Best Bowfishing Reels (2021): Ambidextrous Retriever, Spincast & Drum Reels Reviewed for both Seasoned & Beginner Anglers | Buying Guide Added
- Immanuel Baranov
Dan, a buddy of mine is one helluva fisherman who lives in Denver. The last time I visited him, one morning he said, “Let’s go.” Better than coming up with questions, I replied, “Sure.” An hour later, having passed some unimaginably beautiful, scenic mountains, Dan yelled over his radio playing repetitive Bluegrass, “Behold the rocking rockies.” We came to a stop near a gurgling brook and Dan got busy with his bowfishing gear. He had on this cap that said ‘Catch of the day’. A good three hours later, zilch. Dan, the humorist, quipped as he was retrieving back the line into the reel, “A bad day at fishing is better than a good one at work.”
I split my sides.
We are an outfit whose role is to guide would-be buyers and even those plainly interested in what it takes to get a good, quality bow-reeler. In short, we aim to pass on our expertise so a buyer doesn’t get bogged down in sales pitches. We give it to you straight as it is. Our team is a bunch of dedicated fishing gear users and researchers highly motivated to get to the bottom of things and leave no stone unturned in their quest for the unbiased truth.
So why don’t we foray into the world of fishermen and discover for ourselves which is worthy of being crowned as the best bowfishing reel?
What You Will Get Here
Best Bowfishing Reel Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
AMS Bowfishing 610 Retriever Pro Bow Fishing ReelRead Full Review
AMS Tournament Retriever Pro Bowfishing ReelRead Full Review
Zebco 808HBOWHD, 200, BX3 808 Series ReelRead Full Review
Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro Spin Style ReelRead Full Review
Cajun Fish Stick Take-Down Bowfishing Bow SetRead Full Review
Fin-Finder Heavy Duty Drum ReelRead Full Review
Our T0p 6 Product List
What is the best bowfishing reel? Well, here’s the moment of truth. From our experience we’ve found that there’s no single model that can satisfy everyone or meet everybody’s needs. That’s exactly why we’ve come up with a collection of them, so you can find yours as per your requirements. Let’s dive right into them.
Top Retriever Bowfishing Reels
Brace yourself, this is serious stuff. The AMS Bowfishing has been in the business of making professional reels for 35 years which is a testimonial to their prowess in the art of coming up with terrific reels.
After perusing and probing this product from all possible angles, we had little option but to accord this mind-blowing status. Let’s see why.
The AMS 610 is a professional Retriever reel. It is chock full of some serious jaw-dropping features. You can procure one either for left-handed use or the other way around.
A Retriever reel works by simply pulling the trigger guard and setting off the reeling by turning off the handle. Easy peasy.
The 610 is fabricated of solid brass and the trigger, of aluminum. Sit back, it will outlive all the competition. The line is 25 yards long, made of Dacron, the highly resistant stuff parachutes are made of. The speed of reeling is 17 inches to the rev of the handle. They have provided one of the best bow fishing lines with the package. It has a distinctive color with high visibility in mind, stowed in a bottle and will speed the arrow on its path rapidly once you take the shot.
The quiver for the arrows and the telescoping clamp makes the assembling a song.
There are drawbacks of this wonderfully engineered reel which we unearthed.
We found the reel shoots off a bit too loudly that could probably scare fish away. The line length, we find, is a bit restrictive.
When the arrow gets embedded in a big fish, pulling it out of the water would require some brawn. However, the drag system of the reel has sufficient pinch power that helps to haul the fish in.
This is the best as they come. The AWS 610 Retriever is in a class of its own. We could not fault it save for the couple of drawbacks we have pointed out. No wonder why it’s one of the best-rated models on the list. But yes, if you are a newbie, this may be a bit too extravagant, but whoever said if you have just passed your driving test, don’t buy a Mustang.
With a professional bowfishing reel like the AMS Tournament, it’s best to let it do the talking. With this reel, line tangling; what’s that?
