A Quick Guide to Start Competing in Bowfishing Tournaments

If you enjoy bowfishing and healthy competition, you will love bowfishing tournaments. This article is a quick guide on bowfishing tournaments that will help you prepare for the experience.

Before we begin, I want to clarify that I haven’t experienced every kind of bowfishing tournament. There are many different competition styles and rule variations that make each tournament unique in its own way. My experience primarily lands with the Great Lakes Bowfishing Championship (GLBC) in Michigan, which is an extremely well run charity tournament. The tournament hosts around 275 two-person teams and regularly brings in 50,000 to 100,000 pounds of fish per year.

This article will focus on my experience with that contest and the elements that go into successfully fishing and finishing a bowfishing tournament. I will touch on a few different areas in this article including:

  • How to prepare for a tournament
  • What to expect on tournament day
  • What to expect on the water
  • What to expect during weigh-in


How to prepare for a bowfishing tournament

Preparing might actually be the most important step when fishing a tournament. You’re not only competing against other teams, you’re competing against time. When you are out on the water and something goes wrong (troller dies, fish disappear, weather gets bad, too many fish in the boat, etc.) you need to make quick decisions. Those decisions can be the difference between finishing at the top or bottom of the rankings. I have complied a list below of things you should consider when preparing for a tournament.

  • How do I check-in?
  • What is the fishing boundary?
  • Is all of my equipment functional?
  • Where will the fish be?
  • Where will I launch? (if on a boat)
  • Where will I move to if I don’t find fish?
  • Does my truck run well? (Am I allowed to get my truck dirty? 😄)
  • What are the rules of the tournament?
  • How long will I be on the water?
  • Do I need to bring food/water/bug spray/sunscreen?

One strategy that many teams use is scouting the fishing area a day or two before the tournament starts. This is a great strategy if you don’t know the area well. It will get you get acclimated with areas you will be fishing and prepared when you need to move due to fishing or weather conditions.

#TeamLoxley Tip: Make sure to read the event rules before scouting. Many tournaments do not allow bowfishing within fishing boundaries in the days leading up to the competition.


What to expect on tournament day

It’s tournament day. The excitement is mounting and you are ready to win this thing… but so is everyone else. There is anticipation in the air when you arrive at the tournament starting area (See video below). You will see super competitive teams who are decked out and ready to shoot, and you will see laid back shooters just looking for a good time (and maybe some money). One thing is abundantly clear, everyone is very supportive and welcoming. If you are a first time shooter or a returning vet, you will be welcomed with open arms.

At some point before they send you off, the organizers will start with a quick conversation about safety and rules. It is important to pay attention to these announcements, even if you have participated previously! Things can change from year to year, and you don’t want to be disqualified because you missed an important rule change.

The organizers will then have an organized system to send you off. This system will depend on the number of teams in the tournament. In the GLBC, with up to 275 teams, sending everyone at one time could get a little crazy. So teams are given numbers and the numbers are called two at a time until everyone has been called. This allows a steady flow from the starting point and alleviates some traffic congestion.

#TeamLoxley Tip: If you are boating, getting to the boat launch first will get you on the water much faster. You won’t have to wait behind a bunch of people who don’t know how to back up a boat. 😄

NOTE: Getting to the dock first is not more important than safety. Follow the local traffic laws and be courteous to other drivers. Remember, not everyone on the road is in the tournament.


What to expect on the water

This is an area that won’t be too different if you bowfish regularly. There are some things that you will want to pay close attention to while out on the water, but the fishing should be quite familiar.

Perhaps the biggest difference between a regular outing and a tournament is the traffic. There will be more people bowfishing than you might be used to. You don’t need to compete for space; the fish will move around pretty well with so many people fishing. If you are approaching another boat, feel free to ask them how they are doing, but don’t shoot in their direction.

When shooting in a tournament, you could be fishing for a long time. It’s easy to forget that you need to hydrate and/or eat. You will get hyper-focused on the fishing and forget that your body needs nutrients and water to keep that focus. Your performance will suffer if you don’t do this, so make a deliberate effort to eat and drink (water) while you are fishing. 

Keep an eye on the time. You must be at weigh-in by the deadline. Most tournaments will disqualify teams who miss the weigh-in deadline by even a minute. If you are in a boat, take into consideration how long it will take to get to the launch, load the boat, and drive to weigh-in. You will also want to leave a small amount of time for any unforeseen circumstances. You would be surprised how many people get on the fish late and try to take it to the last second. They keep fishing and don’t leave enough time, so they end up disqualified because of a problem they didn’t anticipate.

#TeamLoxley Tip: You will be pulling in a lot of line during a tournament and your hands need protection. Loxley has a solution. The idea for The Graves Gloves was developed because our hands would be torn up after every tournament. We would get really bad line burn on our pinky and couldn’t find a glove that we liked. These gloves will save your hands! Pick up a pair before your next tournament.


What to expect during weigh-in

This is the fun part: weighing all that hard work you put in. If it’s a two-day tournament, you can get an idea of where you stand after weigh-in on day one and adjust your strategy accordingly. If it’s a one-day tournament, you can wait in anticipation as team after team weighs in until you find out your final standing. No matter how you place, this is one of the best parts of a tournament, as you get to see all of the fish the teams bring in. Typically, there is an area for the big fish of the day to be displayed. Stop by this area and you’ll probably hear someone say, “I saw one bigger, but I missed.”

This is a great time to sit back, relax, and talk to your fellow archer anglers about their day and how they did. You will be filled with stories about big fish they missed, and hilarious moments from their day.

#TeamLoxley Tip: Teams that do well might be more forthcoming with their strategy after final weigh-in. Find some teams that placed high and ask them how they did so well; most people won’t pass up an opportunity to talk about their success.



Bowfishing tournaments are a lot of fun, but they can also be demanding. If you are well prepared and up for a challenge, you could finish near the top and win some money. If you just want to have a good time and maybe get lucky with a big fish, that’s ok too. No matter your motivation for joining, always remember to be safe and have fun.

We will be writing some future articles that focus on more detailed strategy of fishing tournaments, so sign-up and stay tuned to Loxley for more bowfishing articles and news.

1 comment

Texas Jack

Texas Jack

Well stated!

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