Thanks in part to movies like “The Hunger Games,” archery sports have experienced a tremendous uptick in popularity. This has also led to an increase in the number of sportsmen interested in bowfishing.
Whether you are an experienced archer looking to sharpen your skills during the off-season with a new challenge, or a novice who just thinks using a bow to hunt fish sounds exciting, you will find bowfishing an exciting and rewarding sport.
Many people new to the sport find the prospect of selecting the correct gear a bit daunting, but it does not need to be. Yes, the equipment is similar to that used for traditional shooting, but there are methods specific to bowfishing that maximize success. The first of these is getting the right bow.
Let us help your transition into bowfishing by supplying some information about which bow might be best for you.
8 Best Bowfishing Bows of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Cheap #1: Cajun Archery Fish Stick
- Best Cheap #2: PSE Kingfisher
- Best for the Money #1: PSE Discovery 2
- Best for the Money #2: CAJUN Sucker Punch
- Best Overall #1: AMS Hooligan
- Best Overall #2: DIAMOND Infinite Edge
- Best Kit #1: Muzzy Vice Bowfishing Kit
- Best Kit #2: BARNETT Vortex H2O
|Category||Best Cheap||Best for the Money||Best Overall|
|Product|| || ||
|Axle-To-Axle Length||56 inches||31.5 inches||34.75 inches|
|Draw Weight||45 lbs||27 - 40 lbs||24 - 50 lbs|
|Brace Height||Not specified by manufacturer||6.5 inches||7.5 inches|
|Draw Length||56 inches||30 inches||32 inches|
|Weight||5.25 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.25 lbs|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Cheap Bowfishing Bow #1: Cajun Archery Fish Stick
This bow was designed with the traveling angler in mind and is an excellent choice for the budget-minded user. It offers what you need to get started without the extra bells and whistles.
Being a recurve, the Fish Stick is great to learn on and requires less overall maintenance needed. Strings can be replaced by the users, and there are no cams to adjust or break. Plus, recurves are better suited for fast, instinctive shooting with short draws.
At 56 inches, it is taller than compound models but can still be transported easily thanks to the takedown action. This allows the bow to be disassembled for transportation or storage, and it can quickly put back together when you reach your destination.
A five-inch aluminum rise, composite limbs, and a Cajun roller system provide the backbone needed to tackle bigger fish while reducing wear and tear on the equipment. You will also enjoy consistent draw cycles shot after shot.
With a peak draw weight of 45 pounds, you will never find yourself wanting for power.
An optional kit includes a drum reel, 50 feet of 80-pound test line, roller arrow rest, two arrows with Piranha Point tips, and a Blister Buster finger guard.
Anglers looking for a bow that will get them started without a lot of extra costs will enjoy this bow. Plus, it can be used year round for traditional hunting or target shooting.
- Can also be used for traditional hunting without modification
- Takedown feature allows for easy transportation or storage
- Recurve design is perfect for quick, instinctive shooting
- The bowstring is not included
- This bow is only available in a right-handed model
2. Best Cheap Bowfishing Bow #2: PSE Kingfisher
PSE is a premier name in bows, although they do make economical versions of even their best designs. The Kingfisher is an example of an exceptional bow at a conservative price.
This bow offers everything you are looking for in a bowfishing bow. It is easy to maneuver, can handle a wide range of species, and has a manageable draw weight. Plus, it is priced right. Because it is a recurve there is no need for costly add-ons, and it will be easy for a new shooter to master.
At 60 inches, this is a big bow, but the takedown feature allows for easy transport and storage. With a draw weights of 40 and 45 pounds, it is easy for users to draw multiple times without getting fatigued, but is still heavy enough for use as a traditional hunting bow.
With fewer moving parts, you will be able to focus on the basics: point, draw, and shoot.
PSE offers an optional starter kit that includes a pre-spooled front-mounted reel, one fiberglass arrow with a fishing tip, and a Snap Shoot rest.
