The 10 Best Bowfishing Reels in 2020 to Land Your Catch


When someone decided to combine fishing and archery, bowfishing was born.

Today, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the US – but you can’t just use any old kit and be successful.

Apart from picking up one of the best bowfishing bows money can buy, you’re also going to need a dedicated reel. Or, you might simply want to switch out your old reel for an upgrade.

Either way, we’ve got you covered, with the best bowfishing reels in 2020 right here.

Read on to discover your next game-changer. A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow.

Let’s reel ‘em in.

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The 10 Best Bowfishing Reels in 2020

AMS Tournament Series Retriever TNT

Let’s make a super-strong start with a product that’s regarded as one of the best reels for bowfishing ever made.

The US company needs little introduction when it comes to this sport, and this is part of their revered Tournament Series range.

Easy-to-operate, it has a gear ratio of 4.3.1, which ensures you’re retrieving 27-inches of line for every turn of the handle. And that handle has been extended to provide you with more torque for when you’re bringing that big catch home.

Available for left and right-handed hunters, this is a top-of-the-line bowfishing reel that will get the job done, with 35 yards of 350 lbs Spectra line included.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Highly rated in the community.
  • Oversized opening.
  • Solid brass gears and stainless steel hardware.
  • Corrosion-resistant housing.

Cons

  • One of the more expensive reels on the market.

Takeaway

Most users of the AMS Retriever TNT say they wouldn’t have any other reel – so why not join them and find out what the fuss is about. It might be a little more pricey than other options, but boy is it worth it.

Muzzy 1097 XD Bow Fishing Reel

The Muzzy 1097 XD is an excellent example of the more affordable spincast bowfishing reels, popular with many of the sport’s fanatics.

With a strong brass and stainless steel drive system, dual-spool bearings, and automotive-style disk drag – you can harness the power to land some seriously impressive creatures.

Designed with an elongated hood for faster line feed, it comes with 150 yards of 150 lbs fishing line, so you can get right out onto the water in no time and catch some beasts.

This is built to bring in the big fish – so you’d better pick up one of the best bowfishing arrows to back it up.

Pros

  • Very affordable.
  • Name to trust.
  • Tough, durable design and build.
  • Ambidextrous conversion.
  • Saltwater rated.

Cons

  • None to speak of.

Takeaway

Good bowfishing reels will often set you back a bit of coin, but this totally subverts that logic, which makes the sport affordable and accessible to all. Top-quality stuff from Muzzy – but I would expect nothing less.

Cajun Bowfishing Screw-On Drum Reel

The third type of bowfishing reel available is a drum reel – which is also known as a hand wrap reel.

This screw-on, all-aluminum offering from Cajun Bowfishing is a prime example, designed to manually wrap the line back around the drum after releasing.

Very easy to use and perfect for beginners or if you’re seriously on a budget, you simply attach the metal drum to where a bow stabilizer would normally sit, using the center bolt provided, and then you’re good to go.

It comes with 50 yards of 80 lbs braided line, which is designed for smooth release when you take your shot. It’s also available as a tape on – which is handy if you don’t want to use the stabilizer bushing, or drill new holes in your bow.

Pros

  • Excellent price point.
  • Easy to set up.
  • Traditional look, feel, and challenge.

Cons

  • The line isn’t the best – you might want to switch it out.
  • Setting up can take time.
  • Hand retrieval isn’t for everyone.

Takeaway

It will certainly give you a more authentic bowfishing experience from days gone by, but I would heartily suggest using a good pair of fishing gloves to protect your hands as you retrieve your catch.

Still, this is a great starter option you can attach to just about any bow to see if you like the sport.

Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel

Staying with Cajun Bowfishing we have this Winch Pro bottle reel that has a revolutionary design to allow you to operate it with one hand.

A fight wheel brake lets you brake and reel simultaneously, while the fully adjustable, ceramic string guide is designed to offer a smoother feed.

Made with rugged aluminum for exceptional durability, this is a reel that can be attached to just about any bow – thanks to the vertical and horizontal mounting adjustments.

The anti-reverse prevents tangling, and you can fish until your heart’s content in fresh and saltwater conditions.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Stainless steel hardware.
  • Solid aluminum mounting brackets.
  • Ideal for larger fish.

Cons

  • It’s on the more pricey side of bowfishing reels.
  • For right-handers only.

Takeaway

A well-made and designed bowfishing reel that gives the AMS TNT a run for its money. It’s still expensive though, so perhaps you should make sure you like the sport before splashing out.

