Reel In The Best Bowfishing Bow in 2021

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Bowfishing has taken off in recent years as an exciting sport that combines everyone’s love of fishing with the technique and discipline of archery. A quick search on YouTube and you will find a great number of videos of exciting and action-packed bowfishing adventures. 

Bowfishing can be a social sport and done in groups, or it can be a solitary sport done alone. No matter your preference, one true fact remains, bowfishing is fun.

So, do you want to join up with a group of buddies who frequently go bowfishing? Or maybe you simply want to get started with the sport on your own? Where do you begin?

The first step is securing the proper equipment. 

In this article, we will define what bowfishing is, what equipment is needed, and also we will recommend our favorite options for the most essential piece of equipment; the bowfishing bow.

The Best Bowfishing Bow – Our Picks

Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon and other retailers

Bowfishing Bow Reviews

Cajun Archery Sucker Punch

The Cajun Sucker Punch bowfishing bow package comes ready to fish and it includes a lot of exciting extras. This bow is constructed with extra-deep cam grooves to keep your bow firing while preventing the string from derailing. The tackle installed on the Sucker Punch is top-line and includes the Cajun’s Winch Pro Reel, blister buster finger pads, a fishing biscuit arrow rest, and two fiberglass piranha arrows. The bow only weighs a total of 3.2-pounds.

Some other important details about the Sucker Punch include a brace height of 7.25-inches, an adjustable draw length of 17-to-31-inches, and a peak draw weight of 50-pounds. Also, the bow has an axle-to-axle length of 32.25-inches. 

What we liked:

  • Loaded with top-of-the-line bowfishing accessories.
  • Adjustable draw length.
  • Weighs a mere 3.2-pounds.
  • Includes two fiberglass piranha arrows.

What we didn’t:

  • Only comes in a right-handed model.
A great video review and for instructions on setting up your new Cajun Sucker Punch bowfishing bow

Barnett Vortex H20

The Barnett Vortex H20 is an excellent option for someone looking for a bowfishing setup that is a little more budget friendly. There are several reasons for seeking a budget-friendly model that will still have many of the same features as the more expensive models. You may be an avid hunter, but this is your first bowfishing setup and you want to try it before you invest heavily into the sport. Or you may purchase this bow for one of your teenage children that may lose interest after a few outings. Whatever your reason for seeking an affordable bow fishing setup, this is the best option for you. 

The Barnett Vortex H20 contains dual cams to provide the smoothest draw and it has a let-off of about 60-70%. Other specifications you should know about is that this bow has an adjustable draw length and an adjustable draw weight. The draw length is 26.625-28-inches, and the draw weight can be adjusted between 31 and 45-pounds. 

This bow is also extremely lightweight due to its durable aluminum construction coming in at 2.3-pounds. The axle-to-axle bow length is roughly 28.5-inches. Take this bow directly out of the packaging and it is ready to use. Also includes a 3-pin sight and an arrow rest.

What we liked:

  • Lightweight and durable aluminum construction.
  • Contains dual cams for an extra smooth draw.
  • Comes with a 3-pin sight and an arrow rest for accurate shots.
  • Ready to use direct from the box.

What we didn’t:

  • No mention that arrows are included. Must purchase separately.

AMS Bowfishing Hooligan

The AMS Bowfishing Hooligan is designed for the more experienced bowfisher. This bow’s riser is made of forged and machined aluminum while the limbs are completely made of fiberglass. Adjust the draw weight anywhere from 24-50-pounds and enjoy a maximum draw length of 32-inches. The brace height is 7.5-inches, the axle-to-axle length is 34.75-inches, and the bow itself weighs only 3.25-pounds. 

Included in this bowfishing package are the AMS Retriever TNT reel loaded with 35-yards of 350-pounds spectre line, a fiberglass arrow, and a safety slide. One last feature worth mentioning is the Rapid Adjustment Post cam system can be quickly customized to your exact preferences.

What we liked:

  • Customizable cam system.
  • Lightweight aluminum and fiberglass construction. 
  • Large range of draw weights available. 
  • Maximum draw length of 32-inches for our taller bowfishers.

What we didn’t:

  • Only available in a right-handed model.

Muzzy Bowfishing Vice

Muzzy Bowfishing Vice
Muzzy Bowfishing Vice

Muzzy has a great reputation in the bowfishing community. This highly adjustable bow contains draw weights that can be adjusted from 25-55-pounds and draw lengths from 24.5-31-inches. The bow also has a clocked FPS of 320. That is incredibly fast!

