Author Archives: René Potvin

About René Potvin

Started freediving and spearfishing in 1986. I competed for the first time in 1994 at the Connecticut Open. I won the B division with a bunch of togs with Murphy's beat up 90 cm Viper. I later won the North Atlantic Championships in 2003, 2009 and 2010. I participated in the FIPSA Worlds in Cabo Frio in 2006; came in 13th. I also play underwater hockey with CAMO in Montreal and do a lot of underwater photography. In 2006 I started making spearguns. They are known as Renesub Spearguns. The website is renesub.com

First gun I made, the victoriaville hockey gun

I made this gun 12 years ago. I found these old pages in the archives… I still use that gun regularly. Further down you’ll see my second hockey gun as well as the mech of a white oak speargun I used in Puerto Rico ages ago.

Hockey stick gun with trigger activated line release! It started out as a test for a mechanism I wanted to build but I got inspired by how straight and sturdy the stick was.

The retainer.

Holds 6 or 6.5 mm shafts with mono looped at the back.

The line release system…

Boy oh boy finaly a truly capable line release!

Setting the handle with epoxy.

I initially thought of keeping the Victoriaville logo and paint job for fun but the wood is really nice.

I built a 100 cm as well

Now that’s a line release!

A loaded gun in the house! Notice that the band follows the shaft perfectly.

The first hockey gun aka “victoriaville gun” ended up being one of my favorites but only after I added wood on the sides to make it neutral. Right now that gun will stay perfectly still midwater with the shaft inside. I have added no lead to it. Here are pictures of it now :

bands are aligned automatically…

JJ waiting for fish at the dam… The gun appears short on this picture but it’s a full 90 cm fitted with a 6 mm shaft and a 16 mm band. The gun shoots like magic.

The second generation hockey gun gained from my previous experience. First I put maple on both sides from the start. The mechanism is made of 3/16 inch 316 stainless. The guard is smaller and fits inside the stock but is still held in place by the pins. I thought about using a casette design but that beats the purpose. Casettes just don’t feel the same. Seing the mech in action is part of the fun.

Obviously I have to shape the maple from it’s present block appearance. It’s a 100.

I will also reduce the distance between the back of the handle and the trigger to ressemble the Marc Valentine specifications.

I finally finished the sanding and mechanism.

I have to finish the guard.

Again, I chose to align the bands with the shaft. Notice the line pin, I borowed that idea from a european gun maker (Deep).

In the water this gun shoots very straight. The one band is plenty strong enough for the 6 mm shaft. You can barely see it reach the end of two wraps of shooting line.

If you let the gun go in fresh water the tip will eventually sink. My guess is that it will be crazy neutral in salt water which is just great.

For those not sure how to make a wishbone, here is a simple solution:

I get a lot of questions about making the mechanism. The thickness of the metal on this picture is 3/16 but the grade is 316 (304 will do but it will eventually rust).
As you can see on these pictures there is no tool investment involved in making a mechanism as opposed to working the wood. I’ve used electric grinders to make the previous mechs but I think I will stick with the metal saw from now on. One tip, make the holes before you draw the rest of the part.

In the rough.

This is about 40 minutes of work with handtools. It’s not the mech in the 2nd hockey gun. It’s going into a 110 with an oak core that I’m building right now. Once filed the mech will be smaller and the two pins somewhat closer than shown here.

150 cm speargun may be the best for Baja

December 1st, 2018

Weather Underground was predicting 10 km/h winds from the NW, so I drove to Ventanas in the hope of getting one of the few flat-water days of the area. I don’t particularly like Ventanas or Sargento, it’s too shallow and the spots are way sandy, but I do visit once in a while, just because.

As I reached the desert crossroad, I saw the large Mexican flag waving in the wind… Indicating wind much stronger than 10 km/h coming from the South East, the very worst scenario. I drove to Ventana anyway. Sure enough, the baby boomers we out with their kites, doing their jumpy thingies, their left and right stuff, and generally going nowhere with prohibitively expensive wings.

No sandstorm peeling my car’s paintjob, yet looking at the white caps, I turned towards the shelter of good old Bahia de Los Suenos.
One reason I did not mind going to Ventana was that I would not have to face the Saturday fishing mayhem of the Bahia… Arriving at the parking lot, I drove past twenty trailers. Fortunately, many of them already had their boat loaded. There were still about ten of them out there, each one sure to buzz by my kayak and my dive flag.

