The dog days of summer are upon us. The weather is brutally hot at this time of year, but the bowfishing can be even hotter if you know where to go and you have just the right bowfishing gear. We checked in with some of our bowfishing gurus around the country asking what gear they would not leave home without at this time of year. Here’s the gear the pros count on each trip, as well as our own top picks for the best bowfishing gear to keep you in the game through the hot months of summer.
Mark Land’s Must-Have Bowfishing Gear
Here’s the short list on what Mark Land of Muzzy won’t hit the bowfishing waters without.
“Aside from my obvious bow setup, my list includes: Maps/GPS, polarized sunglasses for daytime shoots, clear safety glasses for driving at night, flashlight, PFD, lights for nighttime shoots (bow/boat mounted), gaffs for handling big fish, fish barrel, slime towels, gloves for handling line, extra arrows/replacement tips, spare reel, cooler/drinks.”
Matt Smith’s Bowfishing Gearbox
Matt Smith’s passion and drive for bowfishing was born on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. When he’s not shooting fish along the river, he works as Director of Consumer Brands for Kinsey’s and Fin-Finder. Matt’s list includes the following:
T-Handle Gaff, Bowfishing Bowstring Wax, Fin-Finder Splashlight, Light-Stryke laser sight, replacement tips, extra arrows, hand towel, and OMP scale.
Chuck Belmore’s Basics
Chuck Belmore is one of the hosts of The Habit TV show on the Sportsman Channel; a show that dedicates a lot of time to the sport of bowfishing. Chuck also has the title of World Champion on his bowfishing resume. We picked his brain on the basic gear he relies on for bowfishing. Here’s what we got.
“I like to keep extra arrows with different styles of points for a variety of fish. Mostly Muzzy Carp Points but a few Alcatraz and the Big Fish points in case we need extra holding power. Replacement points – Some lakes are rocky and can be murder on arrow tips. A sharp tip is crucial on deep or big fish for penetration. Extra Reels – some with 150#, Archenemy line and also 200#. I prefer the 200# on shallow fish and gar. It takes the nics and cuts better, and I don’t need a lot of line for letting them run. Extra line (200# and 150#) is just great to have in case of emergency. We have used it to tie off under bridges in storms, or towing someone in. Portable bow press – with short axle to axle wheel bows; derailments are often an issue because the fish are not stationary. Folks tend to flex the string while shooting a running fish and cause a derailment.”
Matt Schillinger’s Short List
Matt Schillinger works as the PR man for AMS Bowfishing. Matt also was a part of a team of guys that won the 2016 Bowfishing World Championship. Matt spends plenty of time on the water each year in search of big fish. He’s learned what he won’t leave home without.
Here’s Matt’s list of must-have bowfishing gear…
“AMS Bowfishing TNT Retriever, Hummingbird’s 858C/GPS for constantly traveling to new bodies of water and big bodies of water at night, Polarized Sunglasses, AMS E-Rad bow, AMS Spec Ops Light to point out fish just out of the light from the boat or for shooting the light-sensitive Bighead carp, String Things on my bowstring to protect my fingers during a long night with lots of shooting, Small Visor or Hat Light – These small lights come in handy for tying line, looking in coolers, and any other chore in the dark, Gaff – for handling fish, or transferring fish to the scales for weigh-ins at tournaments, Minn Kota Riptide Troller – We’ve used the 112# thrust Riptide for years, and it is hard to beat, PFD – It’s very easy to lose your balance while bowfishing and end up in the water. Life jackets are a must!”
GPS for Bowfishing
There’s a lot of things you can skimp on when it comes to buying bowfishing gear.
The GPS is not one of them. Buy the best possible unit you can afford. They can be a lifesaver when it comes to navigating waters. Particularly for bowfishermen that are running blind across the water at night. Here’s a couple great options from leading manufactures.
Lowrance HDS-7 Gen 3 & Elite Ti
A couple great options from Lowrance include the HDS-7 Gen 3 and the Elite Ti Models. Both units offer multiple size options, serious fish-finding abilities, chartplotters, and plenty of great options and features built in. They offer the latest advances in navigation in a slick and easy multi-touch display. These units are simple to use and will no doubt keep you and your bowfishing crew safer as you travel to your fishing destination and back to the boat ramp again.
Humminbird HELIX 5
The HELIX 5 SI GPS features a brilliant 800H x 480V, 5″ 256 color display with backlight. Side Imaging/Down Imaging and DualBeam PLUS sonar with 4000 watts PTP power output, Precision Internal GPS Chartplotting with built-in UniMap cartography with a micro SD card slot for optional maps or for saving waypoints. Maximize your angling experience with the Humminbird HELIX 5 SI GPS fishfinder GPS system.
