In Blog, Pole Spears

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Of course, I’d used my fair share of pole spears as a kid, before I could afford to upgrade to a speargun. But as I got older and both my skill and appreciation for the sport of spearfishing increased, I realized the trick to the pole spear.

It’s a wonderful piece of training equipment.

If you’re looking to improve your skills as an underwater hunter, switch back to a pole spear.

  • You’ll need to be quieter underwater to bring the fish to you.
  • You’ll need to be sneakier to get closer to your target fish.
  • You’ll need to be far more accurate in every shot you make.

As a kid, it was the pole spears I noticed every time I walked into the dive store. Hanging from the walls were a huge variety of long skinny spears with a mess of prongs on the end. It was like something out of my boyhood fantasies of survival.

Be on an island. Get spear. Hunt fish.

Once I realized this was the tool that got me excited about spearfishing over 30 years ago, I felt the nostalgia kick in.

So, I made a commitment. I’d spend the next three months diving only with pole spears.

Of course, that meant no big blue water trips, but I still managed to bring in some decent fish.

catching fish with a pole spear

I had two goals with learning to use my pole spear.

  1. I wanted to get “sneakier” and improve my underwater hunting skills
  2. I wanted to master the pole spear as a spearfishing weapon of choice

And today I’d like to share with you everything I learned.

Pole spearfishing tips #1: Improve your aim with practice

I made a conscious effort at the start of every dive to get in at least 5-10 practice shots, to ensure I had my aim right, and I was in the best possible “mode” to hunt. You could use a bit of seaweed or kelp on a sandbar as a target, or rig up something in the water like a small bottle from your towline. Just make sure you get some practice shots in so your aim is perfect before you start trying to catch an actual fish. It makes a big difference, trust me.

Pole spearfishing tips #2: Use structures to hide

When you need to get in close to land your fish, my advice is to avoid a direct approach. With only 4 to 5 feet of range, most fish simply won’t let you get this close before they spook and take off. So, you need to be smart with your approach, hiding behind rock walls, jetty pylons or whatever you’ve got to get close without being spotted. It completely changed how I dive (my favorite approach is always the active prowl), but I’ve found I actually catch more fish when I’m lying in wait above a ledge or behind a wall.

Pole spearfishing tips #3: Only cock the spear when shooting

You’re going to drain your energy fast keeping your pole spear fully loaded at all times. What I found was a good compromise was keeping my thumb hooked into the rubber while hanging onto the spear, so all I need to do when I see a target fish is stretch it out to full load, aim, and release. It’s far quicker for me to take a shot using this technique, and it also stops the rubber floating around as a distraction. To spearfish effectively, you need to be an effective underwater hunter.

Pole spearfishing tips #4: Remember to let go

One thing I noticed I was doing only when I watched the videos from my camera was that I was trying to guide the spear after I’d let go. It seemed like a good idea as I was trying to make my hand like the barrel of a gun. What I didn’t realize until I saw a practice shot where I let go completely, was just how much that little bit of friction from my hand was slowing down my shots. Let the spear go completely and trust your aim. You’ll have much more power with your shots, giving you more chances to land that fish.

Pole spearfishing tips #5: Focus on hitting the kill spot

When you’re using a speargun, you’ve got a lot of wiggle room when it comes to accuracy. It’s always nice to stone a fish, but really, if you’ve done a good enough job to get the fish caught on your spear, you can be pretty confident you’ll land it. It’s not always true for the pole spear. Because it has less power, there’s less chance you’ll penetrate deep, so your accuracy becomes far more critical. You want to hit that perfect spot, just behind the gills where the backbone connects to the head. That’s the kill spot.

Pole spearfishing tips #6: Secure your catch before surfacing

Once you’ve got a fish on your spear the next few seconds are critical. If you haven’t landed a kill shot, the thrashing fish on the end of your spear can actually work itself free. Especially if you’ve been using a 5-prong spear and it hasn’t penetrated deep. What I like to do once I’ve got a fish, is to grab the spear with the fish on the end, and “push” it deeper, so the prongs bury deep before you try to swing it up to you and grab it. Perhaps there’s a bit of sand you can use because of course, you don’t want to bend the spears tips on the rocks.

tips for spearfishing with a pole spear

There’s much an aspiring spearo can learn with the humble pole spear, and it’s my hope you take these tips to improve your spearfishing skills.

Personally, I’m much more confident now with a pole spear, and I’ve made a habit of carrying mine even when I’m taking my speargun out again now. My pole spear is clipped onto my float line, just in case I need it. Is yours?

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