Just when you thought outdoor pursuits couldn’t get any better, someone invented a bowfishing sport.
(It’s actually been around for centuries – but who’s counting?)
Today, bowfishing is one of the fastest growing sports in the US alone, with more people engaging with the exciting pace, fun, adrenaline, and camaraderie that it has become associated with.
It certainly ain’t as slow as a lazy Sunday on a creek bank (although that has plenty of merit, too).
So, if you’re keen to join in, you’ll need to know about the 11 best bowfishing bows in 2023. Read on to discover the treat you never knew you wanted until now.
A buyer’s guide for help with choosing the right bowfishing bow will follow.
Table of Contents
- TOP 11 Best Bowfishing Bows in 2023
- Oneida Eagle Osprey Lever Action Bowfishing Bow
- AMS Bowfishing Hooligan Bow Bowfishing Kit
- Cajun Bowfishing Shore Runner Compound Bow
- AMS Bowfishing Water Moc Recurve Bowfishing Kit
- Muzzy Bowfishing LV-X Bow by Oneida
- Barnett 1108 Vortex H2O Youth Archery Bow
- Cajun Fish Stick Take-Down Bowfishing Bow
- Muzzy Vice Bowfishing Bow Kit
- D&Q Archery Recurve Bowfishing Bow
- PSE Archery The Kingfisher Recurve Bow Set
- Cajun Bowfishing Sucker Punch Bow Package
- Why Bowfishing?
- How to Choose the Best Bowfishing Bow
- Can any bow be used for bowfishing?
- What type of fish can I bowfish?
- Where can I go bowfishing?
- Compound or recurve bow for bowfishing?
- What is the best bow for bowfishing?
- Do you need a license for bowfishing?
- What is the best draw weight for bowfishing?
- When should I start bowfishing?
- Can you bow fish for catfish?
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TOP 11 Best Bowfishing Bows in 2023
The sport of bowfishing has been on the rise in the US for a number of years now, so much so that popular, established archery brands have started to jump on the bandwagon and get products out there to cater for the demand.
So, why is this? What’s all the big fuss about sticking a fish with an arrow?
Let’s take a look at the environmental plus points first (which is always important when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors.)
Bowfishing greatly reduces the number of rough or trash fish in waterways – the likes of common carp, grass carp, buffalo and gar.
Check out this article on bowfishing for carp for more detailed information. Just remember, you can’t bowfish for everything under the water – certain species are off limits.
But perhaps the number one draw to bowfishing is just how much fun it is. This is the reason why it’s become so popular in recent years.
It’s an absolute blast.
You don’t have to be quiet, you can get loads of mates together to enjoy it, and you can turn it into a party. The camaraderie aspect is what makes it a special experience.
It’s much more of a thrill than traditional fishing, and the excitement alone gets people interested who wouldn’t normally be keen on this kind of hunt.
So, grab yourself a quality bowfishing bow and join in the fun!
How to Choose the Best Bowfishing Bow
If you’re new to bowfishing (or even if you just need a refresher) check out the handy buyer’s guide and FAQ section below.
Here’s what you should be looking out for before making a purchase.
Type of Bow
Hunting bows come in all shapes and sizes, but there are three main designs that have been tried and trusted in the field for decades.
Recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows.
And any one of these can be kitted out to perform as a bowfishing weapon – with the right attachments and accessories.
However, for the purpose of this article, we will assume that each bow type has been designed for bowfishing and already comes with the relevant hardware.
But which type makes the best bowfishing bow?
If you’re seeking a more traditional bow hunting experience, then a recurve/take down bow should be what you’re looking for.
They’re powerful, accessible for beginners, fast and light, great for snap shooting, and on the whole much cheaper than a compound bow. You can also dismantle take down bows for transport and storage.
However, they’re much harder to draw and aim, and their larger size can pose problems with clearance and mobility.