With the purchase of this bowfishing package, you will receive the XD Pro Push-Button Reel that comes loaded with 150-yards of 150-pound tournament quality fishing line. There is also the integrated reel seat, a Muzzy Fish Hook rest, the classic white fish arrow with a carp point and nock, and last, some glove-free finger guards.

The Muzzy Bowfishing Vice has a compact 30-inch axle-to-axle bow length and weighs 3.8-pounds. 

What we liked:

  • Shoots incredibly fast with a 320 FPS rating.
  • Compact design with a 30-inch axle-to-axle bow length.
  • Highly adjustable with a 25-55-pounds draw weight range and a 24.5-31-inch draw length range.
  • Integrated reel seat and Muzzy Fish Hook Rest.
  • Comes with glove-free finger guards pre-installed on the string.

What we didn’t:

  • Again, no mention of a left-handed model.

Archenemy Depth Charge

Archenemy Depth Charge
Archenemy Depth Charge

The Archenemy Depth Charge is the ultimate bowfishing setup every left-handed archer has been waiting for. This bow is rugged, durable, and lightweight all at the same time. The draw weight is adjustable from 28-40-pounds and the draw length maxes out at 30-inches. The brace height is 6-inches and the axle-to-axle bow length is a compact 32-inches. 

Included in the Archenemy Depth Charge bowfishing package is the Depth Charge bow, a Rapid Fire arrow rest, the Nemesis bowfishing reel, a reel seat, two arrows, and the Nemesis reel comes preloaded with 200-pound Archenemy Tourney Series braided line.

What we liked:

  • Rugged, durable, and lightweight design.
  • Fully adjustable draw weight and draw length.
  • Includes many additional items in the bowfishing package.
  • Ready to use direct from the box.

What we didn’t:

  • Not available in a right-handed model, but get over it, every other bow is designed for right-handed bowfishers.

Oneida Eagle Osprey Bowfishing Bow

The Oneida Eagle Osprey lever-action bowfishing bow is one of the smoothest draws that will remind you of a recurve bow when it performs snapshots over and over again. The smooth draw and easy snapshot come from the bow’s composite outboard limbs and durable casting that work to absorb recoil. 

This bowfishing package also possesses the Osprey’s precision cam and lever system which delivers incredible power. Included with the purchase of this bow is an Osprey arrow rest and a Flemish-twist string.

What we liked:

  • Available in both left and right-handed models.
  • Durable construction that absorbs recoil with ease.
  • Ultra-smooth draw and snapshot capabilities provided by the level-action design. 
  • Included in the package are an Osprey arrow rest and a Flemish-twist string. 

What we didn’t:

  • More expensive than other bowfishing setups.

AMS Bowfishing Retriever Pro Combo Kit

Easily convert an old compound bow or your back-up hunting bow into a bowfishing rig by purchasing and installing the AMS bowfishing retriever pro combo kit. The Retriever Pro reel is time-tested and favored by experienced bowfishers all across the United States. The reel comes preloaded with 25-yards of 200-pound braided Dacron line. 

Also included in this AMS DIY bowfishing package is the Tidal Wave arrow rest, two fiberglass Chaos FX arrows, and the AMS EverGlide Safety Slide is installed on each arrow. Every piece of this bowfishing kit is manufactured in the United States with quality materials and craftsmanship. 

What we liked:

  • Easy to install on any compound bow or extra bow you have lying around.
  • Comes with the AMS Retriever Pro preloaded with 25-yards of 200-pound braided Dacron line.
  • Available in both left and right-handed.
  • Includes two fiberglass arrows and the Tidal Wave arrow rest.

What we didn’t:

  • Installation required on a pre-existing bow. Not ready to use direct from the box.

What is a Bowfishing Bow?

Before we breakdown for you what a bowfishing bow is, let us talk about what bowfishing is. In its simplest form, bowfishing is a type of fishing that uses specialized archery equipment to shoot and retrieve fish. 

The fish, or sometimes even alligators, are shot with a barbed arrow that has a special line tied to it. The line is similar to a normal fishing line with the exception of the test weight. Test weights can range in the hundreds of pounds. 

