Bowfishing Tournament Record Shattered

The 2016 Bass Pro U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship, held July 9-10 at the Pyramid in Memphis, TN brought plenty of hype to the bowfishing community. With ample water to fish this year, the questions prior to the tournament were, “What species of fish would dominate?” and “How many pounds of fish would it take to win?” The answer came Sunday morning, and I honestly believe it took everyone involved by surprise.

US open crowd

The crowd begins to gather outside the Bass Pro Pyramid.

In its 4th year, the Bass Pro U.S. Open once again brought teams from across the country to scrap it out for big fish in an effort to claim the $25,000 1st place prize. Heck, there was even a team from Arizona at this year’s tournament! North, south, east, and west…teams from each were at this event.

Tim Wells at truck

Tim Wells? That’s right! Proof that they’ll let just about anybody fish the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship.

After signing in at the registration table, teams had the opportunity to hang out at the incredibly unique Bass Pro Pyramid store. The store has a little bit of everything. From restaurants and a bowling alley, to museums and the world’s tallest freestanding elevator that takes you up to a restaurant and lounge area, as well as a lookout that gives you some killer views across the mighty Mississippi River.

registration table

Teams from across the country checked in at this year’s Bass Pro U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship.

The event officially kicked off with bowfishing and outdoor industry vendors on hand to show their products and tell their stories. Muzzy, Cajun, Oneida, Nocturnal, PSE, and AMS could be found inside the Bass Pro Pyramid store with plenty of bowfishing products for hands-on demos.

U.S. Open Booths

Teams had plenty of opportunities to pick up last minute items from the many vendors on hand at this year’s event.

Outside the store you could find the folks from Yeti, Carhartt, Vicious Vision, Fin-Finder Bowfishing, and more. And there was some pretty good food to keep the teams well fed as they made the rounds to the different vendors.

Girls with bows

Bass Pro was offering limited edition, red, white, and blue Oneida Osprey bows during the U.S. Open tournament.

It was also good to see the guys from Special Ops Xcursions at this year’s event. These guys have a really cool new program designed to offer active duty Special Operations Forces members a chance to partner with professional guides & volunteers in the general public for hunting and outdoor adventure opportunities. This is one program you really need to check out and support in any way you can.

special ops xcursions

Good guys, great cause. Be sure to check out Special Ops Xcursions.

After a brief rain delay, the teams gathered for a pre-tournament meeting to go over the basics on how things were going to go. Once all questions had been answered and a prayer for safety offered, the teams were released to prepare for the 6:00pm take-off time.

u.s. open crowd

Despite the storms brewing across the mid-south, teams were eager to meet up and prepare to hit the road in search of big fish.

The teams would have the opportunity to fish any public waters they could drive to by truck or boat. The only requirement being that they make it back to the tournament site by the 9:00am cut-off on Sunday morning. Some teams played it safe and stayed close to home, while others made a long commute to distant waters in search of game-winning fish.

boats lined up

Teams were lined up and ready to roll out prior to the 6:00pm take-off time.

There were plenty of risks taken, gambles made, equipment broken, and weather dodged throughout the long night. But nobody was prepared for what was to come on Sunday morning.

The usual loads of fish were brought to the scales for the first couple hours of weigh-ins. There were some good fish in the mix, but nothing out of the ordinary. For a time, a chunky albino Bighead was the fish that got the spectators talking as it made its way past the scales.

albino bighead fish

This rare albino Bighead was one of the more rare fish at this year’s tournament.

But as the clock began to wind down, team Thrills & Kills Outdoors (TKO) pulled into the lot. The team led by captain, Tommy Woods, can typically be found near the front of the pack at most bowfishing tournaments. They’re kind of like the Chicago Bulls back when the Chicago Bulls were really cool. Other teams hated to play against the Bulls because they knew of the whippin’ that was likely to come their way. It’s not much different when TKO rolls up to the scales.

bowfishing boat

The excitement level at this year’s tournament changed dramatically when team TKO pulled into the lot.

Tommy’s son, Hunter, and good friend’s Scott Baxter and Jason Gibson fill out the team, and when they all pulled up to the scales, along with a few family members, you could see the excitement all over their faces. They couldn’t contain it. They knew that the fish they had in their barrels were the load of a lifetime.

shooter unloading fish

Tommy Woods unloads one of 20 giant fish his team brought to the scales for the Bass Pro U.S. Open.

Let me put this load of fish in perspective…

Each team was responsible for loading fish from their boat into the official tournament barrels. A couple team members would then lift these barrels from the boat onto the conveyor that rolled the barrels up to the scales. But when TKO rolled up to the scales, tournament staff quickly brought in a stinkin’ forklift to load the fish! Two men muscling these barrels up was not gonna happen.

bowfishing tournament weigh in

You know you have a world class load of fish when they call in a forklift to move the load.

When the last bucket had been weighed, someone shouted out, “1001.4 pounds!” And everybody went nuts.

Hugs, high-fivin’, and back slappin’ went on for several minutes before the weigh-in process resumed. It had to be the most exciting weigh-in in bowfishing history.

And what made it even more exciting was that just a few boats back, Team PSE Archery was waiting their turn at the scales. They too had a boatload of fish that they knew was about to blow people’s minds. And when the numbers were tallied they were knockin’ on the door of first place with a second place score of 963.20 pounds. It was a heartbreaker, no doubt, for this team to come so close, yet walk away as runner-up.

bowfishing team pse

You could see the look of heartbreak on the faces of Team PSE when they realized their incredible load of fish was only good enough for 2nd place.

Both 1st and 2nd place loads shattered all previous bowfishing tournament records. They say records are made to be broken. And that’s exactly what happened during this tournament. It was really something you had to see to believe.

bowfishing tournament awards

TKO’s 1001.4 pounds of fish shattered the bowfishing tournament record by hundreds of pounds.

winning bowfishing team

Team TKO on stage with their trophies from the 2016 U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship.

Hats off to all the U.S. Open staff and volunteers for another great event for the bowfishing community. If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to put this event on your calendar for 2017. Who knows? Maybe bowfishing tournament records will be broken once again!

See more on the Bass Pro U.S. Open HERE


Brodie Swisher

Brodie Swisher

Editorial Manager at
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
Brodie Swisher


  1. I love the coverage and the pictures you took at the 2016 Bass Pro U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship. They are much better than the blurry ones I took. May I please have your permission to print out the large albino bighead photo – my husband shot it.

  2. Kimberly Scotchie says:

    First time on the site. Love the pictures. Thinking of getting into bowfishing. I’m an older, retired female. Can’t trek the woods to hunt any longer and this looks really awesome!


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