A new year means we get to plan new trips. We can target new species and visit new waters. The lucky ones will be doing lots of spearfishing and the even luckier ones will be planning these trips for exotic destinations around the world. Seems the guides know this too. If your Instagram looks at all like mine it’s become a full on spearfishing trip advertising competition. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as for the first time in history you’ve got options. I threw together some tips to help you navigate these options and make sure your dream trip doesn’t end in disaster. I’ve also included some tried and true guides that I believe are some of the best in the world.
Let’s start with a few questions that should always be asked of your guides before sending in that deposit.
What’s included in the all inclusive?
Many adventures are to remote areas where all inclusive trips just make sense. There are no restaurants, bars, or accommodation options available except what your host has organized. Ask whether alcohol, transport to your final destination, chum, fish cleaning and packing is included. Ask about tips to the mate and captain. Ask about photos and videos.
How many divers will be on the boat?
This is by far the biggest variable to your cost and how much the guide makes. Many of us like to shoot with only 2-3 other divers or even alone with just a guide. Some people prefer the social side of spearfishing and like a big group. Either way this is one of the biggest variables to what your trip should cost you. Beware of high prices and 5 float lines.
Will your guide be in the water with you at all times?
This is another big one to ask and distinguishes a booking agent from a true guide. Most guides charge a daily rate on top of what the boat captain and crew charge. They are charging to physically get in and out with you on each and every drift. Not sit in the boat and film insta stories. Ask them about it.
Will your guide be shooting fish?
This seems obvious. You paid for this trip and should be the only one shooting at fish or even holding a gun. Sure there are times when a guide gets to take a few shots after a long successful day but for the most part he’s there to help you. He chums, spots fish, untangles float lines and hopefully carries a camera. If he’s shooting at anything without you expressly asking him to then there’s a problem. A good guide has shot enough of whatever you are hunting to not feel the need to kill one while he’s working.
Typical distance to the fishing grounds?
Another big one for popular destinations like Panama. Many housing options are over a two hour run from the grounds. Maybe that more expensive liveaboard option isn’t looking so bad now? Maybe camping with the bugs and the heat is worth it? Either way be sure and ask this question and figure it into the price when comparing options.
What happens to my fish?
Sometimes your fish isn’t your fish. Many operations own the fish you shoot and sell it to help offset costs. Not a bad thing but not something you want to be surprised by if you were planning on taking it home. Most will at least give you all you can eat but be sure to ask prior to booking.
Was your guide there last season and what was his success rate like?
Another fairly obvious question but be sure to find out if your guide was actually there before or if he’s sharing photos from his hired captain. Ask about his daily success rate during the time of year you are planning for. Ask whether he’s worked with this captain before. The last thing you want is for your guide and captain not to work well together and blame it on the local captain. Your guide should be in charge. The captain is hired by your guide to help run the boat and find the fish. He is the local expert and should work together with your guide to give you the best possible chance of success. Be sure they have worked together before.
My final tip is to manage your expectations.
Nothing ruins a trip faster than unrealistic expectations. Yes world record doggies were shot on this same reef. Does that mean that the week you are there you will break it? Probably not. Even if you have spent a year saving and days traveling to an exotic country fishing is still fishing. It’s up to your guide to give you a great time even if the fish don’t cooperate. Your chosen guide should more than anything be someone you enjoy spending time with. It isn’t all about the fish.
While the spearfishing industry continues to grow and our options for guides grow with it there are a few that have stood the test of time as well as some new ones that are absolute pros. In no particular order, here’s a few that I know personally will give you the trip of a lifetime.
Luke Maillis of Reel Addictive Charters
Luke is a local Bahamian growing up the way many of us dreamed of: catching sharks, shooting pigs and spearing big fish. Luke operates out of the far southern Bahamas, staging mostly out of Clarence Town, Long Island but has a solid center console to fish the surrounding gems of Rum Cay, Conception Island, and Diana Bank. He is your best option for an affordable Bahamas spearing trips that will exceed all expectations. Deans Blue Hole is only a few minutes from his house and offers the worlds best depth training before or after a spearfishing trip. He’s best known for shooting the fish of the century the 130 pound cubera snapper on a pole spear.
Capt. Charles Slattery of Good Time Charlie Charters
Either you love this guy or hate him. Still not sure where exactly I stand but if you don’t find the fish of your dreams you are guaranteed a dildo in the face and a good time. He crushes it in his home waters of the gulf coast of Florida as well as offers international trips.
If you’ve got the money to burn this is your guy. No one has been in the industry longer or will give you a better chance of success. There’s a reason he has been around so long and his impressive list of world records and clients speaks for itself. Make sure he will be in the water with you and not off changing diapers somewhere.
Christopher Tavera aka Miami Skin Diver
I don’t know him that well but I’ve heard nothing but good things. For giant blacks and multi-day Bahamas trips leaving from Miami and covering hundreds of miles he’s your man. After a long day of diving you guys can share some coffee in a large cup.
Pete Correale of Worldwide Spearfishing
Pete hosted some of the earlier trips to Panama and probably has spent more time down there than anyone else. For everything from liveaboard Panama and Baja trips to remote camping, Pete’s your guy. Pete also runs Bluewater University and the Bluewater World Cup out of Palapas Ventana.
Chris Coates of Coatesman's Spearfishing Safaris
Chris has been in the game longer than most on this list and for good reason. In my opinion there is no one on the planet who knows more about advanced rigging and hunting techniques. He has mastered doggies in Madagascar and dominates trips anywhere on the East African coastline.
Eric Allard of Extreme Bluewater Spearfishing
Eric is probably best known for his trips to Latham Island home to the biggest doggies in the world. He has an extremely successful operation called Extreme Bluewater Spearfishing that operates all over the world. For liveaboard trips in Mexico, Cape Verde, East Africa, and Madagascar, Eric and his group are top notch.
Jaga Crossingham of Freedive Fiji
I have yet to dive with Jaga but can vouch for his incredible success at targeting huge doggies in Fiji. He operates Freedive Fiji and is a pretty epic line fisherman as well. In 2018 one of his clients caught the World Record dogtooth tuna.
David is a phenomenal underwater cinematographer now based out of New Zealand. He runs small private trips around the world focusing on his home waters of the Azores. He’s a pro spearfisherman and even better behind the lens. Besides that he’s a great guy to hang out with after a long day on the water.
I’m sure I missed some great guides around the world. Shoot me an email so we can shoot some fish together. Then I’ll add you to the Friends of Ryan page on my website.