The sea was flat, but I felt the incoming tide.

On the water, I was by myself. I guessed all the other fishermen were out South… because you wouldn’t want to be at the island with the wind, unannounced or not. Looking far to the horizon, I could see some of them, maybe five miles out.

I started by taking a target out to test my 150 cm speargun. Last year I did not have much success with it and thought perhaps the aim was off… Confounding me, it turned out to be super precise with one or two bands, one or two hands, in any configuration… So out I went to the deeper spots I had identified.

I did something I rarely do. I got my float out. I dove the same area without a float a few days before and I was not always comfortable trusting my reel at 26 meters of depth (almost 90 feet), and now I held a 150 cm behemoth of a speargun.

The visibility was around 20 feet. Which is good for this area. My anchor indicated a dept of 18 meters, but that could mean it was on top of a boulder… I went down and sure enough I leveled out at 22 meters. First dive, snappers come to me. Small cuberas, but I take a shot since I want to test that gun.

– Foompt! makes the gun.

Right in the head, the fish does not struggle one bit.

I shot four fish like this. Each in the head. The only one that struggled even a little was the yellow snapper (9 pounds, quite a large specimen since the record is 13 pounds). Now I’m all confused. Can a 150 cm speargun be the right choice for Baja, even for shore diving?

150 cm renesub speargun, 9 pound yellow snapper

Remorque à kayak (in French)

Comme la plupart des chasseurs qui utilisent un kayak, je dois parfois faire plusieurs centaines de mètres pour accéder à l’eau. Même pour les grandes distances, je préfère le transporter sur mes épaules parce que c’est plus facile, et tellement viril!

Quand même, l’an dernier j’ai dû me résoudre à trouver une autre façon de faire puisque je plongeais deux jours sur trois et que la fatigue commençait à laisser des traces sur mon corp, incluant mon dos. Je me suis même un peu fait mal. Si quand même…

J’ai donc fabriqué ma première remorque à kayak (Version 2017, photo ci-dessous).

Cette année, j’ai acheté ce qu’il me fallait au Canada. Les roues sont bien meilleures, mais la plus grande différence est mon calcul des cordages. Les cordes sont de la même longueur et installées de façon permanente sur la remorque. Il me suffit de clipper et c’est bon. L’an dernier je bidouillais rapidement les cordes qui me servaient à attacher le kayak au toit de ma voiture… Ca allait mais ce n’était pas toujours aussi optimal disons.

Voici donc la deuxième itération de ma remorque! La version 2018!

12.6 pound trigger, La Pax Mx

Monday (November 19, 2018) I went fishing south of La Paz. I was looking for the usual suspects: snappers and the odd pelagic.

I dove late in the day since I had (online) work to do in the morning. I do like diving later, if only because the local commercial fishermen have already taken their boats out. Normally by 2 pm most of them are either out or waiting to put their boat on their trailer.

I haven’t had any real problems with the local commercial fishermen, but one did come to my kayak while I was far offshore, and I could sense he was not happy about my setup making me entirely independent from his services… The truth is I would hire them, but since I am here for so long, it is impossible economically for me to do so except occasionally. Anyway, I try to stay clear of them, so they don’t see me as a problem.

So, I dove the bay, not too far from my point of entry, in a spot that is normally full of commercial pangas trolling in all directions. I dove there for about one hour. The depth was about 15 m (50 feet), the water murky and the fish absent. I mean there was nothing except a few parrotfish (which I never shoot out of environmental concerns) and some of the usual reef/aquarium type fish.

I moved to deeper water in hopes of finding more life. At about 20-22 meters (66-75 feet), I saw a few larger aquarium fish, but no snappers at all. This wind and strange weather seem to have moved the fish out to sea somewhere.

Anyway, I slowly drifted deeper at the border between rocks and sand. That was no deeper than 22-23 meter (75-80 feet) in the area where I was. I have found large yellow snappers at 26 meters in the same area (among them a 13-pound yellow, which was a record but I didn’t know).