The AMS Tournament has carved its name as one of the speediest reels. This Retriever reel will treat you to an effortless encounter not to mention the rapid performance of reeling after your arrow strikes. It brags a respectable gear ratio of 4.3:1.
The line is a hi-vis bright yellow Dacron and is 25 yards in length. You just mount the reel and you are ready to roll. One thing we encountered was that the thick line does slow things down a bit. But we have to live with this trade-off rather than use a lighter line and face the consequences of it snapping were we to hit a big one.
The pinion and gear are of heavy brass with all the fittings and fasteners being of stainless steel. The trigger, however, is of aluminum. So it is as durable as a Patton tank.
Another huge plus is the long handle. This is a huge advantage for leverage upturn and also for ease in handling. The provided bottle reel keeps your line in a precise position.
It is provided with a quiver and a telescope mount too.
When it comes down to drawing a comparison between these two AMS products we ran into white water. Both are quality creations. The tournament is expensive no doubt because of the highly robust materials used in its fabrication. But is limited to left hand only. Also, the line retaining bottle could be a mite larger. The AMS 610 has an ambidextrous availability advantage.
The AMS Tournament is suitable for both newbies as well as pros. There is no tinkering with buttons nor the need to hand-wind the spool. Just take aim and fire. Once your target is snared there is little for you to do. It is pretty expensive though a lifetime investment considering the solid build.
Top Spincast Bowfishing Reels
This product is actually from the stable of Zebco/Quantum who has several products in the 808 series. The BX3 808 is one of their prided Spincast reels.
The BXB 200 has an anti-reverse system that is pretty quick and preinstalled. The value of this incredible feature is truly astounding. Combine this with the adjustable drag system on the reel customized by a dial feature and we are talking about a game-changer here. Abracadabra, now your fish is not an arbitrary hit; you can use your preferred setting to home in on which fish you prefer on your plate.
Spincast reels need to be hardy and Zebco/Quantum has seen to that. The gear ratio is 2.6:1.
If we compare with the gear ratios of the featured AMS products, this would seem paltry. But take the whole picture in. This one has 200 yards of line with a capacity of 35 pounds. Unlike retrievers which are for bigger fish, this is more sportive and you will truly enjoy the ultimate capture. It is a lightweight reel at 1.4 pounds.
Though we have mentioned about the line snapping based on some of the umpteen reviews we follow up on, we pursued it further. We started at the best possible source, no, not the makers but boat Captains who stand to lose. Bingo, not a single report. We report this not because it is an untruth, but the Zebco rep has confirmed that yes, some users did come in with this complaint. It was related to the drag system misunderstanding and incorrect settings by users.
The Zebco is a worthy bet for your money. Dive in. But read the manual inside out or else you know what you’ll end up with. Extra expense on your broken line and a hollering, unpleasant Captain.
The Muzzy 1069 comes with a tremendous high rating as the gift for beginner bow fishers. This reel is unique in that it is usable left or right-handed. So even the physically challenged can chase this delightful sport.
The design is metallic and pretty ultra-dig.
Installing the reel requires specialized support and therefore it is targeted for the more experienced. We don’t quite agree though. This is no rocket science and if you can follow instructions, maybe use your head a bit, you can do it too. Plus it fosters a bond between you and your reel. We say, do it yourself.
The reel has an indicator that gives you the thumbs up when you can shoot.
The spin reel has a switch activation mode that permits you to lock into shooting mode and let loose free spool mode.
The reel holds approximately 17 yards of the line which makes it a tournament reel given that the capacity is 150 pounds. So it is targeting the bigger game.
We did a comparative study on these two Spincast Reels. The Muzzy and the Zebco. The former is not very setup-friendly, but as we maintain, don’t rush and it is not unsurmountable.
Zebco’s anti-reverse system and lightweight had us pretty excited. Overall, we say both are evenly balanced though the features are slightly different. The Muzzy 1069 is a tad more expensive though.
