I arrived in Sagres Portugal on August 3rd, 37 days before the World Championship. I got here early to acclimate to the conditions, find the fish, and learn the local techniques.
One of the biggest reasons why I compete is to learn. You don’t get any better by diving the same areas for the same fish all the time. These competitions force me to learn to hunt in conditions that I never would have. I can then take these skills and apply them anywhere else in the world. Here it will be flashlight use, shallow water hunting, and instinctive quick shooting. All skills I currently lack. Yes I can dive deep and I’ll definitely be checking out the deeper areas but that isn’t the winning strategy here.
So much of these competitions come down to strategy. Minimum weight for Sargos and Mullet are 500 grams. We receive one point per gram as well as bonus points. 500 bonus points per individual fish and 500 bonus points for each different species. That means each mullet is worth a minimum of 1000 points. This scoring system puts a benefit on landing a lot of fish and not on big fish. Deeper there are definitely better quality fish. But if I shoot a 5 kg dentex for 6000 points and it takes me 30 minutes, and someone else shoots 6 mullet or Sargos in two feet of water, they will receive more points. It doesn’t mean this scoring system is wrong it just takes away the luck factor of people randomly bumping into big fish. The winner here will be an amazing hunter, not someone who got lucky.
I must learn how to keep the flashlight and gun moving as one. I’ve never needed that skill before. It sounds easy but it isn’t. Right hand on the gun, left hand on the light, no hands to hold you up or help you move. It’s a lot easier to track a light beam around a hole then a gun. Even a small one. The moment you get lazy and the gun moves slower than the light a fish will appear. By the time the gun makes it there the fish is gone. They must travel as one.
I’m a deep water hunter. I always have been. Shallower than 50 feet and I don’t like it. The fish are usually smarter and more skittish. I like the long relaxing fall to the bottom of deep dives as much as I like the long surface intervals between them. Here that doesn’t work. In the 5 hour competition there won’t be a minute to spare to relax or breath-up. Dives as fast and efficient as you can is the only way to hunt tournaments shallow. This entire competition will come down to speed. Another skill that I hopefully have at the end of this.
I’ve never been an instinctive fast shooter. I don’t shoot commercially like many of the competition here. My prey is usually big and slow and wondering what I am as I hide on the bottom. I usually have plenty of time to figure out whether I want to shoot it and where to aim. Here I’ll have to decide in a split second if that one Sargo out of 100 is 500 grams and fire before it disappears back into the whitewater. Without this competition forcing me to learn this skill I may never have acquired it.
I was talking with some of the European legends I met in Greece and was shocked to find out they wouldn’t be attending. Their federations selected divers most suitable to these conditions. Shallow and fast hunters. Their federation has the money and influence to make these calls. Ours does not. We take the four highest ranked divers regardless of their expertise. Is this the way to win on a country level? Maybe not. But right now it’s the best system we have for deciding who goes. I’ve taken a different approach. Rather than try to change the system I’d like to become the most well rounded diver I can be. Learn to hunt the shallows for mullet. Learn to keep my gun and light moving as one. Learn to quickly select a target out of many fish and instinctively shoot. Lots more work to do but each one of these competitions brings me closer to the complete hunter I’d like to be.