- An easy-to-use design
- Suitable for traditional hunting or target shooting
- Recurve design allows for effective instinctive shooting
- Draw weights are manageable for most users
- The string is not the best quality (noisy) and will need to be replaced for traditional hunting
- You will need to purchase additional arrows and tips
3. Best Bowfishing Bow for the Money #1: PSE Discovery 2
For years traditional-hunters-turned-bowfishing-enthusiasts have cheated the system by repurposing their PSE Discovery bow for fishing. Now PSE offers the Discovery 2, a bow based on the tried and true Discovery design but build specifically for bow anglers.
The bow features a compact 31.5-inch length, perfect for moving around with in the boat. The 6.5-inch brace height provides some forgiveness when taking quick shots, and the adjustable 27-to-40-pound draw weight allows even youngsters to enjoy their time shooting.
Weighing only 2.7 pounds, this bow can easily be handled without fatigue, no matter how many shots you might take. Plus, it is available as a right- or left-handed model.
The optional equipment package includes an AMS reel with line, two fiberglass arrows with safety slide tips, and a SnapShot rest.
Regardless of your experience level, this is bow will provide a ready-to-fish setup that will last for many years.
- A tested design adapted to bowfishing
- Right- or left-handed models available
- Adjustable draw weight allows for use by a wider range of anglers
- Optional package available
- The included arrows are not the best quality and will need to be replaced before long
- Some users have complained about chipping paint
4. Best Bowfishing Bow for the Money #2: CAJUN Sucker Punch
This is one of the best bows on the bowfishing market. It will not only get you started but be a trusted piece of equipment for many years to come.
With a length of 32.25 inches, brace height of 7.25 inches, and weight of only 3.2 pounds, this bow is easy to maneuver and will fit most shooters.
The draw length can be adjusted from 17 inches to 31 inches. This would allow a younger shooter to learn and adjust the bow as they grow and gain experience.
The peak draw weight of 50 pounds is a bit more than needed for most species, but it’s nice to have should you tackle larger, harder targets such as gar or alligators. Deep cam grooves and two draw modes, constant or specific, will reduce string derailing and aid in making quick shots at less than a full draw.
An optional package is available and provides everything you need to get you ready to fish. This package includes a Cajun Winch reel, two fiberglass arrows with tips, and a Fishing Biscuit rest.
This bow is hard to beat. Add the complete ready-to-fish package, and you will be on the water in no time.
- Lightweight, easy-to-handle design
- Adjustable draw length great for anglers of all ages
- Optional package includes everything needed to start fishing
- 50-pound peak draw weight will allow you to target any species you encounter
- Users have reported corrosion issued when used in saltwater
- Small handle that may be difficult to control when wet
- The 60% let-off feature is less effective when shooting instinctively
5. Best Bowfishing Bow Overall #1: AMS Hooligan
This bow is the pinnacle of bowfishing equipment. Users will enjoy many years of worry-free fishing with this bow, even when used day after day.
With an overall length of 34 3/4 inches and a maximum draw length of 32 inches, this bow is a bit longer than most compounds but well suited for taller anglers. You will find that it is still suitable for moving about the boat, but it may take a little practice if moving from a shorter bow.
The aluminum riser and fiberglass limbs require little maintenance and are corrosion resistant. This allows the bow to be used in either a freshwater or saltwater environment without worry.
The included retrieval crank will make arrows easy to recover after missed shots and aid in hauling in fish when you hit your target.
An optional equipment kit is available and includes a single arrow with tip, pre-installed drum reel with crank handle, and fishing line.
- Available in both left- and right-handed models
- No bow press needed to adjust weight or draw length
- Included crank makes recovery of arrow much faster
- Accessory kit includes everything needed to get started
- Longer length may be cumbersome on small boats or when stalking from shore
- It only ships with a single arrow
6. Best Bowfishing Bow Overall #2: DIAMOND Infinite Edge
This is one of the top bows among both anglers and traditional hunters. What makes it so popular? It is suitable for a wide range of users, made in the USA, and comes at an affordable price.
Versatility is the name of the game with this bow. It is available in either a right- or left-handed model. The draw length is adjustable from 13 to 31 inches, and the weight ranges from 5 to 70 pounds.
Although it is unlikely you will ever need 70 pounds of draw weight, it is nice to know it is available. With an overall length of 31 inches and a brace height of 7 inches, it is an ideal size for boat fishing while still offering the forgiveness of a longer set up.
