spearfishing gear speargun float floatline fins mask snorkel knife

Getting geared up

Spearfishing Gear

Spearfishing gear is a huge topic – one that I can’t even begin to cover on a single page.  That said, I’ll give a high-level view of the various spearfishing gear needed here – and if you want more detail, click through the links in the section you’re interested in.  I’m covering this with an emphasis on freedive spearfishing. Finally, some of the links below are affiliate links.

Here are the main spearfishing gear topics, click the section you’re interested in to go directly there:

Some thoughts on buying spearfishing gear:

  • If you’re not sure what you want, it pays dividends to either borrow stuff from a buddy or ask a more experienced spearfisherman for recommendations (as long as they’re doing the kind of spearfishing you want to).
  • I strongly encourage you to buy quality equipment, once – rather than buying cheaper gear and having to keep replacing it.
  • If you’re creative and on a budget, you can make much of your own gear.  But make it right so you don’t screw up and lose a fish.
  • Articulated wishbones are dumb – don’t buy them.
  • As a general rule most european spearfishing gear won’t stand up to larger pelagics we hunt.  You can experiment, but I don’t know why you would – there is proven gear for big fish.
  • Don’t buy the cheaper brands if you want to freedive spearfish for larger fish – JBL, AB Biller, etc.  Mako makes decent guns, but I’ve seen their floatlines and other stuff fail (Mako also has innovative gear and a great reputation for helping divers).
  • Learn how to: tie your own bands, rig your own shooting line, and set up all of your own gear.  Keep spares around, and all the tools you need to change things out.

Pass On Some Knowledge:

The Speargun

Nothing in spearfishing inspires as much debate as the speargun, but I’m going to give a high-level overview of the types of spearguns, their uses, and what I use.  For the sake of simplicity we’re only going to discuss band spearguns – they’re the most popular, the most simple, and my preferred type.  Additionally, we’re going to break down spearguns into two (broad) categories – The Reef Speargun and The Bluewater Speargun.  Within each category there are a myriad of production guns and custom builders.  The choice of speargun is based upon use-case, budget, and personal preference.  If you’re looking for a single speargun that “does it all” – you can stop that search, it’s about as fruitful as searching for a unicorn.  Choose a speargun that meets a specific set of criteria based around use case, budget, and personal preference – and if you find you need something different, buy a different one.

The Reef Speargun

spearfishing gear reef speargun

Hunting a (very) shallow reef … photo credit: wikipedia

First, let’s define the use-case.  The Reef Speargun is used to freedive spearfish reef species, over structure, with a reachable bottom.  The tactics used to hunt with a Reef Speargun can include spot and stalk, aspetto, and hole-hunting.  Typically the reef species are smaller than what we hunt when bluewater spearfishing, so you won’t need more than two bands or a speargun more than 130cm (50 inches).  Long shots are also less common; another reason you can get away with a smaller speargun.  Also, with a reachable bottom (and the tendency for a shot fish to “hole-up”) you can typically use a reel rather than a breakaway system.

spearfising gear reef speargun

Grouper taken with Reef Speargun

The two largest factors to consider are the species targeted and the visibility in your diving area.  In conditions like the photo above (great visibility – hunting grouper and snapper) I prefer a long (120-130cm), rear-handled (euro-style), double-banded speargun with a flopper shaft rigged directly to a horizontal reel.  This is alot of gun for the grouper in this picture – but on the same day I ran into a 50 pound wahoo and 35 pound amberjack, both of which have been landed with this setup.  In fact, I’ve landed large Blackfin Tuna with this setup as well – that’s a blast.  Other species with this setup include small wahoo, large mahi-mahi, large permit, large ling (cobia), decent amberjack, and every reef species I’ve come close to.

spearfishing gear speargun riffe euro

Riffe Euro

If you’re on a budget – you’ll probably want to stick with Mako or Rob Allen spearguns.  But if you have a little larger bankroll, you can opt for a Riffe Euro or a custom speargun.  I strongly prefer custom wood spearguns, but own spearguns made from aluminum and carbon fiber as well.  For an in-depth discussion on tracks, handle-placement, materials, durability, and lengths – check back soon.

