Bowfishing Gear for Beginners

Bowfishing is a rapidly growing sport that also serves the purpose of removing invasive fish species from lakes and other bodies of water. 

Bowfishing can take place either in freshwater and saltwater. The objective is to target Carp, Gar, Catfish, Stingrays, and other fish species. 

The regulations and species you’re allowed to shoot differ slightly in every state. The best way to start is by going with a bowfishing guide.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the bowfishing gear you’ll need to get your bowfishing adventure started!

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Essentials to Start Bowfishing

Bowfishing Bows

PSE Discovery 2 Muzzy Bowfishing Package

While you can use any bow for bowfishing, most people use a bow designed specifically for the sport that has little to no let-off and much lower draw weights.

An advantage of these bows is you do not have to be at full draw to take a shot. Snapshots can be effective on fast-moving fish. One thing missing on a bowfishing bow is sights.

When bowfishing, the shooter shoots instinctively. There are many choices for arrow rests, and use is based on personal preference.

Bowfishing Reels

AMS Retriever Pro

The three main reels used in bowfishing are retriever reels, spin-cast reels, and hand-wrap reels. Hand-wrap is the simplest and cheapest of the three.

The reel is a circular spool that allows the line to be pulled off, and the shooter’s hand wraps the line back on the real. The spin-cast is similar to and sometimes is the Zebco 808.

The reel works just like you would expect, push the button before the shot, shoot, then reel the fish in. A retriever works in a different way.

You do not have to remember to push a button, you just shoot at a fish, and the line comes out freely.

To reel in the fish, you simply pull a lever that engages a wheel in the retriever and cranks the handle to reel in the fish.

Bowfishing Arrows

AMS A207-Wht Fiberglass Arrow, Amsankor Qt Point, White Shaft & Amseverglide Safety Slide

The most common arrow in bowfishing is made of fiberglass, but there are aluminum and carbon arrows as well. A bowfishing arrow is solid and heavier than a standard archery arrow, and fetching is not needed.

There are many different points for bowfishing. Most use a barb to keep the fish on the arrow that can be turned around or removed to get the fish off the arrow.

The arrow is attached to the bowfishing line by tying to a hole on the back of the arrow or using a safety slide.

The safety slide was designed to eliminate snapback, which could injure the shooter if the line tied to the back of the arrow gets tangled on the bow.

While many argue this point, safety slides are cheap insurance, so use them.

Bowfishing Techniques

If you are bowfishing during the day, polarized shades are a must to cut the glare reflecting from the water.

Bowfishing can be done year-round, but spring and fall are the best time since the water temperatures are right for the fish to come into shallower waters where you can see them.

Bow shooting is done instinctively, meaning no sight is used. Due to refraction, if you aim directly at a fish, you will shoot over the top of the fish. To compensate, you must aim below the fish.

“Aim low” is a term often heard referring to the fact you need to aim below the fish, usually much lower than you think.

You can find fish by trolling along the bank. Four to five feet of water seems to be a good start, but fish can be shot in deeper water.

Other great places to try are a spillway below a dam, creeks, and rivers feeding a lake.

If you have never been bowfishing, we suggest going with a guide to learn more about where to find fish and how to bowfish.

Bowfishing Boat & Lights

Morsen 200W LED Flood Lights

While it can be fun to blowfish from the bank or wading in a creek, most bowfishing is done from a boat at nighttime.

Almost every boat has been used for bowfishing, but aluminum boats are primarily used due to bowfishing in shallow, stump-filled waters.

A platform is fitted to the bow of the boat. This platform can be flush or raised, and both have their advantages.

Lights are mounted on the bow and are powered by a generator, inverter, or run directly off batteries depending on the type.

High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights seem to be one of the most popular lights for bowfishing. LEDs are quickly gaining momentum, but halogen lights are the most common due to their cheaper cost.

The bowfishing boat can be propelled using a troller, kicker motor, or a fan using a small engine. It can be rigged to be steered from the front.

Airboats have been used frequently in recent years, but with noise restrictions growing, their use is sure to drop.

The most popular boat size is currently 2072, which can accommodate multiple shooters on board.