RECAP OF THE 2023 WFSC LAKE POWELL, ARIZONA, JUN 18-20
The 2023 WFSC was held May 16-20, 2023 in Lake Powell, Page Arizona, USA
After 3 very successful WFSCs over the past 6 years, it was time for the USA to step up to the plate and really make a huge effort to place in these events.
In WFSC 2017 (Lake Mead), New Zealand, South Africa, Guam, and others dominated the podium.
In 2019, In New Zealand, New Zealand destroyed almost everyone in every division with a few special performances by Italy, South Africa, and the USA Girls.
By 2021 the USA was ready to control the trophies in Beaver Lake, Arkansas, USA. We had our top divers there and most had experience in this lake before.
But by the end of the event Ukraine had demonstrated an incredible diving performance with all 5 divers on one boat.
Ukraine controlled the men’s division and the women division and the Mixed doubles division.
The USA did control the Master’s division and placed well in the 2-5 positions. This was a super surprise for the USA divers having lost badly in two events in the USA.
So, in 2022, the USA hosted their Nationals in Lake Powell, Page, AZ. This led to picking our best team for the WFSC in the same lake a year later.
The only problem was the lake had changed about 10m in depth and the water was 10 degrees warmer.
This made for a new diving area for everyone. About as fair as an event can get.
Divers came in from 10 countries and had up to 10 days to scout for this event. Most divers scouted 4-6 days.
Conditions were good, with visibility up to 10m and water temp just reaching 70-72 degrees.
Carp were in a full spawn and were found deep in almost every bay with nearly no visibility.
NFSA, our local Freshwater Spearfishing Organization put on a very professional show with a fun introduction/ rule evening
2 well organized days of diving for different fish in the same region of the lake.
And as a finale, they offered a fun free day racing Can-Ams, hiking Antelope Canyon, and spearfishing for the newer divers and kids…Then came the Banquet and awards.
One of the better events ever produced in the world. Well done NFSA.
Day 1, Game Fish Day
This was a hunting challenge. 3 different species: Catfish, Walleye, and striper
You were allowed 8 catfish and 8 walleye, and unlimited striper. All these fish required different hunting styles and the ability to hunt in different regions.
Most of the diving required longer waits, with NO movements at all. This really brought out the best hunters. Fish were awarded 3 points per fish.
Top Diver, to no one’s surprise, was Darren Shields of New Zealand, in the Master division, with 19 fish. He now owned the Master’s division and would be tough to catch. But watch out for Tim Nelson of Australia with 13 and, Lee and Lim with 10 each.
Top Men’s division divers were Justin Lee with 16, Graham Carlisle with 14, Mike Kennedy 13, Mike Livingston 11, Kenny Western 10, and Kelston McGuire–Spencer Vivian both with 8 game fish each.
This put the Justin and Kennedy team in front by 13 points. Livingston and Western were in 2nd, with Kelston and Spencer in 3rd.
The top women were Julie with 7 game fish, Anne and Feena with 5, Shelby with 4, and Anna and Cavell with 2 each.
In the women team division, we had a tie at the end of the first day: Feena and Anna 7 fish, and Anne and Cavell with 7 fish, but lots of carp to come.
The Mixed teams saw Julie and Javier jump in front with 13 fish and close behind was the Peterson with 9, It was anyone game here with the Petersons being experts with carp.
Game fish day was very difficult and saw the world’s best do what they do best, hunt with the focus and intensity required to make fish happen. Well done.
DAY 2, UNLIMITED CARP DAY
Unlimited carp shooting is a very unique opportunity to help the Parks Dept to clean these invasive species out of the lake.
Although we really don’t ever put a dent in the carp population, we do have fun removing what we can. All fish were used in local farmlands as fertilizer.
Carp are tough fish, sometimes very easy to shoot but never easy to handle. They don’t die easily and can cause the biggest entanglements you have ever seen.
With an average weight near 7 pounds shooting 50 carp means you’re dealing with 350 pounds of carp and shooting 100 carp could mean 700 pounds of carp. that’s 3 garbage can completely full.
The logistics of shooting this many times, landing each of these fish, then dealing with their sheer weight can be the most insane excitement many spearos will ever have.
In most divisions, the scores were close enough that a great carp day could change the places around pretty quickly, but carp days are more about logistically handling lots of fish as compared to the hunting skills needed for the first Game fish day.
This combination of skilled hunting and unlimited shooting mass quantities of crazy carp makes this a very unique event and opportunity to challenge top divers with.
After another 6-hour day of diving the fish rolled in and in the men’s division and it appeared the Livingston- Western team had pull in front of their rivals 143 carp to Kennedys and Justins 102. A lot of carp and a ton of Weight.
and no one appeared to have done better…… Until the last team checked in.
Darvil and Fernando our OC divers from Ca. Had found a wild spawn of carp that they were able to shoot into almost randomly and get multiple carp per shot. They figured this system out on the fly as the spawn was so thick and so out of control.
They shot 221 together and they filled 6 garbage cans completely full. They were in nearly last place after gamefish day, but with this outstanding performance by both of them they were now tied for first place individually at 115 points.
This gave them the win with 230 points, and Darvil having the bigger large carp won the tiebreaker to take first place and Fernando to 2nd place overall in the men’s division of the WFSC. A totally unexpected insane performance that they have done once before.
In 2nd place team was Livingston and Wester, with 206 points. 3rd was Justin and Kennedy with 189 and fourth place was Kelston and Spencer with 132. All from the USA. This was a super exciting division right to the last minute.
Master division. While all the big Carp weight was coming in, Darren Shields carefully watched as his #1 spot in the event snuck away by 1 point. He ended up with 114, just one carp away from tying Darvil and Fernando. But New Zealand’s best took total control over the Master division as an individual with 114 points, Lim had 95, Lee 78, GR Tarr 72, and M. McGuire 63. The master’s team was another surprise, as our USA team from Hawaii and Ca had retired 18 years ago and came out of retirement just for this event. Lim and Lee were down by 12 points to the New Zealand Team Darren and Ian, and caught them and beat them with their consistent scores on both days173 to 157. And in 3rd place was our Florida team with a great performance and 131 points, GR Tar and Ben Fertic.
Again, a fun unexpected finish and the USA took 2 team and 2 individual awards away. With New Zealand getting the top individual spot and 2nd place team.
Our Top Girl from last year’s Nationals did it again. Julie Higgs did well on game fish and just needed to stay consistent on Carp day.
Her 53 carp was enough to keep her in first place individually and she became the first USA woman to WIN a world competition.
Right behind her was our local Girl Shelby Peterson with 45 carp, then our first diver ever from Great Britain, Feena with 26 carp.
Next our newest freshwater spearo Anna with 25 and Anne with 24 carp. See the complete scoreboard under the Results section.
Individually the USA women took home 4 of the 5 trophies sharing the 3rd place trophy with Feena from Great Britain. Great job by all.
Just an honorable mention here as Shelby shot a state record Striper on Carp Day and gave us all a thrill. About 25 pounds.
