A Beginner’s Pole Spear Guide

Pole spearfishing

For an outdoor enthusiasts and adventure addict like you, the idea of shooting fish with a pole spear might offer you a primal appeal. 

It is a low-tech -- though not as low as you may think -- form of undersea hunting that puts you in close proximity to the prey. The challenge of this primitive yet exciting pursuit will push you to the limit of your physical prowess and mental focus. 

Pole spearfisher returning from the deep

Armed with the right skills and experience you can succeed often against the creatures of the deep.

With an optimally matched pole spear, your talent is multiplied for an even greater yield.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, Apnealogy, earn a small commission from qualifying purchases

What is a pole spear

Essentially it is a tool used to hunt fish or other underwater sea creatures. In its most basic form, it consists of a long pole with a sharp spear tip on the front-end and a rubber band at the back-end. The rubber band is tensioned and used to drive the spear tip forward and into the prey. 

Scuba Choice Basic Pole Spear

The image above shows a basic fiberglass pole spear from Cressi. Note the three-prong paralyzer tip and removable mid-section. Perfect for taming the local Lion fish population.

How To Use Pole Spear

The use of a polespear brings you back to the very genesis of fishing as a means of survival.

This pole spear can be among the least expensive pieces of fishing equipment; it is useful in shallow waters and between rock formations like jetties but also capable of spearing large pelagic fish in blue water; it is simple to handle; and quick to reload and there aren't any float line to get tangled up in. 

It is also a better option when space is tight. Since most polespears can break down into shorter sections it is perfect for travelling to far flung dive sites that you can't take your favourite speargun to 

Beginner freedivers often become adept with a polespear very quickly.

How to use pole spear begins with understanding its anatomy. As a rifle consists of lock, stock, and barrel, so a pole spear is comprised of three components: the tip, the shaft and the band. 

The tip, of course, is the sharp projectile fitted to the front of the shaft to lance the fish. More about this later... 

The shaft is the body of the spear that the fish hunter wields while the band provides the tension which, upon release, projects the tip through the water toward its intended target. 

When loading the pole spear, you should attempt to grip the spear high on the shaft - about a foot from the tip or as high as the rubber band and your strength would allow.

To do this you need to straddle the power band between your thumb and index finger of your strong hand and then with the help of your other hand move your strong hand higher and higher up the shaft. 

Some spearo's rotate the shaft as they do this to get the rubber band to wrap around it as they tension it. The reason: to distribute the tension of the band on the shaft and to put spin on the shaft as it's released which they claim helps with accuracy. 

The path of the tip upon release may not be as straight as a you would imagine so some practice is of benefit. Having your hand, arm and the spear in a straight line towards your target will help a lot with your shot placement.

As with a speargun, accuracy and aiming it becomes easier as you learn the warp and whims of your particular weapon.

Polespear under tension

Because of the versatility and streamlined nature of a pole spear, it can be used from a variety of positions and angles: from above, beneath or a lateral bearing. Hunters can also hide behind rocks or clumps of vegetation.

Shot placement is important, especially on larger fish. Spearos are always advised to aim for the spine, behind the gills, for the fastest and most humane kill. This is most desirable in pole spearfishing since an impaled fish will not be released.

Pole Spear vs Hawaiian Sling?

Sometimes. the terms pole spear and Hawaiian sling are used interchangeably but there are distinct differences between the two.

Hawaiian Sling shooter

Wooden Hawaiian Sling holder. The shaft slides through the holder with the end of the shaft attached to the notch in the rubber band.

Scuba Choice Travel Pole Spear

A Fibreglass travelling pole spear with flopper style spear tip.

Although both weapons operate by employing the tension of stretched rubber, the Hawaiian sling functions much like a bow and arrow, with the shaft moving through a cylindrical shooter once fired from rubber tubing. The shaft is secured to the tubing by means of a holder that resembles the nock point of the recurve bow. The spears are normally sold separately from the sling shooters. 

To fire off the Hawaiian sling you pull back on notch and shaft with your strong hand while holding onto the holder with your other. Once the rubbers are tensioned at their max you simply release the shaft.

The pole spear also employs its band to propel forward a shaft with a sharp tip, or spearhead, at its targets but its setup is a bit different. The biggest difference is the holder. With a polespear your leading hand is essentially performing the same function as the Hawaiian sling holder.

When trying to decide between a pole spear vs Hawaiian sling, you should remember that the latter requires both hands -- one to hold the shooter and the other to pull back then release the shaft.

By contrast, the pole spear can be wielded and fired with one hand once it's loaded... with practice, that is.

Though both tools have their advantages, pole spears get the edge for popularity, maneuverability and reloading efficiency.

Are All Pole Spear Tips the Same?

Pole spear tips come in differing styles and materials which are conditioned by environment and type of fish sought. 

In general, pole spears have removable screw-in tips. This is a good thing since the surroundings where you hunt will vary, as will the species of fish you stalk.

Some tips come to a single spear point while others are multi-pronged - often referred to as paralyzers. There are tips that have a single flopper/barb and those that have two floppers. Each variation fits a unique set of circumstances.

One specific tip worth mentioning is the pole spear slip tip, a detachable tip that is tethered nonetheless to the shaft by a cable or dyneema cord.

As the tip passes through the fish, the quarry is trapped by the cords and unable to work itself free.

Slip-tip are highly recommended when targeting bigger and tough fighting fish species. When targeting these species it also recommended that you use a float line setup with your polespear.

As diverse as surroundings and types of fish are, there are even more distinctions among the many spearos that take to the water. The good news is that each can find the right tip for each and every outing, whether it is a pole spear slip tip or another type of spearhead.

