The Spanish approach - Gyula Plaganyi

A report back by S. A. diver Gyula Plaganyi who recently represented South Africa at the Euro-Africa Zone Qualifier spearfishing championships held in Cadiz, Spain.

The zone for this competition was decided about 3 years ago. In the interim Spain had their club team champs there last year and the individuals the year before. Their team scouted for a month with a squad of 20 guys last year July. Hence there wasn’t a Spaniard in sight before the competition. The Spanish Federation was offering 300 Euros for any worthwhile GPS spots from the local divers.

Each Spanish diver had a brand new 8 metre boat with 4 stroke engines well in excess of 100 HP. They also had very competent (ex world champs) assisting on their boats with specialist navigators and Johnny Depp look-alikes to shout at the other teams.

From now on all CMAS comps will allow gps and sounders. Sounds good but remember that most average divers in Spain have a mega TV on their boat with the latest Mapsource programme. They call it fishing “dry”. They sound between tides and only shoot during a small window period of slack current.

The designated area was notorious for poor viz which made it difficult for the other teams to scout effectively.  By poor I mean less than a metre. Throw in a nice thermocline and very spooky fish it is difficult to even get one weigher.

The 10 metre rule was strictly enforced and allowed faster boats to dominate an area. It does not sound far but believe me it is a massive distance in poor viz.

The Spanish were not seen as divers or hunters but were referred to as Athletes. They  were well dressed and their primary function was to win obviously but to promote their sponsors agenda was high on the list.

Spain was the team favourite but interestingly only managed an individual second place. A Croation won convincingly and a Greek was comfortably third. The Ukranian was 5th with the top Portuguese 4th individually. What this tells us is that the Spanish cannot compete with individuals with exceptional talent. I wrote down the fish species landed by the Spanish and more than half of their fish were mullet.

The Croat shot big tassels and Englishman. The Greek clapped a pile of Blacktail on both days. The Ukranian landed a stringer of Rubberlips on the outskirts of the area and the Portuguese had a very mixed bag.

What this means is that someone like Jaco definitely has the potential to win World Champs and in so doing pull the team position right up there.

There was no ambiguity about the rules which took 4 hours to explain in the pre comp captains meeting. Exceptional planning and implementation I must say.

The Spanish National Guard Patrol boat was on duty. This very well armed green and white vessel made the orange one in Port Elizabeth look like a pleasure cruiser. The daily limit of 5kg plus one large fish was strictly enforced (R10 000 fine for over limit). However the black market had a huge demand at between 12 and 20 Euros a kg. In France there is no daily limit but no black market demand.

The weigh-in was an eye opener. Each competitor was given an official hessian sack with their name before the competition . All fish landed had to be boated (no stringers allowed). After comp these bags were sealed and given to officials upon entering the harbour. The weigh in area was roped off and only the biggest fish per diver displayed. The rest of the fish were kept secret and only the points broadcast. This made it impossible for any unauthorised negative publicity or photographs to escape.

My view is that SAUFF must look at implementing and controlling a similar system here. These Spanish have covered all their bases and are excellent role models for the sport.

I look forward to South Africa improving their position at the Worlds next year in Venezuela.