Spearfishing Gear reef speargun

Rob Allen 90 Reef Gun

When you’re hole-hunting, in limited visibility, or only after smaller quarry, a different speargun choice would be ideal.  Diving in 5 foot of visibility with a 130cm speargun isn’t any fun.  Neither is trying to angle your 130cm speargun into a tight crevice in a wreck to get a shot at a holed-up grouper.  In these cases, you’ll be far happier (and more productive) with a shorter, single-band speargun and a flopper shaft (similar to the above).  You can rig it directly to the speargun if you’re not worried about the fish swimming off, but I almost always use a reel.

riffe mid handle spearguns

Riffe Mid-Handle Series

If you want a little more power, but don’t want to swing the length of a longer gun (longer band pull = more power) – you may find the shorter mid-handled spearguns the right choice for you.  The top option above (Riffe mid handled) is a great example of a well-powered, dirty-water (or hole-hunting) gun.

The Bluewater Speargun

I’m not condoning testing a bluewater speargun in your swimming pool, as a matter of fact – it seems like a recipe for disaster… but it does show you the features of the kind of speargun I’m talking about.  The use-case is freedive spearfishing, great visibility, large pelagic species, long-range shooting, and no reachable bottom.  For this kind of spearfishing, your choice in spearfishing gear is very important – not the least of which is your choice in bluewater spearguns.  You can often find a selection on eBay – by clicking here: Bluewater Spearguns on Ebay

spearfishing gear merlo tuna gun

A Merlo Tuna Gun – photo credit: blueh2o.com

When hunting the biggest and toughest bluewater fish – large yellowfin tuna, dogtooth tuna, and marlin – I use a custom-built (by Scott Merlo) 72″, 6 banded, speargun.  It shoots a heavy (3/8″) shaft, with a slip-tip and all rigged breakaway to a large float (sometimes two or more). If you want a production gun that can handle this type of spearfishing – Riffe makes one (below).

spearfishing gear riffe bluewater elite

Riffe Bluewater Elite

For the smaller or less powerful bluewater quarry (wahoo, mahi, yellow tail, etc) – you may prefer a scaled-down version of the above bluewater gun.  For wahoo, I’ve come to strongly prefer Daryl Wong’s Ono (custom) speargun – the one I like the most is 65″, shoots a 5/16″ shaft and has 4 bands.  It is setup breakaway with a sliptip.  Here’s an example, it’s currently for sale (click on the photo):

 

spearfishing gear daryl wong ono custom speargun

Wong Ono photo credit: NavyDiver

There are a variety of custom speargun builders out there, and the best spearguns are (arguably) custom spearguns – as they can be exactly what you want, with all of the features you like/want/need.  That said – the production spearguns can be ordered online, immediately (no wait time for construction), and are often (but not always) cheaper than production spearguns.

If you’re making a decision on purchasing a speargun, there is infinitely more to consider, and I encourage you to continue your research.  Because I’ll be sailing, I plan on choosing only two (three, hopefully) spearguns to take with me.  Ideally:  one for hole-hunting, one for reef spearfishing, and one for bluewater spearfishing.  Check back to see what I end up choosing.

Quick Share:

The Spearfishing Spear

When you’re picking out your spearfishing gear, it’s really easy to get lost in your other gear and not put much thought into what spear is best.  Spears come in a variety of lengths, thicknesses, tab designs, and tips.

Shaft Material

Your first choice should be what material you want your spear to be made from.  Spears typically come in two materials – spring steel and stainless steel.  There are some hardened stainless steels that are (in my opinion) at the top of the list.  Spring steel is typical of most South African manufacturers, it’s supposed to be harder and bend less (and that may be) – but spring steel does rust and it typically breaks if it’s ever bent and then straightened.   Most stainless steel shafts bend easily, but do bend back fairly easily as well.  That said, if you want the best spearfishing gear, the best shafts are hardened stainless steel.  There are a few places you can find these shafts, just do a little research on Spearboard.

