This has been the great debate for many new underwater hunters, which is the best option? The truth is each has its own pros, cons and situations where they are the optimal choice. Spearguns and pole spears both offer a variety of options that can help broaden the effectiveness or specificity in hunting situations. This is to help any new or old spearo determine which is going to be the best option for their hunting, covering more broadly the overall benefits of each and not getting into the nitty gritty of the different styles of each.
Pole spears are often the first experience that many spearo’s have with hunting. It is a very simple tool with a long pole or shaft with a tip of some sort and band at the other end to generate momentum. Some people may refer to a pole spear as a Hawaiian sling which is different from a pole spear. The Pole spear is used by the user holding the band stretched along the shaft by the user with their hand (one handed operation) while a Hawaiian sling has a handle or grip that the shaft is held by and the user uses two hands to operate. Polespears are generally more common to encounter unless you are in an area that does not allow spearguns then the likely hood of seeing a Hawaiian sling might be slightly higher.
- Less expensive: the cost of most Pole spears will be less than that of a speargun
- More compact: while the length of most polespears is greater than spearguns, many pole spears break down/ collapse into smaller pieces making for easy transport.
- Simple to use: little practice needed to start shooting fish pull the band tight point it at a fish and let go, just make sure your close enough to hit it.
- Multiple shots in quick succession: because of the simplicity of the pole spear if you miss your fish and it is still hanging around you generally have enough time (depending on your breath hold) to attempt another shot.
- Easy to unload: something you don’t really appreciate until you have been diving with a speargun with cold hands.
- Less parts: because of the simplicity there are basically 3 parts to a pole spear 1. shaft 2. band 3. tip. Its very easy to determine if there is an issue with one and replace it.
- Limited range: for the most part your killing range is about what you can touch with the end of the spear.
- Hand fatigue: this is something most people don’t realize until it happens to them, holding a loaded pole spear takes some hand strength and at the end of a diving session there may be some fish that get away because either it wasn’t fully cocked or just unable to properly release.
- Lost Fish: this will largely depend on the tip but most pole spear divers start with what is known as a paralyzer tip, this is a great tip but the barbs are usually smaller and once the fish has been hit forward pressure needs to be kept on the fish to prevent it from coming off.
- More difficult to maneuver: because of the long length of the pole spear (especially in areas with kelp) it can be more difficult to make tight turns or swing around to take a shot on a fish.
Spearguns in my mind are very romanticized in spearfishing and rightly so because they are the optimum tool for the job. The thought of being underwater and stalking your fish then pointing the speargun and pulling the trigger as the bands release and send the shaft flying at the fish to stop it dead in its tracks are what many spearo’s fantasize about. Like polespears there are to many different styles and configurations of guns to completely cover them all so this will be a very broad focus (obviously some of these issues can be mitigated with different set ups) but this is the short answer to the question.
- Longer range: because the shaft can be held under tension more bands can be used to propel the smaller shaft that is attached to the body of the gun.
- More power: once again more or larger bands can be used to give the gun more power in propelling the shaft.
- More maneuverable: because of the power in a smaller size (overall length) it is much easier to maneuver a speargun underwater and make quicker turns to take a shot.
- Floppers: most spearguns come standard with a shaft that has some kind of tip that uses a flopper or floppers depending on the style of shaft, these are wings that once they have passed through the fish prevent the shaft from coming back out unintentionally. Much more reliable than a barbed paralyzer tip.
- You are going to keep more fish that you hit: because of the increased range and power along with the floppers it is more likely that when you hit a fish you will keep it (you can lose fish with a speargun but less likely)
- No hand fatigue: because you are not physically holding the bands under tension spearguns are much easier on the hands and fatigue is rarely a problem.
- The Cost: while there is a wide range of prices for spearguns generally they are going to be more expensive than a Polespear.
- Hard to get multiple shots on a single dive: because the speargun has to be loaded ( shaft locked into the trigger mechanism, shooting line wrapped and bands pulled back) you generally only get one shot on a fish on a single dive unless you are a quick load or have a very good breath hold.
- Moving Parts: the trigger mechanism and line release are something you have to take care of and make sure are free of salt and grit to avoid miss fires or locked triggers.
- Lots of parts: taking care of the speargun is always the first step to prolonging the life, things will need to get replaced, bands shooting line, tips, snubber. All common things to ware out over time and with repeated use.
- Tangles: sometimes when fish are shot they still have some life in them and can swim and twist around tangling the shooting line in itself or other things rocks, coral, kelp. This takes time to untangle which could cause you to miss a fish.
- Harder to Travel with: although shorter than most polespears, most spearguns don’t break down so packing them for a trip can be more difficult without specialty bags, many places also have regulations on spearfishing and guns may not be allowed. (check local regulations before bringing your speargun or polespear on a trip).
While I am sure that there are other pros and cons to both polespears and spearguns these are the ones that I find to be the most helpful in determining which to purchase. The first step will always be to evaluate your situation, what kind of diving your doing, what kind of fish you are hunting, and your budget, is it better to get a very nice polespear or a cheap speargun. No matter what its the hunter that catches the fish these are just tools we use to collect them.