What do you need to start bow fishing?

In bowfishing by hooversoutdoors4 Comments

I watched bow fishing videos on youtube for years. I loved watching people wade down rivers or go on night-long adventures searching for monster fish that lurked in the shallows. I love seeing outdoor adventures, but there is a difference in watching other people on youtube and enjoying the outdoors for yourself. I started bow fishing a few months back and I wanted to write an article for you so you can see how to get started. I will show you the gear you need to get started and give you some tips on where to start bow fishing. Whether you already own a bow, or you are starting from scratch, you will find the best way to get started in this article.

In today’s world the easiest way to make cheap purchases is through Amazon. This is where I purchased everything I use to bowfish even today. Everything I am recommending are all things I purchased myself and can give an honest review of.

If you do not own a bow

The first thing you will need is a way to propel your arrows.  I can recommend two different products I have used. The first bowfishing package I started with was the PSE KINGFISHER.The package deal you get when you purchase the pse is all inclusive. It comes with a bow, a reel, line, and an arrow. While it is not the easiest bow to shoot if you’re a beginner, it will enable you to land your first few fish until you can upgrade. The bow itself is a recurve so there is no let off at all. This means you will be holding 45lbs when you’re at full draw. While re-curve bows are the fastest to shoot they can be challenging at first. This is the kit I started with and for someone starting with no bow it’s a great option. It can be found on Amazon for around 100$ and includes everything you need. If you’re brand new and want to get started, use THIS LINK to check the current price.

  Another cool option

If you don’t already own a bow another option is to purchase a sling bow. This is basically a sling shot that shoots arrows. While this may seem like a gimmick I assure you if you try it out you won’t be disappointed. The only one I have any experience with is the HGB. It comes with everything you need except an arrow. It costs around 100$ also and is a little easier to shoot than the king fisher.

It doesn’t require as much arm strength to hold and actually make pinpoint shots once you understand how to aim it. By getting a solid anchor position like in traditional bow shooting, you will ensure that you get the same presentation every time you draw. This makes it easier to see exactly where your arrow will go upon release. One of the advantages of using a sling bow over a traditional bow and arrow is the sling bow is much more compact. This allows you to shoot from a wider variety of positions. Especially being new you may not own a boat so you may be shooting from a kayak or a canoe.

With a sling bow making accurate shots while seated or leaning into an awkward position isn’t as difficult as it would be if you had a full size bow. The HGB sling bow may be a great fit for you if you want something unique and easier to maintain and use than a traditional bow. If you want to check it out on amazon and see the reviews and pictures- click THIS LINK and you will be redirected to the product to check current pricing. You won’t be disappointed if you go this route.

 For anyone who already owns a bow 

I have tried two different types of reels. On one of my older compound bows that I had laying around, I purchased a CAJUN WINCH bowfishing reel. This reel will attach to your bow on the opposite side of you arrow rest replacing your quiver. It only took me about ten minutes to have my bow setup. It uses two screws to provide a secure hold and adding a small amount of loktite will keep them seated for years. The height of the reel can be adjusted to match your bow so you can keep your reel as close as possible to your arrow rest. This is a great option because you can use this reel on any bow you may want to switch to in the future and still set it up to provide the most accuracy possible.

If you have a recurve bow

 the best option in my opinion is to buy a zebco 808 and a    pack of fishing arrows. When you purchase a ZEBCO 808 FOUND HERE you will need a way to attach it to your bow.  You can buy an ALUMINUM REEL MOUNT on amazon for around 15$ and the one I linked to will keep your reel seated securely. With just the mount and a reel you will do just fine but if you want to spend around 5$ more you can attach a short rod to your bow that will give you a little more forgiveness when you shoot a fish that will help your line not break and your reel last longer. Any rod will work but the one found HERE works just fine and is very inexpensive to add to your cart. The Zebco 808 comes in a lot of configurations but the one I link to in this article comes pre spooled with 200lb braided line. I highly recommend THIS ONE because it is around 40$ and comes ready to attach to your bow and tie to an arrow and you will be ready to fish. Out of all my bowfishing setups this is my favorite. The speed in which you can draw and acquire sight pictures on fish is unmatched by any other system I’ve tried. But I can only recommend this to a newcomer if you already own a recurve or do not mind spending the money on one to get started.

The best price on fishing arrows I have found are HERE. 

