So, you’ve decided you want to start bowfishing or maybe you're just wondering, 'what is bowfishing?' – congratulations! It’s an exciting and challenging outdoor pursuit. If you’ve been doing your research, you’ll know there is a huge assortment of bowfishing gear available. You might also be pleasantly surprised to learn that you don’t need very much to get out there and start shooting fish. Read on to learn what equipment you need to start bowfishing.
You can’t go bowfishing without a bow, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on this essential piece of gear. Focus on finding a bow you’re comfortable shooting instead of buying the newest equipment. It’s a myth that you need a specific type of bow for bowfishing; a recurve or compound bow will work just fine. If it shoots straight, you can stick fish with it.
When you’re choosing a bow, consider the fact that you’ll be shooting fast and often once you’re on the fish. You don’t need a sight. It’s more important to focus on the right draw-weight. Do some testing to find a bow you can comfortably draw and release without straining or tiring yourself too quickly. A bow that has a draw-weight between 25-45 pounds will be appropriate for most people.
#TeamLoxley Tip: We recommend serious archer-anglers carry a back-up bow, especially if you plan to compete in tournaments. Bowfishing is a tough sport, and your gear will take a beating. Your backup bow can be inexpensive or even second-hand, so long as it functions properly.
Unlike the bow, you will need special arrows for bowfishing. Bowfishing arrows must be dense enough to travel through water, so they’re made from heavier materials. They also lack fletching (the vanes or feathers at the end of archery arrows) and instead have a point to attach the line, like a slide or other mechanism. Even the tips are specialized, with barbs to help the arrow stick in your target.
#TeamLoxley Tip: Arrows can be purchased with points or without. The advantage of choosing your own point is that different arrowheads offer different benefits. However, if you’re just getting into the sport, it’s easier to purchase arrows with tips.
The arrow rest, as the name implies, helps keep the arrow in place while you’re lining up a shot. Although arrow rests come in many shapes – pronged, circular, V-shaped, etc. – they all serve the same purpose and have a groove or channel to hold the arrow. Some rests have additional features, like a rubber pad to keep arrows in good condition or a roller to help with flight. The arrow rest attaches directly to your bow, and you’ll need to make sure it is situated properly so line doesn’t tangle or become obstructed when shooting.
#TeamLoxley Tip: Arrow rests can be set up for left- or right-handed shooting. Make sure you choose one that meets your shooting needs.
Reel and Line
You can’t haul in the fish without a proper reel and line. The biggest difference between a regular fishing reel and a bowfishing reel is the speed at which the line leaves your hands. After all, an arrow being shot travels much faster than cast fishing line. The two most common styles of bowfishing reel are a spinning reel and a bottle-type reel. Whichever reel you choose, it’s important that the bowfishing line doesn’t get tangled or obstructed by anything when shooting because this can cause the arrow to snap back and injure the shooter or others.
When it comes to your line, it’s better to overestimate rather than underestimate the weight of the fish you plan to shoot. Your line is the only thing that allows you to haul in your next trophy, and it will need to be strong enough to withstand the weight of the fish and the drag of the water as you pull it in.
#TeamLoxley Tip: Arrow snap-back can cause serious injury, so consider using an arrow slide or similar product for your safety.
This last piece of gear is the most important for responsible bowfishing. Make sure you get the proper permits before you head out on the water. In the majority of states, you can bowfish legally with a fishing license. However, some states may require a modified hunting license. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources to make sure you’re abiding by the rules.
#TeamLoxley Tip: Store your printed fishing license with your gear (or in your wallet) and keep an electronic copy of it on your phone.
Bonus #TeamLoxley Tip: Get Gloves
Ok, this one may not be essential, but we do recommend it. Your gear won’t be the only thing that takes a beating on the water. Bowfishing will test your body’s limits, too. The repeated motion of pulling in line (and large fish) by hand will leave its mark. Fortunately, our Graves glove is built to protect while hauling in monsters all day long.
Bowfishing is a great way to spend quality time with your bow each summer. It’s also a good workout and fun way to spend time with your friends. Before heading to the lake or river with hopes of filling your boat with carp, ask yourself: Just what will you do with all those dead fish? Craft a plan to use the fish you shoot productively.
Legal fish species vary depending on where you are in the country. Some of the most common freshwater fish shot are bighead carp, common carp, grass carp, catfish, buffalo and several varieties of gar, including the massive alligator gar. Many of these fall under the category of rough (or trash) fish. Rough fish are those fish which fall outside of the category of sport fish. They are species not commonly eaten and are often invasive species. Because they are not typically targeted by fishermen, bowfishing is a very good means of population control and removal of these often undesirable fish.
To help you get started, we have compiled a quick list of every US state and whether or not bowfishing is legal, some of the rules, and what you should be aware of. We've also included links to each state's fish and game or department of natural resources website for more information. So let’s get started!
The needs of every archer-angler are different, which means every boat those archer-anglers build for bowfishing is going to be different. One particularly hot topic amongst bowfisherman is lights. This article is a quick guide to finding your perfect light setup.
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