The Zebco 1069 XD is a pretty good all-rounder. It is the best bowfishing reel for ambidextrous users. It is a showoff with its great looks. If you are starting off like a bow fisherman, this one won’t disappoint. Using it will prove a pleasure. Being lightweight, the operation is not going to be taxing. You only have to dig slightly deeper into your pockets, but we promise in the end you’ll have the last laugh. Go for it man.
Top Bowfishing Combo
This bowfishing bow is a product of Cajun Archer, a company in the business for 40 years, a long enough tenure to reckon. They sure know their reels.
This bow is all perfection and tailor-made for all, irrespective of skill level. It has been designed as such. It is the last word in hardiness, easy as cheese to set up. With minimal practice, anyone can score high on accuracy because of its weight, size and handle. Beginner or professional, you will be evenly matched due to its versatility and catching fish from the word go.
It is accessory packed.
The kit includes the Cajun Fish Stick #45 recurve bow which amalgamates a lightweight yet tough 5-inch aluminum riser with limbs that are composite for superior handling. A powerful draw is imparted by the riser for retrieving fish.
The take-down design is an astounding 58 inches long with a peak draw weight of 45 pounds. The bowstring is Dacron which exerts incredible power, accuracy, and speed. You can, with the release of a finger shoot arrows, the drawback is for shooting further.
A strong built-in roller system is incorporated in the Cajun bowfishing bow so that the draw cycle is consistent. This roller system is cleverly designed that nullifies the wear and tear on the reel power tubes. This is a distinct departure from other bowfishing equipment that cope with wear and tear by absorbing it with the result that they can snap. The Cajun’s roller system deals with the large game without flinching.
It takes up a great deal less space than other compound bows as the axle to axle length is only 28 inches.
We will not wax about the accessories here only that we were completely bowled over by the entire package. The marvelous part is the simplicity of design and uses sacrificing the high-grade quality of the components. The extra thrown in are equally engaging- roller arrow rest, no-slip rubber grip and a blister buster finger saver. Also added is a fiberglass arrow with a piranha point for engaging large fish like catfish.
The Cajun bowfishing bow is one of the finer, if not the finest out there. It comes in a standard form package and is delightfully easy to handle. It is usable by children, adults, beginners, and pros – you name it. The startling array of accessories provided. The bright krypton inferno color is an instant draw. These are ideal for big games like trouts and catfish (check out our catfish recipe!).
Can’t let you miss a shot. It’s a good value for the money and we can’t recommend this enough.
Top Drum BowFishing Reel
A heavy-duty, simple to use and inexpensive Drum Reel, is that what you are looking for? Well, you found it. The Fin-Finder Drum reel is of heavy-duty aluminum and as durable as they come. This reel will give you years of service The bowfishing line is about 80 feet which gives you the edge in reaching your target from some distance off. The line can withstand 200 pounds according to tests.
The line is attached to a stabilizer bushing that is standard.
On inspecting the line, we are of the opinion that a heavier line would prolong the life of the line.
For easy installation, the drum is provided with a bolt screw so that it can be mounted on the bow. Exercise caution when setting it up and also consider filing down the edges as it poses a snagging danger to the line and eventually parting of the line.
The Fin-Finder is powder-coated a vibrant blue for greater protection.
We recommend that the metal line retainer be replaced with a plastic one. The one provided is stiff and makes reeling in an arduous process.
The sheer simplicity of Fin-finder makes it one of the best reels for bowfishing. This is an entry-level reel, does not cost much and is the ideal launching pad for starting off on bowfishing. We reiterate our earlier observation. You will be better off swapping the line for a better one.
Bowfishing Reel - Buyer’s Guide
1. Reel Type
There exist three types of reels. We will discuss the upsides and downsides of each.
a) Drum Reel/ Hand-Wrap Reel
Does hand wrap tell you anything? Exactly, it’s manual. Your line is wrapped manually wrapped around the spool and placed correctly by the line holder. The holder allows the line to take off when you fire. While you are manually retrieving the line by rewinding, it is cocked and ready.