The 80% let-off makes shooting at a high weight more comfortable, and the zero let-off option makes snap shooting more successful.
Whether it is your first day picking up a bow or the continuation of a lifelong hobby, this bow will meet your needs.
7. Best Bowfishing Kit #1: Muzzy Vice Bowfishing Kit
Having a good bow is only part of bowfishing—you also need a good bowfishing kit to get you out on the water now. The archery experts at Muzzy have delivered just that with the Vice Bowfishing Kit.
First, you get a quality bow with all the features of a great bowfishing unit. The adjustable 30-inch length is designed to stand up to the rigors of being on the water day in and day out. The dual-cam setup is adjustable to allow for draw weight between 24.5 and 55 pounds.
No press or special tools are needed: just turn the limb bolts. Deep cam grooves prevent derailing while providing a smooth, easy draw every time. The forgiving 7.5-inch brace height allows for hits with less-than-perfect form.
The accessory kit includes everything you need to unpack and start taking fish. The Muzzy XD Pro Reel comes pre-spooled with 150 feet of 150-pound stainless-steel line with corrosion resistance. The Fish Hook arrow includes a line groove to provide better stability on the rest.
Tipped with a Muzzy Quick-Release Carp Point, you will enjoy superior penetration on the soft flesh of your favorite fish. The stainless-steel ferrule also resists corrosion, while the folding barbs allow for quick removal from your target.
Pick up the Muzzy Vice Bowfishing Kit today and be fishing by tonight.
- Professional setup designed by archer professionals
- Ready to use out of the box
- Extremely adjustable, allowing for use by a wide range of anglers
- Finger guards pre-installed on the string
- Only available in a right-handed model
- Only includes a single arrow and tip
8. Best Bowfishing Kit #2: BARNETT Vortex H2O
This bow was originally marketed as an entry-level model for young archers. Then the bow anglers found it. Now it is considered one of the best bowfishing kits out there.
This compound bow is the perfect youth model. The light draw weight range (31-45 pounds), reduced weight, short axle-to-axle length, and adjustable draw modules allow young anglers to adjust the bow as their skills improve.
Those same features also make it an equally good bowfishing bow. It is easy to move around with on a boat, allows for quick shots, and the draw weight is plenty strong enough for most fish anglers.
The package includes a quiver, three arrows and tips, fiberoptic pin sight for low-visibility use, and a package that doubles as a carry case.
You may think this is the perfect kit for your new shooter but may soon find it is the perfect kit for you too.
- Adjustable length and weight
- Includes everything you need to get started
- Can provide lifelong service
- Sight and arrow rest are not the best quality
- Although package doubles as a carry case, it is not intended for long-term use
Why It’s Important to Get a Quality Bowfishing Bow
Unlike traditional archery, bowfishing is a game of many shots. Even a fair day on the water is likely to result in 30, 40, or even more shots. A low-quality bow will not be up to the task. It will be too heavy to wield for hours.
It will not allow the quick, instinctive shots you need. It will fail long before it should, maybe even in the middle of a trip. While a lower-quality bow may be cheaper in the beginning, it will cost you more in the long run.
Buying Advice: How to Choose a Bow
Do a quick internet search and you will see that there are pages of options when it comes to bowfishing bows and equipment. Before selecting a bow, it is important to know what features or specs are important and which are window dressing. You need to be able to figure out which set up is best for you.
First, what fish will you be targeting? The most common species targeted by bow anglers are carp, gar, paddlefish, and catfish in freshwater, or sharks and ray when in saltwater. You need to ensure your bow is heavy enough to successfully harvest the species you may encounter.
Be sure to check your local regulations before heading out onto the water. Each state has specific rules about which species can be taken by bow and which seasons that can be done.
You will not need a ton of equipment to get started, and you also don’t need the best gear available. Many beginners get started with secondhand equipment or repurposed hunting setups. These will get the job done, but eventually most anglers upgrade.
The first thing you need to do when shopping for a bowfishing bow is to forget almost everything you learned about selecting a traditional bow. Speed and power are not nearly as important when bowfishing.
