By Cameron Kirkconnell
Don’t believe the hype; trust what works and fits.
When we are gearing up for any sport or hobby, the first thing we naturally do as predators is attack every bit of knowledge we can find about what gear people are using. There is always going to be fantastic new equipment on the market. But for the most part, basic spearfishing gear should be something that is tried and true and most importantly, fits comfortably.
Here’s What You Can’t Live Without:
Low Volume Mask: Scuba divers use a mask that is generally two times the size of a freedive mask. With freediving, you have a limited amount of air (just what is in your lungs) so as you are diving down and pressure is being exerted on the air space in the mask, it is going to compress. To equalize that pressure, you are going to have to blow air into it via your nose constantly or your eyes are going to get sucked out of your head and you’ll look like a pop-eyed goldfish and not have a very positive diving experience. The more air you have to put into your mask means the less that is available for your body to distribute as fuel for your muscles.
Try on every mask in the store and get the one that fits. There is nothing more important than having one that is comfortable. Clear or amber lenses are both great (amber lens is for low light). Darktinted lenses are a gimmick. They make your field of vision darker and are going to do more harm than the good they claim by shielding your eyes from fish. A reflective lens is okay but there is nothing better than a simple low-volume clear mask.
Snorkel: Simplify it. A J-snorkel with a tube and mouthpiece that won’t wear out your gums is best. The more appendages it has on it, the more drag through the water and the better chance of it breaking and waterboarding you the rest of the day.
Long Blade Fins: If you haven’t already started using these, prepare to have your mind blown. Get a pair of good booties that will protect your feet (1.5-2mm thick) and start trying on foot pockets to find a comfortable one. If you are just doing a bit of freediving, banging around in the shallows or on the reef getting lobsters, a pair of plastic blades is fine and will be a huge leap from your snorkeling fins or the ever interesting new design the scuba companies are churning out.
If you are serious about it and are going to be diving deeper than 50 feet, look at the fiberglass and ultimately the carbon fiber blades which are the Ferrari of the blades. They are lighter, and do more of the work for you because they want to come back to their original shape therefor propelling you through the water easier and with less abuse on your ankles. There are dozens of great fins out there ranging from $200 to $600 and only subtle differences, so it is personal preference which brand you get.
Guns: Just because you are starting out doesn’t mean you need a tiny gun. Longer guns mean longer shots so if the water is clear and the fish are smart you’ll need more than a pea shooter. The best all-around gun for Florida is a 110cm or 120cm gun. If you buy that, you will not go wrong. You may buy other guns if you fall in love with the sport, but you will never stop using that one as it is the most versatile size for almost any reef fish and you can still poke some holes in bigger pelagics and land them. Start off with a single flopper shaft 9/32- or 5/16-inch. As for gun barrel materials, wood, carbon fiber and metal are all fine. Again, it’s just what you prefer.
In the end, learning how to hunt is the thing that is going to help you land fish, but having good solid gear that you can rely on and are confident in will go a long way to keep you enjoying spearfishing.
Dive safe and let’s look forward to seeing some big fish hit the deck. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine December 2016