Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen


Bowfishing is a super-exciting sport that merges the best of two worlds—bowhunting and fishing. Not only does it bridge the gap for bowhunters waiting for the fall seasons to finally roll around, but gives those interested in fishing an opportunity to take a small step into the world of archery. 

For those who might not be aware, bowfishing entails shooting rough fish (usually nongame species, but check state regulations) with archery equipment, then hoisting them into the boat or onto the bank. From carp to gar to buffalo, some of these species can get huge and represent a significant challenge to those who pursue them. 

For those wanting to get into bowfishing, here’s a list of some of the things you’ll need to get started. 


bowfishing bow

Of course, you’ll need a bow if you don’t already have one. Your deer hunting bow will work, but be warned: It will get muddy and very messy (blood, scales, etc.) Most prefer to have a separate bow for bowfishing, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. While compound bows work well, a simple recurve can be set up for bowfishing and meet all of your needs in the sport. Just be sure to pick one with plenty of punch. Made for bowfishing, this Fin-Finder Bank Runner from Sportsman’s Warehouse would definitely get the job done. 

Bowfishing Reel  

bowfishing reel

A bowfishing reel is necessary for reeling in fish and for reeling in the arrow on misses. An old Zebco can get the job done, but they usually don’t operate well with the heavy line required to hoist in a big fish. The AMS Bowfishing Retriever Pro from Bass Pro Shops allows the user to collect the arrow quickly after a miss so a follow-up shot can be taken. Plus, the buttonless design allows you to draw, aim and shoot quickly without having to worry about releasing the line. It comes with 25 yards of 200-pound test line. 

Reel Seat 

reel seat

Many bows and reels will require a reel seat to ensure the reel is attached to the bow properly. Duct tape might work in a pinch, but honestly with the bloody mess it’s likely to experience a made-for-the-purpose reel seat will save you a lot of problems in the long run. The Muzzy Bowfishing Anchor Reel Seat from Bass Pro creates a rock-solid platform for spincast-type bowfishing reels. It’s also simple to install, as it attaches easily to your bow’s stabilizer mounting hole.

Arrow Rest 

arrow rest for bowfishing

The high-tech arrow rests that most people use for bowhunting typically won’t hold up to bowfishing for a number of reasons, including the heavy weight of bowfishing arrows and the fact that most bowhunters likely don’t want to get a bunch of slime on their hunting rest. The Cajun Bowfishing Brush Fire Arrow Rest from Bass Pro features a reversible design that keeps the arrow in place. Plus, the replaceable arrow positioning bristles hold the arrow firmly in place for the angled shots that are often experienced when bowfishing.  

Bowfishing Arrow 

bowfishing arrow

Of course, you’re not going to score on a carp or gar without a quality bowfishing arrow. Most are made from fiberglass and have a specialized tip that features a mechanism that opens after the arrow enters or passes through the fish so you can retrieve it.  The Innerloc 3 Barb Grapple Glass Max Bowfishing Arrow available at Sportsman’s Warehouse is a great example of what you’ll need. It comes with a three-barb tip that opens to an extra-large holding area after the fish is hit. 

Bowfishing Line 

You can use regular fishing line on your bowfishing rig, but you’ll likely be more satisfied with a purpose-made line for the job. Very heavy braided lines are the most popular, since you don’t have to worry about fish seeing your line like you do in many fishing situations. The Archenemy Tournament Series Braided Bowfishing Line from Cabela’s fits the bill nicely. At 200-pound test, the line is just .030-inch in diameter for improved arrow speed and less drag. Plus, the high-visibility green color makes it easy to track your arrow in the water. 

Full Bowfishing Setup 

full bowfishing setup

If it’s starting to sound like you need to do more shopping than you would prefer, some manufacturers make complete bowfishing setups that can have you ready for the water very quickly. Most include a bow, reel, line and arrow. The Cajun Archery Bowfishing Fish Stick RTF Recurve Bow Bowfishing Package from Cabela’s has everything you need to get started at a very reasonable price. Included are a 45-pound draw bow, a drum reel with arrow line, a roller arrow rest and a bowfishing arrow tipped with a Piranha Point. 

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