Shaft End (Mechanism)

spearfishing gear american mechanism shaft

photo credit: Newport Freedive

spearfishing gear spear shaft

photo credit: Newport Freedive

When picking your shaft, your speargun mechanism will dictate the cut of your shaft.  As you can see above, there are two choices – those with an American Mechanism and those with a European Mechanism.  As the names suggest, if your speargun was built in America it probably has an American Mechanism in it – and you’ll need to buy shafts with an American cut.  These shafts’ diameter will also be measured in inches.  If your shafts are European cut, the diameter of your shaft will be measured in millimeters.

Shaft Thickness 

In some cases (enclosed-track spearguns), you’ll buy whatever shaft fits the track on your gun.  In others (open-tracked spearguns), this definitely boils down to personal preference.  I’ll just outline the reasons you may choose a thicker/thinner shaft, tell you what I use, and let you make the decision.  I typically use a 7mm shaft in euro guns (they’re my reef guns), 5/16″ shafts for all general spearfishing up to Wahoo, and 3/8″ for tuna, marlin and other very tough/large game.  This keeps things simple, and yes, Tanc – that is simple :)

Thinner shafts (assuming the same length):

  • Will move more quickly, with less band-power through the water
    • Since you can use less band-power, you’ll have less recoil when you shoot
  • Are easier to travel with as they weigh less
  • Will slow down faster in the water, and generally make for shorter shots
  • Won’t penetrate as far into the target
  • Will bend more easily

A note on shaft thickness:  while important, I think shaft-thickness is often over-analyzed.  I keep things simple:  7mm, 5/16″, and 3/8″ are the only shafts I use.

Spear Tab Design

The spear tab is where the band wishbone attaches to the spear to propel the spear through the water.  And spear tab design is yet another element in spearfishing gear selection.  There are two basic types of spear design – the notch and the sharkfin tab.

Sharkfin Tabs

spearfishing gear sharkfin tabs

Sharkfin Tabs

For anything over small reef fish, I prefer the sharkfin tab.  The sharkfin tab doesn’t weaken the spearshaft like the notch-style shaft does and it allows you to attach the spear line completely away (in hole in the notch, see above picture) from the speargun mechanism (which keeps your line stronger over time).  It does produce more drag in the water, but that isn’t something I spend a lot of time worrying about.

Notched Design

spearfishing gear spear notch

A notched spear

The notched design is simple, cheaper, and more streamlined – resulting in less drag in the water.  For smaller reef fish this design works well.  But again – since the shaft is notched, it is weakened and since the spear line attaches at the mechanism  it gets worn over time.  Both of these issues can, potentially, result in lost fish.

Here are a couple more designs of spear tabs:

Pins and Doghouse Design by Ray Odor

spearfishing gear pins and doghouse ray odor spear

Ray Odor’s pins and doghouse design

Mini Sharkfin Design by Mako Spearguns

spearfishing gear mako spearguns mini sharkfins

Mini sharkfin design by Mako Spearguns

The Spear Tip

Another important choice in spearfishing gear – the spear tip.  There are (again) a variety of choices, boiling down to both use-case and personal preference.

spearfishing gear flopper speartip

Flopper tip, photo credit: bluetunaspearfishing.com

Certainly the most popular (and simple) spear tip – the pencil-tipped “flopper” is pictured above.  Called the flopper due to the folding barb, which “flops” down after the shaft has passed through the target – thereby securing the target onto the spearshaft.  When the flopper isn’t deployed, it folds securely (up) inline with the shaft to keep the entire thing very streamlined.  The flopper tip comes with two tip types:  tri-cut tip and pencil tip.  My criteria is pretty simple – if there’s a chance I’ll shoot into rocks/reef I buy a pencil tip as they’re easier to resharpen/reshape.  Tri-cut is my choice for more open-water spearfishing, but can be difficult to get just right when trying to resharpen/reshape as one side tends to get a little bigger than the other two.  The picture above is a pencil tip, below it’s a tri-cut.

