Bowfishing is demanding on equipment and archer anglers. During a fish spawn, you will shoot hundreds of times in a single outing.
The arrows used for bowfishing are typically heavier than standard hollow carbon shafts used for archery. Aluminum, solid fiberglass, and fiberglass arrows with integrated carbon spines are all commonly seen in bowfishing. Learn more about bowfishing arrows in our article here.
These factors make it especially important to use equipment that is not only functional but durable as well. Your bowfishing arrow rest needs to handle the additional abuse from heavier arrows and a greater number of shots.
Choosing a bowfishing arrow rest
The key when selecting a bowfishing arrow rest, or any rest for that matter, is that it does not alter the path of the arrow. The arrow rest, nock and string need to be in perfect alignment throughout the duration of the shot. This will lead to the most consistent shots.
Although, it is worth noting that bowfishing shots are relatively short, so accuracy isn’t as important as target shooting. For reference, a 15 to 20 yard shot would be considered long for most bowfishermen. The longer the shot the greater any misalignment will affect the path of the arrow (diagram below); a shot that is 1 inch wide of target at short range could be feet wide of target at long range. There are adjustments on all rests to tune your rest so that all of the components are in alignment horizontally and vertically. Target practice with your bow will help you get everything properly tuned once you select a rest.
Plunger style rests
A special note for finger shooters, you may have a bigger issue with center path alignment (left to right) because the string needs to roll off the fingers during release. This action brings the string out of alignment (left to right) with the nock and rest and causes left to right movement of the arrow as it travels through the rest. When target shooting, this will cause groupings that look like a horizontal oval. Some archers choose to use a plunger style rest to reduce the side to side movement; this style rest acts like the suspension on your car to soften the movement. We don’t recommend them for bowfishing for two reasons: one, the shots are generally extremely short range so most won't notice, and two, bowfishing requires a lot of movement and they don’t hold your arrow very well.
Shelf style bowfishing rests
Most bows have a built in shelf to shoot from, this is about as simple as rests get but they don’t offer much in the way of containment of the arrow. With all of the moving around and jostling associated with bowfishing, these wouldn’t be our first choice as it makes it easier for the arrow to fall off if you aren’t used to using your finger to hold the arrow in place. It’s desirable to put a piece of pliable material on the shelf to help dampen the shot and protect the finish on your bow; the soft side of velcro or even a small piece of leather will work just fine as a wear pad.
A note to compound or lever bow shooters: shooting off the shelf may not be possible for you, the sight window on many bows are cut too deep so the arrow will not be in alignment.
Containment style bowfishing rests
Anything that holds your arrow in place is very beneficial in bowfishing. Fish can move quite a bit so you will be readjusting your bow and shooting instinctively. This makes containment style rests - like a whisker biscuit, carpzilla rest, or quick draw rest - great for bowfishing. A whisker biscuit will work fairly well, but sometimes they will struggle to hold the heavier bowfishing arrows when the whiskers get wet. Other containment style rests like the quick draw or carpzilla, are made from solid materials and essentially mimic shooting off the shelf. Containment style rests are very reliable and affordable.
Drop away bowfishing rest
These bowfishing rests are very popular for hunting on land but not preferred for bowfishing. Heavier arrows coupled with a slower arrow speed and bow poundage make them difficult to set up for bowfishing. Also, the sheer quantity of shots brings the durability of drop away rests into question; drop away rests have more moving parts than any other style rest and if they break you are effectively sidelined.
Roller style rest
Roller rests can increase the speed of your arrow by reducing the friction between the arrow and the rest. The arrow contacts a roller that rides on a bushing, the roller spins as the arrow travels towards the target. Some also include a containment system so you don’t have to worry about your arrow falling off. Overall, roller style rests are a decent option for bowfishing if you’d like to increase the speed of your arrow.
Shelf, containment, and roller style rests are all fine options for bowfishing. Put a bit of thought into which style rest you choose to use based on the equipment and shooting style unique to you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your local proshop or of another archer angler - but know that everyone has an opinion! Be curious, do your own research and shoot often, you will find a rest that works for you.
Have any questions or thoughts? Reach out in the comments below.
The day of open top shelf rest as the only shelf rest option is long sense over. Jeremiah Weber @ BoondockOutdoors.com offers several different shelf rest options from low side open to full 360 containment. So your shelf rest info isn’t really accurate anymore.