Best Bowfishing Reels 2021

Just as fishing rods have different styles of reels, the best bowfishing reels vary widely in type. The two most popular bowfishing reel styles today are the bottle reel and the spincast reel.

Today, we’re going to learn about the best bowfishing reels, and the difference between bottle reels and spincast reels!

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What is a Bottle Reel?

A bottle reel has a bottle that collects the line as it is retrieved. Bottle reels are designed specifically for bowfishing and are best used to retrieve small to medium-size fish.

They are mounted to the holes where a sight is normally located.

Retriever reels bail the line into a bottle instead of onto a spool. To apply drag, a button or lever has to be pressed.

When it isn’t pressed the line is free spooling so you don’t have to remember to press the button.

It’s more that you have to remember to let the button go, which is much easier given the fast-paced, split-second nature of bowfishing.

The only real downside of a bottle reel is that sometimes there may not be enough drag power to reel in larger or tougher fish.

For experienced bow fishermen, the bottle reel is preferred because they’re easy to use and maintain.

 

1- AMS Retriever Pro

AMS Bowfishing Retriever Pro Combo Kit

These reels are mounted on the side of the bow in the mounting holes where a sight would typically go. The AMS Retriever Pro reel has a trigger or handle that must be squeezed during retrieval, which essentially pinches the fishing line between two wheels, pulling it into the bottle.

Pros:

  • Smooth reel that doesn’t tangle easily
  • Easy installation
  • Simplicity at its finest- no buttons to push

Cons:

…Nothing. It’s a great buy and we’re proud to recommend the AMS Retriever Pro reel!

Consensus:

Overall, the AMS Retriever Pro is an amazing value for the money. That, combined with flawless performance and a 200 lb line in the reel, is why we recommend it.

The quality and value of this reel are undeniable.

2- AMS Tournament Series Reel

AMS Bowfishing Retriever TNT Reel

AMS also makes a Tournament Series reel which features a longer crank for added leverage and a faster retrieve than the Retriever Pro.

The tournament series reel is slightly more expensive, but it’s definitely worth the investment if you’re going to be bowfishing often.

Pros:

  • Incredibly fast gear ratio…the best we’ve ever seen, bar-none.
  • Very easy to install if you have an AMS reel already
  • Fast retrieve speed
  • Quality design- you could easily go years without needing to replace this reel

Cons:

The only thing we don’t love about the AMS Tournament Series reel is the price. It’s a lot to pay for any bowfishing reel, any way you slice it.

The Verdict:

So we aren’t crazy about the price tag on the AMS Tournament Series reel.

However, after talking it over, we determined that, like the AMS Retriever, it does save you money in the long run because its quality design eliminates the need to replace your reels every couple of years.

Overall, we were happy to pay a higher price for exceptional quality.

The gar we came across on our next trip didn’t share our happiness, though.

What is a Spincast Reel?

A spincast reel is fairly different than a bottle reel. For starters, a spincast bowfishing reel looks almost exactly like a fishing spincast reel, except bigger.

Unlike bottle reels, spincast reels feature a push-button that releases the inner bail and allows the line to spool off the reel at the shot.

The bail is re-engaged simply by turning the crank, which starts retrieving the line – just like a spincast fishing reel.

This style of bowfishing reel also features an adjustable drag, which allows you to better play the fish once they’re on your line.

One downside to this style of reel is that forgetting to press the button before shooting can result in a lost arrow.

This issue can be resolved by tying your bowfishing line directly to the arrow, but that method is not widely used and is generally not recommended as it can cause the arrow to snap back at the shooter.

Keep in mind that with any spincast-style bowfishing reel, you’ll also need to buy a reel seat and a rod attachment, as both of those items are needed to install the reel on your bow.

When the handle is depressed, the reel is in free-spool mode, meaning the line can be freely pulled out from the bottle with no resistance.

This is a nice feature, as there’s no button to forget to press, which can happen often with a spincast reel.

The AMS reels have an anodized aluminum and plastic housing, along with a durable (AMS markets it as “unbreakable”) plastic bottle that holds the line.

Popular spincast reels include the Muzzy XD and the Zebco 808 Bowfisher. Both of these reels are durable, easy to use, and have been widely adopted in the bowfishing community.

Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro Spin Style Reel 

Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro Spin Style Reel with Integrated Reel Mounting system

When it comes to the Muzzy 1069 reel, retrieve speed is the name of the game. We know it. They know it. We know they know it. They know that we know that they know it.

This is why retrieval speed is one of the main selling points marketed by Muzzy for the Muzzy 1069 reel.

However, their claims aren’t pure hyperbole. They back up every bit of that speed they advertise.

Combine that with a high-quality, durable design and 150 lbs of premium tournament line, and you got a contender for the best bowfishing reel on the market.

Pros:

  • Ambidextrous. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal to a lot of seasoned bowfisherman out there, but it is to us. The simple fact that this reel isn’t limited to strictly right or strictly left-handed shooters is great. I’ve read a ton of Amazon customer reviews about other great reels whose many positive attributes were overshadowed by one simple thing- THE CUSTOMERS HAD ACCIDENTALLY ORDERED THE REEL FOR THE WRONG HAND
  • Integrated steel mounting bracket, which reduces the weight of the reel and gives a more controlled feel to the user
  • Does not limit you to small fish. You can take on all comers with no worries using the Muzzy 1069 reel

Cons:

  • Changing the reels takes a disproportionate amount of time
  • The reel has been known to bind after many shots. We haven’t experienced this firsthand, but we’ve heard about it enough time from friends of ours who own a Muzzy 1069 reel

The Verdict:

We had a GREAT time shooting with the Muzzer 1069 reel. The fast retrieval makes for more fast-paced action on the water.

But given the negative reviews we’ve heard, we have yet to see how it will hold up long term. Time will tell.

Wrapping it Up:

There are many bowfishing reels on the market, but it’s important that all bow fishermen have access to the most updated products and information.

Truth of the matter is, we were glad to write this review because we felt that the very limited coverage of bowfishing topics was doing an injustice to those seeking up-to-date information.

So hopefully this guide to the best bowfishing reels will help you make an informed decision, and allow you the maximum amount of fun when you’re out there on the water. Until next time, readers!