Setting up a Bow Fishing Arrow

by Johnathan Karch

Johnathan Karch on the water with his bowfishing set-up
Bowfishing Can Be Fun and Rewarding

Bow fishing is fun for all ages. It is a sport that can be enjoyed by the beginner looking for more of a challenge than targets (and more fun) to shoot, to the die-hard bowhunter that loves to have the bow in their hands all-year round. Using the same bow as for shooting targets or bow hunting, an archer can be set up for bow fishing in quick order.

The bowfishing reel and arrow are the only gear requirements (however, many states/provinces require a fishing license, check your local regulations) needed to get you on the water chasing fish. Each of these pieces of gear requires a bit of focus. For now we’ll be covering the bowfishing arrow.

The majority of my bowfishing experience has been shooting carp on rivers. They are an invasive species and as a bottom feeder they won’t bite on a lure; making them the perfect target for a bowfisher. Easy to spot in the water due to their large size, you will be surprised how enjoyable sinking an arrow in one can be.

Building a fish arrow for carp is great for the beginner. I find it a great starting point as carp are found in most places in the United States and the same fish arrow can be applied to other bowfishing game.

Bowfishing Arrow Shaft

The backbone of your bowfishing arrow is the shaftThe backbone of any arrow is the shaft. The first thing you will notice about a bow fishing arrow is how heavy it is. This is due to the material used for the arrow must be extremely durable for taking hard hits, and the arrow must have great penetration to punch through scales on tough fish.

Most bowfishing arrows are made of fiberglass, carbon, or a hybrid combination of the two. Fiberglass is tough and less expensive, but nothing is as tough, nor offers the stiffer spine or straightness as carbon. The hybrid models of bowfishing arrow shafts inlay strips of carbon on/in the fiberglass to add the advantages of carbon (strength, stiffness, and straightness) without having the cost of a solid carbon arrow.

Most people leave a fish arrow full length, and do not cut it shorter to match their draw length like you would with other arrows. Bowfishing arrows are extra stiff, and the extra length helps weaken the spine so it is better tuned for your bow. The extra length also adds more weight to the finished arrow for heavier hitting power.

Bowfishing Points

Match your bowfishing point to the fish and location
The point is the most important part of your bowfishing arrow set-up. Matching a bowfishing point to the fish you are after and your location can make or break your day on the water. Going after big carp on rivers/creeks is way different than gar on a calm lake. For carp, holding power and hard hitting penetration tend to be the most important. I also like a point that can reverse the barbs without having to touch it, as with bigger fish it is hard to push the arrow all the way through the fish to get at the point. For small gar in deeper in water, being able to get your arrow to the fish without water planning is important. Having a replaceable tip is an arrow saver if you bow fish in rocky areas.

On many bowfishing points there is a small hole at the base of the ferrule. This is so you can reinforce the point by installing a steel pin or nail through the shaft. Not a necessity, but if you are worried about hitting a lot of rocky surfaces, this is great insurance to not lose your point. It is recommended to use a drill press to drill the shaft for accuracy and safety.

If you’re not sure which point would work best, or if you do a lot of different types of bowfishing, checkout RPM Bowfishing points. Their APS (All Point System) uses a universal ferrule that all of their point bodies mount to easily so you can find the perfect fit for your shooting.

Putting it all Together

For building a bowfishing arrow, you need the same components as with a target or hunting arrow (except the fletching):
1) Point 2) Shaft, and 3) Nock.

The AMS safety slide system installed on a fish arrowThe only addition for a fishing arrow is a safety slide system. Some may say this is not a requirement, but in my opinion safety is always #1. The AMS Safety Slide system keeps the bowfishing line in front of the bow to prevent the line from tangling with the bow string and having the arrow snap-back to potentially hurt (or kill) you and those around you.

For the first step you need to choose a fish shaft for the arrow. I prefer a carbon/fiberglass hybrid like the Cajun Yellow Jacket or RPM Hazard (shown here). I glue the nock in place first so the safety slide is aligned properly. For gluing the nock on I use a fletching glue such as Fletch-Tite Platinum. It dries fast and has good holding strength. I glue the nock so the pre-drilled hole at the back of the shaft is even with the notch of the nock (so the safety slide stop will be on top of the shaft).

Finally, for installing the bowfishing point I use some sandpaper to rough up the end of the arrow so the epoxy has something to grip to for an extra strong hold.
Next I install the safety slide and all its components as it is important to have the slide in place before installing the bowfishing point.

Finally, for installing the bowfishing point I use some sandpaper to rough up the end of the arrow so the epoxy has something to grip to for an extra strong hold. I recommend AAE 2-Part Epoxy for mounting bowfishing points as the slow 24 hour cure time retains elasticity, yet holds like iron. This is a very good combo for points that will be taking a lot of punishment. Alignment of the point has no bearing on how it will shoot, so go with whatever you prefer. I prefer horizontal, as the barbs are out of my view and gravity has an equal impact on the barbs (if they are movable, like with the AMS Mayhem or RPM NOS Point). As I said though, it will have zero impact on how the arrow shoots.

Straight Shooting
Johnathan Karch

For more information contact:

3Rivers Archery
PO Box 517
Ashley IN 46705