Women’s Team Division:
After Day1 we had a tie for first place in the women’s team division, so the winner was picked on carp day.
The pressure was on, but these 4 girls dove on the same boat and made the most of the opportunity to make friends and have fun.
In the end, Feena from GB and Anna from the USA got the most carp and took home the World Championship trophies.
2nd place team was Anne and Cavell, and 3rd our newest team Jessica and Ariana of the USA.
As an honorable mention, Anna Hilton of USA, is now our official CARP QUEEN, having won this honor by diving into a trailer full of slimy Carp, and smiling the whole time.
Mixed Doubles Division:
This division has grown to be one of the most popular and competitive divisions of all.
Many of the top men and women love it as they get the chance to dive with a daughter or husband.
After the Game fish day, Julie and Javier were up by 12 points over the local favorites Ryan and Shelby Peterson.
The Petersons won Carp Day with 106 fish, Julie and Javier had 99, and the Guam team with Dad, Michael, and Daughter Carmela at 81
The Petersons were 5 points- 5 carp shy of catching Julie and Javier.
The final score was First place team in WFSC Mixed doubles Julie and Javier of Florida 138 points, 2nd place the Petersons of Utah 133, 3rd place was Michael and Carmela of Guam 87, 4th place Matt and Nicole 79, and 5th place in the world Ivan and Lydia with 38 points.
Once again, the USA did exceptionally well sharing 3rd place with a couple of great Guam divers.
Honorable mention goes to the Guam Team for the best smiles in the world. It is always a pleasure to have our friends from Guam here.
Our first Event “World’s Best Captain” was also awarded.
We had so many great captains this year and 5 were women that probably all should have won.
Our thanks also go out to all our volunteers, and there are way too many to list. Just know we appreciate you and love you all.
WORLD’S BEST CAPTAIN went to Jesse of lakepowellguideservices.com.
Yes, he is a pro captain, but he gave so much more to his team and our sport.
In conclusion, we would like to thank all our Sponsors who really do make these events possible.
And for all the locals that put in so much time: NFSA, Jimbo / Matti our weigh masters, Mike Retford on everything, Tom, the boat master, Bob at Upland Adventures, and Bryant at Pizza Hut.
WFSC will be switching to even years starting in 2024 or 2026. We want to avoid crowding odd years with CMAS world events.
Please watch the website for updates and event reviews, photos, and video clips…….. https://www.freshwaterworlds.com/
We are working hard to bring the event to South Africa for some real wild spearfishing and back to New Zealand, one of the most beautiful lands in the world.
Both sites will be great for Freshwater competitions and have tons of additional activities.
We had some great Photographers and videographers at this event. Look them up for pictures videos, and cool articles.
Evan Frost: Evanfrostphoto@gmail.com
Alex Info for a full video on the event TBA
A huge Thanks to Apena Passion and our CMAS spearfishing president/reporter: Valentina Prokic
They broadcasted the event live and have a great article on the above website.
Darvil and Fernando
After winning the 2021 national championship with a record setting score of 263 points, Darvil and Fernando were humbled after a staggering blow in their attempt to defend the national title in the 2022 championship. Despite the challenges faced in 2022, their accumulated points with their 2021 victory narrowly qualified them for eligibility into the 2023 World Freshwater Spearfishing Championship, where they were determined to redeem themselves.
With their mixed bag of Riffe and Spearpro gear ready to go, the crew said farewell to their families and embarked on the 9 hour road trip from Southern California to Lake Powell, AZ. They were excited and nervous to compete against such high caliber divers from around the world. Knowing that the United States had never won the World Championship weighed heavily on their minds as they considered the great honor to represent their native country with a rare home-court advantage. They arrived with a plan to scout the lake for 3 days prior to the tournament and come up with a master plan. They heard of other teams hiring local guides to gain an advantage, but ultimately decided against the idea, determined to find their own path. Little did they know, the record rain and melting snow pack would cause the water level to continually rise by 1.5 feet per day. This resulted in sporadic fish behavior, poor visibility due to the sediment run-off, a constantly changing shoreline, and unpredictable water temperatures. One day the fish would be plentiful at a given spot, and the next, they would seem to vanish. Despite these variables, they were confident that they had scouted enough spots to make a solid game plan. Day 1 of the tournament required that only Utah waters could be hunted. While previously scouting Utah waters, they entered Labyrinth Canyon, and explored the entire length. About halfway up the narrow canyon, they began to find ample walleye and catfish on every dive around 50 to 60 feet deep, beneath the thermocline, where their 5mm Spearpro wetsuits kept them warm in the frigid conditions. They were very excited to utilize the spot the next day during the tournament. Unfortunately, that evening they would learn that the southerly portion of Labyrinth canyon they had planned to hunt, had actually descended just past the Arizona state border and was actually off limits for the tournament. Their back-up location was one in which they had found rich with striped bass only 2 days earlier. They committed themselves to that spot, then went to bed early on a full stomach of delicious blackened spiny lobster served over angel hair pasta with an alfredo pesto sauce & crispy buttery garlic bread.
Day 1 Game fish:
The anxiety over the looming morning made sleep fitful. At daybreak, they gathered their gear & hopped onto the rental boat. Captain Garrett Kerr and deckhands Hunter & Tanner McBride gave words of encouragement as the crew headed towards the starting line. As they approached the starting line, Captain Garrett blasted their theme song “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus over the speakers. Their dancing quickly became contagious as other divers began to dance to the anthem. Before they knew it, the 7:00am horn blew and all the boats sped off racing to their coveted spots. To their delight, all but one other boat headed eastward towards Padre Bay. They would have their Warm Creek location almost entirely to themselves. 8:00 am arrived and they dove in the water. It became clear that the visibility was much worse than the prior scouting days. The combination of the sun rays and particulates moving through the water gave them a murky 3 to 5 feet of visibility. Despite the bad viz, legendary photographer Evan Frost still managed to capture some amazing shots. To make matters worse, the thousands of fish they had seen only days before had disappeared. In an emergency effort to relocate the fish they hopped from cove to cove, only to find similar conditions. After hundreds of dives, laying on the bottom waiting for fish to come into visibility, they were presented with few opportunities. Darvil had speared a catfish and 2 walleye earning the team 9 critical points. Fernando had seen and speared only 2 striped bass, only to have them rip off the shaft and disappear into the murk. When time was up, Fernando had contributed zero points towards the total which left him feeling defeated & embarrassed; he did not even care to show his face at the weigh-in. However, Darvil and the team would not leave him to stay behind. Crestfallen, the complete team attended the weigh-in and they talked about leaving the unlucky day behind them, and keeping their focus on the following day. As they witnessed all the competitors submit their catches, they realized just how poorly they had actually performed. They ended the day in last place with an 82 point deficit from the leading team. Convinced they had zero chance of bouncing back, they convened and decided that they would put everything they had into the carp hunt, and try to win day 2 of the event. They would stay up late prepping gear and planning their moves for the next morning.
Day 2 Rough fish:
The team was tired but anxious at the chance for redemption. They loaded the boat and headed toward the starting line. The 7:00am horn blows and they sped off towards their carpy destination of choice. After about 5 seconds, Fernando yelled out, “Let’s go the other way!” Captain Garrett cut the engine, and the team quickly discussed options and agreed to turn around. This last-minute decision was largely made because 90% of the boats were headed towards our original direction, and only a handful of boats were heading back towards Wahweap, where we had anticipated more boats to be competing for those spots. As they headed towards their new destination, the team felt worried about this sudden gamble but optimistic. Slowly that optimism turned to panic, as every cove they were interested in diving would become occupied by an earlier arriving team. Although some of the areas were large enough to accommodate multiple divers, competing in close proximity would definitely place both teams at a disadvantage. At the final cove before the end of the lake, they stopped to debate whether or not they should battle it out with the occupying team, or continue onward and hope for the best. Time was ticking, they made a judgement call to move on. The water was already murky, it was only getting murkier, and a sense of impending failure was sinking in. They soon stopped the boat as they began to see splashing all around. They parked the boat right over the massive spawning school and saw carp swimming everywhere. There were so many! They were swimming with their dorsal fins sticking out of the water like mini mud sharks, climbing all over each other. At the 8 AM buzzer they jumped in only to find a measly 6 inches of visibility. They had found the fish but now they had to figure out how to spear them without seeing them. They didn’t know where to start, as competitors are not allowed to practice hunting fish during scouting days, they had zero experience in hunting through such dismal visibility. The volume of fish was so large that every kick of their fins sent startled carp crashing into every part of their bodies. They removed their Riffe dive fins and tried holding still in the water, letting their feet hang down into the buddy bottom, which seemed to work better. The fish were circling around and underneath them. After attempting several blind shots into the murk, they learned that this was not a winning strategy, resulting in regular snaggings of a scale or two but seldom a holding shot. Through trial and error, the duo began to only shoot at the carp that exposed their fins. They floated in the water with their masks halfway below the waterline & halfway above, looking for fins in front of their spear tips. After the first hour, they had begun to master keeping their spear shaft trajectory mostly perpendicular to the surface of the water, which resulted in inadvertent captures. As the hours passed by they would begin shouting, “Double, Triple, Quadruple!” The excitement was electric. The deckhands, Hunter & Tanner, could barely keep up with the amount of fish that were being passed into the boat. The deckhands also dealt with tangles in the diver’s lines, as they would switch to their backup guns until tangles could be undone. Although shooting multiple fish in one shot was amazing, it came with difficulties that would slow their progression. On some shots the shaft would penetrate the carp’s skull making it near impossible to pull the fish past a knot on the float line. There were also some interesting tangles that multiple fish on a stringer would tend to weave. They sometimes had to use their dive knives to make the entry holes larger but it cost them many precious competition minutes. Captain Garrett gave a 20 minute warning which came as a relief to the divers who were overheating, mentally drained, and physically exhausted. With hands and bodies in excruciating pain from loading guns so many times, they pushed until their time ran out.
Times up! :
Finally! Captain Garret had them unload and climb back into the boat for the 2:00pm buzzer while the McBride twins dealt with the last two tangled stringers of carp. They noticed the mass carnage in front of them, filling nearly 6 trash cans and the boat was covered in slimy blood & roe. Darvil and Fernando looked at each other in amazement and renewed hope, thinking that they might have a shot at the podium, but first they had to get back to check in line by 3:00pm. With over a thousand pounds of carp on the boat they were dangerously front heavy. Garret shouted at the crew to get onto the back of the boat as he set the throttle to full. Their hearts began to sink as the boat could not come to a plane, at such a slow pace, they had no chance of making it back in time. Garret instructed each of us to slowly bring our weight forward in the boat while the gas was pinned. As the minutes passed by, the boat slowly increased in speed until it finally began to plane! The crew would constantly ask how much time they had left until they were within sight of the finish line. They held up their white sign with the big lucky number “7”, then let out a massive sigh of relief as the official signaled them “good to go.”
The Final Countdown:
Moving that much fish, and cleaning that much muck off the boat was a ton of work. The crew hastily divided and conquered the tasks until they arrived at the weigh-in well after most teams, and they unloaded their 6 trash cans of fish. The large crowd seemed very intrigued with their total catch. Though proud of themselves, they didn’t think too much of it until one of the top competitors commented that they were in the running to win the tournament. They had been focused solely on winning the day, but the possibility of winning the overall event sent their hopes on fire. When it was their turn, the crew would help load each diver’s fish onto the counting table to begin counting. At 100 fish, the crowd would cheer loudly. Darvil’s final count came to an astonishing 106 carp, worth 106 points. Fernando would end up with the most fish for the entire event with an amazing 115 carp worth 115 points. Darvil’s 9 points from the previous day would elevate his overall score to 115, matching Fernando, with a combined team score of 230 points, which to their excitement, would be the winning score. It was almost too hard to believe as their final scores would narrowly overtake the runners-up. This victory was for the whole crew, their families, and their country, knowing that they were bringing the World Champion title to the USA for the first time since the event’s conception. This outcome could not have been possible if not for their amazing sponsors and the hard work of the NFSA and event volunteers. Nothing feels better for a team than coming back from the brink to win an event that they had been tempted to give up on. Never give up!
I couldn’t wait to get the Freshwater Worlds 2023 having missed the last one due to Covid.
Preparation for any event starts months before.
Organising, boats, accomodation, cars, contacts, the right equipment to use in the conditions etc…
Get all these things right and you are well on your way to winning!
Im lucky enough to have a number one wife to assist and travel with me for these events. She’s a master at tracking stuff down on the internet.
We had the perfect vehicle, accomodation and trip planned out mostly due to her skills. She also ended up and our Captain for the comp days, a job so important again it can make or break your results.
Having the right team members also has a huge impact on how the comp can go.
From day one we had the best bunch you could hope for. All had different skills to make the trip go well and there was never an angry word spoken between team members for the 3 weeks we were together.
When you travel half way across the globe to get to an event, rest time is extremely important. Jet lag is a reel thing as is different time zones. We made sure we had a week of easy days while we drove to Utah. By the time we arrived we had spent quality time with some really top Americans who welcomed us into their homes and made us feel like part of the family.
We also explored a bit, there is so much to see in a country of this size.
We drove a lot, during this time we discussed all things spearfishing especially what was ahead of us. I don’t think you can put a value on this.
The boat company I rented our boats from ended up being one of the best operations you could ever hope to use. Outdoor Adventure Rentals Lake Powell never let us down!! I say this really meaning it, boats are notorious for having issues. They fixed any problem we had and managed to launch all our three boats on comp days with ease, on time and with a smile!
Our scouting days were long, we made sure we did the hard yards. It’s important to understand the terrain and fish. You can often liken a fish at home to the fish you are hunting in a new place and use the skills you have built up over the years to get them.
This is exactly what we did. I found the striper acted exactly like our Kahawhai or sea salmon as some know them.
The walleye lived anywhere you found a bush that had blown off the land and sunk into a muddy gutter. Catfish could turn up almost anywhere, you had to constantly be ready to react if you spotted one, they were very spooky and didn’t give you much of a chance.
The carp were in big numbers in certain places, shallow bays or under floating debris in canyons especially on bends with little water movement.
To get these and stripers I found it best if possible not to move your gun to track them. You needed to let them swim in front of your gun, requiring a longer breath hold sometimes.
Carp needed to be bought under control as fast as possible, they are strong and very slimy, it made it really hard. At the end of day two I was had it, wrestling with 57 of these brutes is no easy task. I had two spears break off, both I retrieved but it showed the strength and fight these fish have. I had anticipated this, I had several back ups in the boat ready to go, a quick change had me hunting, very little down time between shots!
Stripers were very particular in where they live, go two metres either side of a spot you generally never saw another one.
I learnt these spots and hunted them hard.
The thing I really liked about this years Freshwater Worlds was the camaraderie. It’s so good when you go to events where everyone is happy. It was warm, the scenery unbelievable and the organisation top notch. There was potential to shoot a lot of fish and to take pests out at the same time making for a win win situation.
The events organised around the event like a visit to Antelope Canyon and Can Am Off road and Up Lake Adventures really was the icing on the cake. Mike Retford has an amazing organisation, it’s an absolute must to visit this place if you’re in the area, Can Ams are an absolute blast.
Antelope Canyon organised by Mati and Tova Matatyaou is almost described as a spiritual experience, unbelievably beautiful.
People pay thousands of dollars over years of holidays to experience what we crammed into 3 weeks.
Thank you to all those people who made it possible for the New Zealand team to have such a good time as well as extremely well fought Freshwater Worlds meet.
See you next time.
After an eighteen-year hiatus from competitive spearfishing, the time seemed right to attempt a comeback of sorts. Especially since I was now 56 years old and could compete in the Master’s Division of the World Freshwater Spearfishing Championship. I would also get to team up with longtime teammate and dear friend, Gerald Lim, a former two-time Individual National Spearfishing Champion. Gerald would be shaking the rust off from a seventeen-year break from competitive spearfishing as well. After such a long layoff, we realized that the possible outcomes ranged anywhere from outright embarrassing ourselves, to winning. Luckily for us, it was the latter. Moreover, we had the time of our lives!
This would only be my second time competing in freshwater. In Table Rock Lake in the 2005 Nationals, I was a non-factor for the only time in a spearfishing career that included 10 consecutive National Championships and a World Championship in Cabo Frio, Brazil. That crushing defeat in Missouri ended up being my last National Championship. Coming into this tournament, I had doubts that I could get it done in freshwater, or that I would find freshwater spearfishing rewarding, or that this tournament would be professionally run. I would soon get my answers.
It was clear from early on, that freshwater spearfishing would pose many, if not all, of the same challenges that saltwater spearfishing does. The game fish, namely stripers, catfish, and walleye would be extremely hard to get in this championship and would require all of one’s hunting savvy. It was an absolute treat to work with Gerald and our boat captain, Brian Williams, on solving these fish. We were constantly brainstorming and sharing observations to make each other better. It very quickly transported me back to some of the best times of my life, as the teamwork was always my favorite part of tournament diving back in the day.
The risk of getting embarrassed on game fish day was real, all the way up until the day before the tournament when all our hard work started to pay off. We began to see how we would get a smattering of all three species by diving 5 very different spots utilizing very different skills (deeper and longer dives below the thermocline for stripers with 90cm guns, dives in 15’-20’ of water for walleye, and shallow, dirty water diving for catfish).
On game fish day, Gerald and I would each shoot 10 fish, good for 30 points each and putting us squarely in second place in the Master’s Division. It had been hard diving and we were exhausted but also energized at how much fun the day had been. It was an absolute joy to realize that we could function even better as a team than we had done in our heyday. Later, I was informed that one of my fish, a 10.2 pound catfish, was the largest fish taken and a new State Record!
On day two, or carp day, our plan was to go into the extremely dirty water for our carp. We were not sure, but we felt that we could still get fish in less than 1 foot of visibility. Especially since Gerald grew up spearfishing in very low visibility conditions in Singapore. Coming from Hawaii, I was less sure. We had also noticed that our dirty water spots, once thick with mating carp, were getting more and more sparse the closer it got to tournament day.
Overall, our strategy worked except that, as we had expected, the carp had really thinned on our spots. Furthermore, because I had to attend to an emergency for the two weeks prior to leaving for this championship, I was unable to adhere to all of Mike McGuire’s gear suggestions. In every case where my gear was different than what Mike had suggested, my gear either failed, cost me carp, or slowed me down. I managed a respectable 48 carp while Gerald slayed 65. After a few tense moments waiting for all to weigh-in, we received word- Gerald was second place in the Master’s Division and I was third and we were the team champions!
Winning was fantastic but this tournament was so well run, with such a superb, challenging format, that it gave us so many gifts that we never expected. The scenery was unreal, the comradery was amazing, and the atmosphere was so fun from start to finish. The week was one we will never forget and Gerald and I have vowed to return, better the next time from all that we had learned.
Till next time. Dive safe,
The story begins way back in 2004 during the US national championships in Hawaii. A terrible tragedy occurred and a close friend of my teammate Ken Lee and I passed away during the tournament, and it truly devastated us and shook us both to the core. We both did one more last nationals in 2005 and I did well enough to Qualify for the US teams to the Pan American qualifier meet in Peru and world championships in Portugal in 2006. I did participate in both those meets, and there after I quit spearfishing having lost my taste for it. Ken had quit the year before right after the 2005 Nationals.
Fast forward 17 years and I had not really freedove or speared fish for all that period of time, and neither had Ken. A good friend of ours from our past competition days Mike Mcguire called us up and invited us to participate in the 2023 freshwater worlds in Lake Powell. He promised us that it was shallow, safe diving and a lot of fun and camaraderie and no drama. It sounded good! And because they were trying to promote the Masters division and had space for more teams he told us that we could enter the world championship without having to qualify for it. It sounded like a perfect scenario and Mike was so convincing that we both agreed to do this.
In preparation for the meet, I started looking at videos of past competitions in Lake Powell. The national championships had just been held in the same lake the year before, and some videos that really stood out were those published on YouTube by Julie Higgs. What I learned from these videos was first of all, she’s a killer hunter in the water regardless of gender, and second, her captain Jesse was a really good guide who knew the lake, understood what was going on in these competitions and what was needed to win.
So I called up Captain Jesse to ask if he could take me out for a couple of days to show me around the lake so that I would have an overall idea of what I was dealing with. We arranged the time and I did the 8 1/2 hour drive up to Lake Powell three weeks before the world championships and spent a couple of days with him learning the lake, the ins and outs of competition there, tactics, and how to prepare the boat for the world championships. It was extremely useful for me and more importantly I think I made a lifelong friend. It was such a fun 2 days with Jesse and now I had some basic preparation. After that I spent a couple days scouting on my own in my tiny little 10 HP 14 foot dinghy on this really big lake. Jesse advised me to stay in sheltered areas but I didn’t exactly heed his good advice because I REALLY had to scout all the areas to get a good idea of the lake. It’s a huge lake, and that’s a really small boat, and it was scary at times.
The arrangement originally was for teammate Ken to fly in from Hawaii just before the Championships and we would scout together. Unfortunately, he had a last minute situation crop up where he had to move homes during that same period. I had to start scouting on my own while he was desperately trying to move his family into a new home. So I drove up five days before the championship to scout 2 days on my own before Ken joined me for the final 3 days of scouting . As I looked around the lake with the information I had gathered from Jesse I found more promising areas, more fish, and then critically, the day before Ken flew in, I was checking out a bay and saw a whole bunch of splashing in the shallows and recognized what I was looking at. It was a carp spawn and this was a critical piece of the puzzle! So I started to look for more similar areas.
That night I had to drive down to Las Vegas to pick up teammate Ken from the airport. It would be a nine hour round-trip drive and he arrived at midnight. By the time we got back to lake Powell it was already dawn.
In the meantime, our secret weapon had arrived. Long time friend, fellow fisherman, hunter, and experienced boat captain Brian Williams had arrived with his fishing boat to be our captain. Captain Brian would turn out to be an absolutely vital part of our team even though this was his first time at the lake.
Since we were already up, Brian, Ken, and myself decided to go straight out and scout the lake without having had any sleep that night. We would spend the next three days desperately scouting for game fish and more carp to shoot for the meet.
I showed Ken and Brian the carp spawning area and immediately Captain Brian started looking at the charts. He found other similar areas which also turned out to be carp spawning areas, so straight off the bat Brian was really showing his value to the team. Scouting the next few days it was becoming apparent was that game fish – striped bass, walleye and catfish – were really hard to find repeatably. In fact, we were beginning to wonder if we would be able to catch any fish at all on the first day (game fish) day. We found some fish but it wasn’t a lot and it was not very predictable. Captain Brian even found gamefish in some of our carp spots! But at the very last hour of the last scouting day Brian brought us to this one bay where we found all 3 types of game fish in good numbers: stripers, which would come in and out of the bay, walleye which were hanging around the brush piles and catfish, which could be basically anywhere from the shallows to the deeps. The catfish seemed to be looking for places to spawn too.
The World Championships
The next day the competition started. That was a lot of friendly banter, water gun fights and laughter as the different teams jockeyed for position prior to the starting horn, and it was a very fun and friendly atmosphere. Although the competition was dead serious, there was a spirit of camaraderie and friendliness which made it very enjoyable. It was a game fish day, which are striped bass, walleye, and catfish. We started in the spot that we had found the last minute the day before, and we began to pull in some fish immediately. We actually pulled up quite a few fish before we started to visit all the other spots we had found. Ring rust from 17 years of Inactivity showed itself as Ken and I both lost roughly half of all the fish opportunities that we were presented with. That first day we ended up with 10 fish each, which was a lot more than we had anticipated just the day before and placed us within striking range of the leaders and top placed team for Day 1 in our division from New Zealand. But I had grave doubts about catching them as it was the team of Darren Shields and Ian Warnock, both extremely skilled and experienced competitors who, unlike us, were current in their skills
Day 2 was rough fish day, which meant carp, and we were looking forward to this day. However, the carp had gradually been dispersing from our spots each of the preceeding 3 days. To give you an idea of the spirit of this meet our main coaches for this event were also some of our main competition, namely, Mike McGuire, and his son, Kelston (keep your eye on this young man – I expect great things from him!). They were so generous with advice on tackle and gear and tactics, and they had advised against hunting the carp in the extremely murky water closest to the action stirred up by all the spawning activities as the poor visibilty could hinder and slow us down. However, we felt that our only chance to be competitive wants to go where the most fish were concentrated to give us opportunities to get the maximum number of fish, and during our scouting we felt that we would have been able to shoot the fish in the 6 to 12 inch visibility closest to the spawning activity where the most fish were concentrated. This gamble turned out to be a sound strategy and we ended up the day the end of the day catching up and passing Team New Zealand to place as the number one masters team on the leaderboard with catches of 65 and 48 carp.
With 9 days total scouting, the team of Ken and I won the Masters Team Championships, and I was runner up individually in the Masters Division, and fifth overall diver in the whole championship. I also caught the 3rd biggest gamefish and 2nd biggest carp in the championships. Ken placed 3rd in the Masters and caught the biggest game fish of the Worlds with a state record 10.2 pound catfish!
The TakeawayI had an opportunity to meet up with old friends both from the US and internationally in a really fun meet where safety, friendship and camaraderie is the top priority, as well as make many new friends, and I consider this truly my greatest prize in this meet.
Following a successful 2022 US National Championships at Lake Powell, it was decided that NFSA would be the hosting organization for the World Championships. We immediately started our preparations and evaluated what went well with nationals and what we could adjust to create an even more successful World event. We decided to try and schedule the championship for mid May when water temps would be warmer and the target species would be higher in the water column. We also knew that placing the tournament before Memorial Day would be the best option to limit the number of other boaters that would be on the lake. Water level was also of huge concern and we knew that the Castle Rock cut would still be closed, which meant competitors would have to take a 45 minute boat ride through the no wake zone to make it to the start location. Armed with all of this knowledge, our board decided to move forward and plan for all contingencies. 10 countries, 58 competitors, 2 days of fierce competition, last second drama and storylines, lots of laughs and camaraderie later, it is fair to say that the World Freshwater Spearfishing Championships was a booming success!
In addition to running the event, I also had the honor and privilege of representing the United States as a competitor in my second World Championships. I competed at the last World event held in Beaver Lake, Arkansas in 2021 where I got to dive with the legendary Calvin Lai, finishing 4th place in the men’s team and 7th individual. What made this opportunity so special was the fact that I would be diving with one of my best friends, Kenny Western.
Scouting – We arrived at Lake Powell on May 10th to begin scouting. We wanted to cover as much area as possible and so we broke up the boundary into sections and prioritized our time based on the target fish we needed to find. We also wanted to devote some time to hunting outside the tournament area to dial in our gear and shoot fish. We quickly realized that the event would present some very unique challenges due to the rapidly increasing water levels. We were finding that the fish were very unpredictable and areas that were full of fish one day were empty the next. We changed our strategy and were more focused on the conditions where we were seeing fish. What was the structure in the area like, water temp, depth, visability, ect.? We were not planning on scouting the day before the tournament in an effort to rest and prepare but we felt like we needed to go and check our best spots one last time just to make sure our plan was sound. This proved to be extremely beneficial because when we returned and checked we quickly learned that we could not see our hand in front of our face and any chance of getting fish in those areas were gone. We went home very apprehensive and unsure of what we would do. We took pen to paper and wrote out our best strategy based on the new found information. We did not feel confident at all and decided to just have fun and try to stay positive and hope for the best. I am a firm believer in victory favoring those who are prepared and I knew we had done all that we could.
Day 1 – Game fish day – We arrived at the start with great anticipation and nerves about what the day’s result would be. It was exciting to see all the competitors and everyone was happy and friendly. It showed me that despite the fact that this was the World Championships that everyone was genuinely happy to see each other and wishing everyone to have a successful and safe day. We made it to our predetermined first spot and waited patiently on the boat for the “guns in” start time of 8AM and then we were in. It felt like I didn’t get my first fish until about an hour in. Kenny had already shot 3 fish. I went to the very back of the canyon where it narrowed to almost a shoulder width or less. I was able to shoot one more fish. We left our first spot with Kenny having 4 fish and I had 2. We arrived at the next location and I immediately found some submerged tumbleweed. In our scouting I knew that walleye could be found on top of tumbleweed. I was right. I shot 2 walleye very quickly and also managed to land a striper. Off we went to our third spot. It was a shallow sandy bay and visibility was between 5-10 feet and a little bit cloudy. This made for perfect conditions for catfish. I shot 3 catfish in about 20 minutes and also landed a striper. At this point in the day both Kenny and I had landed 8 fish each. We had time for one more move and we went to a spot in the same canyon where there was some debris where we had seen striped the day before. We only had an hour left and fortunately we were able to shoot 5 more stripers between us. By the end of day Kenny had shot 10 fish and I landed 11. We were sitting in second place as a team and I had done enough to be 4th place individual and Kenny 5th place.
Day 2- Carp day – We went into day 2 feeling like we each needed to shoot 100 fish in order to have any chance at overtaking our good friends Justin Lee and Mike Kennedy for first place. We had a very nice spot picked out and we knew it would be very important to get there first to secure the bay. We had seen hundreds of carp spawning in the shallows. We knew there would be enough fish in the bay to keep us there all day as long as they stayed huddled up in the shallows. We also planned to bring our pole spears to try and take some of the carp that were in the very shallow water where visibility was a foot or less. We would only pull those out if the carp in the 5-10 foot range dried up. We did secure the bay by arriving before anyone else and in the first hour Kenny was off to a very fast start landing 20-25 fish. I was a little behind that with about 15. In hours two and three I shot even less. With about an hour left in the day Kenny was at about 60-70 fish and I was half of that with just over 30. I was feeling very discouraged and getting very nervous. Kenny gave me a good pep talk in the boat as we moved to our final spot. I jumped in the water and quickly found a nice little corner of the bay where I was shooting a fish on every drop. I ended up shooting 30 fish in the last hour finishing the day with 62 carp and Kenny landing 81. I was doing a half a minute bottom time and the same as a surface interval. It was extremely exhausting to say the least. I have never dove so hard in my entire life and I knew that I had left it all out there. We still didn’t know if it would be enough. We saw Mike and Justin on the way back to the check in and they told us they had only shot about 80-90 fish combined. With our 143 combined fish we felt like we could possibly take first place, depending on how the other teams behind us had done. We made our way to the weigh in and with one more team to weigh in we were feeling very confident. One more USA team Darvil and Fernando weighed their fish and with an astonishing 221 fish they catapulted into first place, going from tied for last place after the first day into first place for the competition. Huge props to them for doing enough to secure the win. We were content with the result knowing that we had done our very best. We would finish in 2nd place team and Kenny ended up in 3rd place individual and I 5th after losing in a tie break to my other best friend Mike Kennedy.
We ended the week with an amazing awards banquet catered by Gone West restaurant. On the menu was prime rib and chicken with a variety of delicious sides. We took time to honor all competitors and paid special tribute to the top divers in each category. As each individual and team was recognized, standing atop the podium you could feel the great national pride and accomplishment that each felt as they accepted their award. I also had the privilege of recognizing a truly great man, Mike McGuire, for his tremendous contribution to the sport of spearfishing. We played a photo montage depicting memories from the many events over the years and the countless divers that he has mentored and influenced through his selfless service. Brett Leable then presented a special award that we have named the “Mike McGuire Sportsmanship Award”. This award, affectionately nicknamed “The Golden Moustache” is a golden carp with a moustache to represent Mike. It will be given at each nationals and World tournament going forward and will be awarded to the individual that shows the most selfless support and sportsmanship. We also took time to recognize G.R. Tarr for his being named US Athlete of the Year for 2022 and presenting him with a trophy.
I feel very pleased with the event and extremely grateful to have been able to participate. I met so many great divers from around the world and developed friendships that no doubt will carry on long into the future.
I competed in my first tournament in 2014. Since then I have competed in several local tournaments. In 2021 after multiple phone calls from Scott Turgeon I agreed to do my first Nationals. I agreed to do this last minute. Scott put me in touch with Javier and at that moment Javier and I agreed to compete as a mixed team and compete to win! Javier and I placed top mixed team and I placed female national Champion. Javier and I agreed to stay partners and compete together in 2022.
When the location of the 2022 Nationals was announced Javier and I decided to hire a guide. Due to the water level of Lake Powell rising and falling drastically navigation of the lake can be very difficult. Javier and I looked into rented a boat and hiring someone to drive for us and it just made sense to put the money toward a guide. I looked up Lake Powell Guides and Jesse was the first charter listed. I called Jesse and he said “ If you book me we are going to win!” I told him “ We are going to win! We have to titles to defend!” After calling a few other guides who were uninterested in taking divers to spearfish in their bass spots we called Lake Powell Guide Service and booked Jesse Romwell as our captain. We had no idea at the time what a good decision that was.
With minimal scouting Jesse, Javier, and I won top mixed team and female national champion. Jesse’s local knowledge really helped us in the tournament! After winning nationals together the 3 of us have kept in touch! When you accomplish something together like that it creates a special relationship. We kept each other updated on life, family, and strategies for Worlds. Jesse kept us updated on the lake and basically scouted all year. Javier and I figured out how to make speed stringers to maximize the amount of carp we could shoot in the time frame. We also talked about the mistakes we made last year that resulted in fish getting lost at the boat and how to prevent them this year.
We took Freshwater Worlds very Seriously! In preparation for the event Javier and I held a fundraiser. I have committed to 2 World tournaments this year and a Nationals so this will be an expensive year for me. Not only did this fundraiser help cover the expenses of the trip but it also allowed all of our friends and family to show us their support. It is truly an amazing feeling to see over a hundred people all in one place rooting you on! While Javier and I were working on that, Jesse was working on sponsors in Arizona! Mr. Yardley a good friend of Jesse’s agreed to let us use his house boat while we scouted and covered our fuel expenses. Being able to camp in zone allowed us to maximize our time scouting. Jesse had us in the water every day for 7 to 8 hours. We were on the lake for hours before we saw any other boats scouting.
All 3 of us gave it our all and it paid off! The best part about it is we had fun everyday. We worked well together and everything else fell into place. I know I don’t have to explain to you what a true asset to the team Jesse is. Jesse has the local knowledge but more importantly he has the work ethic to get ahead. I’m pretty sure we were the only team that was starting each day at 4am. One of our inside jokes of the trip was – “Jesse just tell me right or left” – . Having Jesse allowed us to focus on spearfishing and everything else was taken care of.
