Here we will discuss the various ways of holding onto your spear. The most common rig is to have your spear attached to the muzzle of your gun then a thin rope running from the handle of your gun to a float on the surface.
Whichever method you choose here are a few golden rules:
1. Never, ever attach anything to yourself.
2. Always have a line attached to your spear that is at least as long as the depth you are diving. This is so if you shoot a hard-fighting fish or a fish holes up, you are able to get back to the surface without dropping everything.
3. Make your shooting line the weakest link. This is so if something breaks you only lose your spear.
4. Think about what you are going to do with your fish.
The shooting line is the one connecting the spear to your gun (unless you are running a breakaway rig). The most common line used is monofilament. The mono should be 1.8 - 2.0mm thick. Mono is easy on the fingers, quick through the water, resists tangling and is cheap. Most spearguns have black mono but the colour doesn't really matter. The mono should be crimped into the spear and then can either be crimped directly into the muzzle of the gun or via a clip or even bungie. Crimping directly into the muzzle is good as it does remove several potential breaking points from your system but can be a bit inconvenient at times. Crimping the shooting line into a clip at the muzzle is best as it means you can easily swap your spears out and if you are having a hard time getting your spear out of a fish you can unclip the line and just pull it through the fish.
Probably the majority of divers use a small 10cm bungie at the muzzle. This keeps your line nice and neat and could take a bit of the shock load off when fighting a fish. They do have a limited lifespan though and it is a real pain if they break - they should be cored with a strong line so you won't lose anything but once broken your line won't be kept tight anymore. For simplicity's sake lots of experienced divers don't bother with them.
Dynema is becoming increasingly popular as a shooting line because of it's extreme abrasion resistance. You cannot crimp dynema so you must attach it with knots. The one-and-a-half fisherman's knot is normally used for this. Dynema isn't as quick through the water as mono and some divers claim it slows down the spears or even pulls their shots off. It also has absolutely no stretch so you must use a gun bungie, reel or breakaway with dynema shooting line.
A breakaway rig allows the shooting line to be attached directly into your floatline totally removing the gun from the system after the shot. This is an advantage in that it removes several potential failure points from the system and also means that if a large fish takes off with everything you won't lose your gun. They are a real pain to use though as you have to keep track of the gun after the shot and you have to hold onto your floatline at all times to prevent chop or something else yanking the breakaway out and unravelling it. They also mean it takes longer to pull your line up tight so are unsuitable where a fish may try and go for a cave or wrap you in structure. For these reasons you should only consider a breakaway in true blue-water environments chasing big fish and not for your everyday gun.
The simplest, and probably the best, rig is a hardline or floatline. This is simply a length of rope attached to the handle of your gun and a float, usually with a swivel and fish threader at each end. This system is strong, very simple, creates very little drag and gives you a good way to store your fish. The rope used is usually static meaning that you can keep control of how much line a fish has to play with.
Hardlines are however notorious for tangling and sinking (when compared to other systems). This can be extremely frustrating when diving in shallow, bouldery water or trying to snoop.
There are several ways you can minimize tangling:
1. Use the shortest line possible. You only need 1.5 times the depth you are diving (ie if you're diving 20m you need a 30m line) so don't tow a 30m line when you're only diving in 5m of water.
2. Use swivels*
3. Coil the rope up on a winder ensuring it doesn't get any twists in it.
4. Keep the fish up near the float. Sinking fish halfway along your line will drive you nuts.
* Use swivels on the clip on your gun and the clip on your float. The best floatlines have a threader spliced onto one end and just an empty spliced loop at the other. This means that it is easy just to get your fish off the line by unclipping from the float and pulling it through. If you have a clip or swivel spliced onto the line itself small mouthed fish (like butterfish) get caught.
A floatline is the best option when diving in deep water, like when weedlining and in situations when you will need to transport your fish for extended periods (ie more than 5 minutes) like when shorediving.
Bungies come in all shapes and sizes and can be inserted between your gun and normal hardline or can replace the hardline altogether. The two main benefits of a bungy over a static line are that they don't tangle and, because they stretch, they absorb some of the strain of a fighting fish putting less strain on the rest of the system and the fish's flesh.
Bungies can be made from various materials but the most common are rubber or a synthetic polymer. They must be hollow and air-filled which makes them float and allows them to be cored with some sort of line so that if the bungy is cut on a rock or something you don't lose your gear.
Short bungies are from 1-5m long and are inserted between the gun and a normal hardline. These are almost exclusively made of rubber and are cheap. They typically have a stretch ratio of between 1:3 and 1:5 so they musn't be too long or you will lose control of your fish. These simple bits of kit can make a big difference when shooting fish such as kingies.
Full bungies replace your hardline altogether. Rubber or other non-uv resistant materials are unsuitable for full bungies if you want them to last any length of time (you can imagine what will happen to a piece of rubber floating in salt water and bright sunlight for several hours). These are excellent for blue-water style diving where two or more divers are diving close to each other, in deep water targeting game fish. Bungies are however generally considered unsuitable for normal day to day use. This is because they have considerably more drag through the water and are easily cut on rocks (they are cored so you won't lose your gun but they are unrepairable). Because of their stretch they can make it hard to keep a big fish off the bottom.
Bungies are ideal for blue-water diving for gamefish.
The use of a reel means you don't need a line or float at all making you much freer in the water. The freedom of a reel when snooping cannot be beaten.
A spearfishing reel doesn't work the same as an idiot-sticking reel in that you don't wind the fish in. You still play the line through your hands like a normal floatline. You shoot the fish, swim to the surface, letting line off the reel, then grab the line and pull it in. Then you need to do something with the fish and wind the line back in. What to do with your fish is probably the number one drawback of using reels.
There are several types of reels on the market made of different materials and sporting very different features so what is best? The two main materials used are plastic or nylon and metal. Obviously the metal ones are stronger but they are also usually several times the price. Although the metal ones are marketed as "blue-water" reels they are never really all that good for gamefish. Good nylon ones are usually more than strong enough for the fish reels are best suited to. The hardest thing when using reels is preventing tangles. These usually occur when the fish makes a strong run and the reel starts free-spooling. To prevent this from happening the reel must have a drag system. This is usually just a nut and washer. The other way, especially when dealing with bigger fish, is just to use the palm of your hand. Obviously you can't do this with an enclosed reel.Remember not to drop your gun!!!
Reels are best suited to smaller fish.
To read more about the pros and cons of a reel click here