Anatomy of a Bowfishing Rig

As we gear up for bowfishing I thought I’d go over my bowfishing rig and talk about the equipment we use.  Primarily we shoot fish under 20 pounds from a moving boat on lakes at night.  Water depth is usually 2-5 feet and shots are typically less than 4 yards.  We made our first trip to the Mississippi River last year and felt there may be a few changes needed for that specific shooting.  I’ll point those out as we go along.  Also, for those of you who want to put out minimum funds or change minimum equipment I’ll discuss what I did in my early days of bowfishing from the bank and from a canoe. 

Bow:  I use an early 1990’s Hoyt Spectra Fastflite bow set at 45 pounds.  It is a long axle-to-axle and brace height bow which is good for finger-shooting.  This bow is still in good enough condition to act as a back up hunting bow if need be and has done so.  While our typical lake shots are less than 4 yards the shots out on the Mississippi were sometimes up to 17 yards.  I believe turning the bow up to 50 pounds for those longer shots would be beneficial. 

A Hoyt Spectra Fastflite set up for bowfishing. 

No Glovs:  I’ve always shot a release for big game and used to for my bank bowfishing also, but for shooting from the boat fingers reign supreme.  The rubber grips of the No Glovs on the string above and below the nock makes shooting a whole lot easier on the fingers and allows me to shoot many, many times (common in bowfishing) before they get really tired.  Trying to keep track of a shooting tab would be a mess. 


A close up of the roller rest, No Glovs, carp point and Safety Slide.



Roller rest:  This is a good, simple, $10 Muzzy Wheel Of Fortune that is safe for bowfishing.  At least two manufacturers produce them; one in brass, one in UHMW plastic.  Again, when I started shooting from the boat I switched from a 2-prong rest, not as safe as there are more protrusions for the line to catch on, to a roller rest. 


AMS Retriever:  A handy luxury, the retriever features, “…no buttons to forget to push before the shot.”  The line loosely retrieves into a bottle preventing tight tangles and allowing it to dry somewhat.  Prior to buying the retriever I used the simple hand wrap drum mounted in the stabilizer hole.  It worked just fine.  I only switched after I won a $50 gift certificate to a sporting goods store that carried them. 


Hand sling:  Last year my visiting buddy on his first bowfishing trip shot at a fish and all we heard was a great splash – he’d let his bow follow his arrow into the water.  Luckily the water was pretty clear and shallow.  The next morning I was up with an air compressor and oil cleaning his bow.  Use a hand sling. 


Sights:  I don’t shoot with any.  They are too cumbersome in low light situations and not quick enough for the fast moving nature of bowfishing.  When shooting from the shore and a canoe I used the same peep and sight I used for hunting.  When I converted to mostly boat bowfishing I did away with the sights.  AIM LOW and PRACTICE OFTEN!  Shooting with a partner who can “call” your shots helps also.


Arrows:  Simple fiberglass arrows available just about everywhere work fine.  My buddy and I use fiberglass fence posts we buy in bulk, but we have to make the nock tapers and slightly reduce the diameter to fit the fish points.  No fletching is needed.  I’d recommend having at least two arrows.  Losing one, which will happen, can be the end of your trip.  Depending on the destination we carry two to five.  


Fish points:  My personal opinion is that the Muzzy carp point is one of the best fish points ever produced and is on nearly all our fish arrows.  However, the longer shots and reduced penetration on bigger fish we experienced in the Mississippi last year convinced me to try the Warhead this year.  The barbs fold all the way down against the shaft and are closer to the tip than many other points.  I’m hoping this combination results in deeper penetration on longer shots.  This head does have the potential to allow “spin offs” where the fish spins causing the head to turn and release the barbs.  The Muzzy carp point’s construction won’t allow that. 


AMS Safety Slide:  SAFETY FIRST!  Please never attach your line directly to the arrow.  If your retrieval line catches on something, synthetic line snap-back can lead to the loss of an eye or other serious injury.  Always use a “cabled” (I couldn’t find a picture) or AMS Safety Slide affixed arrow.  Having used cabling early on we very much prefer the Safety Slides.  The cable eventually stretches leading to extra material that could get caught on a rest or other protrusion.  Both methods allow you to position the retrieval line at the end of the arrow reducing the chance for it to get caught on a rest or sight.  We have found no noticeable effect to arrow flight while using either.  The fiberglass arrows are very heavy and lead the way taking the safety assembly and line with it. 


Extras:  Here are a few extras that will make your trip more successful whether from shore or boat. 


Whacker:   I apply an old mini-crow bar judiciously to the fish’s forehead.  This makes it easier to retrieve the fish, remove it from the arrow and make it part of your daily catch. 


Rag: Keep an old rag in your back pocket to wipe off the blood and slime.  


Extra nocks & glue, safety slides, point tips:  On the water repairs. 


Bow holster:  Allows you to rest your bow on your thigh so you aren’t holding its weight for long periods. 


Multi-tool and/or hex wrenches:  Good for tightening up the screws and bolts on your bow or removing the retrieval line wrapped around the trolling motor propeller.  Besides a bow going into the water I also know of a Retriever that went in.  The fish took that one to places unknown although we still search the general area. 


Polarized glasses:  Indispensable for day shooting.  They cut the glare off the water allowing you to see “into” it. 


Wide brimmed hat:  Also indispensable for day shooting.  It shades your polarized glasses improving your ability to see into the water. 


Bucket or fish stringer:  Bring something to make the fish part of the daily catch.  Here in Wisconsin we must take the fish with us and dispose of them properly.  


Sun screen:  Day shooting necessity. 


Beverages/snacks:  Make your trip a good outing. 


Small duffel bag:  A handy place to put my kitchen sink, extra equipment, snacks and beverages. 


My friend Seth with our first 2009 Batch of Fish



happy bowfishing, dv 


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Coming up on Mostly Archery

  • Bowfishing – Preparing the Boat
  • dv Completes a Half Marathon