Looking to get into bow fishing? You’re in the right place! In this guide, I’ll cover the basics, including the best bow fishing set up and a short buyer’s guide when choosing the best bows and arrows, as well as other essential accessories. So whether you’re a first-time angler or an experienced fisherman looking to try something new, this guide will help you get started with bow fishing.
Best Bow Fishing Gears
You may like to read: Best Left Handed Bowfishing Bow
The first time I came across the term “bow fishing”, I originally thought it meant fishing from a boat’s bow. I guess I was wrong – bow fishing (or bowfishing, either term can be used) is literally using a bow or crossbow along with specialized arrows and reels to shoot and retrieve fish. Not only is this great fun even if you miss, but it’s also a great way to hone your shooting skills.
Bow Fishing Set Up Guide
It may seem quite complex, but rest assured – any bow can be used for bow fishing if given a little patience and the right equipment. And while yes, you can technically just get a bow and arrows and go shooting fish in shallow water, it’s much more efficient to approach bow fishing with specialized gear that’ll help you preserve your arrows and reel in your catches easier.
First off, you can easily get conversion tools online that can convert any bow into a bow fishing bow (or vice versa, just by removing the parts). These bow fishing kits come with reels, arrow rests, and sometimes with extra arrows. If you’re planning to get a conversion kit online, I highly recommend those made by AMS, such as this one.
Once you’ve got your conversion kit, the first thing you need to do is to remove all accessories from your bow. Don’t worry: you can put your favorite ones back later. What’s important is to strip it down so that you can ensure that all the important bow fishing components go on first.
After that, there’s only really two steps left. You’ll first want to install an arrow rest to keep your arrows securely out of the way. For this step, it’s best to get a dedicated bow fishing arrow rest, or a simple one – that is, unless you like the possibility of injuring yourself with the reel line. Speaking of the reel line, that’s the second thing you’ll need to install. Make sure that you have dedicated bow fishing arrows – these are heavier and come with a way to attach a reel, usually via a safety slide.
Buyer’s Guide to Making A Bow Fishing Set Up
Before you go bow fishing, you’ll need to prepare accordingly to have the best bow fishing set up. At the very least, you should have a bow or a crossbow, a reel, arrows (and arrowheads), and an arrow rest. Here’s what you should look for in each of these components.
Assuming you’ll be using a bow for bow fishing, it’s perfectly possible to use any bow to fish; that is if you already have a bow lying around. Even if that’s the case, I highly suggest investing in a new bow, particularly a compound bow as all the extra strings, pulleys, and wheels offer shooters better energy efficiency over a recurve bow. Compound bows are also notably shorter and more compact than other bows, making them lighter and easier to carry around. Do note that bow fishing is a messy sport – take that into account if you’re thinking of using an existing bow for bow fishing.
If you’re looking for a good sample of a compound bow, have a look at the Genesis Compound Bow or, for beginners, the Lanneret Compound Bow Kit. For those who want the additional challenge and extra speed of a recurve bow, have a look at the Bear Archery Super Mag 48. Regardless of the bow you plan to get, make sure that it can handle the weight of the fish you plan to catch.
While it’s both simple and easy to convert your bow for bow fishing, not everyone has the time or the mechanical know-how. For those who’d rather get the entire bow fishing bundle with minimal work, you can purchase bow fishing bows directly, such as the PSE Archery D3 Bowfishing Compound Bow.
Finally, make sure your bow has decent weight. Bows with a draw weight of 30-40 pounds are ideal, as this draw weight is enough to ensure your shots are both swift and lethal. This draw weight is also great for people who aren’t very strong, especially when used in conjunction with a compound bow.
The reel is what really sets a bow fishing bow apart from a regular bow. Each arrow nocked is attached to a reel, which you let fly with great speed and (hopefully) accuracy. Needless to say, without a good reel, your bow fishing trip won’t last very long!
Bow fishing reels fall into three general categories: hand reel, spinning reel, or bottle reel. Hand reels and spinning reels are exactly like the non-bow fishing kind. Bottle reels, like those of AMS, are my personal recommendation as they’re convenient, safe, and provide decent performance over a medium range.
However, if you’re planning on shooting over long distances, or plan to nab larger prey, get yourself a hand reel or a spinning reel, such as the Fin-Finder Sidewinder Drum Reel.
Arrows and Arrowheads
Unlike the bow, you can’t just use any arrows for bow fishing. Bow fishing arrows meant to travel through water are thicker and denser. Because of that, bow fishing arrows are heavier than normal arrows, and are made of heavier materials such as fiberglass or carbon. Of these two materials, fiberglass is more affordable, while carbon boasts better performance.
Bow fishing arrows also lack the fletching of normal arrows. Fletching refers to the arrows or other accessories at the end of the arrow to help it fly through the air. Since we’ll be firing arrows into the water and using them to catch fish, bow fishing arrows instead come with a slide, hook, or other mechanisms that lets you attach your reel.
If you’d like to skip having to look for good bow fishing arrows, you can get some ready-to-use arrows online, such as the AMS Fluorescent Green Fiberglass Arrow or the Cajun Bowfishing Fiberglass Arrow.
Bow fishing arrowheads directly impact how these arrows perform, as well as what kind of fish they’re best at hunting. Tougher fish will require sharper arrowheads with pointed tips, while quick-deploying barbs are great for hunting larger fish.
The Arrow Rest
Why do we need an arrow rest for bow fishing, you may ask. To that, I’ll say: bow fishing can be pretty dangerous with its high speed and frantic action, and unlike dedicated bow fishing arrow rests, regular arrow rests aren’t made with an attached reel in mind. Unless you like getting burned and maybe seriously injured by a reel zipping past you at crazy speeds, you will want an arrow rest.
Since you’re already shopping for a new bow and bow fishing components, why not shell out a little more on some useful accessories?
Floats like the AMS Big Game Float not only make it easier to track bigger fish, but also serve as a way to mark your shots so you’ll have an easier time with follow-ups. And for those looking to make better shots, why not invest in a scope or a bow fishing laser? Just remember though: even the best bow fisher misses, and learning to manage your shots is part of the fun.
FAQs About Bow Fishing Set Up and Bow Fishing
How do you tie arrows for bow fishing?
Bow fishing arrows come with safety slides, which have both grooves to lock themselves onto the arrows, and two holes on the sides that are perfect for tying knots. As for which knot to use – any will do, and simple overhead knots usually suffice.
Do I really need to get a new bow for bow fishing?
Nope, you don’t have to buy a new bow if you’re used to the one you have. Bear in mind though, that bow fishing will quickly get your bow dirty – reeling in arrows covered with dirt, slime, and if you’re lucky, a fish, tends to do that to your equipment.
Do I need gloves when bow fishing?
Gloves aren’t necessary, but if you’ve ever spent a whole day bow fishing with them, you’ll know what a difference they can make. If you don’t like the idea of gloves, you can always invest in some finger guards instead.
What part of the fish should I aim at?
It’s best to aim your shots at the thickest part of the fish. That way, your arrows will more easily find purchase. Do note that due to light refraction, you’ll actually have to aim lower than what it may look like. Most bow fishers agree that a good rule of thumb is to aim 3 inches lower for each foot of depth that you measure.
How deep can you bow fish?
The ideal depth for bow fishing is 3-4 feet. Any deeper and your arrows will quickly lose velocity due to the amount of water they need to pass through.
Enjoy Your Bow Fishing Experience
Fishing is a relaxing hobby and adding in the experience of having to actively shoot fish with a bow really shakes up the pace. While it may not be for everyone, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it as you may find that this unique approach to fishing fits in better with your style.