The sun sets at five thirty. I was still going up and down at five, hoping for a pan fish. I finally shot a palmetto. They are the best in that category for my taste. At about five fifteen the water was getting dark, but I was still diving. I laid down on top of rocks at 22 meters, and a trigger got my attention! That tough skin fish was huge! I had seen a 20 pounder last year and I still wonder why I hadn’t shot it. That too would have been a record… Anyway, the monster was not getting any closer. Fortunately it offered quite a target, and I was using a 130cm speargun. I shot it low at the edge of visibility. Thank god for that tough skin!

That fish went straight for a hole. The shaft got entangled, of course. I decided to go back down to 23 meters after having started my ascent. I was up to about 18 meter. weww! I finally untangled it and I went up. The fish resisted mostly with its profile but it was a long way up now. For some reason, I didn’t use any of the line on my reel. I regretted this… Ten feet from the top I wondered about letting some line out but figured, hey, I’m almost there! Not the smartest decision, but I got to the surface with about 10-20 seconds of margin lol. Total dive time was 1’45”. I really need to do develop better “procedures”. I’ve been doing this since 1986 and I still have to work on my judgment. I guess we are all in the same boat.

The trigger was 12.6 pounds. Not close to the record, well above 18.

La Paz – November 16, 2018

I’m back in La Paz. Same address, different apartment. They rented my penthouse to someone else the bastards.

La Paz Boardwalk

The scene in the water is quite different from February and March. For one, the water is super warm at 27C (81F). On the other hand, it’s been just as windy, which is not entirely normal for this season. Last week there were three days of heavy wind from the east. It may have something to do with the cold front up north. By the way, I hear it’s been -15c in Montreal. I feel for you guys.

Leaving from my house in St-Adolphe, Quebec. Novembre 3rd, 2018, and it had been snowing for a week already.

Yesterday was the second day I was in the water since the three windy days. I dove near Bahia De los Suenos. I crossed the baie and anchored my kayak next to a rocky cliff. Within five minutes I saw a 50 pound grouper. I hadn’t seen a single large grouper last season. I didn’t get a shot and I could not find its hole. It may have swum too far or hid well into one of the many holes, too many for me to do a systematic search. It didn’t get to be that big by being stupid… Anyway, I’ll be back. At about that time, the water got murky.

The visibility went all the way down to about 3 meters (ten feet) thirty minutes into the dive. It was about 3 pm so there was plenty of light even with the overcast sky (another rarity for this season). I continued fishing while pulling my kayak like a dive flag, working my way toward the point.

At some point, I went down I saw the shadow of a pelagic at the border of vis… I didn’t take a shot. I was very unsure of what I saw. In my mind it was another large wahoo I will have missed lol. I went to the bottom hoping for it to come and see me. The visibility at 20 meters (66 feet) was about 10 meters (33 feet). I was surrounded by boulders. I started looking for groupers and snapper. The snappers I’ve seen up to now have been in the small 2 to 5 kilogram category (5 to 10 pounds), so I’ve not shot any.

Sure enough, the pelagic made it’s appearance… in the most dramatic fashion, much, much too close to me, and it smiled! It was a seal. I could have shot a seal. That would have been terrible. I guess that’s the reason we don’t pull the trigger without having a clear idea of what is in front of us.

So now, I’m thinking. There are seals in very limited visibility, in Baja. Awsome, I’ll be eaten by a great white or a pod of killer whales! I’m nervous for a few minutes before I go back to “fuck it” mode. I believe that state of mind is the secret to happiness, not that I successfully stay in that zone all the time, especially at 4 am mouahahah.

I continue swimming with my kayak in tow. I’m good for a while, not seeing much. Then as I’m swimming on the surface the muck surrounding me explodes with creatures. I see they are fish-type things! I shoot what I think is a pompano type fish… Sure enough it’s a roosterfish… f…! I never shot one, so I guess I’m allowed the one in a lifetime.

I strung the darn thing. At least it didn’t cost me a shaft. I did not give it an inch of reel line. Oh I lost that tug of war and got dragged down. Still, I did not let it have an inch. The power of that beast was impressive! It took about ten runs before I was able to handle it, and that was a mere 10 kg (25 pound) roosterfish!

I bled the rooster the best I could. I cut the gill and let it empty itself in the water next to my kayak… trolling for great whites.

The fish was not wasted. It ended up on a BBQ at a shelter for addicts in La Paz. I can confirm that it’s bony and fishy, yet edible, just not the best ahahahahh.

