For many, archery sometimes gets put on a back burner through the summer months. If you have been looking for something to supplement your love for the mystical flight of the arrow during the warmer months, it's time to try bowfishing! It doesn't take much to get started! We have been avid bowfishermen for nearly a decade and have some great advice to share for those getting started.
The BasicsBowfishing is a bit more than typing a string to an arrow and shooting fish. We have some of the greatest equipment on the market to choose from such as the AMS Pro Retriever, PSE Discovery bow, AMS Tidal Wave rest as well as the Muzzy XD reels and Fin Finder recurves. You don't even have to buy a new bow to get started (though it helps!) as you can reuse an old compound or recurve hanging around to give it a try! You will be shooting with fingers and no sight which further simplifies the setup.
You basically need a bow, reel, arrow rest and arrow to begin fishing as well as the fishing license for your state and either polarized sunglasses for daytime trips or a light kit on your bow for night time trips. You will want to keep any fish you shoot to dispose of somewhere besides the bank, boat ramp or the body of water itself. You can find fish off of backroad bridges, back waters, clear shallow water as well as dams and reservoirs where legal. Don't be afraid to get a little wet to wade out and shoot them too! We have shot some great fish wading water. The fish is typically limited to trash fish such as Gar, Carp, Buffalo with some states allowing Catfish and even Alligator! Bowfishing is a great sport to involve the kids in too being that most bows are low draw weight and constant draw so they will be able to shoot as well. They will love it! We have never taken somebody bowfishing that didn't fall in love with it afterwards! Now let's take a moment to discuss equipment..
The lower poundage and lower letoff you can get, the better! I personally started with an old Bear Whitetail 2 that was set at 50lbs with 50 percent letoff, while it was tough to snap shoot fish, (drawing halfway and firing) it would still do the job. For bank fishing where ranges sometimes are longer, we suggest to shoot 40lbs normally but 50lbs depending on the bow can prove to be an asset as well. A longer axle bow also tends to be easier to shoot with fingers though at these lower weights and closer ranges, a short axle bow isn't too tough to shoot! The main thing you want is a bow you can draw fast and shoot anywhere in the draw cycle. Our most popular bowfishing bow sold is the PSE Discovery. This is a constant draw, zero percent letoff, any draw length bow that goes from 30 to 40lbs which is plenty enough especially consider how fast that it shoots! This bow is also very affordable starting at $199.99. For boat bowfishing, 30 to 35lbs is typically what we recommend unless you have water clarity to allow for very deep shots.
The reel designs are somewhat different than regular fishing. Muzzy offers the XD series which is in essence a beefed up push button fishing reel. While we have shot plenty of fish with these reels, our number one seller and number one recommended reel is the AMS Pro Retriever. We prefer the Retriever as it is safer due to not having to push any buttons to shoot, able to run very high pound test line, (in the event you shoot something underwater such as a tire or other trash) and it is virtually indestructible. Even full of sand, just a quick rinse out and they will still work! We recommend the 450# test line from AMS for them. The reel is your most expensive item besides the bow with prices from $89.99-$119.99 depending on brand and type.
The arrow rest is somewhat different than a regular arrow rest in that is it typically full containment with the arrow riding directly on the rest. We strongly recommend buying a purpose built rest as the heavy bowfishing arrow will damage Whisker Biscuits and dropaway rests rather quickly. We recommend the AMS Tidal Wave rest as it is full containment, tough plastic design and if you happen to shoot with the slide stop down (the black piece with a screw) it will not rip the rest off, only make the arrow fly terribly!
Bowfishing arrows are a different animal completely as they are typically fiberglass with no fletchings, have a glue on nock and have a glued on point. All bowfishing arrows will have a barbed point that allows you to hold the fish on to reel them in. All arrows used with an AMS Pro Retriever will be equipped with the AMS safety slide and slide stop as well. The AMS Chaos, Chaos XL, Mayhem and Ankor points all feature an interchangable tip that can be replaced as it is dulled. AMS arrows come in solid fiberglass, fiberglass with carbon fiber reinforcement as well as the Lava Crux which is a fiberglass arrow with a solid carbon core. We have found heavier poundage and faster bows prefer the carbon reinforced or carbon core arrows while light poundage compounds as well as recurves shoot well with the standard fiberglass. Arrows cost from $16.99 on up to $39.99 though you will only need a few to shoot all summer especially with the 450# line while replacement tips are only $6.99 for 2.
Also called No Gloves, these are simply rubber type protection from putting your fingers on a bare string. These keep your fingers from getting sore from the bare string especially once your fingers are wet. These allow you to shoot without a release as well further allowing you to hammer out arrows! These require a bow press to install though most package bows come equipped with them. These typically run from $4.99 up to $14.99.
Another item we have found to be immensely useful is a bow mounted light kit. We use a combination of the AMS Specs Ops light as well as the Elusive Wildlife Technologies XLR light. These allow you freedom to expand your opportunities by always having a light attached to your bow. We prefer them off the boat as well for just a little extra! I recommend the Green bulbs for boat use and the white for bank/bridge use. We also offer the AMS Night Vision bracket that lets you strap any flashlight into it which is great if you already have a flashlight that is super bright and lighter weight. Some light kits bolt in the front of the bow but I prefer the AMS bracket.
With all of the equipment covered, another very important part of bowfishing is safety. While following the basic rules of archery safety that we have posted, there is a few bowfishing specific considerations.
-Always have your safety slide in front of your arrow rest
-Always have your slide stop turned up and not down
-Always check to ensure your arrow is nocked properly before you shoot and check it again if you don't shoot and letdown
-Make sure your line is not wrapped around the reel anywhere or around the bow
(Photo credit Bloody Arrows Bowfishing)
We hope this guide has gave you some great information that you need to get out and stick some fish! Bowfishing is a all inclusive shooting sport that is pure fun, we offer fully setup packages as well as all accessories you need to setup your existing bow. If you have any questions or would like to place an order, contact us at 870-475-3337 or send us a message on the contact us!
Thanks for stopping by and happy fishing!
- Dalton Vaughn