Best Boats for Bowfishing

By Brodie SwisherSeptember 1st, 2021

Bowfishing is one of the greatest off-season activities a hunter can take part in during the warmer months, from spring to early fall. And while you can bowfish without a boat, a boat opens up a whole new world of opportunity when it comes to shooting fish, day or night. What are the best boats for bowfishing? Read on for a look at a variety of options when it comes to the best boats for bowfishing.

Best Boats For Bowfishing
Thinking about buying a boat for bowfishing? Take a look at the options below for some of the best bowfishing boat options on the water.

Bowfishing Boat Basics

When determining what kind of bowfishing boat to buy, you first need to answer a few questions pertaining to what kind of bowfishing you’re planning to pursue. Will you be shooting in the daytime, night, or both? Nighttime bowfishing will require lights on your boat (around front deck) to light up the water as you troll through shallows in the black of night.

Will you be fishing big water, shallow backwater, tight spots or wide open? Lakes, rivers, creeks, or flooded fields? The water you’ll be fishing on is important to consider when determining the type of boat that’ll best meet your needs. 

Some would say a big airboat is the dream boat for bowfishing. However, there are plenty of spots an airboat can’t get into. However, when it comes to shallow water shooting, the airboat is hard to beat because of it being air powered above the surface. Other boats require a trolling motor or kicker motor in the water to allow you to cruise around as you look for fish. 

Wide-bottom boats work best when it comes to stability on the water. Stability is important as shooters will constantly be moving around the boat before, during, and after the shot. 

The Airboat

As mentioned above, the airboat is considered by some to be the Cadillac of the bowfishing world. They allow you to go where no other boat can go. They can easily handle shallow water, mud, and even dry land.  The air-powered boat allows you to chase down a big fish as he darts away from the boat. It’s a stunt you’ll rarely pull off when shooting from a troller-powered boat. 

The downside of the airboat is the cost that comes with it. They wear a price tag that’s double the price of the average aluminum boat with an outboard motor. Airboats are also very loud. Ear muffs are standard equipment when riding in an airboat. The noise an airboat motor produces is significant enough that some lakes won’t allow them on the water. 

Best Boats For Bowfishing
The airboat - go big or go home!

Custom Bowfishing Boat

There are a number of quality aluminum boats on the market that can be custom built for bowfishing. These boats feature wide decks for a comfortable shooting platform, open hull layouts for fish barrels, generators and other gear, and wide hull designs for the ultimate in stability. 

Some of the best on the market are Bass Pro’s Tracker Bowfishing Boat, and aluminum boats from SeaArk, and War Eagle

Best Boats For Bowfishing
Custom bowfishing boats like this rig from Tracker deliver a turnkey bowfishing boat with everything needed to get started on the water.

Aluminum Boat with Outboard Motor

The bowfishing boat that you’ll see on the water more than anything else is the classic aluminum jon boat with an outboard motor. Whether it’s a flat-bottom boat, modified-v, or other, the aluminum boat gets more playing time than any other boat out there. It’s the same boat used for duck hunting and fishing, but easily converts to a bowfishing boat when the big fish start to spawn. 

You’ll likely see some interesting setups when these rigs roll up to the boat ramp. But don’t be quick to judge! These boats represent the guys and gals doing whatever it takes to make a bowfishing opportunity happen. 

Bowfishing guru, Chuck Belmore, says he remembers his first bowfishing rig. He recently came across a photo of the old boat and couldn’t help but laugh. “It was the first bowfishing rig I ever built,” says Belmore. “I thought I had it figured out back then!” 

Best Boats For Bowfishing
Duck boats converted over to bowfishing boats are the norm for many shooters when they first get started. This is Chuck Belmore's bowfishing boat from back in the day.

The Pontoon

The party barge ain’t just for cold drinks and sunbathing anymore! The pontoon also works really well for a super stable bowfishing boat. The pontoon provides more room than any option out there and a really solid platform for the maximum number of shooters. 

The downside of the pontoon is maneuverability. You can cruise around with the use of a trolling motor, but it won’t come easy. The pontoon also limits you to more open water settings. You won’t be able to bust into the brush and the thick stuff with the party barge, but it does have it’s place when it comes to a comfortable bowfishing boat platform.  

Best Boats For Bowfishing
The party barge doubles nicely as a bowfishing boat.

The Kayak

There will be times when the best shooting comes in the shallow water that most boats can’t access. These locations often find us wading in the shallows. However, the kayak allows you to move about these shallow waters with ease, and with minimal detection by the fish below the surface.

And don’t think you can’t shoot fish from the kayak. Kayaks with a wide platform like the  Nucanoe Unlimited are rock solid, extremely stable, and allow the shooter to launch arrows from a standing position. These rigs allow you to access waters large boats will never touch. They are the  perfect option for the  minimalist that won’t be limited to access with a bowfishing boat.

Best Boats For Bowfishing
Bowfishing from a kayak allows you to access small water that other boats can't reach.

Conclusion

Like any other type of gear, it’s easy to envy those who have a better setup than you. Don’t get bogged down here. Go with what you got. Bowfishing is addicting! You’ll learn to love shooting fish, regardless of the boat on which you stand. 

We want to hear from you! What bowfishing boat works best for you? Comment below and let us know what style of boat you use for bowfishing. 

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