How Many Times Have You Done This?
Put more rough fish in your boat by shooting the best bowfishing bows, arrows and equipment
Getting into bowfishing isn't difficult. You can purchase a bowfishing kit, pick up a garage sale bow and be ready for the water with less than $150 out of pocket. But after you spend a summer or two on the water, you might realize you want to take your passion for bowfishing to the next level. To do that, you will need some better gear.
Bows and Arrows
Robin Parks from Aim Low Productions has spent a fair amount of time on the water competing in bowfishing tournaments. Parks concentrates on filming bowfishing these days, but not long ago, he focused on winning tournaments. According to Parks, a pro staff member for Cajun Archery, if you want to increase the number of fish you put in the boat and possibly compete in tournaments, you need a bow that is properly tuned and a top-notch arrow.
Most bowhunters are aware that if they want to shoot tight groups, they need to tune their bow or have it tuned by a pro shop. But this step is often overlooked by bowfishermen.
When I get a new bow, one of the first things I do is tune it on the water, Parks says. Instead of paper tuning it like I would a hunting bow, I use the water as my paper. I shoot at a leaf or something on the water and if my arrow is flying sideways or splashing a lot when it hits the water, I adjust my rest or nocking point until my arrow shoots straight into the water without much splashing. A splash is like a tear in the paper. You want an arrow that flies straight into the water. If it flies sideways and causes a big splash, you lose accuracy and kinetic energy.
Parks says another way to increase your bowfishing accuracy is by shooting a top-shelf arrow. Most people who get into bowfishing use an inexpensive fiberglass arrow and an inexpensive bow, Parks says. But today's bowfishermen have the option of super-straight, premium bowfishing arrows, such as the Cajun Archery Yellow Jacket, which is made of carbon and fiberglass, and the Muzzy Carbon Classic Fish Arrow.
Mark Land is in charge of Muzzy Bowfishing products. It is safe to say that he spends more time on the water flinging arrows at fish than most, and he knows what it takes to bring bowfishing skills to the next level. Like Parks, Land says bringing your success to the next level hinges on having the right gear.
Having the right equipment is often what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Most people who are serious about bowfishing have a bow that is built for bowfishing or can easily be used for bowfishing, Land says. One of the most popular models is the C.P. Oneida Osprey. Many people shoot that bow because it is easy to tune, draw and can be shot at full draw or anytime during the draw cycle without a problem. Other popular bowfishing bows include the PSE Barracuda and the AMS Fish Hawk.
Regardless of what a person bowfishes with, if they are serious about bowfishing, they need a bow that is easy to draw quickly and shoot because every minute counts when bowfishing, Land adds.
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Reels and Lights
Most bowfishing starter kits come with an old-fashioned line spool or inexpensive reel, which is fine when starting in bowfishing. But when you get serious, you need a serious, durable reel designed for handling heavy bowfishing line.
Higher end reels don't break down easily, can be reeled in quickly and the line flies out of the reel easily upon shooting. A few great reels include the AMS Retriever Pro, the Muzzy HD and the Cajun Archery Zebco 808 Bowfisher Reel.
Most bowfishing tournaments take place after dark. Therefore, tournament shooters often have a boat rigged for bowfishing complete with an elevated platform and several lights. In recent years, halogen lighting was the most popular, but it requires a large generator to operate. Better lighting is now available.
Metal halide lights and high-pressure sodium lights have come on strong because they are brighter than halogen lights and can be run with a smaller, quieter generator because they don't require as much energy to light up as old fashioned lighting, Land explains. Generators, lights and boat platforms can be expensive, but to reach the level of success required to fish nighttime tournaments, you need to be able to light up the murky water around you.
You can have the best gear on earth, but if you can't hit the broadside of a barn, you won't kill many fish. Learning how low to aim when bowfishing requires a lot of practice. The best bowfishing shots are usually the guys who spend the most time on the water. But if you have a busy schedule, there are other ways to hone your skills.
Sinking a soda bottle for an underwater target is a great option. Shooting at fish below the water can be tricky, Parks says. If you can't shoot at fish, one of the best ways to practice is to fill a soda bottle with water and sink it. Shooting at the bottle from various depths helps you learn how much to compensate for light refraction.
Numbers tournaments are won and lost by teams who are extremely fast. Parks suggests that if people are interested in tournaments where the boat with the most fish wins, they should use low-poundage bows.
There are several bowfishing points that can quickly be pulled out of a fish, but at the end of the day, an arrow that goes completely through a fish is going to take much longer to remove than an arrow that doesn't. Many people use a 45- to 50-pound bow, and the arrow blows right through the fish. I prefer using a 25- to 30-pound bow. They can be drawn quickly and the arrow doesn't completely pass through the fish so the arrow can be pulled out quickly and you can shoot another fish instead of struggling with the arrow removal on every fish, Parks says. Of course, with bigger, heavier fish, a heavier bow that provides better penetration is desired.
When choosing gear, be sure to choose a fish point that matches the game you're after. The most popular ones have a quick-release tip. With a couple turns of the tip, the barbs fold to the opposite direction, allowing for easy removal from the fish. Most fish points are designed for fish with soft flesh. They have a simple sharp pointed tip that can be replaced after it is worn out.
Muzzy has a point called the Quick Release Carp Point. This fish head is very popular among tournament shooters. It has an extra tough point and a stainless ferrule. For shooting gar, which are extremely tough-skinned, try the Quick Release Gar Point that comes with a bone-busting Trocar tip.
Cajun Archery has a similar head called the Piranha. The barbs on the Piranha can be reversed for quick fish removal. The Piranha has a strong jack hammer tip that can be screwed on in seconds. This point is one of Parks' favorite tips.
If you are going after extra large critters such as alligators or large gar, you may want to try the Steel Force Gator head. This wicked-looking fish tip has two monstrous titanium blades designed to slide through the heaviest of aquatic critters.
Robin Parks never leaves home without two pieces of equipment when going bowfishing. The first is a GPS. With a GPS, I can mark and return to my favorite honeyholes where I consistently find fish. I can also use lake maps on my GPS to find new locations. A GPS is especially important when scouting and preparing for an upcoming tournament, he explains.
The other item he doesn't leave home without is polarized glasses. Nighttime bowfishing is the most popular, but I like bowfishing during the day. The bugs aren't as bad and it's light outside, which makes filming easier. I always have a pair of polarized glasses that make seeing fish easier. If I forget my glasses, I go back for them. They make me much more successful on the water.
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Editor's Note: This was originally published May 16, 2011.
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