In this article you’ll learn the pole spear tips that’ll make you a far better underwater hunter.
And while most people start spearfishing by hand, using what we call a hand spear, or a pole spear. They generally quickly upgrade to a speargun for the increased power and range. But there are many benefits to spearfishing with a pole spear, because it forces you to focus on improving your spearfishing fundamentals.
Over three months, I managed 27 dives using only a pole spear, and I’d like to share with you the tips I used to catch more fish using only a pole spear.
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Pole Spear Tips to Improve Your Spearfishing Game
Now, switching back from a speargun to a pole spear feels like you’re moving backwards. I’ve used my fair share of cheap pole spears in my time, before I upgraded to a speargun. But the reality is that it’s a wonderful piece of training equipment. If you want to improve your skills as an underwater hunter, follow these pole spear tips.
Why use a pole spear instead of a speargun?
The limited power and range is typically considered a downside of a pole spear. But there is an upside, because you’ve got to work on your spearfishing skills in order to land your shots. Using a pole spear for spearfishing means that you’ll:
- Need to be quieter underwater, so you don’t spook any nearby fish.
- Need to focus on your ambush technique, to get closer to your targets.
- Need to be more accurate, aiming to stone and kill with every shot.
Just think, if you follow these pole spear tips and push your ability to be stealthy and accurate underwater. Just how much better will you be at spearfishing once you’ve got your speargun back in your hands?
Why I spent three months training with a pole spear
As a kid, one of the first things I remember from my local dive store were the pole spears. Hanging from the walls were all the hand spears you could dream of.
Back then, fiberglass and carbon fibre pole spears weren’t even a thing. These were pure aluminum, longer than I was tall, with a cluster of prongs on the tip. To me, pole spears looked lethal, and triggered something out of my boyhood fantasies of survival. Being on an island, with a pole spear. Hunting fish to stay alive.
Thinking about how a simple pole spear was what got me excited about spearfishing over 30 years ago, I felt the nostalgia kick in. I’d also heard from my spearfishing group how pole spears were a great training device, and with winter kicking in it was as good a time as any. I committed to three months of spearfishing with just a pole spear. Of course, that limited how many blue water trips I was able to take, but I still managed to spear some decent fish.
My goals for focusing on pole spearfishing were twofold:
- I wanted to get sneakier underwater and improve my stealth approach while spearfishing
- I wanted to master the pole spear as a weapon of choice when spearfishing from the shore
Keep reading to discover the pole spear tips I learned, as I went back to the hand spear fishing basics.
It takes practice to improve your aim with a pole spear
The most important of all of these pole spear tips practice. The best way to improve at spearfishing is to get in the water, and do it. You’ll learn something new on every trip, so take every opportunity you can to get in the water. Some days I’ll dive both mornings and afternoons, when the conditions are right you just need to go.
Because you will get better at spearfishing, the more you practice.
Another good tip is to warm up at the start of every spearfishing session with a handful of practice shots. I’ll take a few minutes when I first get in the water, to take 5 to 10 practice shots with my pole spear. For me, doing this helps me to remember the limited power and range you’re working with on a hand spear. I’d find some kelp or just mark a spot in the sand, so I’ve got something to aim at. Then practice shooting.
The more experience you have actually shooting your pole spear, the better your chances of landing a perfect shot when you’re targeting a fish.
Focus on being stealthy as you spearfish with a pole spear
Now, what I realized very quickly in this experiment was that I wasn’t as quiet underwater as I would have liked. I had come to rely on the brute force of my speargun and it’s extended range to land shots that were simply impossible with a pole spear.
Trying to master this new spearfishing tool needed a new approach, and this pole spear tip for you is to change it up.
Instead of approaching your prey at the same level, you’ll have more luck spearfishing with a pole spear if you approach your fish vertically. Take a calm, measured approach. And don’t make any sudden movements that’ll give your position away. If you’re quiet enough this can allow you to catch your fish unaware, and get a shot off before they realize what’s happening. Coming in from the side, you have to remember a pole spear only gives you 4 or 5 feet of maximum range, and most fish simply won’t let you get this close.
Use structures and lie in wait for your fish to get close to you
Prior to this experiment, I generally spearfished with an active prowl technique. It allows me to cover a lot of ground underwater, and potentially spot other worthwhile catches like lobsters hiding in a crevice, or to pop over a ledge and surprise whatever fish is waiting in open water on the other side.