spearfishing gear spear tri-cut

Tri-cut speartip

The flopper is, without a doubt, the most simple and effective spear tip design for small to medium size fish.  The flopper does have weaknesses though – with soft-fleshed fish it has a tendency to pull out, and with larger fish (or fish that run into holes) it has a tendency to bend the shaft.  For larger fish, soft-fleshed fish, or fish that tend to hole up and bend shafts – most people turn to a slip-tip.*

*If you’re considering slip-tips be sure to buy a threaded shaft, and that the threads on the shaft are the same threads on your slip-tip.  There are two popular threaded tips – a 6mm thread and a 5/16″ X 24 thread.  Double check on this before you purchase anything. 

The Slip-Tip

The slip-tip is a screw-on (threaded) tip that is designed to better hold soft-fleshed fish/larger fish and to help decrease the chance that your shaft will bend when targeting larger pelagic fish or fish that run into holes after shot (cubera, large grouper).  After the tip penetrates the target, the tip is designed to separate from the shaft (via Spectra or cable – see below) and toggle sideways – holding the target with the cable/Spectra flexing, rather than your spear.

spearfishing gear slip tip

Varieties of slip-tips, photo credit: Bill McIntyre 

As you can see, there are a variety of designs in slip-tips.  And as you can imagine, there are proponents of each design.  From left to right the designers/producers of the slip-tips – Mori, Plamen Kolev, Kitto, Aimrite, Steve Alexander.  Of the above I prefer (in this order) the Plamen Kolev, Mori, and Steve Alexander for bluewater spearfishing.  I do believe that you’ll do fine with any of the above slip-tips.  Tri-cut tip or pencil tip is a personal preference.  The pencil tip has a tendency to be slimmer (less drag, smaller hole in target), with the tri-cut (theoretically) being better for bone/head/gill-plate shots as it cuts while penetrating.  I have had pencil tips bounce off of yellowfin tuna gill plates, so there is some merit to that argument.  My rule is that I prefer pencil tips on softer fleshed fish – wahoo, white sea bass – and tri-cut on tougher fish – tuna, marlin.  I use the same rule when I’m deciding cable or Spectra as the material that attaches the slip-tip to the shaft;  soft-fleshed fish get Spectra and tougher fish get cable.

Rigging Your Spearfishing Gear

This is another huge topic, with many personal preferences and an almost unlimited amount of customizations.   So far, we’ve discussed spearfishing gear selection – but not how to put it together.  Here goes. I’m going to stick to high-level descriptions of the most popular methods of rigging for freedive spearfishing.  Freedivers have very different needs than SCUBA divers when rigging spearfishing gear.

Spear to Speargun

This is how almost every speargun comes from the manufacturer (assuming you buy a production speargun).  It can include a single wrap or double wrap of heavy monofilament shooting line (200-350 pounds is typical).  For longer shots in better visibility, putting a “double-wrap” of shooting line on your gun is preferable, as you’ll have more range with your shooting line.  Here’s how it works:  spear –>shooting line –>shock absorber (optional) –>speargun.  Here’s a visual showing the shock absorber and where it goes:

spearfishing gear mako spearguns shock absorber

Mako spearguns rigging with shock absorber

This type of rigging is limited in use for freedive spearfishing.  If you shoot a large pelagic – they’ll just swim off with your gun.  If you shoot a reef fish that runs into a hole – you’ll have to leave your gun on the bottom and hope you’ll be able to retrieve it on another dive.  I’ve never used this setup for anything other than shallow-water snapper hunting; by simply adding a reel you can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your spearfishing gear.

