I know some serious bowhunters that would never consider bowfishing, just as they wouldn't be caught dead pursuing squirrels or even turkeys. I pity those folks. The pressure to kill big bucks and bulls is very real for many of us, which is why I enjoy low-pressure bowhunting pursuits so much. And if there is one opportunity that is nearly devoid of pressure, it's bowfishing.
State-to-state regulations vary greatly, but a common thread throughout most is that bowfishing is largely encouraged on public waters. This means that unlike big-game hunting, the best spots are wide open to all of us. I've arrowed a variety of rough fish in situations that are as different as the scaly targets themselves. Plus, if you do it right, you can have a multispecies trip without having to try too hard.
For instance, I spent my college years along the Mississippi River, which meant that I could potentially skewer common carp, suckers, bowfin, buffalo, gar, and others on the same trip. Better yet, if the carp were uncooperative, there was no shortage of other species willing to offer up a shot — and shoot we did.
Bowfishing is also a great first step for beginners to go from punching paper to living targets. Perhaps due to some engrained anthropomorphism in all of us, it can be difficult for a newbie to arrow a furry creature, yet running a fish arrow through a whiskered, scaly bottom-feeder is no problem.
If you do use bowfishing as a gateway endeavor to introduce a newcomer to our sport, you'll quickly realize that what you take for granted as safety concerns will become very prevalent. Attaching line to a fish arrow changes the pre-shot routine, and just like checking the safety on your 12-gauge religiously as you walk a cattail slough while pheasant hunting, it's imperative to make sure that the line is hanging free and not wrapped around anything that might hinder its operation.
That and being cognizant of safety on the water are the two main issues that come up with bowfishing, otherwise it is inviting to everyone interested. Part of the reason for this come-one-come-all invitation is that bowfishing does not have to be cost-prohibitive. If you've got a bow already, you're almost ready to bowfish. If not, there are some quality rigs on the market that will not break the bank. Several companies offer bowfishing bows, while many even offer packages that contain all you need to get on the water and start shooting.
Cajun Hornet LITE Arrow
Long known for producing an entire line of topnotch bowfishing equipment, Cajun Archery
is now part of the Bear Archery and Trophy Ridge family. Consequently, you can assume there are good things in the future for Cajun. For right now, they still make everything you need to hit the water, with their Hornet LITE arrow giving youths a chance to outshoot their older bowfishing counterparts. The Hornet LITE weighs 600 grains, which is nearly half the weight of traditional bowfishing arrows. This aids low-poundage shooters in penetration and accuracy. The Hornet LITE is 28" long and specifically designed for setups with draw weights of 40 lbs. or less.
Price: $5 (bare), 15 (complete)
Innerloc Grapple Points
Quality bowfishing reels are important, but they are useless without the right arrows and points. Enter the Grapple Points from Innerloc Broadheads
. Available in a 2 Barb, 3 Barb, and 3 Barb Gator option, Innerloc has got heads for every bowfishing situation. Designed to reduce planing and increase penetration, Grapple Points open to a full 2.75" to ensure that no matter how fierce the fight, any fish you impale will end up in the boat.
RPM NOS Point
Another quality offering in the point category comes your way from RPM Bowfishing
. Their NOS Point is a wicked stainless-steel point that features twin serrated gripper barbs to cut down on lost fish. If you spend any time shooting around rocky shorelines or bowfishing spawning suckers on smaller interior rivers while they pile into the rapids, you'll appreciate the NOS's hardened bullet tip, because it resists deformation and stays true even after serious abuse.
Rhinehart Carp Target
Anyone who has spent any time shooting into the water understands that it's easy to miss. Light refraction and the sheer challenge of knowing just how low to aim cause plenty of on-the-water whiffs. If you're interested in cutting down on the misses though, check out the Carp from Rinehart Targets
. Designed to be shot at steep angles and simulate a true 50-lb. bottom-feeder, the Carp is perfect for diehard bowfishermen.
Wiley X Saint
Naturally, none of these products matter if you can't see into the water. Over the years I've spent a lot of time and money trying to find polarized sunglasses that cut surface glare and give me the chance to arrow more fish. Through that process I've ended up relying heavily on Wiley X eyewear
. Their new Saint is available in their Changeable Series, which gives you the ability to customize lenses.
Personally, I prefer the Polarized Smoke Green lenses when I'm bowfishing. After stepping on a pair and crunching them into oblivion, I now opt to store them in the hard zipper case when I'm not wearing them. Aside from looking cool and functioning well, each Saint meets high-velocity and high-mass-impact safety standards to offer eye protection — something everyone on your boat should have.
Quick Draw Bowfishing Arrow Rest
Quick Draw Outdoor Gear
also makes a full-containment bowfishing rest that will enhance a day on the water. Their Quick Draw Bowfishing Arrow Rest is designed for shooters of all skill levels. To aid in quick reloading, which is something that is sure to be appreciated during periods of frenzied fish-shooting activity, each Quick Draw has a rubber gate that allows you to quickly slip your arrow into place and fire away. The Quick Draw is available in silver or pink.
A great package from PSE Archery
contains all you need to kill everything from common carp to stingrays and even alligators. The new-for-2013 Wave is a 32", 3.4-lb. bow with up to 30" of draw length. Its 6.5" brace height and 40-lb. draw weight make it the perfect option for all-day, or all-night shooting. Each kit contains an AMS reel, PSE Snapshot rest, and two bowfishing arrows.
Muzzy Xtreme Duty Reel
If you've already got a suitable bowfishing bow, then it would be wise to check out the new Xtreme Duty Bowfishing Reel from Muzzy
. The Xtreme is built for bowfishing, which is evident from the extra-large spool, stainless-steel hood and pushbutton cap, and automotive disk drag. To accommodate left or right-handed shooters, each Xtreme is convertible for either preference of retrieve.
Bohning Carp-ivore Rest
An often-overlooked aspect of rigging up for bowfishing season involves rests. I prefer to bowfish with traditional bows most of the time, so I end up shooting off of the shelf. However, this spring, when I opt for a compound, it will be outfitted with the new Carp-ivore Bowfishing Rest from Bohning Archery
. The Carp-ivore combines a capture rest with a roller rest, utilizing the best of both styles. Additionally, each Carp-ivore can be mounted for left and right-handed shooters and features vertical and horizontal adjustment for fine-tuning.
AMS Bowfishing Retriever Pro
In the realm of bowfishing reels, I'd be remiss if I didn't cover AMS Bowfishing's Retriever Pro
. This reel, along with earlier versions of it, have accounted for a lot of dead fish over the years. Unlike other bowfishing reels, the Retriever Pro is built to release line without the push of a button, meaning to quickly retrieve line it's necessary to engage the reel. Each Retriever Pro comes standard with 200-lb. Hi-Vis Dacron line, two AMS Safety Slide Kits, and replacement nocks for your arrows.