Compound bows might look and feel more complex with their wheels and pulley systems, but this ensures they are much easier to pull than recurves, achieving high power while spending significantly less energy on the draw.
Smooth and efficient, the design of a compound bow enables a steady draw and aim, holding this position for almost as long as you like without fatigue or shakes setting in.
As such, you’ll often find a compound bow to be more popular with younger archers.
Compound bows are highly customizable, and you can adjust the weapon to suit the shooter’s needs, fine-tuning the rig until it’s a near-perfect set up.
And with plenty of accessory options, compound bows are usually the preferred choice for beginners and tournament shooters, alike.
Finally, you will find crossbows can be adapted to work as bowfishing weapons, but with a slow rate of fire they’re not particularly popular.
Weight is important when it comes to archery. Not just the physical weight of the bow and rig itself, but the amount of draw weight it requires to draw the string back.
And this is exactly the same in bowfishing.
You need to choose a bow that you’re going to be comfortable holding. Obviously, the added weight of reel, line, and more heavyweight arrows might make a big difference.
But perhaps more importantly, you should be able to comfortably pull the bow back. This is where compound bows can be more forgiving – and they’re ideal for younger shooters and beginners.
For bowfishing bows, the ideal draw weight is 30 to 40 pounds.
Figuring out the correct draw weight for you is a critical part of choosing the right bow. Check out the video below on bowfishing draw weights for more information.
Like the bows themselves, bowfishing reels are available in three distinct types.
Drum reels are the most basic, given the fact that they’re also called “hand” reels for obvious reasons. Upon striking a fish, you need to manually pull it in by wrapping the line around the drum.
While this might sound problematic, drum reels have the advantage of having no moving parts, require virtually zero maintenance, and cost next to nothing to purchase.
Moving on up, we have spin reels, which are very similar to spin cast reels that are popular in traditional fishing. This time, however, they’re mounted on a seat at the front of the bow.
When you release the arrow, the reel allows the line to feed out, ready to be retrieved with the crank should your aim be true.
However, button-operated spinners are to be avoided, as complications can occur if you forget to release the line prior to shooting. Trigger spin reels are preferable.
Finally, retriever/bottle reels are by far the most popular option when it comes to bowfishing reels. Easy to identify, the line is bailed into a bottle rather than around a spool.
Drag can be applied by switching a lever, but many bottle reels don’t even need this system to snag medium to large-sized fish for drag-free shots.
The type you choose will depend on what you feel most comfortable using, what you’re fishing for, or even what your first bowfishing bow comes with.
When choosing an archery bow, it’s important that you look at the maximum draw length, to ensure it’s going to be a good fit for you.
The same can be said for a bowfishing bow.
The draw length is, as you might expect, the length that a bow can be drawn. To calculate the right size for you, it’s highly recommended you visit a local archery center for a genuinely accurate reading.
However, if this isn’t possible, then you’ll need to enlist the help of a friend or family member.
Spread your arms out as far as they go into a ‘T’ position, and have someone measure the distance from the tips of your right and left hands – palms forward.
Divide this number by 2.5, and you’ll have a general idea of your personal draw length.
A good compound fishing bow should offer different draw lengths, which is advantageous for varying the power, speed, and control of your shots.
Like just about everything in bowfishing, the line itself is different to that of regular fishing line. Check out the video below, which puts the leading brands against each other to help you choose the right line for your rig.
As you might expect, bowfishing arrows have significant differences to their traditional archery counterparts.
They’re designed to be much stronger, and are most commonly constructed of fiberglass. Solid aluminum and carbon fiber arrows are also available.
In place of the regular pile of a traditional flight, on a fishing arrow you’ll find a barbed head in order to successfully skewer the fish and reel it in.
Most bowfishing kits come complete with an arrow included – but you might find that it’s not up to scratch (in order to keep costs down) and you should think about upgrading if you deem it necessary.
As you might have guessed in the review above, the cost of purchasing a bowfishing bow can vary wildly depending on the quality of the instrument and accessories you’re interested in.