Spear to Reel

This is my preferred setup for all freedive spearfishing around structure (reef/rigs/wrecks),  and light bluewater spearfishing work.  With a large enough reel, though, you can effectively land almost any bluewater fish with this setup.  In this setup, your gear is connected this way:  spear–>shooting line–>reel line.  Some freedivers add shock absorbers to this mix between the shooting line and the reel, but I feel that overly complicates the setup and offers too many ways to fail.  Rigged properly, much of the shock is absorbed by the drag on your reel.  Here’s a visual:

Spearfishing Gear Rigging

Shooting line connects to the clip (pictured). Reel line connects to the swivel.

Notice the heavy-duty swivel that is attached to the reel line.*  The reel is then tightened to keep tension on the shooting line and keep the setup in place.  When shot, the spear can travel the distance of the shooting line (one or two wraps) before hitting the reel line.  If the target is hit – the reel line deploys (via an adjustable drag), allowing the freediver to play the fish, or get to the surface for another breath of air.  This rigging setup is the preferred choice of most freedivers pursuing everything up to medium/large pelagics.

*Edit: there’s an alternative method of rigging, where you don’t use a clip and a swivel.  Some freedivers have reported issues with the clip tangling their lines, so this may be of interest to you.  I always use a clip – as I need the ability to unclip the line quickly.  

Spear to Floatline

For those spearfishermen who hunt large pelagics (tuna, marlin, etc), it’s most common to setup your spearfishing gear “Hawaiian Breakaway” style.  Most commonly it is rigged:  spear –> shooting line –>floatline –>bungee –> float.  There are ways to rig your spear to a floatline using various “snubber” systems – involving pulling a piece of rubber out of a hole in the butt-end of the speargun.  Many epic fish have been landed with this setup – but it is a horrible design.  It is more complicated than the Hawaiian breakaway, has resulted in lost spearguns from the snubber not deploying, and the snubber can slip out of the hole – forcing you to re-rig when you should be focused on diving and lining up a perfect shot.  Here’s an example of that (poor) design:

spearfishing gear riffe breakaway stopper

The stopper breakaway system… photo credit: diveandfish.com.au

I’ll say it again, this setup has landed plenty of large fish (and many spearfishermen use it) – but there is absolutely no reason to complicate the breakaway system.  The first time you have to stop and re-rig when a tuna swims under you, or the first time you get pulled through the water by a snubber not deploying – you’ll regret the decision to use this system.  Just use the Hawaiian breakaway system, it’s simple and reliable.  Here are two examples of the (preferred) Hawaiian breakaway system that Bill McIntrye provided:

spearfishing gear rigging hawaiian breakaway spearfishing gear rigging hawaiian breakaway

Check back for more details on this setup, including details on the various smaller components in rigging your spearfishing gear.

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Floats, Floatlines, and Reels

We touched on the floats, floatlines, and reels in the earlier section.  But let’s take a longer look at the options here (and yes, there are a bunch).  Floats come in a variety of sizes, construction, and designs – I’ve used everything from boat-bumpers to the Riffe 2 ATM float.  Floatlines (likewise) can be homemade from polypropylene rope and a couple of tuna clips – or commercially made as a rubber floatline with a heavy-duty (usually Spectra) core.  Reels are usually commercially made and come in aluminum and plastic, but I’ve seen homemade reels too.

Spearfishing Floats

Another combination of use-case and personal preference, floats are an important part of your spearfishing gear (for freedivers).  When hunting large, hard-fighting pelagic fish floats often make the difference between a successful trip and one that ends in disappointment.  There are two basic styles – hard floats and inflatable floats.  Inflatable floats are a great choice if you are traveling with them, while hard floats are much more durable –  I can’t tell you how many inflatable floats I’ve gone through.   Another consideration is the buoyancy of your float, and the Riffe 2 ATM is a clear winner there (assuming you’re able to inflate it to the correct PSI).