I swam further to the point. There I could hear whales. I had not heard any such mammal last winter. Baja is an interesting place to say the least.

Baja winter fishing tips

I spent february and march fishing in Baha, these are by far the worse months, but don’t let this stop you from visiting… unless you want easy fishing or are only interested in pelagics… Winter is a time for shooting deep Cuberas, yellowtails and finding the tasty but smallish groupers (15 pounders). The Pacific side is all but off limits during that season, unless you get creative and go out with a boat.

In this video I was using an odd version of my normal spearguns. This was a 126 cm Iroko speargun that I originally built has a travel gun. It could be divided but I epoxied the two parts since it the travel idea didn’t work very well. It’s been my workhorse ever since. I sell all the good ones lol.

For winter coastal fishing in Baja, I recommend bringing a 130 cm European style gun. The one I was using had tired bands, which were perfect since I often had to shoot towards rocks. I was still able to shoot fish at reasonable distances so it was an optimal compromise. I tried fresh bands but went back to the old ones, more power is not always best.

I also brought a 110 and a 150. I shot them only a few times. Seriously, 120 or 130 are the sizes that will be the most useful. I could have tried a 90 for the holes, but I doubt I would have bothered getting it from my kayak. Also, the visibility was limited, so I would have had a difficult time finding the same rock again.

Another Baja specific tip: pass the shooting line to the second hole of your shaft. This way you will be able to use your shaft as a slip tip by stringing the large yellowtails that pass close enough. This saved me a few shaft and fish, namely 35+ pound cuberas. Obviously, the shaft is more likely to get stuck in holes, but in Baja you will have to live with that. I was using 7 and 7.5 mm Spear Masters, Rob Allen and Makos. I bent and unbent all them repeatedly. Slip tips are out of the question.

If you use a reel, make sure you have enough line. I put 90 feet of 3 mm and another 60 feet of 1 mm line in mine. I got spooled a few times but always managed to reach the surface. I will bring a belt reel on my next visit. Alternatively, a float line will do a better job if you are not comfortable fighting a large fish from 80+ feet down all the way to the surface while managing a reel. In the following video you can see the sort of struggle you should expect to keep fish away from the rocks (somehow I managed to unbend the shaft!)

 

 

Minimalist kayak trailor

While in La Paz, Homer, the property manager gave me these wheels and rigid floats to make a trailer. I added two ropes to keep the wheels straight without restraining their movement left and right.

kayak trailer
Check where I attached the ropes. this is key. They have to be far ahead of the wheels.
kayak trailer
I was able to pass over rocks, strairs and a quarter mile of sand. I’ve used it a dozen times.
kayak trailer
This was done on the fly and it works ok. I hope to build one that will fit closer to the middle of the boat so I don’t have to do as much lifting. That said, the scupper pro is not very heavy. The wider improved version may have a harder time to stay straight.

Mass Invitational spearfishing competition, May 27th 2017

Olivier and I showed up in his sickly green Volkswagen at the Massachusetts invitational spearfishing competition at King’s Beach… in Rhode Island.

The sole purpose of the Mass invitational is to bring people beyond low impact Instagram freediving, and to somehow convince them of the wonders of facing other spearfishermen, on a level playing field, at a set date which implies fishing in possibly terrible conditions, within a predetermined area, using only muscle power and no possibility of outside help, all of which add up to, you guessed it, the increasingly exotic concept of making an effort. In this spirit, the invitational is meant to be an introduction to the rules and challenges of the Open Championship competition format, a first step into a physically and psychologically demanding activity which has very little to do with people pouting at their cell phone cam.

I was all excited to see the fresh faces. At nine, the kayaks were all lined up at the starting line. The high tide was about to turn and all the water of the bay was set to pour on our area. Some spots would be swept and made very difficult to dive both because of the current and the low visibility. To make it more interesting, a crazy swell rose at about the same time.

Very few of the guys had much experience at the Open format, or diving in less than optimal conditions. Fortunately no one went for Brenton reef or Seal’s Ledge. Both of those areas where receiving the brunt of the outgoing tide, and they were the problematic spots where you could expect overly keen inexperienced divers to be separated from their kayaks and swept to sea. Also, no one decided to go towards Land’s End. Therefore, by default, Seal’s rock was covered with dive flags.

Olivier and I got there first. The visibility was OK, but the water was freezing and there were no fish.