You can snag yourself a cheap set up for around $100 with everything included, or you can pay thousands of dollars for the best archery bows and kit them out with bowfishing gear.
It’s really up to you.
However, one of the best things about the sport is that – comparatively speaking – it’s relatively cheap to get going. All you need is the bow, a compatible reel, and the right arrow.
So, getting out onto the water for your first hunt doesn’t have to break the bank.
That comes later…
Can any bow be used for bowfishing?
It is possible to adapt a traditional archery bow into a fishing bow, providing you have the right compatible hardware, in order to apply its use to hunting fish instead of game.
Both recurve and compound bows can be used.
However, not just “any bow” will do, as it still needs to be a decent rig that won’t break under the pressures of reeling fish in – especially if you intend on hunting for larger species.
The main difference between a regular target shooting/hunting bow and a fishing bow is in the arrows and addition of a reel.
And while the best bowfishing bow should already come with an integrated reel seat, and bowfishing arrow, there’s no reason why you can’t adapt a bow you already have with the right bowfishing gear.
What type of fish can I bowfish?
As a rule of thumb, you should always be steering clear of game fish. When it comes to bowfishing, trash or rough fish species are your preferred targets.
Carp, eels, suckers, bigmouth buffalo, perch, catfish, and gar to name a few freshwater options – and derivatives thereof.
Just be sure that before you start letting fly with your deadly arrows you and your party knows exactly what it’s shooting.
Not only will you get into trouble with the law, but you’ll make yourself extremely unpopular in the fishing community if you’re not careful.
Where can I go bowfishing?
Pretty much anywhere. Lakes, rivers and ponds, bays, beaches, and estuaries.
The best places to bowfish will be in shallow areas where the water isn’t much more than four feet deep – and is as clear as possible, so you can actually see your quarry.
Check online, or ask at your nearest tackle and bait store for local advice on great bowfishing spots.
Compound or recurve bow for bowfishing?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages for bowfishing.
In a nutshell – recurves are faster and cheaper, while offering more of a challenge.
Compounds are easier to draw, generally more powerful and compact.
When you research bowfishing, you’ll see most folks using compound bows for the sport. Especially when it comes to tournaments.
But check out this video below to see them both in action on the water. In the end – it’s what you would most enjoy shooting.
What is the best bow for bowfishing?
Just about any of the beasts that are in the Oneida Eagle Bows back catalog. But if you don’t fancy parting with that amount of money, Cajun, AMS Bowfishing, Muzzy, and PSE Archery offer some more wallet-friendly alternatives.
(Although even some of their products can set you back a fair bit of coin, too.)
Do you need a license for bowfishing?
Absolutely. A sport fishing license is required anywhere you fish. Bowfishing is classed as game hunting, and as such is in the same category when it comes to legal bindings.
Always check the state or local regulations where you are before embarking on a bowfishing trip. Illegal fishing and hunting activity is just not worth the risk.
What is the best draw weight for bowfishing?
There isn’t one. No weight is better or worse than any other – what you’re looking for is the best draw weight for you.
Any medium-weight draw will be perfectly adequate to get the job done for most fish at a depth of three to four feet. For bow
Unless, of course, you’re hunting a Megalodon.
When should I start bowfishing?
There’s no time like the present – but the best time to go bowfishing is in the early spring and summer, when plenty of trash fish have been busy spawning their trashy offspring.
Get stuck in and go take ‘em out.
Can you bow fish for catfish?
Yes, you most certainly can. Catfish are regarded as a nuisance species, and you’re more than welcome to help control numbers.
And they’re outstanding baked with lemon and cayenne pepper.
I hope this review and buyer’s guide has helped point you in the right direction to find the best bowfishing bow of 2020 for you.
Personally, I’d be leaning towards the AMS Water Moc – because I’m a sucker for the challenge of a good recurve.
Let me know in the comments section which one you’ve gone for and why.
I’ll see you out there on the water!