I bit on the bowfishing bug early in life. I am known for taking things to the extreme and bowfishing was no different. It started with carp and then I graduated to sharks, stingrays, alligators, gar and all sorts of fish. It is not only fun but you can also pack some great meat in the freezer. It is just white instead of red.
Traditional Gear and Bowfishing just go together. Fortunately for us there are tons of equipment options available for traditional bows. Like many things, options range from gear for the occasional bowfisherman that doesn’t want to drop a lot of cash, to gear for the addicted bowfisherman that spends more on their bowfishing boat, lights and platform than they do on their vehicle. Yes, I do know people like that…..sorry mom.
Excluding a boat which is nice but not mandatory for bowfishing, you can get all you need to bowfish for anywhere from twenty dollars to a hundred and twenty. The two main types of bowfishing reels are the hand wind or the reel style. Hand reels are inexpensive and great starters. They come in two different types: One mounts to a stabilizer bushing and the other is a tape-on model that works well for longbows and recurves without a bushing.
These hand reels generally retail for under twenty dollars and are a good option for beginners or experienced shooters on a budget. Although this inexpensive system works well, it is slow and makes a quick follow up shot impossible unless another bow and spool are rigged up and ready nearby.
For the reel style bowfishing rig there are two options available. I have used both and would recommend either one. One is the AMS retriever bowfishing reel. The retriever has a handy finger regulated drag and a twist free bottle that your line goes into. It also sports a fast line crank, which speeds up your recovery time. The Retriever reel retails for approximately one hundred dollars.
Another popular choice is the Muzzy Xtreme Duty Bowfishing reel. It comes with 100 feet of braided 200 lb test bowfishing line and is easy to use. It has a familiar push button release and a standard reel adjustable drag. This set up retails for around 45 dollars.
Bowfishing arrows are pretty simple and inexpensive. Most pro-shops usually carry only one or two models. The two most common are all fiberglass shafts or carbon infused shafts. The solid fiberglass shafts I use are extremely durable and retail for anywhere from $15-$25, which includes a bowfishing head and safety slide. Even more important than arrow selection is the type of fish head you choose. There are many bowfishing heads that look great in the display case, but are not so great in a fish. Choose a rugged, functional head. There are few things more frustrating than missing a shot at a darting fish and then pulling up a bent or broken head. One thing to look for is a head that has a short distance from the point to the barbs. These require less penetration for the head to be held securely. This is especially important with large fish or when shooting bows with low poundage.
Traditional Bows are perfect for bowfishing because most of your shots are snapshots at moving fish. Just the ticket for a longbow or a recurve.
Don’t forget that you have to shoot low to compensate for water refraction. That is a fancy word for “the fish isn’t where it looks like it is.” I’m sure a smarter person than me could explain the formula for exactly how low you have to shoot based on how deep the fish is. It is really more a matter of S.W.A.G That’s another term for Just shoot low and hope. I should warn any newbies that bowfishing is an addictive smelly sport. So if your currently having a problem finding a spouse that will put up with your bowhunting addiction, I wouldn’t add this one. Have Fun!
By Fred Eichler