Gearing-Up for Big Fish - John Little

What are Big fish

I would class big fish as marlin and tuna not just because of the size of the fish but where you are most likely to be hunting these fish. Their tactic of heading for the deep once shot also dictates the type of gear you will need to land these fish. If you are hunting fish where the sea floor drops off to hundreds of meters then you need to be geared-up for this.


The type of floats used can make the difference between landing the fish or possibly losing all your gear and the fish, which really hurts. The inflatable floats are fine for normal spearing but when you are hunting big fish in deep water they have their limitations. Once they have submerged to any depth they collapse and have no lifting power. The solid foam filled floats are best but also need a covering over them. Once they have been pulled under to any depth they get distorted and crack. Without the covering they would be no use as they absorb water and you can no longer use them. The size of the float is also important and this will depend on the number of floats you are using and practicality plays a role here. If you are diving alone it is not a big problem getting lots of floats and line in and out of the water. As soon as you add other divers into the mix this has to be taken into account.


Bungies are very important as not only do they lessen the initial drag that the float exerts on the spear in the fish but they also continually work the fish. The old type that stretched three or four times its static length has now been bettered by stronger sun resistant ones that only stretch to twice their static length. The very stretchy ones can be awkward when the fish is on the bottom and you are trying to pull it up using the bungee. Float size to bungee stretch needs be tested to make sure you are maximising your gears potential.


You will need your initial length of line to dive down to whatever depth you are working to plus some extra for drag. All your other lines need to be in speed pouches as this saves time when getting in and out of the boat and is safer. The speed pouches work very well if the line is wound up correctly and can hold thirty meters of line efficiently.

Break-Away Rigs for Guns

This is where your spear line is not attached to the gun but links straight to the float line and is attached to the gun by a break-away system. When you shoot a fish the break-away is activated and the fish takes the spear and line but leaves the gun behind. This has a number of advantages in that if you lose the fish you still have a gun and is a lot less drag and is not as easy to snag up on a coral bommie. You also have the gun for protection should you need it but need to get used to retrieving the gun once you have shot. If you forget to grab it as you head for the surface at any depth it will have negative buoyancy and you will lose it.


For blue water hunting you could say the longer the better but this will not always be the case. Gun recoil needs to be taken into account here so spear thickness is crucial as is the type of barrel you are using. I do not like carbon barrels for guns over 1.2 meters as I believe the recoil makes these guns shoot inaccurately. Thicker spears like the 7.5mm as opposed to the 7mm are also better as they have more punch and on the longer guns tend to hold their aim better. I have never used one of the big wooden guns and I am sure they have their place but for the type of diving we do off the East African coast our metal double rubber guns work best for big fish. Pool testing of any gun you use is worth the time and effort as you can see where you are shooting and can perfect your aim or possibly diagnose a faulty gun.

What to Use

I have seen a marlin landed on a reel gun with fifty meters of line on the reel but have also seen a couple of big rigs disappear into the deep where there was no chance of ever hanging onto the float. If you land a muscle shot on a big fish in deep water you have the chance of losing your gear if the fish sounds no matter how prepared you are. If you hit something vital like the liver or heart or maybe even the stomach then the fish will not run that hard and you stand a good chance of landing the fish provided you have enough line. The hassle of gathering in a lot of gear each time you need to run up current is worth it for when that chance of a lifetime suddenly appears. The last spearos I hosted in Mozambique decided to use reel guns to save time and hassle. It certainly made the diving easier and they got some good fish with the one spearo managing to land a marlin. But luck was on his side that day and they were certainly under geared for anything really big. The gun is a personal choice as is the type and thickness of spear and how you have it rigged. Line wise if you are hunting in deep water for big fish you will need at least the following. Thirty meters of float line with a ten meter ghost leader linked up with a thirty meter bungee to the first eleven litre foam filled float. Then thirty meter speed pouch to another eleven litre foam filled float and lastly another thirty meter speed pouch to a twenty-five litre foam filled float.


For me this is very important and it is not just about landing a fish but in having the skill to outwit your quarry and at times to be outwitted. If you shot everything you saw it would be no challenge. So having a gun that has an accurate range of ten meters to me would not be right as most of the challenge lies in being able to get close to your quarry which entails skill and luck. The other side of the coin is we are hunting our prey and when you shoot a fish it is probably going to die even if you do not land it. So rather be geared-up so that once you have shot a dream fish the possibility of landing it becomes a reality. Safe diving, john little.