Want to dip your toe into spearfishing? We grilled sponsored spearo, Jessie Cripps for her top tips – especially for beginners on a budget.
When Jessie Cripps discovered spearfishing at the age of nineteen she bought a gun – and then had to improvise the rest.
‘I didn’t have a wetsuit so I’d just wear my polka-dot bikini and old scuba fins and I used milk bottles as floats,’ she laughs, ‘I didn’t have much success. Luckily, about six months later I met my boyfriend Michael who was a keen spearfisherman and taught me what I know now.’ And this fish catcher knows a lot!
Now a sponsored spearfisher and World Record Holder, as well as a professional photographer and co-founder of Underwater Ally Productions, Jessie’s Instagram account will have you racing for the water. But, as a beginner can you take up the hobby without going bankrupt? We chased the ocean lover for her top tips:
1. Size Does Matter
The size of your spear gun is dictated by the conditions you’re hunting in. Dirty water? You need a shorter gun so you can swing it around and get it between you and the fish.
If you’re chasing clear water you need a long, powerful gun as fish will be less inclined to swim up to you when they can see you. I actually use one of the biggest guns on the market (a 130cm Riffe Euro) but I modify it with thinner diameter rubbers or I wouldn’t be able to load it.
If you don’t want to buy a gun outright then try joining a spearfishing club. If you’re lucky someone might take you under their wing.
2. Have a Strong Set of Fins
As a beginner you can use body boarding fins but I would recommend investing in good quality carbon or fiberglass freediving fins if you are serious, as you’ll dive better and have more power for getting in and out of trouble.
Do your research and try out a few different brands if possible (another benefit of joining a club) as everyone’s foot shape is slightly different.
If money is an issue, I buy a cheap plastic fin with a comfortable foot pocket and then swapping the blade out at a later date for a carbon or fibre-glass upgrade.
3. Wear a Wetsuit
You can get away with a surf steamer but spearing wetsuits are much more comfortable and durable than others on the market.
I prefer ‘open cell’ wetsuits (which refer to the type of neoprene) designed for spearfishing, which create a better seal, are much warmer and more flexible to move in. I also prefer two pieces as I can mix and match thicker and thinner wetsuits depending on water temperate and also find they are a much better fit than one pieces.
As for the benefits of wearing camouflage colours, I’m still not sold on the effectiveness other than looking good!
4. Up Your Weight
Neoprene is buoyant so without extra weight you won’t be able to dive down from the surface to take your shot. I personally don’t like weight vests as they can be harder to dump in an emergency so I use a rubber weight belt with a crotch strap to stop it sliding off my hips when I dive.
The amount of extra weight you need will vary between each person and also depend on the thickness of your wetsuit but there is a way to test it. When you’re floating upright in saltwater and fully exhale, your collar bone should still be on the surface or above it.
5. Don’t Get Swept Away!
You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to be the best. You just need to spend time in the water and focus on perfecting your basic equipment.
Get a gun, set up an underwater target and shoot it – a lot. That way when you spot your dream fish you can be confident of your aim.
In terms of second-hand gear, there are a number of Buy, Swap and Sell spearfishing groups on Facebook that can be a good way to bag a bargain. But I still recommend investing in good quality gear as it will last longer. Just think of all the free dinners in your future!
Essential Spearfishing Kit
- Recreational Fishing License for some states (Contact your local fisheries office)
- Mask and snorkel
- Gloves and booties
- Rubber weight belt and weights
- Knife (Accessible to both hands)
- Freediving fins (Or flippers) Investing in quality long-bladed freediving fins is recommended
- Floatline/Floating Rope