Hard Spearfishing Floats

Anything that floats can be used for a float, but the commercially made hard-floats are typically a plastic shell blown with foam for buoyancy.   The most prolific is the Rob Allen 11 liter hard float (seen below).  It’s a decent, durable float that does fine for light bluewater applications.  It doesn’t have the buoyancy to serve as a fish-fighting float for large pelagics, but it will outlast even the best design of inflatable floats.

spearfishing gear rob allen 11 liter foam float

Rob Allen 11 liter foam float

Inflatable Spearfishing Floats

There are multiple choices here.  One of the leaders in the inflatable float category is the Sporasub Patriot Float – it’s tough, visible, and has a variety of ways to attach other gear.   Equally importantly – it’s fairly priced.  Here’s a visual:

spearfishing gear inflatable sporasub patriot float

The Sporasub Patriot Float

The inflatable spearfishing float that has the most buoyancy (and therefore fish-fighting ability) is the Riffe 2ATM float.  “2 ATM” stands for the (according to Riffe) ability to maintain 95 pounds of lift, even at two atmospheres of pressure (66 feet underwater).  This is extremely relevant, as most floats lose the majority of their lift at that depth/pressure and therefore become useless if a fish gets them that far underwater. Here’s the Riffe 2 ATM float:

spearfishing gear Riffe 2ATM float

Riffe 2ATM float

Spearfishing Tuna Board

The final option is something akin to a boogie board, typically called a Tuna Board.  Tommy Botha made them for a little while and a member of Spearboard.com made them as well (Griswold).  Finding one usually happens on the secondary market (used gear), as I can’t find anybody who currently produces them.   They are excellent for fighting the large, hard fighting pelagics like tuna and marlin, but can be difficult to travel with as they’re large and cumbersome (and airlines aren’t as generous as they used to be).  Here’s an example of the Tommy Botha Tuna Board (let me know if you find one, I’m on the hunt):

spearfishing gear tommy botha tuna board

Tuna Board, photo credit: sacha58 on Spearboard.com

Spearfishing Floatlines (or Float Lines?)

Floatlines come in a variety of styles, colors, and materials from many manufacturers.  This piece of your spearfishing gear is designed to connect your shooting line to a float system (as described above).  Another piece of spearfishing gear that goes in this category is the bungee.  The bungee is used for two things – as a shock absorber (to keep the spear from pulling out) and as a mechanism to tire out the fish.  Bungees are especially important when you’re shooting hard-fighting pelagics (tuna/marlin) and soft-fleshed fish (wahoo).

You can certainly make your own, very affordable, floatline from polypro rope and a couple of tuna clips.  The downsides to this setup are:  if the rope fails there is no core for backup, polypro is hard on your hands, and polypro is a PITA to deal with in general – it’s hard to coil and gets tangled easily.  I, personally, prefer the commercially made floatlines available from companies like Neptonics or Riffe.  I honestly believe that most of the floatlines from said reputable companies will do – the key is how they attach the clips/swivels, the core of the line, and the strength of the clips/swivels.  The largest issue with this design is that if the floatline is nicked by a boat prop or fish teeth, the floatline fills with water and no longer floats.  I’ve actually had sharks attack my float and sever these floatlines.

spearfishing gear riffe vinyl floatline

Riffe Vinyl Floatline

Riffe has a “new” floatline that I haven’t tried yet (but I have seen it in action, held it, and played with it).  It’s made with an inner core of neoprene, covered in Spectra, and then sealed with polyethylene.  I would imagine that it’s infinitely more durable than the vinyl lines, and it’s certainly easier to coil than homemade polypro lines.  They’re also much easier to see in the water, which is good if you’re running the boat (but may work against you if you’re approaching wary fish).  *Edit:  I’ve had multiple people confirm that these are incredibly useful/tough floatlines (though expensive).  I have to admit that I prefer the way the vinyl lines (above) handle.  That said – I don’t own a single vinyl line that hasn’t been punctured. 

Here’s what the new Armored Spectra floatline by Riffe look like:

spearfishing gear riffe armored line

Riffe Armoured Spectra Floatline

There are other brands of floatlines out there – and I’m sure some of them are excellent.  But I don’t trust european brands, or cheap American brands with my floatlines and bungees anymore.  It only takes losing one fish to change your mind, I promise.

