Whether you use one out of necessity or choice, hunting with a polespear is a completely different game. During my time in the Bahamas, I’ve been fortunate enough to use – and break – most of the popular models on the market. I’ve suffered from the typical afflictions: not enough power, not smooth enough, too heavy, too light… the list goes on and on.
I remember first seeing the Billfish Republic Roller Polespear on Instagram. Like many of you, I “followed” guys like @miamiskindiver with envy. He seems to casually shoot and land 50 pound black grouper daily. It’s just not that easy. When he started giving credit to his new Roller Polespear, my curiosity was piqued. What the hell is that?
I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a traditionalist with gear; it sounded like another fad. Roller spearguns were becoming commonplace, whether coming straight from the builder or modified with an aftermarket muzzle. It’s the Next Big Thing! The roller design claims to help eliminate drag while providing extra power and band adjustability. Despite my skepticism, I really wanted to get my hands on this thing.
A few weeks later, I was up at the Spearing Mag headquarters for an important R&D meeting (read: drinking beer, eating pizza, and telling fish lies). I was a few weeks out from a work trip to a remote part of the Bahamas and Jeromy was helping me gear up. He returned from the gear locker with a PVC tube and laid it before me. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I eagerly broke into it. The first piece I pulled out was almost an inch-thick carbon fiber creation. What? I was really impressed with the grip. I reached back in and withdrew the second half of the spear, my mind clicking when I saw the unmistakable pulley-through band. It was the Billfish Republic spear. My fascination and enthusiasm was written across my face. “Time for some product testing,” Jeromy grinned.
I understand that Billfish offers a number of different setups for both their roller and traditional polespears, even offering completely custom measurements. This one was set up as follows:
- Weight: 3 pounds
- Thickness: 7/8 inch
- Material: Carbon fiber and stainless steel
- Propulsion: 60-pound band pulley-through system
- Tip: Tri cut slip tip with stainless steel braid
- Grip: Sandpaper grip tape (this crap is serious – wear gloves.)
Some tools are required to merge the two pieces together; it’s connected with a small rollpin that is difficult to install and uninstall without a hammer and punch. This design makes it a little difficult to break down while traveling or after a long day on the boat. However, I am willing to sacrifice a little convenience for strength and stability.
It took three flights to get where I was going. That’s a lot of time to daydream. My coworker and dive buddy Brandon Verdura joined me in the cabin of the US Coast Guard C-130. Our excited chatter bellowed out over the hum of the plane. Where would the big lobster be? Are we finally going to land that bastard cubera we’d been watching for years? What will the soundtrack on our next YouTube video be? You know… the important questions.
We made our approach over the crystal clear water, picking out coral heads and ledges from the windows. There was only about thirty minutes of daylight left; we’d have to wait until the next day to spearfish. I unpacked my gear and took a few moments to admire the workmanship in the roller spear. You can’t deny that it’s a well-built product.
Day One: I loaded the 17’ Alumacraft boat early and completed my Bahamas morning ritual of bathing in sunscreen and bug spray. “Paradise” has a different meaning down here; the sun is downright miserable and mosquitos will carry you and your catch away within minutes. We manually launched the boat over the rocks at a sketchy alcove off the side of a dirt road and ran five miles to the first spot. The roller spear stood out among the arsenal of polespears, Hawaiian slings and extra shafts on deck. It was bigger, bolder, heavier, and sexier.
I slipped into the water, happy to feel the weight of the polespear was more manageable without gravity. Brandon and I took a few turns diving down and checking out our surroundings. In the crystal clear visibility, I spotted a couple of tiger grouper slipping in and out of the side of the reef. I made my approach, careful to avoid eye contact – a key when hunting grouper. When I felt I was within shooting range, I easily pulled the band through the pulley system and let my first shot fly… Thump! Blasted him with ease. I was able to land a few more fish and a pair of eight pound lobsters for dinner. First impression? I was surprisingly impressed with the speed of the spear given its size. I didn’t have any issues with penetration and I definitely didn’t worry about beating the spear up inside of caves. It would take a hell of a fish to break this spear. My only complaint was that, at the right angle, the tension on the band has a tendency to vibrate against the side of the spear when swinging through the water.
Day Two: I was ready to really put this spear through its paces. We decided on a deeper spot known for bigger and stronger grouper, snapper, and occasional pelagics. My first target was a large dog snapper hovering above a coral head. I was cautious with my approach, knowing that band vibration could spook him if I wasn’t careful. I silently sunk to the bottom and waited. I’ve found that you can let dog snappers come to you; this one was no exception. He curiously approached and was greeted by a 5/16” spring steel slip tip to the face. It punched with such a force that the 13 pound snapper was left spinning around the injector rod like a pinwheel. I was pleased.
Throughout the trip, only a few fish eluded the roller spear, mostly due to user error. One particularly devastating encounter was with a nice cubera in the 40 pound range. I should have had this fish. I was well within range, wasn’t rushing my bottom time, and surprisingly had an ideal broadside angle. I launched the spear and it just didn’t connect. I watched and rewatched the GoPro footage around 30 times (and only cried once). In slow motion, I realized that my glove had caught slightly on the sandpaper grip tape and that friction slowed the projection down significantly. For the most effective shot with this spear, you really have to commit with full confidence in your release.
I left the Bahamas no longer a Roller Polespear skeptic. I tried my best to break it and it held up. It wasn’t even as cumbersome as I expected.
Back in St. Pete, I brought it offshore with me to a Super Top Secret Wreck in 100’ and tested it once again. This time, the target was a big, hard-headed, freight train amberjack. I attached a float line to the integrated loop at the end of the spear and jumped in. Within minutes I had selected a fish, shot it, and let it drag my polespear into the abyss. I could tell by the fight at the other end of the float that the fish was beating the hell out of the Roller Spear down on the wreck. I fought him for about ten minutes, finally bear hugging the fish, slipping my hand through his gills and dispatching him with a knife. I hopped back into the boat and drug the big bleeding jack over the swim platform before stopping to inspect the spear. Yet again, no damage. The fish weighed 62 pounds bled and gutted back at the dock.
So, how does the Billfish Republic Roller Polespear compare to other spears on the market? Is it better than a traditional design? Will it give you Super Spearo powers? The answer is no. I will say that it’s a well-thought-out design with high production quality. It’s overkill for small fish and not as easy to maneuver as some of its smaller competitors. However, the durability and power of this spear will make it a first pick when I’m looking to land big fish on primitive gear.
Words Dan Ash
Photos – Brandon Verdura