Traditional hunting requires draw weights of 50, 60, or even 70 pounds. You can get away with this in the treestand because you will only be drawing the bow two or three times per day. The heavier draw weight is also needed to ensure penetration at greater distances.
This is not the case when bowfishing. Shots are close up. Your targets do not have thick hides and heavy coats. A draw weight of 35 to 50 pounds is plenty for most situations.
Almost any type of bow will suffice, but each has its advantages and disadvantages:
This is the most common type of bow among bow anglers. The traditional design may be outclassed by today’s modern hunting bows when in the field, but they are right at home on the water.
They are simple and easy to use, allowing for quick, accurate shots even when you are unable to reach full draw. Fewer moving parts means less maintenance and lower long-term costs. Recurves are longer, however, which makes them harder to maneuver when on a boat or stalking the banks.
They also lack the let-off feature of compounds, which reduce strength needed to pull to full draw. This means you will be fighting the entire draw weight every shot.
These are the bows most common with traditional hunters, and they have started to become popular with bow anglers as well. They are easily recognized by the pullies, or cams, at the end of each limb.
The cams aid the shooter in drawing heavier-weight bows, and the bows are shorter than recurves. The latter is an obvious benefit when moving around a crowded boat or stalking brush-lined shoreline. The former can be less beneficial, though.
While the let-off permits easier drawing, it interferes with the ability to make fast, accurate shots, which are common while bowfishing.
Fortunately, manufacturers have recognized the different needs of bow anglers and adjusted their designs. Newer compound models designed specifically for bowfishing include lighter draw weights and the ability to shoot without the let-off engaged.
Crossbows have grown in popularity, and there are a few anglers who utilize them when bowfishing. However, of the three types of bows available, they are the least suited for bowfishing. On the plus side, using a crossbow allows you to use a single piece of equipment for both fishing and hunting.
They are also operated similarly to rifles—with a trigger, safety, and scope. This makes them easier for new archers to learn and master.
However, these positives are often negated by their weight, size, and draw weight. They can be difficult to manage onboard a small, crowded boat, and they can be uncomfortable to hold all day.
They are also slow to reload in between shots, limiting your ability to make follow-up shots. Finally, very few manufacturers are producing crossbows or accessories need for bowfishing.
You will not be able to use the same arrows for fishing that you use for hunting or target practice. Bowfishing arrows are heavier and designed to withstand the stress of multiple shots hitting the riverbed in shallow water. They are also longer than traditional arrows.
Finally, they do not have fletching (feathers), as this would cause too much resistance when entering the water.
When hunting, you need a razor-sharp broadhead. These are designed to cause massive damage that will kill the animal quickly and allow easy recovery. When fishing, you do not need to kill the fish immediately, but you do need to keep it from escaping.
The tips have a sharp point to permit penetration but lack the razor-sharp blades. Instead, there will be a set of large barbs that hold the fish and prevent it from escaping while you reel it in.
The reel you use while bowfishing holds the line between shots, allows it to pay out when a shot is taken, and sometimes assists in retrieval of the line or fish after the shot. There are three general types of bowfishing reels available:
This is a basic round spool that mounts to the bow. While it holds the line until a shot is made and assists in allowing the line to pay out, it does not aid in retrieval. There is no crank, so the line must be pulled in by hand.
Also called a bottle reel, this option resembles a plastic water bottle with a small crank handle attached to the front. Like the drum reel, it is mounted to the bow when used. The line, which remains loose in the bottle, pays out when a shot is taken.
After the shot, the crank assists in retrieving the line and any fish that might have been hit. This is easier than the hand-over-hand method and includes less risk of injury to your hands or fingers.
This option is almost identical to the closed-faced, push-button reels that many anglers learned to fish with. Before taking a shot, the button is pushed, which releases the line. When a shot is taken, the line pays out like when you cast a rod-and-reel combo.
After the shot, you turn the handle to retrieve the line and fish just like you would if you hooked a fish with a rod. An adjustable drag provides better leverage when fishing larger fish and allows you to set the release pressure depending on the type of shooting you are doing.
Specialized spinning reels designed for bowfishing will incorporate heavy-duty gears to withstand the punishment of bowfishing and corrosion-resistant components for saltwater use.