This reel won’t bankrupt you; it’s inexpensive. Combine this with a floating marker and you will soon be netting the monsters. Drum reels are perks heavy; the set up is easy, reasonable and does have a longer lifespan. What is bothersome is that reeling in takes time and it is a bit slow to shoot as quickly as other types.
We need to butt in here with our two cents. A manual system is the best way to learn the ropes.
b) Spincast Reel
A Spincast reel is about the most basic types. The reason for its popularity in the arena of bowfishing lies in the simplicity of its use. It is the exemplary choice for newcomers to bowfishing. Though it is connected around the bow, it is more akin to fishing using the commonplace style.
A Spincast Reel basically is pre-round mostly. Apart from presenting easier reeling and shooting, the line is lighter and travels a good deal faster. The best part of this reel is the simplicity of its use. You can position the drag easily and effortlessly shoot your fish. When it comes to speed, it is faster than the Drum Reel. However, it isn’t as strong as a baitcasting reel.
It is rapid to fire, reel in and again fire. So if you mess it up, it’s not a big deal.
Spincast Reel is the least flexible in the marketplace. That is because the minute you let the reel loose before shooting, you are stranded with it on flight rendering it redundant
c) Retriever Reel
Retriever reels, interestingly, have a ‘bottle’ which holds in place the line so that it doesn’t get tangled up when airborne. Retriever reels are used by pro bow fishermen and are ideal for bigger catches. It is armed with a braided line that is thick and weighs 200 pounds. Battle-ready for sure. A crank method is deployed to recover the line causing less wear on it.
The drawback of a Retriever reel is that it is slow because of the heavy bowline. It employs high-quality materials and is therefore expensive.
It is indispensable to pick a reel made of long-lasting materials. They are subject to a beating and will be required to stand up to the test of time. Its robustness is what will expand its longevity, the line would need to be able to hold up strong. So to prevent the line or reel snapping do not compromise on quality. Better still invest in a thicker reel to catch larger prey. Expert users apply DIY or homemade gear enhancement kits or attachments for prolonging the lifespan of the reel. Check out on Youtube for DIY videos on this. More importantly, keep your reel clean.
Make sure you go for metal reels for greater longevity. Other materials like carbon fiber and PVC are also dependable.
3. Gear Ratio
This is the measure of the number of turns the spool makes with one rotation of the handle. A common ratio is at 4.3:1, that is the spool makes 4.3 rotations with one handle turn. Obviously the higher the gear ratio, the better. However, one consideration here is the effort required to reel your catch in.
4. Ease of Use
Before you go and buy a reel, a couple of things you need to ponder over. Firstly, your experience at bowfishing and if you have someone who will walk you through the basics at least. No doubt your experience is the prime consideration in what type of reel you should settle for. Here we are talking about the various moves involved- shooting, tangling, line retrieval, and reel rewinding. Installation of a metal bracket for the reel can ensure better handling a big catch.
The lesser the better. This has nothing to do with the aim. Remember we need to keep friction down as the arrow is drawing a line along which will make it deviate. Now probably you will understand why lin lengths are restricted.
6. Fish Size
The big guys won’t simply flop over for you to reel them in. They will put up a fight. You’d need a mightier rig in stock for them. In these cases, a large diameter reel will give you the advantage. A Spincast reel is a great choice in such spots. Make sure you install a metal reel seat on the road, or the reel may wobble.
Bowfishing is a traditional sport for the summer months. It’s been with us since primitiv times. But it hasn't lost its appeal a bit. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. It is highly addictive. It involves archery skills too which is a meditative, focussed discipline. So cowboys won’t make much of a dent here. It is great fun and you will only get better. If you intend to use your longbow for this sport, get an adapter. Also, you can apply the DIY method to make your own arrows if you follow these simple steps.
Here are a few pointers that will heap up your boat with the catch:
- You need good glasses– The sun glare on the water will practically blind you. If you want to catch fish you’ve got to be able to see them. What you need is a good pair of polarized glasses and not shades. Polarized lenses will create the best balance between screening out the glare and enabling crystal clear vision.
