I give a lot of respect to National level spearfishing competitors, as they have earned their way to compete in these extremely tough to win tournaments. I competed in several state competitions, finishing usually in the top 20%, but never managed to win, place or show. National level spearfishing competitors need to be very accomplished divers as well as spearfishermen and women, in order to place well in championship tournaments. Many spearos scout for weeks or even months trying to level the playing field against the locals, who always have the home-field advantage. Often they are sponsored, or they could not afford the extensive costs involved. In the USA many of the tournament areas are deep, for example in southeast Florida, the Keys, and Hawaii, and some often have poor visibility, like west Florida, California, the NE USA, and the freshwater lakes throughout the mainland USA. I am sure most countries in the world have the same variety of diving conditions, and only the best spearfishers who work hardest will rise to the top.
National Spearfishing Tournaments are also inherently dangerous, because, in order to be competitive, most team members dive at the same time, and sometimes not even in the same locations. Without a proper freediving buddy, an overextended diver can be at great risk. I know of 2 previous US National Spearfishing Champions that blacked out and drown during US Nationals Championships. Gene Higa in Hawaii 2004, and Phil Wisneski in Islamorada, Florida in the late 1980s. Since the US Nationals started in 1950, sadly there probably have been more tragedies, of which I am unaware.
The 2017 US Nationals was held in Noyo Harbor, Fort Bragg, CA in August, and hosted by CenCal Spearfishing Council, a member of the Underwater Society Of America (USOA). For the US National results click here and then click Skin Diving and scroll down.
Northern California is very cold even in August, and the individual winner, Ryan Myers, from southeast Florida, said that the seas were very rough and visibility was really poor while scouting, but became amazing on the day of the competition. He is a highly accomplished deep diver and experienced spearfisherman, but he admitted to a stroke of luck, finding 4 vermilion rockfish on a site he just found on the day of the tournament. Good luck always helps, but it took a lot more than luck to be one of only four divers to shoot 16 fish each, out of 41 spearos that turned in fish, from 13 teams. Ryan’s fish weighed 83.7 pounds, which was 16.7 pounds (or 20%) more than the second place spearo, who was his teammate, Justin Lee.
For the full results, photos & story of the 2017 Nationals, by 2nd Place National Champion Justin Lee click here.
Spearfishing World Championships
Many US Champions have competed in the World Championships, but only one American spearfisherman has ever won. In 1959, at the 3rd Spearfishing World Championship, in Malta, it was Terry Lentz who won 1st individual and pulled team USA, along with Don Del Monico and Del Wren, up to 3rd place. Spain and Italy took 1st and 2nd teams, with their respective Champions, Bernardo Marti at 2nd individual, and Claudio Ripa at 3rd individual.
Americans, Ryan Myers, and Justin Lee knew they had to place in the top 10% at the US Nationals to qualify for the next World Championship, so they were very happy with their 1st & 2nd individual standings. They had competed in the 2016 Spearfishing World Championship in Syros, Greece, along with reserve athlete, Andrew Geist, and the USA team placed 7th out of 23 countries. Justin placed 6th individual and Ryan was 12th, out of 52 divers that turned in fish. They are on a mission to win the Spearfishing World Championship for the USA!
The 31st Spearfishing World Championship is occurred September 6-10, 2018, in Sagres Portugal. The competition was organized by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) which was founded in 1957. Spearfishing information and championships results can be found on their website www.cmas.org/spearfishing and click on Championships Archive.
Portugal hosted their 3rd Championship in 2018, as have Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Italy. Spain has hosted the most, at 6 championships. Croatia and French Polynesia have each held 2, and Greece, Venezula, Turkey, Cuba, Yugoslavia, and Malta have each held one. I think it’s about time for an America Spearfishing World championship!
World Spearfishing Records
In 1950 the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, (IUSA) was founded. World Spearfishing Records with photos and information have been kept ever since, and can be found on the website www.iusarecords.com. The organization has changed with the times, closing the 20th century records at the end of 1996 due to changes in regulations and starting the 21st century records.
The IUSA also added new a category for slings/polespears in 2013 which stimulated hunting new World Records while using more primitive gear. I wrote an article called The Best of the Bahamas” that was about the sling/polespear category, in April, just before The Blue Wild 2015, and at that time the IUSA had quickly returned 54 new World Records. As of October 2017, the total is now 73 new World Records. Today most of these spearos are using high-tech carbon fiber and composite pole spears, up to 10 feet long with slip-tips, or new extra powerful Hawaiian slings, that even shoot line spears with reels.
Women have some of the fastest growing new records with 21, and many are replacing new records from very short intervals. The guys are doing this too! Check some of these hot categories: hogfish, black grouper, cobia, mutton, cubera & mangrove snapper. One way to see more than the current record holder is to click on Records by Fish, which will show the history of all the record holders of this fish, in men, women, sling/polespear & speargun categories.
The latest new addition to the IUSA Records site is the Fish of the Year!
And what could be better than Daniel Hulme’s new 120.7 kg / 266.0 lbs Yellowfin Tuna World Record? He speared the beast with a polespear on 8/4/2016, in the waters of the United Kingdom!
The IUSA Board evaluates all world records approved during the year and determines which, in its opinion, is the Fish of the Year. The criteria for the Fish of the Year is based on the following factors:
- Size of the fish
- Difficulty due to the fish’s behavior
- How much more the fish weighs than the prior record
- How long the prior record was in place
- Method of catch
- The rarity of the catch
- The depth the fish was taken
Here’s Daniel’s story:
“The Aussie crew invited me to join them on the last day of their trip, they were going to try and take pictures of free swimming yellowfin tuna as they had all shot one over 100kg. We went out at about 1:30pm, chummed for about 45 mins and we had 2 tuna come into the slick, they were pretty skittish, we had them in the chum for about 20 mins before they left. We chummed the same slick for another 20 mins when we had 3 tuna come in all over 100kg, we took pictures of them for a while and then the Aussies told me to grab the polespear, I made a dive to about 5 meters and waited for the tuna I picked as being the biggest one to come and eat the piece of chum I had lined up on, it made a wide loop and I returned to the surface, once Ihad caught my breath again I made another dive to 5 meters the tuna made a loop and came straight towards the slick where I was waiting patiently. It swam under me and Ishot it from above the polespear punched all the way through! I fought it for about an hour before I got it close enough to swim down and Finnish it off with a polespear! YEEEEWWWW”