The length of your floatline is entirely dependent upon  the conditions you’re hunting in, your quarry and whether you include a bungee.  It’s important to consider the following when deciding length:  how deep you’ll be diving (you don’t want to hit the end of your floatline and have the breath to go deeper), what your quarry is (wahoo are found, and usually stay, on the surface – dogtooth tuna are often over 100′ deep), and where you’re hunting (if you’re hunting dogtooth tuna over a reef, you’ll want to keep your floatline short enough to help keep them off of the bottom/reef, but long enough to allow you to reach them – often 100′ or more).  When considering the length of your floatline, don’t forget to factor in the fully stretched length of your bungee (if you’re using one), which is many times longer when stretched than not.

Spearfishing Reels

Reels are a handy piece of spearfishing gear – they offer you 100-300 feet of line to fight fish with or to use when you need to get to the surface.  They also are far easier to maneuver through a reef, rig, or kelp forest.  And finally, you don’t have to worry about multiple divers tangling their floatlines with yours, both on and off the boat.   But, they are, without a doubt, less safe than a float and floatline setup.  It’s harder for other divers (or the boat operator) to see you, whereas with a float/floatline you’re fairly easy to spot.  It’s also fairly common for reels to jam and reel line to become tangled.  And while large pelagics have been landed with only a reel, it’s neither advisable nor intelligent to hunt them with only a reel.

I’ve seen several types of production reel and even more types of homemade reels – including repurposed big-game fishing reels.  I even had a custom-made aluminum reel that I really liked, but it now sits on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico – attached to the custom-made speargun another diver lost.  The best bang for your buck is probably the Rob Allen composite reel:

spearfishing gear rob allen composite reel

Rob Allen Composite Reel

 

The Rob Allen reel is tough – I’ve used one for about eight years and it’s still running strong.  It’s also fairly cheap, and holds enough line.  The drag is pretty simple – a screwdown system that you can see in the picture.  When you first use it, you may find that it feels flimsy – that’s true, but I haven’t broken one nor heard of anyone that has.

Next in line is the Riffe Horizontal Reel – I like it quite a bit too, but it’s more expensive than the Rob Allen.  This reel is a built a little tougher and has a handy lever drag system that I like.  The Riffe Horizontal Reel also holds more line than the Rob Allen.  Here’s a picture of the Riffe Horizontal Reel:

spearfishing gear riffe horizontal reel

Riffe Horizontal Reel

 

There are others, but these are the two reels that I’ve used most often and with large fish.  Both have held up excellently, and as you may have gathered – I don’t believe in fixing something that ain’t broke, so the other spearfishing reels don’t warrant much discussion.

Spearfishing Knives, Spearfishing Gloves, and Flashers

These are being lumped together as I think they’re some of the least important elements in spearfishing gear and because these are mostly personal preference.  The spearfishing knife is the most important selection – as it can literally save your life.  Gloves are hit and miss as they usually don’t hold up well.  But flashers!  I love flashers, and they have helped me land some big fish.

Spearfishing Knives

The spearfishing knife is a really handy piece of spearfishing gear and, as mentioned above, can save your life.  The spearfishing knife should be able to do two things:  cut your shooting line and floatline, and dispatch a fish.   The first is in case you get wrapped up, tangled, or otherwise connected to your shooting gear (or something else) underwater – you need to be able to quickly cut yourself free and reach the surface.  I’ve known more than one diver that’s been pulled down to the depths by Amberjack or Tuna because they were wrapped up and couldn’t cut themselves free.  Important here is that if you use wire for shooting line, your knife should be able to cut that wire (or you should have some piece of gear that can attached to your dive belt.) The second situation – dispatching a fish, is hopefully way more common.   The thing here is a strong, sharp, relatively thin blade that you can use to sever the spine or pierce the brain of the fish so that it doesn’t suffer needlessly.  The Riffe Terminator/Silencer would be my first choice.