The barbed arrows are fired from the bow and the specialized line comes loaded onto a reel that is mounted onto the bow. Once a target is struck, the hunter can use the reel to retrieve their catch. Overall, you do not need as much line on your reel as you do when fishing normally because your targets will be near the surface of the water and within eyesight of the boat

What kind of equipment is used for bowfishing?

Well, the first and most obvious piece of equipment you will need is the bow itself. Bowfishing bows can either be compound bows, or a more traditional bow like the longbow or recurve bow. The most common is the compound bow.

Compound bowfishing bows usually do not have much let-off and they are commonly adjustable. You do not need as much draw weight when bowfishing compared to deer hunting, so draw weights vary, but they will be a little less than your normal compound bows. Not only is the draw weight fully adjustable, but the draw length is as well. Some people will go with a crossbow as well if they are legally permitted to be operated in the area.

The arrows used for bowfishing are much heavier than the arrows used for other types of hunting or target shooting. They often are constructed from fiberglass, but you will find some made from carbon fiber or aluminum. Bowfishing arrow should never contain fletchings because once the arrow hits the water, the fletching will act like a boat rudder and steer the arrow in one direction or the other, often missing the intended target. The line is attached to the arrow usually by tying the line through a hole in the arrow’s shaft or by using a safety slide system. 

The line is always made from either braided nylon, Dacron, or Spectra and the line will have a massive test weight. Test weights can range anywhere from 60-pounds to 600-pounds. 

When it comes to the reel, you usually have the choice between using a hand-wrapping method reel, a spincast, or just a simple retriever

The hand-wrap reel works exactly how it sounds. The line is wrapped onto the reel by hand and then placed into a holding slot. When the arrow is shot, the line comes free from the slot, the target is struck, and then the fish is retrieved by pulling in the line by hand and rewrapping it around the spool. 

The other two reel types are pretty self-explanatory and are just as easy to use effectively. They do have some additional benefits that the hand-wrap reel does not possess, however, each reel type is efficient as long as you hit your target successfully. 

The last piece of equipment that is important to discuss is the boat itself. You can use a normal fishing boat for bowfishing, but a boat that is designed specifically for the sport may be the better option. 

Often people will use a flat-bottom boat for bowfishing. These are good for shallow water bowfishing and solo occupancy, but if you plan to go out into open water, you will want a larger boat. 

A larger boat can accommodate multiple bowfishers and it can support the installation of a raised platform. An installed raised platform at the front of the boat will help you get a better “birds-eye” view of potential targets in the water. The addition of bowfishing lights is ideal for shining the surface of the water when bowfishing at night. Night bowfishing is extremely common. 

Can I Use Any Bow for Bowfishing?

The short answer is yes. Yes, you can convert any bow into a bowfishing rig, however, it is recommended that you go with a compound or recurve bow. These two bow types are the best for bowfishing and they are easiest for installing bowfishing gear and accessories

Obviously, the easiest thing to do is to purchase a bowfishing setup, however, you can also purchase a bowfishing accessory kit, which we have recommended one in this article.

You can purchase a kit or you can purchase your own gear to install a bowfishing setup, but either way, you will need to strip all of the old accessories off of the old bow.

Remove any stabilizers, sights, arrow rests, and any quiver attachments from the bow. If you have a peep sight or a D-loop, go ahead and remove those as well. 

The reason we have you remove the arrow rest is most hunting arrow rests are not suited for bowfishing. If you have a drop away arrow rest or a pressure plunger press, these can be potentially dangerous and must be removed

The reason these types of arrow rests are dangerous for bowfishing is that the line that is attached to the arrow may easily become caught in the rest when fired, which can result in injury.  

The first step is to install the simplest arrow rest you can find. Check our bowfishing arrow rest roundup for a selection. A stick-on or shelf rest works fine for the recurve bow, and for the compound bow, it is best if you purchase an arrow rest that explicitly states it is designed for bowfishing.

Next, you will need to purchase your reel. As mentioned before, you can choose from the hand wrapped reel, a spincast reel, or a simple retriever. They all work well, and the reel type you choose is simply a matter of preference. 

A few last details to keep in mind. Bowfishing can be a dirty sport. There is constant contact with water, mud, sand, seaweed, etc. 

If you can, try to purchase water and rust-resistant hardware. If you cannot find all waterproof hardware, make sure to thoroughly wash all your equipment after each outing and to treat it with silicone or other rust preventing chemicals. Also, make sure your bowstring is properly waxed. If you are using a compound bow, pay special attention to the cam and cable system.

