Words by Chris Okamoto
The surest way to start a fight with a group of spearos is to step into a crowded room and ask them, “hey what’s the best speargun?”
If you should be brave enough to ask that then as soon as the last word leaves your lips you probably want to dive for cover while covering your genitals (and any other susceptible area that is prone to injury by your peers) as no one will agree on this.
For sure there are special guns for special situations. I love my Mori 65” enclosed teak for big wary yellowtail. 80 cm Rabitech pipe gun for halibut. 55” Wong carbon hybrid for shore diving white seabass. But for all around pelagics mixed with calicos? Hmm read on brother…
As I learned the ropes I went from pipe guns, to hybrids, to customs and all around again. I’ve owned guns from many different makers; you might say I am a recovering gun whore. Somewhere around 2009 I started hearing guys talk about a gun made by Gilbert Gacula who used to own Spear-Diver spearguns. Gil used a cnc mill so each gun was to his exact specifications.
I chatted with Gil for a while, as I wanted a new go to local gun. I wanted something with range and punch, something that could sling a 5/16” shaft accurately. I wanted that mythical all around southern California pelagic gun, one that I could use for yellowtail when they weren’t too shy or white seabass in decent visibility. Gil answered all my questions and in no time he delivered a 4 band, 59” So Cal Tracker II to my home, complete with a really bitchin green camo stain that almost had a candy apple green hue to it in the sun. I fell in love with that gun immediately.
As the years past, I stung all kinds of fish with that gun. It had range and accuracy with no recoil and the somewhat cuttlebone design made it swing easily. On my first trip out with it, I was hunting at the islands and grabbed the gun out of the rack to check for some calicos and perhaps a late season yellowtail. High on the reef, mixed in the kelp canopy were schools of big barracuda patrolling the bait. I took my time and picked out a few big ones, in short time I stung a few big logs on my belt throughout the day. If you’ve never tried it smoked pacific barracuda is a mouthwatering dish and one of my family and friends favorites! Big calicos would hover momentarily watching with green eyes before bolting to the safety of the rocks below where small sheephead did figure eights around the reef. I made a drop through the clouds of blacksmith and kicked through the outer edge of the kelp. Here there were some small Spanish mackerel mixed in with the smelt that would rush through like rivers. On one deep drop, out of the deep blue came a bold yellow and green torpedo, bullying his way through the baitfish with a lit up yellow stripe. As soon as he saw me he changed directions and then back again, always too smart to come too close. As he turned away again my breath hold was running out and I turned 45 degrees away and kicked forward like I was looking at something else.
Of course he couldn’t stand not having my attention and immediately changed his direction and headed right into my field of view. I clicked the trigger, and sent a kinetic stainless missile of Mori’s finest stainless and slip tip into his side, click-POW!! I think that shot was so long it probably surprised us both!
On another trip I was quietly making my way through the kelp strands and saw a 8lb calico milling in the kelp, too far away from the reef to have to worry about ruining my slip tip, I quietly raised the gun and put him to sleep with a stone shot, he merely rolled over and started spiraling downward towards the bottom of the reef. Kelp (calico) bass are one of my favorite fish to eat; fried, baked or steamed they are hard to beat.
And of course it has been a heck of a seabass gun. Correctly balanced, long reach and accurate, I can verify that it’s added quite a few 50 plus pound white seabass stones to my collection.
Every time I sent Gil a picture of his gun with a fish he’d congratulate me and would tell me to keep them coming. But as it happens many times, life interfered with fun and Gil retired his speargun site. He couldn’t help himself from tinkering with new ideas though and until recently was a contributor in our speargun forum.
It would be January of this year when I heard Gil was very sick and he shortly passed away soon after. It was yet another hard loss to the tribe, Gil was a great guy. His gun is and will always be my favorite go to all around gun, the mighty 59” Gil Gacula So Cal Tracker. I’ll never…EVER…sell this gun and I’m hoping to pass it to my son Hawke when I nudge (insert cough here) him into spearing when he’s ready. Until then I plan on stinging a lot more white seabass and yellowtail with it!
Gil left behind a wife and four children, if you would like to contact his family or wish to make any donations to help them out with the hospital and funeral expenses please visit: www.gilbertgaculamemorial.com