Sunglasses for Bowfishing
Polarized sunglasses for daytime bowfishing are a must. You simply cannot see the fish without them. Like other gear items on this bowfishing gear list, you get what you pay for when it comes to sunglasses. Here’s some of the best.
Vicious Vision recently won the 2016 Game & Fish Readers’ Choice Award for Best Sunglasses. And they really are just that good. Constructed of lightweight, durable TR90 polymer, Vicious Vision sunglasses are impact resistant and hold their shape – a critical factor in maintaining lens clarity and sharpness. Every frame features a rubber nose piece and rubber temple guards to hold the sunglasses on your face, or hat, and provides all-day comfort. Other features include: Custom cut and hand-fitted with Xperio or Xperio UV lenses, Eliminates 100% blinding glare, Delivers 50+ E-SPF (Eye-Sun Protection Factor), Multi-layer surface treatment with hydrophobic coating, Xperio UV lens provides backside no-glare treatment delivering 360 degrees of protection, and up to 3 times more scratch resistance than competitive lenses. www.vicious-vision.com
Unlike other bulkier glasses, the UA Storm series glasses are very light with their Ultra-light Armour Fusion frames. The frames are built from a combination of titanium and Grilamid for super strength and flexibility.
You’ll find a comfortable and secure fit with these glasses due to their Three-Point Grip system and adjustable nosepad. The Scout series glasses meet and exceed the ANSI Z87.1 safety standards for eyewear, and all UA performance Eyewear lenses block 100% of UVA, UVB and UVC rays. www.underarmour.com
Costa sunglasses are among the favorite eyewear of sportsmen around the world. The fishing community loves these things. One of the best is the Blackfin.
The Costa Blackfin pushes the edge in sunglass performance with features including a comfortable large fit, Integral hinge, Heavy-duty TR 90 nylon frame, 100% UV light blockage for max protection, 100% polarization kills reflected glare and reduces eye strain, plastic lenses are lightweight, impact- and scratch-resistant. www.costadelmar.com
Lighting for Bowfishing
LED lighting is the rage these days with options allowing you to run silent through 12/24V battery power, or run as 110 through a generator. 50, 80, and 100 watt lights are the norm, with the best coming from companies like SEELITE, Mayhem Bowfishing, and ARROW LED. These lights offer quick and quiet operation without the heat generated by typical halogen shop lights.
Bow-mounted light setups are equally abundant with quality options like Fin-Finder’s Splashlight, NAP’s Own the Night Bowfishing Kit, and AMS’s Spec Ops Light. These lights are perfect for run-n-gun setups at night, spotlighting the light-sensitive bighead carp, and bank shooting without the need for heavy batteries and handheld spotlights.
Best Arrows for Bowfishing
You can do all the planning and prep work you want to find fish, but if you don’t have the good stuff on the business end of your arrow, you’re wasting your time. Here’s some of our favorite bowfishing arrow points that should be on your list of great bowfishing gear.
Fin-Finder arrows fixed with their new Kraken point have some serious fish-holding ability. The head features a 2- barb design for minimizing drag and increased penetration and stainless steel construction.
Muzzy’s new Alcatraz arrow is another point that is tough on fish but easy on the user with a quick and simple release design for easy fish removal. It’s a 3 blade design with killer fish-holding ability.
The AMS Ankor FX is a deadly head for shooting and holding big fish. The 3-barb head expands to 2.5” of fish holding area.
Great Gaffs for Bowfishing
Big, trophy fish are lost every year because guys try to yank fish with their arrow. This often gets ugly in a hurry with big fish slipping off the point and back into the water – gone forever. Don’t be this guy! Use a gaff to get those big fish into the boat.
Fin-Finder has plenty of options when it comes to gaffs, from their compact T-handle, to their 24” and 48” model gaffs for getting those trophy fish into the boat. The gaffs feature a stainless steel, rust resistant hook and comfortable handles.
The AMS Captain Gaff Hook is a beefy gaff that works great for securing big fish, but also works well as a flopper stopper with its hefty weight built in. It’s a solid, 3/4″ diameter and 12″ long, stainless steel handle open gaff hook design.
Best Bowfishing Reels
Muzzy XD Pro Spin Style Reel
The Muzzy XD Pro is a spin style reel with an integrated mounting system. The switch activation system allows it to be locked into shooting mode and provides a visual indication that the reel is ready to shoot. The reel is pre-spooled with 150ft of 150lb test tournament line.
AMS TNT Reel
The Retriever Pro TNT Tournament Series reel is one of the fastest bowfishing reels on the market. The solid brass gear and pinion system provide the super-fast 4.3:1 gear ratio, and the longer handle provides more leverage when pulling in a fish or retrieving a missed shot. It’s a really nice upgrade from their previous models.