A couple of other optional accessories to consider are laser sights and bow-mounted spotlights. Laser sights can be used for targeting fish because the laser will cut through the water and compensate for light refraction allowing you the most accurate shot. 

The mounted bowfishing light will aid you in night outings and they are a great option if you do not want to invest in a spotlight system on the front of your boat. The bowfishing lights are much cheaper and simpler to install. 

What is a Lever Action Bowfishing Bow?

A lever-action bowfishing bow is a bow that includes a central riser and two attached limbs. A rocking recurve lever is mounted at the outer end of each limb and the bowstring is secured to the outer ends of the recurve levers. Basically, it is a hybrid between a compound bow and a recurve bow. 

Compound vs Recurve Bowfishing Bows: What are the Differences?

Both compound and recurve bows are excellent for bowfishing. There are a few differences between the two that we should discuss, however, it is easy to be successful with either bow type.

Recurve bows are by far the easiest to use and require the least amount of maintenance. Recurve bows are compact, lightweight, and can be broken down into three pieces for easy transport in a backpack, or to save space in your vehicle. Also, they have less moving and intricate parts so fewer things can go wrong

If you break a bowstring on a recurve bow, it is easy to carry with you a backup string to replace the broken string and then you can continue on with your bowfishing that day or evening. With a compound bow, you will need a bow press to change your bowstring, so if something happens, you are done for the day.

Compound bows are great for bowfishing as well because they have adjustable draw weights, adjustable draw lengths, and they hit hard. Compound bows usually have a higher FPS with less effort required to draw the bowstring. Recurve bows take much more effort to draw when compared to a compound bow set at the same draw weight.

The biggest downside of a compound bow is you have to take extra care of the bow’s cam and cable system. Cams can rust, cables can break. Overall, there is just much more that can go wrong with a compound bow compared to the recurve bow.

What Types of Fish Can You Catch When Bowfishing?

Potential targets for people who enjoy bowfishing depend on whether you are in freshwater or saltwater and what region of the world you are in. 

For freshwater, it is common for people to go after invasive species that find their way into the river and lake systems of North America and other regions of the world. Freshwater invasive species include the Common carp, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, Asian Carp, and the River Carpsucker. Also, let us not forget about the Asian snakehead. 

Other freshwater targets that are not invasive and are naturally found in the North American lake and river systems include Longnose and Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar, Alligator Gar, Paddlefish, Frogs, Bigmouth and Smallmouth Buffalo, Freshwater Drum, Catfish, Tilapia, Bowfin, and even the American Alligator. 

Some common saltwater targets include Stingray, Bull Sharks, Barracuda, Flounder, and Sheepshead. You can pretty much go after any species you want in saltwater bowfishing, however, just be aware of local laws and regulations concerning particular species in the area you are bowfishing.

Do You Need a Bowfishing Licence?

There are no special licenses specific to bowfishing, however, you will need to confirm which type of fish you are allowed to target while bowfishing in particular waters. All you will need is a regular sport fishing license for the state you are in and to read all regulations related to bowfishing in the area. 

As with any type of fishing or hunting, if you are unsure in any way about local regulations, feel free to call or write an email to the Department of Natural Resources that has jurisdiction in the area.

What Makes a Good Bowfishing Bow?

Based on everything we have discussed so far; you should have a pretty good idea of what makes a good bowfishing bow. The easiest thing you can do is purchase a bow that is designed specifically for bowfishing. But let us quickly recap some of the key features that are ideal and important for a bowfishing bow.

  • Remember you will want to use a recurve bow or a compound bow.
  • No complicated arrow rests that can catch the fishing line during a shot.
  • You want a compact and lightweight bow that you can easily maneuver inside of a boat.
  • Arrows must be heavy and contain no fletchings. Look for bowfishing arrows specifically.
  • The reel must be mounted to the bow securely no matter the reel type.
  • It is optional to add a laser sight or a bowfishing light, however, all other accessories are not recommended. 
  • Draw weight ideally should range between 30 and 55-pounds. Anything heavier is fine, but it should not be lighter than 30-pounds. 

There you have the general basics of what makes a good bowfishing bow. Remember, as discussed before, you can convert any old recurve or compound bow to a bowfishing bow, however, if you can afford it, it is best to simply purchase a bow designed specifically for bowfishing.

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