Bowfishing for Beginners: The Gear You Need and How to Start

Bowfishing is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors. It can also be an extremely fun and addicting pastime. Best of all, if you are interested in bowfishing, it's easy to try. In this article, we'll talk about the basic gear you need and few simple steps that you can take in order to help you get your feet wet on your first bowfishing trip! 


Let's start with the most important piece of gear for bowfishing - your bow

The first thing that you will need for bowfishing is a bow of course. The good news is that you do not need an expensive bow. In fact, you might already have a bow that you can use. If you have an old hunting or target bow that doesn’t get much use anymore, you're off to a great start! Just make sure it's a bow that you can draw repeatedly without straining yourself. Having a comfortable bow is very important when you are out on the water and trying to shoot fish.

bowfishing bow

It is also important to understand that bowfishing is very rough on your gear. There’s no need to spend thousands on a new bow that will get abused while bowfishing. Knowing this makes it much easier to be happy with a cheap, older bow that you already have or pick up at a yard sale. 

The ideal poundage for a bowfishing bow is anywhere between 30-50 pounds. Remember what I said earlier though, you want to be comfortable when you are bowfishing. Typically you are going to be taking a lot of shots in a short amount of time – for some this may mean using a lighter pound bow so you are not tiring yourself out too quickly. Fish typically have very weak flesh you won’t have trouble at all still sticking fish with a lower pound bow.

You also don't need most of the gear and equipment that hunting or target bows require. This makes it even more inexpensive to start bowfishing. Leave the sights at home. Bowfishing is a very quick and instinctive sport and, unlike deer hunting, you do not get the chance to line up your target before shooting. Most of the time when bowfishing, you have just enough time to instinctively release an arrow towards the fish. The nature of this sport is quick, instinctive, and pure adrenaline. This is one of the reasons that we all love it so much!

You can leave any release aids at home as well. While release aids will help your accuracy while hunting, you will not want to use one while bowfishing. Speed and quickness are much better to have than losing a fish while using a slower release aid. 

Bowfishing on dock


You'll also need a bowfishing reel, line, and arrows

The next piece of gear that you will need to go with your bow is a reel. The reel is probably the next most important piece of gear when it comes to bowfishing. These can easily be bought and mounted onto your bow. There are a lot of options on the market but try not to overcomplicate this decision, as virtually any bowfishing reel should work fine for a beginner. Depending on the type of gear you want, prices will vary. But you can get a basic hand reel for as little as $10! If you want to get something a little nicer, there are plenty of higher quality reels for around $60.

Bowfishing Reel

Along with a reel and some line, you will also need some arrows. Fiberglass fishing arrows can usually be found for around $10 to $20 per arrow. While these may seem a little pricey, you usually don’t need as many bowfishing arrows as you do compared to hunting arrows. 

Once you have all of your bowfishing gear together, there are a few other things you might want to bring along as well. If you intend to go bowfishing during the day, you will want to bring along some sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. If bowfishing at night, remember to pack some lights as well as bug spray. Once you have all of your gear assembled, you are ready to hit the water!

Choose where to go bowfishing

Now that you've got all the gear, you are ready to find a spot to go bowfishing. You must find a location that you can legally bowfish, and that also has the species of fish that you are after. The most commonly sought after species of fish that are targeted by bow fishermen are carp, gar, buffalo, drum, catfish, and tilapia. Do a little research and figure out what species are found in your area, and which species that you can legally shoot. If you need a little extra help, you can even ask some local bow fishermen or the local tackle shop for some advice and suggestions. 

Bowfishing Location


The best time to go bowfishing is usually at night, but the mornings and days can be productive as well. Again, make sure to follow all state and local laws regarding fishing locations and seasons. For the best shots, the fish need to be near the surface. That makes shallow creeks particularly nice for bowfishing. You can wade, or if you have a boat, kayak, or paddleboard, you can float as close to the fish as you can without spooking them. Of course, shooting from the bank or a dock can also yield great results.


Starting your journey into bowfishing can be very exciting and a lot of fun, although can be a little challenging at times. If you take the time to get some proper gear and do a little research, your beginning journey can be much easier and filled with a lot more success!

Bowfishing Fun

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