Using a pole spear requires a different spearfishing approach.
My tip for using a pole spear is to poke around the holes and crevices a fish might be hiding. Or to simply lie and wait in ambush. With a pole spear, you can hide behind a rock wall, the pylons of a jetty, whatever is close that allows you to break up your silhouette underwater. Mastering this is one of the most critical pole spear tips, because it completely changed how I’ve been spearfishing. I started catching more fish, by sitting still and lying in wait with my pole spear.
Because fish are curious. And if you’re not spooking them with a lot of movement, being patient means your target fish will likely swim up to you. Allowing you a perfect shot with your pole spear.
Perfecting your grip is one of the fundamental pole spear tips
Unlike a speargun, which is generally loaded at all times. You won’t be able to keep the band on pole spear under tension and “loaded” at all times.
What worked for me was hooking my thumb through the rubber, while grasping the spear near the base. My pole spear was light enough that this didn’t make it top heavy, or awkward to swim around with in the water. And whenever I came across a target fish I was ready to pull it back to a full load, aim and release.
Researching this as I progressed, I also discovered a way to make your aim a little more accurate. Instead of pulling the pole spear straight back, wrap the band around the spear as you pull and build the tension. This twist stops the pole spear from warping under load, and makes it a little easier to hold. Because of the tension against the pole. So you get a more accurate shot. I also found I could stretch the band even further doing this, which gave me a little more range.
You want to focus on this tip with pole spear, because the more accurate you are, the better.
Let your pole spear completely go as you shoot
Now, I only realized this after watching the footage from my underwater camera. Shooting my speargun I’d hole my arm at full extension and fire.
But with a pole spear, I was doing this weird thing that was almost like I was pushing the spear forward as I let go. Thinking about it, I realize now that it was an instinctive thing, to push the pole spear forward as I shot, to give it some more range. But testing this style on my very next dive I could see it was hurting my shots. The little bit of friction my hand made against the shaft actually slowed down my shots, and was hurting my range.
For this pole spear tip, when you’re shooting remember to let go completely. Trust in your aim. You’ll get a little bit more power into your shot, and a higher chance of landing that fish.
Where should you aim to spear a fish with a pole spear?
Using a speargun, you’ve got quite a bit of wiggle room when it comes to accuracy. Of course, your goal should be to stone your fish, killing it instantly. But if you’ve landed a shot pretty much anywhere on the fishes body with a speargun, there’s very little chance it’ll get away.
This isn’t always true when you’re spearfishing with a pole spear. Because a pole spear has less power, you need to focus on getting your fish stuck in the prongs of your spear.
Generally, you won’t have enough power to pierce the spine and stone a fish (unless you’re targeting really small reef fish), so accuracy becomes critical. The spot you want to aim for is the meat of the shoulder. Just behind the head, and above the backbone. This is where a fish is generally thickest, giving you the best chance that your pole spear will penetrate the flesh, and the hooks on your prongs will hold tight.
Secure your catch as fast as possible when you’re spearfishing
Once you’ve got a fish on the end of your pole spear, the next few seconds are critical.
Because you’re unlikely to have landed a kill shot, the thrashing fish on the end of your pole spear has a chance of working itself free. Especially if your shot wasn’t close enough to penetrate deep, or you’re using a 5-prong spear that won’t punch all the way through. My advice for anyone following these pole spear tips is to secure your catch.
If your fish is on the end of your pole spear, swim back to the bottom and push it deeper. You want the prongs to bury deep in the flesh of the fish before you try to grab it. I lost a couple of fish before I learned you needed to do this. And I’d also recommend wearing a pair of quality spearfishing gloves. Fish have spines and sharp edges on their gills, which you don’t want to mess with underwater.
When your hands are protected, you’ll be able to grab your fish tight, dispatch it with your dive knife, and string it onto your fish stringer without concern.
Get back to basics with these pole spear tips
I was surprised just how much I needed to work on, when I started spearfishing with a pole spear. Everything from my movements and approach underwater, to how I was targeting fish. It’s my hope these pole spear tips help improve your spearfishing skills, so you can catch more fish.
Personally, I’m much more confident now with a pole spear, and while typically go spearfishing with my speargun. It’s a lot of fun spearfishing with a hand spear when you’re in shallow water, or spearfishing from the shore. Use it as a training tool to improve your spearfishing fundamentals, and see how fast you improve.