I refrained from shooting the first tog I crossed, holding off in case there was bass.

After twenty minutes, of finding no bass and seeing very few tautogs, I decided to shoot the second 18-inch tog I saw that day. I wandered the reef feeling depressed, cold and nauseous. I knew one of the other competitor, perhaps all of them, was killing it. My performance anxiety was at its height. I was not diving well because of motion sickness. I knew I wasn’t doing what needed to be done to win this event.

The way to win, is to you swim hard nonstop both on top and on the bottom until you find fish. Then you do not take a break. You do not contemplate. You shoot fish and make points. From the outside, it may appear stressful, but it is the opposite. The single-mindedness, or the psychotic drive to perform, is very liberating. You certainly don’t think about your taxes, your bosses, and what he may be doing with your girlfriend right now…. Just kidding, I knew she was brunching with her ex at the Sheraton.

Since I was about to lose last night’s Big Mac meal, I decide to get back on the kayak and head for Gooseberry Island. I knew I would find some relief in the back. Surely the waves did not circle the entire island. I rationalized that if there were no fish at the rock, maybe there would be some togs. In my mind’s eye, I could see then at the bottom of the cliffs. I paddled fast, but not like you would during an Open. If you want to win, you have to move fast, cover territory and be on the bottom a lot. Hiding behind Gooseberry Island, however fast I got there was not what I was supposed to do…

In any other circumstances, I would have headed towards Brenton Reef, and I would have killed my bass and my togs in less than twenty minutes. I might have gotten swept away, but that’s what needed to be done. I could have held on to my kayak and worked like a mule tugging at the anchor rope while the surf turned my kayak over and over. I didn’t. I was about to puke. I had no energy for it. That’s what happens when you are out of shape. Pretty soon I’ll have to go kill lame cows on a charter boat, and I don’t even know where to get a selfie stick.

Behind the island there were just as many togs as at the rock, meaning very few and all small. But there were skates all over the place. We don’t normally shoot skates during Open competitions, but they were fair game for the invitational. I laughed. I could have shot thirty in less than an hour. They simply laid there. I didn’t. I couldn’t imagine filleting skates for hours, and I didn’t want to win that way, although it would have been great, or do we say epic? for my Instagram.

After almost two hours around Gooseberry I felt fine. And then I got this brilliant idea of paddling half an hour to Land’s End. I calculated I would have about twenty minutes to shoot my togs and a bass. It could be done. Besides, I didn’t want to waste any more time at Gooseberry. Time to lose that winter fat I reasoned, and burn it I did.

As I approached Land’s End, the seas looked like those calendar images of lighthouses beat by the raging ocean. A powerboat was trying to get close to the surf. I could see the fear in the eyes of the driver. I would get my manly moment I thought.

I managed to anchor in the opening behind the main set of rocks. I only had 20 minutes and no patience for my former pussyfied self-cajoling ways of the morning. I swam full speed in the breakers. It must have looked awesome. Alas, besides hundreds of schoolies there was nothing to shoot. It felt great to be in there though, and I was not seasick in the least.

At one o’clock, I was at Land’s End, with one totaug. I had never shot less fish during a competition with one exception and it had been in 1995 in the aftermath of Hurricane Felix. This was more humiliating somehow.

To redeem myself, I paddled the forty-five-minute distance in thirty and got in front of King’s beach at one thirty-five. I threw the anchor near the breakers, put my fins, mask and weight belt back on. This time I took the original 90-cm renesub speargun. I dove down with a maximum of ten minutes to spare. I saw shadows. On the second dive, a tog swam at the edge of visibility. I took a shot. A very hopeful shot. The tog trashed at the end of my shaft. I could not see it yet. I swam and pulled it in at the same time. Not sure if I should keep pressure or not. I could not see the fish. When I got to it, it was trashing wildly between two rocks. I grabbed it with all the strength of my desperation.

I got to the surface and measured it against my gun. I should not have bothered since i did not have the time, but I needed to know. It looked like an 18 incher. It was one forty-five. I was ten minutes from the staging area. So I persisted.

By the time I got back on the boat it was one fifty-one. I paddled quickly. Now that I had such a great catch I didn’t want to be disqualified!

I got in at one fifty-nine. I expected everyone to have bass and full sets of togs, but I was still very happy with my two good togs!