Shot accuracy is as important as it gets in spearfishing. Your accuracy dictates whether you land a fish, put your spear in the rocks or worse, put a poor shot on a fish that tears it’s guts out and swims around wounded where it will inevitably die to no avail. It’s this final point that has led me to practice my shot placement in the past couple of years.
As spearfisherman we have no problems with killing fish, it’s a natural part of the sport and we don’t often give it a second thought. Which is fine if we are landing every single fish we shoot and despatch it quickly but this isn’t a perfect world and it’s often not the case. In recent times I have seen quite a few parrot fish tear off from spears with their guts left hanging in the water column. I couldn’t imagine how painful that is and I remember thinking what a waste of fish. These fish look amazing and taste even better but the fact is these fish are taken out of the breeding pool, no longer form their part in the ecosystem, aren’t eaten and die painfully. These are all bad things both for the fish and us as spearos who rely on these fish and ecosystems for our favourite sport and I believe we have a moral obligation to see we do things right.
I myself am guilty of doing this through ignorance and lack of knowledge. When I first started I jumped in the water with my 70cm sea hornet as keen as mustard and started plugging away. With time I became very accurate with that gun but there were casualties along the way and took quite some time. Later I bought a 120cm rail gun and it started all over again. Missing fish, shafts tearing out and at no time did I think to stop and really work out what this gun was doing (I do have a learning disability). I took some time out of the sport and when I returned I was the same again, woeful. Of course it wasn’t my fault so I logically bought another gun. Why? because I was good with the sea hornet so it must be the rail guns fault, Wrong! In reality I had practiced with the sea hornet and improved naturally and I wanted that same accuracy immediately with the railgun without adjusting my style and thinking.
With gun number three I was a bit older and started to think about it a bit more. I had high speed internet, sorry I lie, fairly good internet on a sunday night at best and started to research the gun. The manufacturer's website explained exactly what to do and thus I started to apply this technique and my accuracy improved along with my catch but there was more to do yet but as this article is becoming long and people generally only read 150 - 200 words so it’s time to boil it down so here are my tips for improving your shots.
Top Tips For Improving Your Shots
- Before you go out shooting fish find a nice sheltered place somewhere shallow and learn how to get your eye in. Make a target out of a piece of foam, a bottle, or a plastic bag works well weighted down. Weight yourself down and practice hitting your target. Try sighting over the gun and also by feel. Try out in front and also to the side. Repeat until it’s second nature and your sternum has a crack in it from reloading. When your chest can’t take anymore it’s time to hit the showers sport.
- Take your time with your shots. Stay calm and smooth. It’s all too easy to get overexcited and take a pot shot. If you site over the gun then site over the gun not by feel.
- Practice catching flies with chopsticks. He who catches flies with chopstick can accomplish anything.
- Make a note to pick out your shot. Don’t just shoot the fish, shoot it in the head, It’s full of bones and other things that keep the fish alive. So a head shot will generally hold and or kill the fish outright.
- Do some research on the best place to shoot each species. As a general rule like most living creatures, the head and the spine are sure ways to get the job done and fish let you know where that is by their lateral line. Here’s a great explanation from Roman Castro.
- Lead. Speedsters like Mackerel may need some lead time. So if it’s a head shot your going for you want to aim for the front of the head and hopefully you’ll get the gill plate. This will come with time.
- Make mental notes about what happened with your shots and where to improve.
- Keep your gear in good condition. If something changes on your gun like new rubbers or you shoot the rocks then make sure you retest your gun. Any little variation can change its accuracy. Flopper tuning is also important.
- Something I’m looking at doing is keeping all my guns the same type/brand with different lengths so I’m not adjusting too much between guns.
- Don’t overpower your gun. This leads to inaccuracy and I haven’t had a gun yet that needed more power than the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Keep your arm stiff and your grip tight to prevent as much recoil as possible.
There is nothing more satisfying than stoning a cracking fish so I hope this helps. And as always if you have any other good tips I’ve missed leave them in the comments for others.