The pack of BOWFISHING ARROWS I recommend comes in a 6 pack for around 40$. These arrows come with sliders and bowfishing tips and are a great option to keep you fishing for a while. Don’t make the mistake of buying only one arrow when you start. You will eventually lose an arrow when you shoot a huge fish and your line breaks or if you shoot into an underwater stump and cannot retrieve it. That’s the fastest way to ruin a trip. I don’t recommend buying an expensive arrow as they can be bought for around 9$ each on amazon and will do very well.

Arrow slider types

Fishing arrows come in basically two types. The one I use and recommend are those that come with a slider where you attach your line. I find these to be the most accurate and highest performing. The one catch is if you forget to hit your line release on your reel you won’t know until after you’ve released your arrow. This is because your slider will move down the arrow as you draw. While it CAN BE dangerous, I’ve released my arrow this way by accident before and the only thing that will usually happen is your arrow will sling back toward you. Most of the time this will just result in a quick scare and you’ll be back to fishing in a few seconds. But it CAN cause the arrow to hit your legs or arm and can be a little painful. It can also cause your line to break and for you to lose an arrow. As long as you can remember to hit your line release before every shot you will be just fine.

To read about the top bowfishing arrows on the market go read my article.

Arrows with no slider

The second type of arrow come with no slider and your line will attach at the rear of the arrow. While this is not as ideal in my opinion it can be safer because when you draw your arrow without hitting your line release your arrow will fall off of your string because as you draw back you will not be getting fed any line from your reel. Whichever type you chose will work fine and I have taken fish with both types. But as I stated before my favorite type is those with a slider attached you just have to remember to release your line before every shot.

Find a place to fish

All the types of reels and bows I have outlined in this post will perform fine. The only way to find your favorite type is to try them all. For a beginner though, any of these will start you off just fine. The next step is finding a good place to put your new rig to use. Watching videos online you will see many different places and ways to bowfish. Finding the best way for you to enjoy the sport is really up to you.

Get above the water

If you own a boat, canoe, or kayak you will want to find a small river or stream that provides you with as much visibility into the water as possible. By using the sunlight to your advantage you can usually have great success starting around noon when the sun is directly overhead. This will allow you to see deeply into the water but not have the sun reflecting back into your eyes. By wearing a good pair of polarized sunglasses you will have a few more inches of visibility and every little bit helps when you’re trying to spot swimming fish.

Use bridges to bowfish

If you’re a complete newcomer to the sport like I was and you don’t own anything that will let you get on the water to be more mobile, the best place to use your new equipment will be a bridge. Smaller bridges over even small streams will give you a better view of the water from a higher advantage point. a view from up high will allow you to see MORE fish and also allow you to shoot more directly down towards the fish. Any time you can shoot more directly DOWNWARD toward your target you will be more successful.

How to practice

Now that we’ve gone over the gear you will need to purchase to get started, I wanna go into some practice you should do before starting. When I bought my first bowfishing setup, I went straight out and tried for live fish. The one thing you need to know about bowfishing is you much aim under the fish in order to hit it. There are many long drawn out videos and articles online about why this happens. But the best way to figure it out for yourself is to get in the shallows of wherever you’re bow fishing and shoot at a target.

Sink a target

I first practiced with a brightly colored soda can submerged at a lake in about 3ft deep water. Once you are familiar with how low you must aim in order to hit a small target you will be very successful. Don’t watch countless videos online about how low to aim and them assume you’re ready to go. Just take about ten minutes before you set out to test how low you must aim for yourself.

If you use this article to guide you through the beginning you will enjoy bowfishing very much. On my days off from my full time job It’s a great stress relief to get outside in the sunshine and hunt for big fish in my local ponds and rivers. I really hope this helps you through the beginning of your journey. If you enjoy this article and it helps you begin your journey, leave a comment below. I enjoy seeing how my work helps others and I hope you come back for the next articles on outdoor adventures.


  1. Pingback: Best Bowfishing Arrows for the Money: Top 10 Reviewed | Hoover’s Outdoors

  2. Pingback: Florida bowfishing laws: everything you need to know - Hoover’s Outdoors

  3. Yes I did very thought out and laid out perfectly! Thank you here we go R.T. 🐟🏹🎣

  4. It’s years later, but thank you for writing this up! I’ve taken an interest in bowfishing, but between this and your other article about FL bowfishing laws, I feel more ready to make a decision than I was! Thank you for your work!

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