Gearing Up for Bowfishing

AMS Retriever Pro

Summer is just around the corner. As soon as the turkey woods start to cool, and Tommy Three Toes loses interest in the ladies, the weather should just be getting ripe for bowfishing. Never tried it before? Who cares? You get to shoot fish!

Here is an introductory article to bowfishing:

Archer holding up a carp shot with a bow while bowfishing
Got a bow? Love to fish? This is better than peanut butter and chocolate!

Bowfishing does not take much in the way of gear, but you will need a few things. First check to ensure you are complying with local laws and have a fishing license if necessary. Second, you’ll need to ensure the pond or lake you choose is not restricted.

If you plan to shoot from a boat special footwear won’t be required. If not, I would recommend a pair of river shoes or old sneakers. Walking on the bottom of a lake or stream can be dangerous with old fishhooks and other debris, so remember to protect your tootsies. Because your shoes will get thrashed after a day or so in muddy, murky water, old sneaks work great.

Bohning MudCat Bowfishing Reel
Bohning’s MudCat Bowfishing Reel is perfect for minimalists looking for a simple and effective bow reel.

After that you’ll need a bow of course. You can use a traditional bow—recurve or longbow—or a compound. When bowfishing, the action can be fast and for most shots you will be snap shooting, not aiming. Do not think of a rifle and scope but more of throwing a football. When throwing a football you do not aim. You just look at the target and let it rip. You’ll want to do the same when bowfishing. When you see your target, pull back and let string go—grip it and rip it style! After selecting a bow, you will need to decide on a reel system. The simplest design is simply a round bale the line wraps around. The line spools off and you retrieve it hand-over-hand.

AMS Retriever Pro
The AMS Bowfishing Retriever Pro Reel comes with 35 Yards 200 lb. Braided Dacron Line.

The next level up is the bottle retriever model. The bottle contains the string offering zero drag during the shot. It also has a crank, which makes it easier to retrieve your fish or arrow.

The third model is a typical casting reel. The only danger with this model is forgetting to release the bale before the shot. When the arrow hits the end of its short cord and snaps back, you’ll recognize your mistake immediately. That being said, while not pleasant, it is isn’t as dangerous as it sounds. A casting reel will give you the most power and control.

I have read several descriptions and reviews—including models with a short pole—that claim a casting reel will actually let you fight the fish. I would have to call the reviewer on that one. Typically, when you catch a fish, you hook it through the lip possibly deeper if it swallowed the hook.

When you shoot a fish, it could be through the tail or more likely through the midsection, or maybe the head. Through the head may kill it instantly, but either of the other two are akin to snagging the fish. You’ll be retrieving the fish laterally through the water. That can be challenging enough and make the fish feel several pounds heavier, but it will not feel like a traditional fish fight.

Muzzy Xtreme Duty Bowfishing Reel
The Muzzy Xtreme Duty Reel features a stainless steel foot, all steel-and-brass drive system with an over sized stainless steel roller pick-up pin, extra large reel that increases line capacity and stainless steel hood and push button.

The last thing you’ll need is a fish arrow or more like a two or three fish arrows. Made from fiberglass, a fish arrow is much heavier than a traditional arrow. The head should be removable and have well pronounced barbs. Some models have barbs that reverse for easier removal. I am indifferent to the reversible heads. I am always worried it would pull out at the wrong time and I’d lose a fish, although I must admit that has never happened to me.

Remember to carry a spare arrow. A good shot that smacks a rock could dislodge the head or potentially crack a shaft. Don’t let the first shot ruin your day of shooting fish, be sure to have spares just in case.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

1 Comment;

  1. Laws are different in each state on the fish you can shoot. Depending on the fish you plan to shoot, pick an arrow for the fish. For gar I use a muzzy, for redfish and sheepshead I use a rounder point with 4 prongs to ensure the softer flesh fish do not pull off. Be careful on windy days. I use an open spool and have had the free line that attaches to the arrow wrap behind the spool from the wind and snag. The arrow comes back when this happens. Aim lower based on your angle to the fish. Great fun. Did it once and was hooked for life.

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