For many, hearing the words bowfishing tournament can be intimidating. You might start to think, “I'm not that good so why should I try?” Or, "People are too competitive, I just want to have fun." Or even, "I don't have a boat, so I can't enter."
Let me clear up some of your concerns and talk about the different types of bowfishing tournaments out there that you can participate in and how they work.
First, let's address two common myths about bowfishing tournaments:
1. Bowfishing Tournaments Are Only for Competitive Archer Anglers
Bowfishing tournaments are some of the most friendly competitive events I have ever participated in. The other participants are always helpful and typically happy to see each other succeed. In fact, I have learned so much about bowfishing from others who I have competed against. Where else can you find such a large concentration of experts and such a wealth information? You could probably find the same information on the internet, but it's difficult to know who to trust there. In a tournament, just look at where someone placed to know if they have good information. (Someone who didn't place well could also be helpful, this method just gives you a little more confidence than the internet.)
If you have the courage to strike up a conversation with someone at a tournament, you can learn a lot about lights, boats, motors, bows, and so much more. If you don't have the courage to chat someone up, just take a stroll past their bow or boat setups; you can learn a lot about how how they fish by checking out their equipment. Especially keep an eye on the people that finish near the top of the rankings. Just remember to keep a respectful distance.
2. I Can't Compete in a Bowfishing Tournament Without a Boat
That is the most common reason people give me for not entering a tournament. There are a couple ways of handling this:
1. Let the tournament organizer know you want to shoot but don't have a partner or a boat. Chances are, the organizer know someone who has a boat but needs a partner. Try to give the organizer a few weeks notice in this situation. You don't want to show up the day of the shoot and expect to find a partner; most people will likely have figured out their plan already.
2. Ditch, docks, and shore shooting shouldn't be dismissed. If you hit the right time, you might find more fish than those on boats. I can't tell you how many times we have ditched the boat to walk to places the boat can't get because the carp were rolling like crazy in those spots.
The bottom line is you don't need a boat to enjoy a bowfishing tournament. Try to find ways to participate and enjoy the camaraderie and learning you will experience.
Now, let's take a look at different types of bowfishing tournament styles and how they work:
Big 20 Tournament
Definition: Your 20 biggest fish will be weighed to determine your rank.
Example: Only two teams are in the tournament. Team One's 20 heaviest fish weigh 376 lbs. Team Two's 20 heaviest fish weigh 412 lbs. Here would be the ranking of this tournament.
1st Place - Team Two with 412 pounds
2nd Place - Team One with 376 pounds
Team Loxley Tip - This will also sometimes be called a big 10, big 30, big some-other-number. The tournament rules are very similar in each case, with the main difference being the number of fish you are allowed to weigh.
Team Loxley Tip - One thing you should pay attention to is the species of you're fish allowed to weigh in; some tournaments only allow certain species or put a limit on a certain number of a type of species. Check out the Loxley Legends Tournament page HERE to see how the Loxley tournament is set up.
Team Loxley Tip - This is a great tournament format for someone without a boat as you only need 20 fish to win. If you can find the big ones, you can take home the top prize.
Definition: The total number of fish you bring in count towards your total, the weigh of the fish does not matter.
Example: Only two teams are in the tournament. Team One brought in 74 fish. Team Two brought in 78 fish. Here would be the ranking of this tournament.
1st Place - Team Two with 78 fish
2nd Place - Team One with 74 fish
Team Loxley Tip - If you target smaller fish during a numbers-style tournament, it helps with boat/barrel mobility. This can be a strategic move because if it's a long tournament, a bigger catch of lighter fish can keep you from needing to unload.
Team Loxley Tip - Always check the rules so you know what types of fish you can count towards your total.
Total Weight Tournament
Definition: All tournament-legal fish you bring in are weighed and totaled. There is no limit to the number of fish you can weigh.
Example: Only two teams are in the tournament. Team One brought in 78 fish and the total weight of the fish is 698 pounds. Team Two brought in 71 fish and the total weight of the fish is 727 pounds. Here would be the ranking of this tournament.
1st Place - Team Two with 727 pounds
2nd Place - Team One with 698 pounds
Team Loxley Tip - Don't worry if you don't have a boat. You can win these tournaments by ditch, dock, and shore shooting.
Team Loxley Tip - If you do have a boat and are bringing in a lot of fish, be careful with how much weight you put in the boat. We've watched many teams sink their boats because they didn't want to leave their spot. We lean towards safety in these situations.
Definition: When you have a chance to win additional prizes other than the main prize in a competition.
A common side-pot competition during a bowfishing tournament is for the heaviest fish of a particular species. It can also be smallest fish of a particular species or some other form of competition outside of the main tournament objective. Some side-pot prizes are included in your tournament entry fee, while other tournaments may charge a separate fee to participate in the side-pot that you pay on the day of the tournament.
Example: Biggest carp side-pot: Shooter 1 brought in a carp that weighs 28 pounds. Shooter 2 brought in a carp that weighs 31 pounds.
The result in this example is that Shooter 2 wins the side-pot with a 31 pound carp.
Team Loxley Tip - Side-pots can be part of any of the tournaments listed above.
Yes, You Can Shoot in a Bowfishing Tournament!
There are a lot of tournaments out there. If you're interested in becoming more involved in the sport of bowfishing, I highly recommend you participate in one. The Loxley Legends Tournament is right around the corner, too! Sign up today and compete for a chance to win $1000, the champion belt, and unlimited bragging rights.
If you see me at a tournament, I welcome you to come up and chat me up. I love the sport of bowfishing and am happy to talk with anyone - new or experienced -about it.
Remember, it doesn’t matter if your in a $5,000 boat or a $50,000 boat, what matters is if you know how to find the fish. There’s a chance for anyone to win at tournaments. Sometimes it requires more homework and time, but even in a small boat or no boat you can be successful. As the old saying goes: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Good luck to you all in future tournaments!
- Johnathan Beebe
Johnathan Beebe is an expert bowfisherman from Michigan with 20+ years of experience. He is the most recent back-to-back winner of the Great Lakes Bowfishing Championship (2019 and 2021) and a proud member of the Loxley Bowfishing team.