Can Any Bow Be Used for Bowfishing? (Take Our Advice)

man aiming an arrow with a compound bow

Bowfishing is a great way to take the art and technique of hunting and apply it to fishing. Using a bow and arrow to spearfish offers a thrill that you often don’t find using a regular fishing rod. 

If you’re a hunter, you might be wondering, then, if you can use any old bow for bowfishing.

Any bow may be used for bowfishing if it is compatible and outfitted with the proper accessories. Recurve and compound bows are both sufficient, the latter being most common for bowfishing. You’ll need to add a reel, line, and a rest to your existing bow, so it’s ready for bowfishing.

Read on to find out precisely what you’ll need to begin this exciting sport.

Can You Use a Hunting Bow for Bowfishing?

What makes bowfishing bows unique is their low let-off, specialized parts, and ability to shoot many quick shots in rapid succession. So that begs the question–can any bow be used for bowfishing?

Fortunately, if you’re a hunter and want to repurpose your bow, you’re in luck. Most recurve or compound bows can be retrofitted. So you can easily use them for bowfishing.

Retrofitting is ideal for beginner bow fishers. That way you get a good taste for the sport without the commitment of buying a new specialized bow.

To retrofit your bow for bowfishing, you’ll basically need to add the following to your bow:


There are a few things to consider when choosing whether to convert an old bow or purchase one designed for bowfishing. These include the type of wear and tear you should expect, the draw weight, and how frequently you’ll use the bow.

Wear and Tear

When choosing your bow, you should remember just how messy fishing can get. Fish slime, water plants, and other things can gunk up your bow and reel pretty quickly.

In addition, bows can get scratched up easily by being tossed around on your boat. That being the case, it’s not a bad idea to have a bow specifically designated for bowfishing in addition to the one you use to hunt.

So if you’ve got a fancy Hoyt you use for elk, you may wanna pick up a cheaper bow you’re less attached to for bowfishing. Especially if you’re not willing to drop it in muddy water!

Draw Weight

You’ll likely need a lower draw weight when bowfishing compared to your big game bow.

Fish you’ll target with a bow are going to be closer to the surface of the water. This is particularly true during the most common fishing times, including spring and summer. So you don’t need the same range or power as you do for big game.

A low draw weight will also help prevent your arrow from becoming stuck in the creek or river bed.

A higher draw weight might be necessary as the seasons progress and fish move deeper, but a lower weight is usually ideal.

Use Level

The decision to purchase a specialized bow or convert a recurve or compound bow for bowfishing may also depend on how often you plan to use the bow.

If you’re simply testing out the hobby or only plan to bowfish occasionally, converting an old bow might be your best bet. However, if you plan to bowfish regularly, purchasing specialized equipment is certainly worth consideration.

Recommended reading: Best Bowfishing Bows Reviewed

Types of Bows You Can Use for Bowfishing

You can use three types of bow for bowfishing: recurve, compound, and specialized.

Recurve Bows for Bowfishing

A recurve is the simplest type of bow available. For that reason, recurve bows are often overlooked for activities like bowfishing in favor of compound bows. However, if you’re new to archery or bowfishing, a recurve bow might be your best option.

The simple nature of a recurve bow allows it to be the most economical option if you’re purchasing a new bow. They have very few parts – only the limbs, riser, and bowstring. They also have a continuous draw weight, making it perfect for snap shooting.

One of the most significant benefits of a recurve is that it can be taken down with an Allen key, or no tool at all. If you need to free up your hands or have a large catch to carry home, you can quickly take down your recurve and pack it away in a backpack, case, or bag.

Recurve bows can generally take any bowfishing reel.

You should know that a heavier bowfishing line can cause your arrow to drag. In other words, you may not be able to use the same line for a recurve bow that you would for a compound. So instead, you’ll want to choose something thinner and lighter.

Compound Bows for Bowfishing

Compound bows are the most common bow used in bowfishing. They have an adjustable draw weight, are simple to use, and don’t require as much strength to shoot. The most significant benefit to a compound bow is that they’re easier to use than a recurve bow, especially for beginners.

Related: Best Beginner Compound Bows (Reviews with Buyer’s Guide)

One of the major drawbacks of a compound bow is that they’re heavier. And unlike a recurve bow, releasing the tension from a compound bow requires a bow press.

Compound bows tend to be user-specific. The size bow that works for you may not work for your hunting or fishing buddy.

Another consideration is that compound bows can get packed with mud and dirt. This is super common when bowfishing. So chances are you’ll have to stop and de-gunk your bow sometimes. It also means you’ll need to give your bow a thorough cleaning after each use.

That said, a compound bow punches harder, which means it’s excellent for bigger fish or deeper water.

The compound bow’s construction also allows you to use heavier-tipped arrows than a recurve. If you’re aiming to hook a monster fish, a compound bow might be the better choice.

Specialized Bows for Bowfishing

When it comes to bowfishing, converting your standard recurve or compound bow to a bowfishing bow is a pretty simple task. However, there are bows that are specifically designed for bowfishing.

The main benefit of purchasing a bowfishing bow is that all of the work is done for you. Your old bow can remain as-is, and your new bow can be dedicated to bowfishing.

Choosing a bow that’s designed with bowfishing in mind will take the fuss out of figuring out whether or how to convert your old recurve or compound bow.

Verdict: Can Any Bow Be Used for Bowfishing?

In short, the answer to our question is yes, any bow can be used for bowfishing, as long as it’s fitted with the right accessories. 

Don’t skimp on choosing the right reel or line, and make sure your arrows are tipped with heads that are ideal for the fish you hope to catch. Most importantly, be prepared to get hooked on a new and exciting sport.

Recommended reading: Can You Use Regular Fishing Line For Bowfishing?