How Does a Polespear Compare to a Speargun?

In assessing the relative strengths and weaknesses of a pole spear vs speargun, you need to know that spearguns are of two kinds: 

One, like a pole spear, achieves its thrust by means of rubber band. This version of speargun is by far the most popular form due to its simplicity, firepower and reliability. It also has the advantage of adding extra bands to increase its power. The spear shaft is propelled along a barrel toward the target. This gives the weapon better accuracy. 

Omer Invictus Carbon

Source: Omersub.com

The other type of speargun is powered pneumatically. In other words, the release of compressed air pushes the shaft forward when the trigger is pulled. As a gun, nevertheless, the pneumatic version packs a recoil that may shock beginners. It also looses strength as the air pressure decreases after each shot.

Things to look for when buying a Pole Spear.


Polespears come in a variety of lengths. Anything from 3ft to over 9ft. When choosing a pole spear you can choose between a fixed length or a breakdown spear.

A breakdown spear is by far the most popular since it not only makes travelling more convenient but it also allows you to use it at different configurations and lengths.

The Evolve Carbon Fibre Pole Spears pictured below can transform into 4-8 different combinations 

Evolve Breakdown Polespear

Most polespears come with a threaded end which allows you to fit a variety of different tips to your shaft.

Whether you choose a Slip tip, a Paralyzer prong cluster or a single spear tip with a flopper will really depend on the species of fish you are targeting. 

The paralyzer prong cluster is 

Slip tip, Paralyzer prong cluster or single spear tip with flopper(s)

Click on the images below to find out more...

Paralyzer Pole Spear tip

5 Prong Paralyzer Tip by Cressi. Perfect for Lion fish.

Spear tip for Polespear

A Spear tip with single flopper, ideal for taking mid-size fish with a pole spear.

Slip tip for Polespear

Jbl's slip tip is a must if you are targeting big hard fighting fish.


Pole spears are most often made in one or a combination of these materials:

  • Fiberglass
  • Aluminum,
  • Stainless steel, 
  • Carbon Fibre

Each material has their pro's and con's. Fiberglass tends to be the least expensive and those made from carbon fiber the most. The high-end polespear are usually made from a combination of Carbon Fiber and aircraft grade aluminum.

Clearly, spearfishing is an activity that offers fun, aquatic beauty and gratification as spearo’s test their skills against wily species in their natural habitat.

In some ways, the pole spear is most like the sharp stick used by our primeval ancestors. Yet it is more lethal as it exploits human ingenuity and the basic laws of physics to maximize speed and precision.

Yet not all pole spears are the same and you do well to shop carefully for one with which you are comfortable. It does not hurt, either, for the spear to carry a record of success.

5 Top Recommended Pole Spears

Below are our some of the best polespears available on the market:

Evolve Carbon Fiber Pole Spears

Evolve's carbon fiber polespears are a thing of beauty. This is what you get when space age technology and craftsmanship meets a primitive tool. 

Don't me mistaken and think that all polespears are equal. Like we said in the beginning of this article - it's low tech but not as low tech as you might think. Evolve Diving's gear is the perfect example of this.

Their 9ft Carbon Fibre polespear can break down into 4-8 different combinations and use a combination of aircraft grade aluminum and carbon fibre. While their Aftershock polespear uses (as far as we understand) a sliding internal weight to provide a second impact force to drive you spear deeper into or through the prey. 

Evolve Carbon Pole Spear
Evolve Aftershock Spear

Scuba Choice 3 Prong Paralyzer Travelling Pole Spear

The Scuba Choice is an inexpensive fiber glass pole spear with 3 prong paralyzer tip. It breaks down into 2x 24" shaft sections and a 12" Tip. Total assembled length is 5 feet.

Perfect choice if you only want to target smaller fish species and don't want to break the bank.

Scuba Choice travel polespear

Headhunter Predator Pole Spear with Slip Tip

If you are looking for a ready-to-go spear to target bigger fish then the Headhunter Predator is the one to get.

Headhunter polespear with slip tip

It comes standard with a slip tip and is one of the fastest and most durable polespears on the market. That is because of the dual material that is used for the shaft. The back half is made from a strong but lightweight composite while the front is made from stiff carbon fiber and 316 stainless steel fittings.

Total length is bit over 9 feet and it breaks down into 2 sections of 60 and 51 Inches.

JBL Breakdown travelling Pole Spear

This JBL is 6' when fully assembled but breaks down into 3 sections of 26" each.

JBL Travelling Pole Spear

It comes in a handy travel bag that you can throw in your suitcase - perfect for those Caribbean holidays. It also comes standard with a 3 prong Paralyzer and a single barb spear point, so you can target small to medium sized fish.

The perfect all-in-one kit for keen spearo's

Gatku Eight'er Hybrid Polespear

Gatku's spears are not only beautiful they are also so technologically advance that it makes a standard fiberglass polespear look like something a caveman would wield. 

Gatku Hybrid Polespear

The hybrid polespear has a solid aluminum back section and a flexible carbon graphite front section capable of bending 90 degrees without breaking.

The Eigth'er's total length is 8 feet and comes in a version that breaks down into two 48" sections or three 30" sections.

We hope you found our Beginner's guide to Pole spears of value. Do you have any stories about landing fish with a pole spear..?

Use the comment box below to tell us all about it.

About the Author Gerrie van Niekerk - Apnealogy

Gerrie is a passionate Freediver, Spearfisher, Digital Marketer, and author for the Apnealogy website. Gerrie is an SSI Level 1 certified Freediver who loves geeking out about freediving and spearfishing gear and lives for his family and adventure.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: