Ever wondered who would win if a fisherman took on a freediver in a battle of skill, strength and endurance? Well we did. So we hooked up Paul and battled it out.
It all started over a beer with Paul Miller, The Captain’s spearo. Would an angler with rod and reel be able to stop a spearo in his full freediving kit? A heated debate ensued and before we knew it, a wager of half a dozen beers was placed and a date for the challenge set. Representing the honour of fishermen everywhere was The Captain’s Jack Murphy. Paul would be the freediver/spearo champ.
After a few restless nights of tying plait doubles, oiling rod rollers and greasing reel bearings, the time finally came to meet Paul down at the local rock pool. Paul wasn’t mucking around. He rolled up in his black Hummer and slid out of the driver’s seat with a confident swagger before throwing his weight vest, 4ft-long fins and fully camouflaged Salvimar wetsuit over his shoulder. I rocked up in my backfiring old Land Rover, peeled myself off the sweaty seat and fumbled my way to the testing grounds with an armful of rods sticking out in every direction. If this was a confidence game, Paul was already winning.
It was time to establish the rules. We plotted out a 13.5m track for Paul to swim and a platform for me to fish off. We agreed it was best to throw a number of rod/reel combinations with varying line weights into the mix so we had a fair indication of their effect on Paul’s swimming performance. We had everything from a tiny little Shimano Stella 1000FD (perfect for bream busting) to a massive Shimano Tiagra 50W (the reel of choice for taming bluewater brumbies). Paul would be allowed to wear his full freediving set-up with fins and I was allowed to use an equaliser with the overhead set-ups. In order for Paul to win, he’d have to beat all six reels – starting from the smallest to largest.
Round 1 (control)
To get an idea how fast Paul could swim the 13.5m, he swam a control lap with no gear clipped to his weight belt.
The battle began with the Stella 1000FD. Paul laughed as I clipped the bream outfit onto him before shooting across the pool with minimal effort. I simply watched as Paul ripped line off the reel at an unbelievable rate of knots, whipping through the water like a wahoo. No chance.
Reel: Shimano Stella 1000FD
Line: 6lb braid
After that humiliation, I was keen to at least slow Paul down this time. I went up in size to a Stella 4000FD, but it quickly became apparent I wasn’t going to stop him with this set-up, either. Attempting to at least slow his time, I added pressure to the already groaning spool with my thumb. It was too much, and the 15lb braid popped, disqualifying me from the round and giving Paul the win.
Reel: Shimano Stella 4000FD
Line: 15lb braid
Time: DQ (bust-off)
With the TLD 25 overhead clipped onto the equaliser it was going to be interesting to see if this set-up could slow Paul down or even stop him. The addition of the equaliser would let me put on more drag, but the stretch in the mono might work against me in such a short race. Paul initially struggled to pull away, but eventually got into his groove like a stubborn 60kg yellowfin and slugged his way to the finish.
Reel: Shimano TLD 25
Line: 20lb mono
With a much smoother drag system and an extra 10lb of line strength over the TLD 25, the Tiagra 30W (in theory) should’ve be able to stop Paul. However, the sneaky spearo pulled out the dirty tactics, staying on the surface for half his swim before deep-diving like a humpback on heat. I’m not sure if it was change in the angle of the line or the sight of Paul’s derrière poking to the heavens, but it threw me off my game and he completed the swim in style.
Reel: Shimano Tiagra 30W
Line: 30lb mono
Time to bring out the big guns. The crème de la crème of spinning reels is undoubtedly the Stella SW30000. This reel is capable of tackling fish over 100kg, so knocking over a measly 70kg freediver should’ve been a walk in the park. It would’ve been, but without the equaliser my arms felt they were being ripped out of their sockets with every kick of his fat fins. The reel had more to give, but I didn’t. I shouldn’t have skipped bicep curls so often. Another defeat for the fishos.
Reel: Shimano Stella SW30000
Line: 80lb braid
The last round and it was all or nothing. With the equaliser back on and hooked up to the Tiagra 50W, I was quietly confident no matter how slippery Paul was, he wouldn’t be making it to the end of the pool. He started strongly, powering past halfway like a GT pierced by a 10/0 Jobu. I pushed the drag to sunset and put both thumbs on the spool. Paul struggled to maintain momentum and a few seconds later was flailing about like a turtle with a missing flipper. Winner!
Reel: Shimano Tiagra 50W
Line: 50lb mono