jack. I’ll pass up a lot of those fish because I want to be ready in case the fish of the day makes an appearance. There have been plenty of times where I decided to take a shot I shouldn’t have or speared a fish that wasn’t a hero and while I was reloading, missed out on a bigger, better fish.
More accidents can happen when using a speargun than a polespear as well. There’s always a potential for a misfire when dealing with one. Make sure to always be on your a-game in the water. Watch where your gun is pointed at all times and watch where your buddy is as well. I always have an eye out for what is going on in the water and will never put myself in a situation I don’t want to be in. That being said, accidents do happen but if you’re more aware and cautious your chances of coming home unharmed are way higher.
I have more memories tied to using a polespear which might be why I lean more towards using one when I have the choice- my first fish, morning shore dives before work to try to get some dinner with my 6ft aluminum polespear, my PB mutton snapper. But on the other hand, my most memorable fish have been shot with a speargun- tuna in Costa Rica, four world record fish, countless cobia. Whether you lean towards a polespear or speargun, spearfishing in my book is the best way to spend the day. Not only am I in the water hours on end doing what I love, but the evenings are also spent with friends and family enjoying what was brought out of the ocean.
As I’ll repeat for the rest of my life- always dive with a buddy! And one that you trust at that. I always surround myself with dive buddies I know and dive within the group’s limits. Spearfishing is a lot more relaxing when you know your buddy has your back for whatever situation might arise. It seems that more and more experienced divers have lost their lives while spearfishing- no fish is worth your life!