This tournament was a 2 day tournament. The first day was game fish day – unlimited striper, 8 catfish, and 8 walleye. Day 2 was carp day. On day 1 our plan was to hit the striper spots in the morning and our catfish spots in the afternoon. We did not see the striper that we had scouted. Striper are very spooky and the water was pretty dirty. I ended up with 1 striper and 6 catfish. I missed a few catfish that were sleeping and I took a few shots on catfish that ripped out. Every time this happens you wonder if that is the fish you needed to win! Game fish are 3 points per fish. I ended up with 7 fish 21 points. This gave me the lead for woman day 1 but only by 6 points. This was a good feeling but I knew anything could happen day 2.
Day 2 was carp day – 1 point per carp as many as you can shoot! I was very excited for this day because I created a speed stringer and I was excited to use it. The local people who compete in these tournaments use speed stringers and after practicing with it out of zone I was confident that it was going to be a game changer. The speed stringer worked great. I had 2 complete set ups and some spare parts. I had a flopper come loose, a band break, and a carp tie my shooting line in knots. But at the end of the day I had 53 carp and felt very confident. Jesse said that in the 6 hours of dive time we spent less than 45 min combined in the boat between dive spots.
In order to qualify for World’s you have to compete in Nationals for 2 years and rank. So last year when our team won Nationals we beat competitors who traveled from all over the USA and we won top mixed team and female National champion. This tournament was Worlds! We had 10 different Counties that were represented in this tournament. In other words the top ranked divers in the World! We won top mixed team and Women’s World Champion. There were 11 woman who competed. I personally ranked 12th over all against 56 competitors. I was hoping to maintain my streak of being in the top 10 over all but considering the level of the tournament I still think I did very well.
In addition to our mixed team and Woman Champion titles we were also awarded best Captain in the World. Javier and I sat down in front of the judges and listed all of the things that both Jesse and his wife Lisa did for us. It was clear that there was no better Captain in the World!
This event was truly an amazing experience. We did it! We accomplished our goals! We worked hard for it and it makes it feel that much better! Me made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime! I am so excited to start working on these YouTube videos! If you are interested in watching our teams adventures look up Julie Higgs Freshwater Worlds!
Two weeks before the WFSC 2023 I received a flattering invitation from the spear fishing legend Anne Doherty asking if I was interested in filling in for a team member in the competition. I hadn’t considered competing until then, but the opportunity to dive for 5-6 days in addition to the note from Anne was all I really needed to be SOLD on the idea. I suspected I was ill-equipped for a World Championship level competition as I had less than a year experience in the sport, but I am absolutely obsessed with it!
My dear husband provided immediate approval and support but we have four young kids, so my hero of a mother-in-law stepped right up to help watch the kids in my absence. Steve made all my travel plans to fly into Page AZ for my first spearfishing competition!
The first comp persons I met in Page were Mati and his wife, they spotted me from their car as I was walking on the shoulder of a major road towing my large green sport tube and suitcase, they flagged me down and gave me a ride the rest of the way to my hotel. They are as kind a couple as you could ever hope to meet!
The first night in Page I enjoyed dinner with a house full of amazing people. Each person welcomed me into spear world and gave me some great tips for competition. I especially enjoyed meeting Dale, seeing his love for the sport and its people was heartwarming to witness.
I had three scouting days diving alongside some fantastic volunteers. I was dropped in super fishy looking spots by my Capt. Greg Hall. My teammate Feena and I didn’t see as many gamefish as we would have liked so we didn’t have high hopes for our first day of competition. Hunting catfish, striper, and walleye would be a challenge because they seemed scarce.
On day one of competition I found a spot thick with tumbleweeds at 25 ft and had gotten a tip from my teammate Feena to patiently wait for the bluegills to fill in and get comfortable again then to watch for walleye and stripers to cruise thru. Three dives in a row I did as she said and as she said the target fish cruised on in but with each of the three shots I fired the flopper failed to hold the fish on my shaft and I lost 2 walleye and 1 striper! Heartbroken because I didn’t have a single fish in the boat at the time. I managed to switch spots and my flopper finally did its job and I secured a walleye and a nice catfish. Relived to have something to weigh in on day one.
Day two, carp day was the day I had been most excited about. Anne Doherty, on another women’s team lent me one of her guns and new float line then helped me rig a speed stringer. I ended up finding 20 of my 25 carp in shallow murky water with one foot visibility where my snorkel would flood with scum and I had to spit out chunks of surface debris. Call me crazy but I loved every minute spearing fish in that disgusting carp spot! Capt. Greg and Manny our champion deckhand were super efficient managing things for the two women’s teams on our boat. They shuffled us from spot to spot, unloading our massive carp, and checking in often to see what we needed. Unfortunately for about 1/2 of carp day I wasn’t seeing hardly any carp. I regret not taking a chance with longer boat ride to a wall I had scouted that had clean water and about 100 curious unspookable carp.
After weighing in on carp day I climbed up to admire the truck containing the competions nearly 4,000 lbs of speared carp and couldn’t resist the urge to get in there with them. As you could imagine it was quite the sensory experience! Not gonna lie, I enjoyed it! After a quick rinse at the fish cleaning station I considered myself presentable again.
Overall my teammate Feena and I managed to shoot enough fish both days to win the women’s team competition! Feena did well on gamefish day and even better on carp day, she really contributed a lot to the team win.
A hi-light of the week was meeting divers and telling fish stories. Greg’s houseboat was such a fun environment to get to know the volunteers and competitors. I had honestly been struggling in my first year of diving to find community in this sport and this week was so incredible in that regard. So many great divers that are such enjoyable people to be around. Brett Leable even let me call to pick his brain on his drive home and I got some valuable advice to help my husband and I improve our diving. I’ve been praying this year for people to learn from and dive with. Anne Doherty is absolutely an answer those prayers for a local dive buddy! I look forward to diving deeper into this sport. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to compete and greatly appreciate all the work that goes into making this competition such an epic one!
I’ve been rod and line fishing since I was able to walk and talk, both in the sea and fresh water. Fishing for me was more than a hobby, it becomes almost an obsession. But a good one.
I naturally progressed to spearfishing after moving to southwest England where the water is warmer, with more fish and more importantly – clearer visibility.
My husband and I had never tried spearfishing, but we had heard of people at university who did and it sounded great, a big step up from sitting with a fishing rod on a crowded pier. Ever since my first dive with a speargun I was hooked. We were self-taught and basically learnt the longer and harder way on what to do and what not to do but I knew I was going to stick with it.
Over the years as we progressed, and I got better at diving and hitting fish, I joined a local spearfishing club and made some local contacts who told me about a national comp coming up.
I didn’t feel remotely competition ready but as a few friends assured me they were going and it would be fun, I thought I’d give it a go.
I remember being so nervous before my first competition I didn’t sleep the whole week before and the anxiety was awful. What if I didn’t catch anything? People reassured me that it’s ok. I’d be the only woman competing so it’s easier for me!
I thought – what a no-win situation. If I win, I’ve only beaten myself. If I lose, by blanking – I’ve lost against zero competitors. I will look like an idiot either way!