SinoArt Bowfishing Reel Seat Spincast Reel

Next up we have another affordable spin bowfishing reel that, like all decent reels, can be used as part of both a recurve or compound bow setup.

It can also be used in slingshot fishing should you prefer to hunt your quarry in such a way.

The wheel rocker can be swapped over to cater for right and left-handers, and the inner workings are made with a die-cast alloy for durability, while providing a nice, smooth retrieval when you’ve hit your mark.

Corrosion-resistant materials have been used externally, so feel free to use this in more challenging saltwater environments, or when the weather decides to be nasty.

Pros

  • Affordable price point.
  • Stainless steel handle.
  • Mounting seat and line included.
  • Easy-to-install.

Cons

  • The line isn’t the best.
  • Not the most durable reel in the review.

Takeaway

A decent bowfishing reel that can be used on any bow that has a stabilizer bushing – or even if you prefer to use a slingshot. Failing that, you could always flip 180 and decide to check out these cool spear guns instead.

AMEYXGS Bowfishing Reel

Here we have a more affordable bottle retriever reel (which is often the preferred reel type for a great many bowfishers around the world).

Offering one-handed operation, it’s made with high-quality ABS and aluminum, and the large bottle is pre-filled with just over 40 yards of line.

This is designed to eject smoothly with each release, without the risk of snag, and is a high visibility green color so you don’t lose sight of your shot.

As far as this style of reel is concerned, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better value-for-money, and it’s well worth picking up if you’re just starting out in the sport.

Pros

  • Unbeatable price.
  • Easy-to-use.
  • Non-slip bottle.

Cons

  • Only for right-handers.
  • Not quite the quality of more premium reels in its class.

Takeaway

As far as budget-friendly bottle retriever reels go, this one wins hands-down, and is probably one of the best bowfishing reels for the money out there. I’d be very interested to see how long it lasts, so I might pick one up myself for a thorough testing.

Zebco Bowfisher Direct Mount Spincast Reel

Fascinatingly, Zebco started out making time bombs for oil drilling, which does seem like more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from fishing reels.

Still, they invented the first-ever spincaster, so it stands to reason they would design a bowfishing version…some 70 years later.

This lightweight reel can be directly mounted on any bow, and has all-metal gears, and an anti-reverse system built-in. There’s also an ingenious Picatinny rail, so you can attach a flashlight, laser sight, or any other compatible railing accessory you desire.

And speaking of lights, you should check out this link for more bowfishing light options when you’re out well after dark.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Durable construction.
  • Safety shooting switch.
  • Ambidextrous operation.
  • Line included.

Cons

  • The line might not be the most durable out there.

Takeaway

Altogether a quality bowfishing reel from a tried and trusted fishing reel brand – what’s not to like? I especially like the safety switch – which is a nice touch that offers peace-of-mind when shooting deadly arrows.

Cajun Spin Doctor Bowfishing Reel

We’ve seen their drum and bottle reels, now let’s take a look at their spin version – the well-named “Spin Doctor.”

It’s a smartly designed unit, with an elongated hood and larger hole opening for smoother ejection and line feeding. Made with an all-metal assembly, it has dual pickup pins that help to grab slack line quickly, ensuring you get a super-fast retrieval of your catch.

The handle design prevents tangling and can be repositioned left or right, and it comes pre-spooled with 150 lbs of fast-flight line.

They claim it’s one of the most innovative reels on the market – and they might not be too far wrong.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Affordable price.
  • Compact, attractive design.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • Not suitable for more powerful fish.

Takeaway

Another nice reel option from Cajun to add to their ever-growing and popular bowfishing family. You can “start stik’n” with this affordable spinner in no time.

Fin-Finder Sidewinder Drum Reel

Let’s not forget about the simple drum reel, as we include the popular Sidewinder option from Fin-Finder.

A slight variation to the Cajun drum version, this drum reel incorporates a retrieval handle, so you can actually wind the line back onto the drum rather than pulling it in by hand.

Made with a corrosion-resistant stainless steel and nylon construction, you can pretty much take this simple setup anywhere and hunt in all conditions.

Pre-spooled with high-contrast, orange line, it’s tough and durable through and through, and easy to use for left and right-handed archers.

Pros

  • Easy to use design.
  • Suitable for any bow.
  • Smooth line release action.

Cons

  • As simple as they come.

