Grab the pole spear band between your thumb and index finger, then slide your hand up the pole spear to build tension. Some divers like to give the band a wrap around the pole spear when they pull the band forward, creating a twist which spirals the pole spear as it is shot forward. (see image below). This serves two purposes, it creates more friction which makes holding band tension easier and it eliminates flex in the pole spear which provides for a more accurate shot.
Twisting band around pole spear
Stalking and Approach
Many spearfishing hunters use the extra long range and power of their spearguns to compensate for an inability to get close to the fish. This is why pole spears are the best way to learn spearfishing. It forces you to learn the fundamentals, making you the most versatile and efficient hunter.
In order to get close enough for the shot with your pole spear, you must know your fish. Each type of fish has its own defensive habits and a distinct “zone” in which it will allow a spearfishing diver to approach. A grouper may sit and stare at a diver 20 feet away, but as soon as the diver approaches within 10 feet, the fish is gone. Some fish, like the smaller Hogfish, will allow the spearfishing hunter to almost put the tip of the pole spear right against the fish, relying on its ability to change color and camouflage instead of trying to out-swim the threat.(Not always true for the bigger,smarter ones) Other fish, like the amberjack or cobia, will often swim up to the diver, just asking to be poked with your pole spear. The invasive species of Lionfish in the Atlantic are great fun to spearfish, and you can learn more about how to hunt lionfish by clicking here.
Experience and research are the best ways to learn the basics of spearfishing and habits of all the game fish on the reef, but several methods will allow for a closer approach. One such method is to approach from above. This is one auxiliary advantage to freediving over scuba spearfishing – the vertical downward approach often catches fish unaware of the impending pole spear coming their way. Many divers also feel that it is important to avoid eye contact when spearfishing and when approaching large fish.
Of all the polespear tricks and methods, I feel that the most important one is the use of structure. While the speargun hunter is usually looking for the free-swimming targets out in the open, the polespear hunter is usually best off poking around the ledges, holes, caves, and other structure that the reef or wreck affords. After seeing the large snapper dart out of a hole and back in, the polespear hunter should swim up behind the hole, ready the spear, and wait for the head to poke out again. Fish are surprisingly curious, and the patient hunter can use this to their advantage. The polespear hunter should learn to drive free-swimming fish towards structure where they can be more easily hunted. This often works with the larger species of hogfish or grouper that won’t let you approach close enough in the open. If they can be cornered they make easier targets for the traditional hunter. Also remember that fish usually prefer holes with back doors, so the first shot opportunity on a holed-up fish is often the best opportunity.
Collecting Your Catch
The moments after the hit are where many new polespear hunters lose their prey. Always wear gloves when spearfishing, so you can grab the fish as quickly as you can. Many divers spear the fish then tend to hold on to one end of the spear while the fish thrashes about, which it will do if it wasn’t a kill-shot behind the eye. A flailing fish can quickly dislodge a spear, so the key is to immediately grab the fish and subdue it before he shakes loose. Grab it solidly and string or bag your catch quickly.
The Most Important Tip of All
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! The best way to learn spearfishing is by being out there doing it. So take every opportunity you can to go hunting. Even if you’re not that good at first, you will get better with time. We look forward to hearing from you once you’ve bagged your first Foldspear kill!