Archenemy Nemesis HD
The redesigned Archenemy Nemesis HD Bowfishing Reel from Bass Pro is a slick reel that’s been beefed up to an even better retrieval rig for 2016. The Nemesis HD’s rugged and reliable, die-cast aluminum uni-body design provides strength, while its 4 stainless steel bearings and dual oversized stainless steel line pickup pin holders promise smooth, long-lasting performance. 4X super-sized components and an extra-large main shaft deliver reliable performance you can count on. The new design also includes a reinforced reel foot for a strong base and stronger handle design to reduce snags and keep you reeling when you have a really big fish on the other end of the line. This reel comes pre-spooled with 200-lb. test line.
PFD’s for Bowfishing
There’s really no excuse for not staying safe while boating. In fact, most states require you to wear a PFD while running your boat across the lake. Don’t play around with this one. The newer auto-inflating designs make PFD use easy and comfortable.
The Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Auto Inflatable Life Vest is a slim and simple vest bringing you performance when it matters most. Featuring Membrane Inflatable Technology for maximum comfort from its lightweight, flexible fit, the Mustang M.I.T. 100 Auto Inflatable Life Vest automatically inflates upon contact with water to provide 28 lbs. of buoyancy and can also be inflated by pulling the back-up handle. It also features a 1-fold, easy-to-repack design for ideal portability.
Don’t ever underestimate the need for a quality lifejacket. It’s cheap insurance. Get a good one.
Troller for Bowfishing
As Matt Schillinger mentioned, the Minn Kota Riptide trolling motor is hard to beat. I too have used this troller on my boats and was immediately impressed by the abuse they’ll take. I’ll never forget rolling up on a stump one night in the shallows and watching the shaft on my Riptide bend out of sight underneath the boat. I cringed knowing that thing was about to explode. The boat came to a stop, and as we pushed back off the stump, the Riptide troller shaft popped right back in to place. No harm done. I was sold on these motors from that day on. They are bullet proof and super user-friendly. www.minnkota.com
Sun Protection for Daytime Bowfishing
I’m a redhead, and I burn really easy when it comes to extended hours out on the water in search of big fish. Over the years I’ve learned to rely on clothing that has sun protection built in. Sure, my buddies laugh and ask why I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt when I’m shooting fish on a 95 degree day. But I’m usually the one laughing when they’re all burnt up and blistered from lack of sun protection.
Some of the best new stuff on the market in the way of comfort and protection from the elements comes from companies like HUK and Under Armour.
HUK’s new Next Level shirt is really slick. I honestly don’t know how or who comes up with this technology, but it’s genius. How genius? The company engineered I.C.E. into the interior of their materials to cause an endothermic reaction once there is any contact with moisture (sweat). When the reaction occurs, energy in the form of heat is removed from the body surface in contact with the I.C.E., causing a +10 degree Fahrenheit drop over a 3 minute period. The shirt also features: sun protection, superior breath-ability, mesh under-arm and side back, stain release to keep the blood and stains at bay, and moisture transport. www.hukgear.com
Under Armour’s Fish Hunter Tech ¼ Zip shirt is another great option providing killer comfort and protection from the sun. The UA Tech fabric is quick-drying, ultra-soft & has a more natural feel. The stretch-mesh side panels deliver strategic ventilation and moisture transport system wicks sweat & dries fast. The anti-odor technology is another nice feature when it comes to spending a day killing big, stinky fish. www.underarmour.com
Rain Protection for Bowfishing
The average rain gear on the market is junk. Seriously, it’s noisy and very uncomfortable. And if it does actually keep the moisture out, you’ll find that you’re just as soaked on the inside from lack of breathability the suit provides. Rain gear is awful….that is, unless you’re talking about rain gear from HUK. The company’s Next Level All Weather Jacket and Bib have redefined what rain gear should be.
This system has a lightweight stretch 3-layer, waterproof 10,000mm, breathable 5,000g shell. It’s designed to keep out all the moisture, while maintaining superb breath-ability. It also features taped seams, waterproof zippers, and pit zips to release trapped heat. Beyond keeping you dry, it’s actually comfortable to wear. No more dodging those rainy days for fear of getting wet. This system will keep you in the game.
Good rain gear bibs are also a great option to knock the chill off on cool or windy days…and to help you keep the fish slime at bay when things get ugly with big fish.
As the sport of bowfishing continues to boom, the bar continues to be raised on the products and gear that are available to the bowfishing community. The previously mentioned items are just a small sampling of the good gear that you should research before your next bowfishing adventure.
Don’t let summer pass you by without taking the time to chase monsters of the lakes and rivers. There’s truly nothing else like it!