Takeaway

A no-frills, basic bowfishing drum reel that won’t win awards for how it looks, but it’s certainly a step up from pulling the line in by hand, with the convenience of a wind system.

Fin-Finder Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel

We might as well stay with Fin-Finder to finish our fishing feature, with this blue bottle bowfishing reel that has been designed in partnership with Cajun.

It offers a 4.1 gear ratio for super-fast retrieval, and features 100% aluminum mounting brackets for a sturdy connection to any weapon. It comes with over 25 yards of 250 lbs braided line, and even has a built-in arrow quiver to store your flight when it’s not in use.

Anti-reverse, stainless steel bearings prevent the reel from turning backwards, and it’s finished in an attractive, frosted blue color.

Pros

  • Durable construction.
  • Smooth retrieval action.
  • Arrow quiver.

Cons

  • Right-handers only.
  • Pricey.

Takeaway

Fin-Finder makes an impressive stab at cornering the bottle reel market with this effort in collaboration with Cajun, and it’s a well-designed and practical result, even if it doesn’t quite break the mold.

How to Choose the Best Bowfishing Reel – What to Look Out For

Before you settle on your next bowfishing reel, it might be a good idea to check out our handy buyer’s guide below, just for some extra tips and advice on anything you might have missed.

hunter aiming with compound bow on a hill

Why a Special Reel?

Bowfishing is, as you can imagine, a little different from traditional fishing. And while the principle of having a reel in order to land your catch is the same, their design is not.

You need to have a special bowfishing reel that can be attached onto your bow. This can be a recurve or compound, and each reel will have a different way of mounting onto the weapon depending on that style of reel (see below).

Long story short, you can’t use any old fishing reel (or any old fishing line – for that matter) when it comes to bowfishing. A dedicated bowfishing reel is highly recommended.

Types of Reel

There are three, distinct types of reel you can use for bowfishing, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a more detailed look, below.

camouflage compound bowfishing bow with arrow

Drum Reels

The most basic type of bowfishing reels, a drum reel is exactly what it sounds like – a simple drum around which the fishing line is wound.

There are very few moving parts – if any at all – although some drum reels do have a wind retrieval system, whereas others you bring the line back in by hand.

As you might expect, the biggest disadvantage with that is having to manually wind the line back in after each shot, as this is at the most basic, no-frills end of the arrow/fish retrieval spectrum and can take some time.

Speed is not a friend to the drum setup.

Having said that, drum reels are the most inexpensive bowfishing reels, and a solid option if you’re a beginner looking to get a feel for the sport, or if you’re in search of a more old-school bowfishing challenge.

They’re also a great option for camping, or anywhere you only need to catch one or two fish for dinner.

Additionally, they’re super-easy to install on just about any bow, and should last a long time with little to no maintenance required.

They definitely still have their place in the community, in spite of all the latest modern tech.

Spincast Reels

Very similar in design to traditional spincast reels, the bowfishing version is arguably the most common type you’ll find in the sport.

They use gear ratios and a handle to receive the line after it has been ejected out of the front of the reel when a shot has been taken.

They have several advantages over a drum reel, not least a smoother retrieval system, often with the ability to set the drag – much like a traditional equivalent.

Bowfishing with spincast reels is immensely popular, as they’re tough, durable, fast, and can land you some seriously big fish. This is the preferred option of many tournament bowfishers because of their speed.

However, given the fact that they have a lot of moving parts, breakages and malfunctions are not uncommon.

Retriever Reels

Also known as “bottle” reels for their distinctive look that’s unlike anything else in fishing, retriever reels are the most expensive of the three.

This is likely down to the design and materials needed to manufacture a product that’s going to be as successful as this unique design appears to be.

Retriever reels are silky-smooth to shoot, more dependable and durable than spinners, and with the right line – they can land you the biggest catches.

But, as ever, there’s always a downside, and what you have in strength you lose in speed. And the best ones aren’t cheap, so make sure you’re going to like the sport if you opt for this type of reel.

Types of Line

Due to the very nature of bowfishing – shooting a solid arrow at a target and then reeling that and (hopefully) a heavy fish in – bowfishing line is different from traditional fishing lines.

It’s usually much thicker in diameter, braided, and brightly colored – so you can see exactly where you’ve placed your shot – often into muddy waters.

Many of the reels available today will come pre-spooled with bowfishing line, but you might still want to switch this out if it’s not up-to-scratch, or for whatever reason you’re not happy.

