Important safety and strategy considerations for the free diver.
There is a time and place for each of these main two rigs for freedive spearfishing and a good argument for both in different situations.
For everyone, I suggest using a floatline and buoy as your go-to, almost every time.
The number one reason is safety. You can shoot almost any fish and have no qualms about letting go of your gun and returning to the surface to get a breath of air.
When you are freediving, there are no bubbles and no trace of the diver once he leaves the surface. A typical freedive is 45 seconds to 2 minutes, during which time the boat can drift, the diver can swim off, and it is easy to lose track of their exact location. Addwaves, dirty water, distractions on the boat, wind, sun and other variables and it is tough for the captain to follow a diver, much less two or three at a time.
With a buoy on the surface, you have a constant reference as to the location of the diver from the captain’s perspective as well as for his dive partner in the water.
The other end of the float line is clipped off to your gun. This will give you the peace of mind to shoot a fish of any size without having to battle them all the way to the surface. Just as importantly, having the floatline will also allow you to properly fight a fish without overpressuring them, and without fear of running out of line.
Everyone hopes for that fish of a lifetime to come by when they are diving, so why not always be ready? I personally will always take that shot no matter what I have in my hands because I’m not afraid of letting go of my gear if I have to, but I know I have a much better chance of landing a monster fish with a floatline and buoy.
Reels for the Reefs
I love diving with a reel. After dealing with floatlines in the boat and tangling in the water with everyone else, it is a breath of fresh air, somewhat like the difference between freediving and scuba.
Reels are great for diving in shallow water, shooting grouper and other bottom fish where you know the distance the fish is going to run is finite. In other words, when you dive with a reel, you don’t want to run out of line when you’re fighting him. Best-case scenario, you dive, shoot a fish, and he either goes in a hole or you are able to fight him and keep him from getting in the hole to return to the surface with enough line to spare.
When you are diving around structure or in current there is no comparison to diving with a reel, which gives you the maneuverability to sneak around and not worry about getting tangled up.
You always want at least 25 to 50 percent more line on your reel than the water depth, and even then, factor in current and pelagic fish which run laterally and you are eventually going to run out of line. On top of that, lines get tangled in the bands when you shoot, reels get jammed and don’t pay out line, and there are any number of other things that can happen. Basically, if you are going to dive with a reel, be prepared to let it go. No fish is worth your life.
Prepare yourself to own multiple reels, floatlines, buoys, bungees, and one-, two- and three-atmosphere floats for any and every situation. You can land a fish with anything if you take the right shot, but it pays to be prepared with the right gear in hand for each dive. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2017