Today is the 2019 National Spearfishing Championship. This year the championship is being held on beautiful Lake Mead with targets being mostly carp and striper with maybe a few tilapia thrown in. My girlfriend, Sam Mase, is my teammate and Eric Shearouse has flown in to help us scout, rig, and captain our boat. We are Team Florida Freedivers and we intend to win. This is how.
Nationals for me starts months in advance by talking to locals, watching YouTube, and hunting for boats and accommodations. I constantly look at a combination of Google Earth and Navionics to begin planning my trip. Before even arriving I’ve got a solid list of questions I want to answer to begin developing my game day plan. This year striper are worth 3 points and carp are worth 1. There is no bonus for weight so any size fish goes. There are a lot more carp than striper but obviously each striper is worth three carp. Thus the dilemma of the tournament and undoubtedly what will determine the winner.
Nationals brings out the best divers from all around the country. There are a few Hawaiian teams that are absolute hammers. They’ve got a lot of experience with this fast paced diving and have even competed on this lake in freshwater worlds. Calvin and Hana have won multiple US freshwater nationals. Bruce is a beast at anything that he does. Justin Lee has a ton of high level competition experience and wants this win almost as bad as I do. Kiley is a monster in the water and is without a doubt Sams biggest competition.
Florida sent a few teams that will be contenders as well. The GR, Ritchie, and Wes Skinner team are coming fresh off a few wins. GR is reigning champion and is certainly looking to win again. Ritchie and Wes have a ton of fast paced commercial diving experience that is just like this comp. The Miami guys are super experienced competition divers that have probably been killing fish since before I was born.
Then there’s the odd assortment of fairly local freshwater guys like Paul Young, Mike Mcguire, and Dennis Hausler. All with miles more experience than me and looking to eke out another win before retiring.
Scott the Kiwi is an absolute beast and unless his 6 year old team mate significantly holds him back he will probably win it.
There’s plenty of others that I don’t know well that could sneak in and take the whole thing.
So with that lineup how do I win? Well I start with trying to out work them. I was the first one to arrive and put a solid six full days of scouting into the lake. I arrive early enough to scatter rest days throughout so I don’t burn out physically or mentally. All of that is expensive. This comp will cost me close to $8000 in the end. Pretty steep for an amateur sport with zero prize money. Why do I do it? Not sure but if I’m going to play I’m going to play to win. I’ve been ranked number one in the country for 5 years now and would like to continue. I’d also really like to represent Team USA in Italy next year.
Back to how I intend to win. I am certainly not the best diver in the field. While these fish aren’t exactly brilliant they do require serious speed and efficiency to gather them in numbers. I don’t think I can win doing it that way. The first thing we did on arrival was shoot fish. We tried several different methods and kept score of everything to calculate out CPH or Carps Per Hour. We experimented with different gun setups, stringer techniques, hunting techniques, depths, locations, and anything else we could think of. While testing we discovered a few things. I averaged between 12 - 18 CPH if I was shooting well in a good location. We think 80-ish points will win it so that seemed like a winning method but I know that’s everyone else’s plan too and I wanted an edge. On one of my sets I found a striper hole and pulled 6 striper and 3 carp off it in one 30 min set for a score of 21 points making for 42 CPH points. This completely blew away anything I had done before. We now had a new strategy.
I began looking for striper and started finding them by diving on new areas. I exclusively dove points that stick way out into open water. Instead of diving to 30 - 40 feet looking for carp I started lying completely still at 10 - 15 feet and waiting for the striper to approach. By diving like this I started seeing them everywhere. I could look at a point and know immediately that striper lived there and sure enough they were there every time. I figured out I could wait for the carp to swim past and then a striper would appear later in the dive. The carp would stick around so if a striper doesn’t appear on my second dive I’ll start blasting carp.
I hit 30 - 40 new points each day using Navionics to discover spots not visible from the boat. I marked them as having striper, carp, or both and gave them a rating of A, B, or C spots with A spots being the best. I’d dive these spots again and again each day and upgrade or down grade them based on what I saw. Now I have 40 spots I’ll try and hit on comp day that all should hold striper and carp.
I always rest the day before a comp and today it started blowing. 17 mph out of the south sustained for two days. This will affect the fish. How I don’t know but hopefully stirring up the water a bit will get them feeding and not send them deep. This type of strategy is always risky and absolutely anything could happen. I have nothing but respect for the guys that made the effort to show up and I wish them the best and everyone safe diving.
I’m posting this just after take off at 9 am PDT so follow along on my insta story to see how it goes. The comp runs from 9:30 to 3:30 PDT and I’ll try and update the insta story as we go. Thanks guys and wish me luck!