How to Bowfish – Bowfishing Gear Basics (Part Three)
The basic gear you need for bowfishing is a compound, lever, recurve, or even long bow, a bowfishing reel outfitted with bowfishing line, and a bowfishing arrow. The least expensive way to build a bowfishing rig is to purchase a used compound bow from a pawn shop or through the internet through websites such as eBay or Craigslist and outfit it with a bowfishing reel kit. I have seen some of the old compound or recurve bows sell for around $50 at many of my area pawn shops. What you are looking for when purchasing a used bow is a good string (one that is not frayed too badly or that is too old) and good limbs (making sure top and bottom limbs are not warped or cracked). You can purchase a full “ready to bowfish” rig from online retail stores like Garlio.com if you want to buy everything new. The bottom line is that bowfishing gear is relatively inexpensive and easy to acquire.
Many professional bowfishers prefer lever bows. To simplify what this kind of bow this is, a lever bow is a combination of a recurve and a compound bow, all in one rig. Oneida is one company that has been well known for producing lever bows for many years and many bowfishers search far and wide to find used ones in various places. The reason these bows are so popular is they have very little let-off and perform much like a recurve but have the stored energy and power of a compound bow. Since you are “snap shooting” this is important but many bowfishers find using a regular compound bow or recurve fine as well.
Another thing to note is that your bow set up doesn’t need to shoot super fast for bowfishing. What you are going for is a balance between penetrating power and easy arrow retrieval. If you shoot too much poundange in your draw weight it will be harder to retrieve your arrow from the lake or river bottom and you may increase the damage potential to your arrow if you strikes rocks or other hard objects shooting super fast. I would recommend most bowfishing rigs to be around the 45 to 50 pounds in draw weight at the maximum. After all, most of your shots in bowfishing will be well within a short range unlike many targets on land.
There are many reel kits that you can purchase and most of them bolt right to the riser of your bow or mount where your stabilizer would go in the case of a reel seat. Now these bowfishing reels are a bit more expensive than a regular fishing reel but you are also retrieving more weight with the larger fish you will encounter while bowfishing. I much prefer a bowfishing reel on my bow than a spindle-style rig where you have to wind the string on by hand. Although cheaper, winding your string by hand is time consuming. Bowfishing can be fast paced with multiple shot opportunities in even a single minute so you want to be able to shoot, retrieve, and get ready to shoot again as fast as possible. A quality bowfishing reel will stand up to the test of time and retrieving large fish over and over again so you don’t want to be cheap in this department. You get what you pay for in the bowfishing realm as in many other areas of life. Spend money once on something that is of high quality. One such reel I have fished with before is the Muzzy Xtreme Duty Bowfishing Reel . For bowfishing line I recommend 150lb test or stronger. You are going to be pulling in some big fish and you might face other challenges, such as snags or hang-ups on retrieving your arrow so you want to have enough strength in your line.
As far as arrows and points go, I would recommend the Muzzy Fish Arrow Classic Carp Point Nock & Safety Slide. This is one of the basic arrows and points I have bowfished with for many years. The Carp Point is a really quick and easy way to release fish off your arrow and get back in the action again. Just unscrew the point and the barbs go from holding the fish (held back) to releasing the fish (pivoting forward). If you are after heavy quarry like alligator gar, I would recommend the Muzzy Alcatraz Bowfishing Point. This is a three blade point that is designed to handle really large fish and fight long battles.
The main rule to follow when bowfishing is always have more than one arrow. Many bowfishing kits come with two arrows. You always want a back up arrow because anything can happen, and it does, to the one you are fishing with. Bowfishing arrows are incredibly strong but even the strongest things can break or malfunction sometimes.
For bank fishing or bowfishing on a boat with lights at night, a good bow mounted flashlight is a good piece of gear to have so you can see more shot opportunities outside the already present light. I recommend a white flashlight as you want to penetrate the darkness of the water as you scan for fish to shoot. There are many good flashlights on the market but a high quality wide beam LED light would be my first pick as it can penetrate the water with little glare and the batteries will last you a long time.
I sincerely have enjoyed writing this series and I hope you have enjoyed reading it as well. Thank you so much for doing so. May your arrows impale many scales. Now go shoot some fish!