Check out the video below for a guide to some of the different bowfishing lines available.

Ease of Use

It’s important that you choose a bowfishing reel that’s comfortable for you to use, as some are much more straightforward than others.

This is especially true when it comes to figuring out how to mount the reel. Spin and drum reels are usually the easiest – and you simply attach them to the bow’s stabilizer bushing.

Retriever reels might require a little more thought and effort.

Your bow will need to have ATA accessory or AMO sight bushings in order to attach a retriever reel. If it doesn’t, you can drill your own, or purchase a compatible mounting bracket if you don’t want to damage your bow.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratios are often a complex – but necessary – part of choosing a fishing reel. This is particularly true of spin reels in both bowfishing and traditional angling.

Simply put, it refers to how many times the reel will spin with one turn of the handle – thus giving you an indication of how fast it’s going to pick up the line.

While it’s not vital you understand the ins and outs of this, it’s more important for anyone looking at tournament fishing where speed is everything.

Cost

Even the most advanced bowfishing reels on the market aren’t going to necessarily break the bank – you shouldn’t be paying more than $150 for one – at best.

That said, once you take everything else into consideration – bowfishing costs can add up.

The beauty of it is – you can spend as much or as little as you like on your rig, and I would encourage you to work within your budget for whatever suits your style.

hunter with bowfishing bow

FAQs

Can you put a bowfishing reel on any bow?

Yes – providing, of course, that the bow can accommodate it, and has the mounting hardware that will take such an accessory.

Most compound and recurve bows today will have the right bushings to install a bowfishing reel – and even if it doesn’t, you can always create some, or use a special mounting bracket instead.

Just bear in mind that a standard bow is not going to be anywhere near as good as a dedicated bowfishing counterpart.

Check out this video for setting up a retriever reel on a standard recurve as an example.

What is the best bowfishing reel?

It depends on your own preferred style of fishing. Drum, spin, and retriever reels all have their advantages, and the answer to the question is very subjective.

What’s the best for me – might not be the best for you.

That said, if I was looking to purchase a new bowfishing reel (and depending on how I wanted to fish) I think I’d go for the AMS Tournament TNT. That thing is on another level.

And I’d for sure turn to the Muzzy reels if I was looking for a spinner.

Can you use any reel for bowfishing?

No. Traditional fishing reels are not at all suitable for bowfishing. Attempting to use a standard reel for this sport will not only fail – it might actually be dangerous.

Remember that this line and reel has an arrow attached to it – and accidents can happen if you’re not using something that is compatible with it.

How long does the line need to be for bowfishing?

Given the fact that you’re shooting at a target that is rarely more than 20 yards away – you actually don’t need much more line than that.

Bowfishing line is still available in various lengths, and 25 yards seems to be a good starting point for most beginners. To be honest, even pros don’t need any more than that.

Don’t forget that bowfishing arrows are designed to kill the animal outright, so it’s unlikely you’re going to be faced with a battle to land the fish after a successful shot.

What’s the best bowfishing arrow?

I’m so glad you asked. Much like traditional fishing reels, you should never try to use a regular archery arrow for bowfishing – it’s just not going to have the strength or power to be safely up to the task.

Bowfishing arrows need to have a powerful spine, capable of piercing and holding big fish.

Check out this review on the best bowfishing arrows and you’ll soon see the main differences. Then you can make your own mind up which is the best on the market.

How do you attach bowfishing line to an arrow?

A very good question – and one that is of utmost importance. You certainly don’t want to be losing a quality bowfishing arrow into the murky deep.

It’s good practice to use a safety slide, too – as you don’t want to risk the pointy end pinging back into your face.

Check out the video below for tips and advice on attaching the bowfishing line to the arrow.

What’s the best draw weight for bowfishing?

The jury is out on this one. Many sport bowfishers tend to hover in the 40-50 lbs range, but there are still others who say anywhere upwards of 30 lbs is perfectly fine.

At the ranges you’re shooting, and if you have a good arrow and point, you’re pretty much going to kill anything you hit. Even a 25 lbs weight is going to do the job.

Unless, of course, you’re hunting alligators. In which case – maybe kick the draw weight up a notch.

Summary

The best bowfishing reels of 2020 offer an eclectic mix of options to suit a variety of bowfishing styles, environments, and wallets.

I hope this article has helped you zero in on the product that’s right for you and your setup. Let me know in the comments which one you’ve gone for and why.

Until next time, folks – good hunting.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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