spearfishing gear riffe terminator

Riffe Terminator

If you’re on more of a budget though, you may be more interested in the Mares/Sporasub Snake.  It’s a cheaper alternative, but I wouldn’t count on it to be able to quickly cut wire if you’re in a pinch.  If you use wire in your spearfishing rigging, it makes a lot of sense to just spring for the Riffe knife.  But – if you only use monofilament for your shooting line, the Mares/Sporasub Snake is a decent choice.

spearfishing gear spearfishing knife mares snake

Mares Snake

Spearfishing Gloves

I have yet to find a perfect (or even durable) set of go-to spearfishing gloves.  For warmer water, more durable material is suitable – ie you can use cotton, Dyneema, Kevlar, etc.  But cold water diving gloves are typically made from neoprene, which isn’t a material known for it’s ability to withstand punishment.   This piece of spearfishing gear will protect your hands from fish fins, coral, fish gills, and fish teeth.  There’s very little more miserable than shredded, swollen, and bleeding hands on a dive trip.

spearfishing gear sporasub dyneema spearfishing gloves

Sporasub Dyneema Spearfishing Gloves

For warm water, the above gloves – Sporasub Dyneema Spearfishing Gloves (or something similar) would be my first choice.  They’re a tough, dipped glove that ought to protect your hands and be tougher than your typical cotton garden glove.  Of course, when you’re diving in warm water you can use garden gloves, or even Mechanix Gloves. 

spearfishing gear camo spearfishing gloves

Cressi Camo Spearfishing Gloves

The Cressi Camo Spearfishing Gloves would be my choice if I were buying neoprene gloves.  To be clear – the camo doesn’t matter, but the two year warranty is nice and it’s clear by their design that they were made with the spearfisherman in mind.  I’ve never owned a pair of dive gloves that actually lasted two years, but anything that lasts more than a few trips is great. 

Flashers!

I love flashers and they’re a favorite part of my spearfishing gear.  Sometimes they’re completely useless, and I usually struggle getting them untangled – but they have helped me land some epic fish.  There are two types of flashers;  a series of flashers that are suspended in the water by connecting mono (in a chain) to the each end of the flashers (then hanging the string of flashers from a small float) and the single/personal flasher which is typically dropped or thrown by the individual spearfisherman.  Suspended flashers can be made with just about any kind of reflective material (pieces of mirror, CD’s, or commercial flashers) or any kind of fishing lure (with the hook removed). Personal flashers should be cheap and easy to replace (as you’ll probably lose a few) – I’ve used pieces of mirror, spoons, and CD’s.

spearfishing gear flashers

Commercially made flashers

 

You can buy full flasher setups from the likes of Rob Allen and other spearfishing gear manufacturers.  There really  isn’t a right answer here, but I will say that building your own offers you the ability to customize the setup for the type of fish and the depth of the water you’re hunting in.  Finally – some guys attach flashers to their floatline, so that when they dive the flasher works to attract fish closer to the diver.  I don’t like this method for two reasons:  sharks attack flashers (and they’ll cut/puncture your floatline) and anything that can tangle my floatline is a problem – if you shoot a decent fish, or have multiple divers with multiple floatlines in the water, your flasher/floatline setup will be a huge tangled mess.

spearfishing gear wahoo flashers setup

Wahoo taken off of a flasher setup

 

For the personal (dropped or thrown) flasher – you can use a spoon, CD’s, or anything that will flash and sink.  The technique is fairly simple:  throw the flasher when you see a fish to lure them in, then as the flasher sinks and the fish comes to investigate- dive on it and try to close the distance with the fish.  If there are fish below, dropping the flasher and then following it down or diving to retrieve it at depth is a great way to try to bring fish up off of the bottom.   Check back for more on flashers.

And that wraps up this long (but hopefully informative) post on spearfishing gear.  Bear with me, as I’ll post more on the individual sections as time permits – and please feel free to offer suggestions or make corrections in the comments.  I check them and respond to them!

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