I started bowfishing some 30 years ago, belaboring carp along a muddy creek near our suburban home. My outfit was pretty simple; nondescript 30-pound longbow, homemade reel and basic fiberglass fishing arrow holding a fixed-barbed point. Bright surveying cord connected the arrow to the reel. The outfit was inefficient and maybe even dangerous. Most of the carp I spied were pretty safe, given the limited range of this primitive setup.
Things have changed dramatically since those early years, bowfishing equipment is now more efficient and, perhaps most importantly, much safer. This makes getting started in the action-packed sport of bowfishing easier than ever, whether target fish include invasive carp, native suckers, buffalofish or gar, or something more exotic like saltwater stingrays or Midwest paddlefish.
“Bowfishing is a fun and exciting pastime the entire family can enjoy together. In fact, bowfishing is a great way to get kids hooked on archery and bowhunting.”
This is no place for your favorite hunting bow, as bowfishing includes copious mud, blood and water. Instead choose an old compound or metal-handled recurve with standard taps that allow attaching bowfishing accessories. Hoyt’s affordable Dorado, Tiburon or Gamemaster II recurves are ideal. Forty-five to 50 pounds is all you’ll need, and instinctive finger shooting is the best approach for “from-the-hip” shooting at moving targets.
TRUGLO’s STRING FINGER GUARDS allow you to shoot without getting a glove/tab wet, providing combined finger protection and nocking point. All you need then are polarized fishing glasses to cut glair and help see beneath reflective water (remember to aim low, as water refraction means targets are deeper than they appear), a simple boat in deep water or grunge clothes if wading shallows (the most comfortable approach on hot summer days).
Next you’ll need a bowfishing reel designed to store line before the shot, pay out smoothly during the shot, and allow arrow retrieval after. The most affordable are basic drum reels, and this is a good place to start. They come in tape-on or screw-in (stabilizer tap) and are excellent for short-range work on spawning carp. Another option is a closed-face reel set on a stabilizer-tap-mounted reel seat. These have the advantage of allowing longer shots, and a drag to fight bigger fish. Finally there is the bottle reel, a finger lever engaging a roller system that neatly stores line in a side-mounted plastic bottle.
Bowfishing accessories are noticeably different than bowhunting gear. Bowfishing arrows must be extra heavy to penetrate deep into resistant water while retaining enough energy to skewer ruggedly-scaled, boney fish. Solid fiberglass arrows—like TRUGLO’s SPEED-SHOT BOWFISHING ARROW,
which includes super-bright florescent hue to help track arrows under water and make adjustments after a miss—are standard issue. This arrow holds a heavy, barbed point that holds fish tight after connecting. The best, like TRUGLO’s SPEED-SHOT BOWFISHING POINT, include hardened (and replaceable) tips to withstand repeated impacts with rocky bottoms, and a system allowing quick reversal of the swiveling barbs to help remove speared fish faster.
One of the biggest advancements to bowfishing-arrow safety is slide systems like TRUGLO’s ARROW SLIDE. These carry line while drawing, keeping it in front of the riser and rest where it cannot tangle to cause a dangerous bounce-back. TRUGLO’s ARROW SLIDE is round for even pressure while pushing through water to provide better accuracy. The slide stops on the point up front and has a 360-degree locking collar at the rear. On release the arrow shoots through the slide, hits the rear collar, trailing line promoting straight flight without fletchings.
Another safety benefit is a bowfishing-specific arrow rest, like TRUGLO’s new SPRING-SHOT or ACCU-X CAPTURE BOWFISHING RESTS. These are designed to securely hold a heavy fishing arrow in place while wading or waiting—the SPRING-SHOT with surrounding stainless-steel spring, the ACCU-X with four waterproof, adjustable and replaceable brushes inside lightweight, encircling housings—follow-up shots made quicker with drop-in top slots. A standard hunting rest would likely collapse under the weight of a heavy fishing arrow, but these are beefy rests made to withstand that weight and last countless seasons under punishing conditions.
Bowfishing is a fun and exciting pastime the entire family can enjoy together. In fact, bowfishing is a great way to get kids hooked on archery and bowhunting, as wading in cooling, muddy lakes and collecting a few fish is normally right up any youngster’s alley!