As it happened, on the day everyone was super nice and friendly. Sure, they stared but some made the effort to come talk to me and just say hey.
I did blank, I caught zero fish. Competitions in the UK have strict size limits which are set over the legal minimum size for each species to make it more…sporting? I was so annoyed at myself, I’d have loved to just weigh one fish. But anyone who spearfishes knows, that’s the way it goes sometimes.
The next competition after that one was easy. I’d survived the thought of blanking (and losing against myself) and therefore had nothing left to worry about. I weighed fish at this one, and I learned to be more relaxed and take it easy. To remember to have fun and above all else, a days diving in the water with the fish is never a wasted day. There was also, another female diver this time and I wasn’t alone.
When I saw the Euro Freshwater Championship advertised, I thought sounded different and I put myself forward for it. I prepared as much as I could, and I thought all the years of freshwater fishing I had learned I might be able to use for freshwater spearfishing? And sure, knowing what fish exist where, what they eat, how the features of the lake can be used to find them, it all helped. But at the end of the day, Freshwater Spearfishing is it’s own type of fishing.
It takes some components from saltwater spearfishing but it’s a different set of tactics and approach. For example, anyone who rod and line fishes knows that you don’t need to be as quiet sea fishing, the sea is loud and fish are distracted. But rod and line fishing in freshwater? Different game. The fish hear your footsteps on the riverbank. They hear the disturbances in the water, and they spook when they see a shadow. And they don’t come back. So, imagine being in the water and trying to catch them!
The first thing I noticed in my first freshwater dive was how quiet it was. No noise, no rush of the waves, no crackling of kelp and shingle on the sand. It was totally silent and almost eerie.
And if you are used to blue water fishing and deep dives, you can forget that here – jungle warfare was the method of fishing on the day. Stalking bamboo like reeds that jammed into your wetsuit or gun riggings and a floatline that would wind, drag and crash through the reeds behind you. The method of stalk the reeds and then retrieve your float, rinse and repeat, was best way to reduce noise and movement. Even when you saw a fish, you had so little time or chance to hit it because the reeds got in the way of your gun tracking the fish. We found some fish but it was a steep learning curve and without local knowledge it was always going to be tough.
After all this, I had to admit the feeling of diving in fresh water instead of salt water all the time was a nice change. And it was nice to see and hunt something different in a totally different environment. So naturally when I was told that the World Freshwater Championships was being held in Utah, and was going to be even bigger, with more fish, I was game for the next adventure!
Nothing prepared me for Lake Powell. Its size, its beauty, how fantastic and welcoming the people and local spearfishing community were…. Incredible. You can’t possibly scout a lake this size. You can try, and it’s important to learn what the species look like and behaves like – but in my experience the fish are never there on the day. The fish know when its comp day, even the Carp who were everywhere on comp day 1, knew when it was comp day 2, to make themselves scarce.
The fish here (like everything in America) are so much bigger. I wish I had more time to fish but the practice zone for shooting fish was a long trek and we didn’t have time. Id have loved to catch a trophy sized fish – next time!
In terms of strategy, it depends on your style of spearfishing. Striped Bass were one of the main targets, so I tried doing some deeper dives down the walls and ledges and waiting for the fish, but I didn’t see many. Striped Bass occur in both fresh water and saltwater in America but like all fish species that do this, the fresh water ones reach smaller max sizes. They did however behave more like pelagic fish, shoaling and moving constantly for food, which differed from the other species. I was told, dive to the thermocline and this is where they will be. But the visibility had dropped with each day as the water levels still rising from the snowmelt and a spooky green glow with limited light in the murky water. I dived to 10m or so and lay on a ledge (we had moved to shallower bays) and I couldn’t see the fish. My teammates reported seeing them so why couldn’t I?
After a recap on the surface, it turns out I was supposed to stop at the thermocline and that’s where the fish would come in. This for me was new, I don’t have blue water experience and I’m used to just diving down and stopping on the bottom to wait for fish. The idea of going halfway and sitting in the water column suspended, waiting for them to approach, was just hard for me to convert to.
At the end, what worked for me, was practicing the super stealth method and choosing the spots that suited this style of hunting. Not diving too deep but picking spots that looked the right depth and that looked fishy. I was given the advice if the fish aren’t there or don’t come in 45seconds or so – move on. I tried to stick to this as much as possible because you can waste a lot of time on a dead spot. Oh and the walleye, where almost always behind me. I must give myself away from the front!
Final result was way beyond my expectations. The amazing NFSA found me a buddy to team with as my team had been unable to travel and what a superstar Anna turned out to be! She might have been very new to spearfishing but her positive “get stuck in” attitude more than made up for it and she’s going to be one to watch in the nationals for sure.
Thanks to her and our Boat Captain, our Team won the women’s division for Team’s and we couldn’t have been more pleased. I placed 3rd individually in the end and Anna placed 5th, safe to say she smashed her first comp. Thank you everyone for a truly unforgettable experience and I’m so proud to be part of the international freshwater spearfishing community.
Why do I do this to myself? 30 feet down, just past the thermocline, in the cold 60 F water and lying there hoping to see some silver flashes in the 6 foot visibility. A flash to my right.
I breathe up before each dive facing downwards, but every now and then sneak another peek at the canyons and flat-topped ‘buttes’, laughing quietly at how ridiculous it is to be diving in a flooded canyon in a desert. A 3,000 foot escarpment runs away to the north, the whole scene painted with wavy beige and brick-red lines, I keep wondering how many fossils lie in the soft rock that has been crumbling, and still will crumble, for millions of years. I imagine cowboys riding along these river flanks coming down to the water. Before them, maybe hunters from the Hopi tribe following elk with bows – ironically the technology my speargun derives from. Diving here seems a totally crazy idea. Underwater, the flat bays edge into coral-pink rocky ridges and off into the abyss of the main Colorado River canyon in places. So, the scenery is one reason why.
Poking around in the warm shallows where the visibility really shuts down, carp are spawning in schools. A few hip-shots miss in the silty water, but most are good. The more we can shoot of these invasives, the better. I get 34 for the day and whilst it’s not glamorous diving, it is actually kinda fun and challenging to find them and shoot them in these conditions.
With water rising more than a foot a day across the 180-mile length of Lake Powell, each day was different and the leaves of the flooded plants are still green in the shallows. The Walleye liked hanging near the Crappies above clumps of tumbleweed, plenty of small-mouth bass usually coming in to check me out. Catfish were doing what catfish do – muck-munching and that fatty side-wobble swim. Sometimes the visibility reached 10 foot or more (woohoo!).
More than 50 of us are doing this same crazy diving, with teams from all around the world. The mixed pairs, women’s teams, masters, and open division provide different levels of competition within the event. Many of the divers are familiar names that have become legends amongst our fraternity, names I was familiar with from the Freedivelist of the 1990’s, like Mike McGuire; tribal leaders and tribal elders, all still contributing to the sport. That’s another reason we do this.
A flash to my right, 3 fish looping around me. Bang! It’s a good one. Finally I am on the board with a nice Striper. This is why I do this to myself.