There are many aspects of bowfishing that make it unique. There are also many areas of bowfishing that cross over with other archery sports. The arrow used for bowfishing is a little of both. It’s unique in its function, but not in its form. Today, we'll be talking about the anatomy of a bowfishing arrow and try to help answer all of your questions about the features and characteristics of the bowfishing arrow.
What is a bowfishing arrow shaft made of?
This answer can differ depending on where you go and what type of arrow you get. The most common material is a full fiberglass arrow. Carbon-fiberglass composite arrows and aluminum-fiberglass composite arrows are also options. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages of each.
Full fiberglass arrows are known in the archery world for their durability, straightness, weight, and reusability. Full fiberglass arrows have been the bowfishing standard for a long time and can last for years if maintained properly. Another appealing factor - fiberglass bowfishing arrows are inexpensive and you can find them for $2-$8 each.
#Team Loxley Tip – Fiberglass arrows can splinter. Always check your arrows for splinters and fraying. If you find your arrow splintering, it’s time to throw it a retirement party.
The upgraded version of the bowfishing arrow shaft is a carbon version. You can get a full carbon or a carbon and fiberglass composite. They tend to be a tad lighter than arrows made of full fiberglass. Advantages of carbon composite bowfishing arrows are: their straightness, a more stable and accurate shot, and faster recovery after launching (stiffness). The faster recovery is helpful when the arrow hits the water. If the arrow recovers its straightness before hitting the water, it is more likely to better penetrate and fly straight in the water. These arrow shafts are a bit more expensive though and will cost between $6 and $14 each.
#Team Loxley Tip – You may not need a carbon-fiberglass composite arrow if you are shooting at lower draw weights. These arrows perform better as your draw weight gets up to 50 pounds or more. They prove to be invaluable when you are going after large fish.
This type of arrow shaft is harder to find these days, but some archer anglers still use them. They are available to buy, but some people prefer to make their own using fiberglass arrows and an aluminum cover. They are known for two main benefits: their ability to penetrate deep water and their rock-solid stiffness. But those features come at a price. A fully assembled aluminum-fiberglass bowfishing arrow can cost you between $25 and $35. If you are shooting strictly deep water, these might be a solid option to consider. If you are shooting in areas with lots of hard surfaces, you could end up with some troubles. These bowfishing arrows tend to bend and not return to form after they hit a hard surface. Once an aluminum arrow is bent, it most likely will not be able to be used again. Just like with carbon arrows, these are made to be shot using higher draw weights (50 pounds or more).
#Team Loxley Tip – If you are shooting some sort of aluminum arrow, don’t ever shoot a bent arrow. It’s tough letting a $30 investment go, but you could end up with a much larger hospital bill.
What are the typical measurements of bowfishing arrow shafts?
The answer to this question can differ depending on what type of fish you are pursuing. We are going to focus on unmodified arrow shafts for this section, but keep in mind that some experienced archer anglers modify arrows to fit their needs. If you modify your arrow, tell us how in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Bowfishing arrow shaft length
- 32 inches
Bowfishing arrow diameter
- 5/16 Inch (Typical)
- 22/64 inch (Large fish/Aluminum)
Bowfishing arrow weight (with tip, nock, and slide stop) The weight of arrows is measured in grains. (1000 grains = 2.29 oz)
- Fiberglass: 1400 to 1800 grains
- Carbon-fiberglass composite: 1200 to 1400 grains
- Full carbon: 1000 to 1100 grains
#Team Loxley Tip – You don’t necessarily need to cut your arrow to match draw length like other archery sports, keeping the full length to maintain a heavier weight may be the ideal set-up. What you gain in stiffness from cutting an arrow, you may lose in penetration. Keep this in mind when deciding on modifying your arrows.
The spine is the degree to which an arrow will flex (See illustration below). This is how we measure the stiffness of the arrows. The lower the number, the stiffer the arrow. There are many ways to set up a test for your own arrows to test their stiffness, here is a link to a home build you can do yourself. To learn even more about arrow spines, check out this breakdown from Easton.
The spines on bowfishing arrows can vary depending on the material that you use. Understanding what type of spine you have and what you need could be an important factor in your success when bowfishing. Keep in mind that the length of your arrow will be a factor in your spine; a shorter arrow will give your arrow a stiffer spine.
- Full fiberglass spine should be around .250 -.500 deflection.
- Carbon-fiberglass will give you 20%-50% improvement in deflection from full fiberglass arrows.
- Full carbon arrows will give you 40%-60% improvement in deflection from full fiberglass.
What are the features of a bowfishing arrow shaft?
There are different features of the arrow shaft that are typical for archery in general and some that are uniquely designed for bowfishing. We will explore the features of the bowfishing arrow shaft in detail and highlight a few variations we know of. If you modify your arrow in a way that we don’t mention here, please leave a comment describing what you do and how it helps you.
This is a part of the bowfishing arrow that follows closely with traditional archery standards. A typical bowfishing arrow has an end called a swage, which is the conical shaped end. This allows a conventional nock to be installed at the back of the arrow. There are other options for the nock end, but this tends to be the most commonly used setup in bowfishing.
#Team Loxley Tip – Your nock is going to slide over your rest. You want that arrow to slide as smoothly as possible over that transition. Always be sure to get the right size nock to avoid any kind of trajectory changes as the arrow leaves the bow.
This hole is one of the uniquely designed features made specifically for bowfishing. It is typically about 1 ½ inches from where the swage (conical end) starts. This hole is sometimes drilled shallow, but can also be fully drilled through. There are two separate functions this hole can serve.
- Slide Stop
The first function is to allow a screw for the slide stop. The slide stop prevents the safety slide from coming off the back of an arrow. This hole can be drilled shallow or fully drilled through, either works. The safety slide is one method of tying line to the arrow that we will cover in a future post.
This hole can also serve as a spot to tie the line to the bowfishing arrow. In this case, the hole needs to be fully drilled through to function correctly. This is another method of tying line to an arrow that we will also cover in the future.
The tip end is a simple feature of a bowfishing arrow. The end is typically cut flat to allow a tip to be placed over it. This is different from the nock end as you don’t have to worry about the tip sliding across your arrow rest as it leaves the bow. This means overhang should not be a problem. There also may be a hole in this end to more securely attach the point to the shaft. We will talk about tips and points in future posts.
The bowfishing arrow is one of the most important pieces of your bowfishing kit. If you take care of your arrows, they will last a long time. But even if you take great care of your arrows, it’s not uncommon to break them while shooting into rough, rocky areas. You may also lose arrows in the deep and murky waters. Always try to have back-up arrows prepared, especially for tournament bowfishing.
If you run out of arrows and your partner still has one, there is some good news: You are going to get a lot of practice driving the boat!
Always try to understand what tools and strategies you need in order to be the most successful. It is possible cutting your arrows is necessary because you need stiffer arrows with your heavier draw weight. You might shoot a lower draw weight and need all the arrow weight you can for penetration. It's a balancing act and only you can make that decision based on your individual needs.
Tell us in the comments below how you set up your arrows and why you do set them up the way that you do.