Bowfishing can be done with traditional fishing line, although most bow anglers prefer a stronger, heavy-duty lines that resemble string. However, the type of line you use is determined in part by the type of reel you select.
Drum or retriever reels require heavier, string-type lines. The thinner traditional lines will be difficult to store in a bottle-style container and could cause injury when pulled in hand over hand.
Spinning reels always utilize traditional fishing line, as string-style lines would be too thick for the reel housing. Regardless of which type of line you select, it needs to be much heavier than you would use when targeting the same species with a traditional rod and reel.
Remember, without the rod, the line with taking all the abuse and strain when a fish is hooked.
Although a bow, arrows, tips, a reel, and a line are all you need to get started, it is not everything you will need to have the most productive or enjoyable day on the water. Here are some items you may want to consider adding to your equipment list:
You will be shooting a lot when bowfishing. Unlike when you hunt you, will not be using a release (they are not well suited for the fast, short draw shots you will need). This means that unprotected fingers will eventually start to suffer.
Wearing a glove, using a shooting tab, or installing finger tabs on the string will make for a much more comfortable experience.
A rest is necessary to provide a place for the arrow to lie between shots and during the draw. Unless your bow has a built-in rest, one will eventually need to be installed.
There are multiple types available, and the one you select will depend on your specific bow and manufacturer recommendations. Be careful when attempting to repurpose a standard hunting rest for bowfishing. They tend to cause the line to foul, which can result in injury.
Recommended reading: 3 Best Arrow Rests for Bowfishing in 2022 & What To Look For
Polarized Glasses or Lights
Successful bowfishing requires you to be able to see and identify your target. Anyone who has ever tried to look into even a few inches of water on a sunny day knows how difficult this can be. Having polarized glasses will aid you in seeing what you want to shoot.
Of course, at night you need to illuminate the target, so a bow-mounted light or headlamp is essential. Many anglers with boats take it a step further and mount multiple high-powered floodlights that can light up a larger area.
Precision Shooting Equipment was started in 1970 with the goal to improve the archery industry by producing the most-advanced equipment available.
Today, PSE is the largest privately owned archery equipment company in the United States. The current production, testing, and pro shop are as large as a single city block.
From the beginning, PSE has been dedicated to producing equipment using the most modern techniques and materials, and it’s developed many groundbreaking products along the way.
PSE produces both high-end products for professional archers and equally impressive economical products for the everyday shooter.
Founder John Musacchia was not an engineer by trade. When he started Muzzy Broadheads in 1984, he as a retired restaurant owner.
As an avid archer, he started crafting broadheads out of necessity. He dreamed of taking down an African Cape Buffalo and was not satisfied with the options available at the time. Eventually, he was able to produce the groundbreaking expandable broadhead and revolutionized archery hunting.
Over time the company has expanded its product line, and Muzzy is now part of the FeraDyne Outdoors family, producing even more products, including top-quality bowfishing bows.
Unlike much of the competition, Cajun Bowfishing was not a traditional archery manufacturer who took advantage of the growth in bowfishing. They were bowfishing experts from the beginning.
Started in 1962, Cajun originally produced a well-known line of hardwood and cedar arrows for bow anglers. In 1976 they purchased the rights to the Sting-A-Bee bowfishing tip and added that to their line of products.
Eventually, they did branch out and began to offer a wider range of products and accessories, including bows, string wax, and bow tools. But they always remained true to their roots and continue to produce bowfishing equipment.
Can I turn a regular bow into a bowfishing bow?
Yes, repurposing a traditional bow for bowfishing is how many anglers get their start. Others do it because it allows them to use one bow all year long, both for fishing and traditional hunting.
How can I keep my bow from sinking while bowfishing?
Dropping a bow in the water is a bow angler’s worst nightmare. Not only does losing your bow put a damper on the rest of your trip, but many of the bows cost far too much money to watch sink to the bottom of the lake or river. Unfortunately, there are few options available to prevent this nightmare from occurring.
Some anglers use a bow sling, but this can get in the way when shooting and moving around in the tight confines of a boat. Others fashion floats, often from foam pool noodles, which are cut to short lengths and placed on the limbs.
While this option may work, you will need to test your bow to ensure it fires correctly with them in place.