- Employ the right tip– This is paramount or you will end up losing gear. Be specific about what fish you plan to net. Using a small prong on a large carp, the carp will have a good laugh as it rips out without penetrating. Some fish have armored scales so flimsy blades will just snap off.
- Sharp tips make for a sharp catch– Keep your bowfishing tips sharp. It is but natural that they will overtime be dulled with mishits on rocks and so on. Dull heads create a large entry hole which will cause the line to pull out when reeling in.
- Switch it up– If you are primarily fishing from about you are missing out. Many fish nestle close inshore amongst natural cover like rocks and so on. Tow a kayak along, or set out in a canoe so that you can get into close quarters with such spots.
- Scout for that trout– To be honest, any decent-sized fish qualifies as bow fish species. Suckers prefer clear running water, carp is more inclined to muddy, murky water, gar and buffalo fish prefer rivers and creeks. So be the hunter, pull out a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) map, see what water bodies are located close by and zero in.
- Snap shoot– This is more talent for your archery skills. You scout the water from the bank and when you spy a likely catch, go for it. It works only if you are shooting a recurve or a no let off bow. If that sounds unfamiliar, snap shooting does not require a full draw; just enough to impale.
A Word from FisherReel
This project was truly rewarding. All those boat rides, the enthralling chase, the wait; it was all straight out of a movie. The products that we have listed and reviewed are top-of-the-line stuff. We do not wish to crow about the number of bowfishing reels reviews we scrutinized or interviews we conducted; there was one agenda only, do a good job.
Both the Spincast reel products we discussed are worthy buys, but we did develop an affinity for the Cajun Fish Stick.
Now that you have a pretty decent idea of the choices available, it should make it a lot easier. Use our guidelines and we are quite sure they will lead you to a worthy experience.
If you are reading this, you are most definitely interested in this captivating sport. We strongly advise that you should not let your impulses take hold here or you end up with the wrong choice. Take your time, read up, there are many sources of information out there and individuals to guide you; brother bow fishers or salesmen. Work that out.
So, without further adieu, let’s dive in and fish out the best bowfishing reel from the list.
1. How to go about attaching the bowfishing reel to your bow?
Ans. Right, you have a bow. The first thing to attach would be the reel. This comes in three varieties- hand reel, bottle reel and the spinning reel. The hand and bottle reels are simply mounted on the bow itself.
2. How do you take aim in bowfishing?
Ans. Good question this. Making the shot is what it takes, first blood. The arrows need to anchor itself securely in the fish. Do not aim at the fish directly. It’s not where you see it. Refraction distorts the actual position. The rule-of-thumb is to aim 3 inches lower for every foot of water depth.
3. For bowfishing what would be the best draw weight?
Ans. An expert bow fisherman suggests 40 to 50 pounds of draw-weight. It works best.
4. How to string up an arrow on your bowfishing rig?
Ans. You will have two loops that need to be married- one the line from the bottle and the other attached to the quiver.
The reason is lengthy explanations are really not worth it. Like that smart bloke said, “a picture (better still a vid) is worth a million words.”
5. For a beginner what type of reel would you recommend?
Ans. The ease of use of spinning rules makes them ideal for beginners. But this is secondary to what kind of a rod you go for.
6. What’s the ideal gear ratio?
Ans. Experts suggest 5:1. The reasoning is that slow is better.
7. For bowfishing, will any bow do?
Ans. Sure enough. Any bow will do provided these conditions are satisfied. Recommended bows are the recurve bows and compound ones. The arrows, however, need to be only those prescribed for bowfishing. We cannot recommend crossbows though.
8. Is the ocean a likely location to bowfish?
Ans. However, once again state laws bar certain species from being fished. You need to check.
9. What spots are ideal for bowfishing?
Ans. Locations with shallow water favor finding your game. Shallow flats, weedy beds, marshy areas, are all excellent haunts of big fish. During summer, the proven locations are below dams, spillways as also places where creeks and streams empty into rivers