Do you start planning your next bowfishing trip before you’re even done with the current one? Most of us bowfishing enthusiasts are like that who plan to get out in the water as much as possible.
Bowfishing is a fun alternative to the standard rod and reel fishing. Well reels are still there and still important since only the best bowfishing reels allow you to get shots off faster with a lesser chance of bounce backs.
But how do you find your best match? We’re here to help! Our team has reviewed today’s top bowfishing reels and shared how they fared when we tried them in our fishing trips. This is your golden opportunity to do your thing with the right gear!
Best Bowfishing Reels Reviewed
01 AMS Bowfishing 610 Retriever Pro Bow Fishing Reel
AMS always comes top when you’re looking for quality reels that won’t break easily. The AMS Bowfishing 610 Retriever Pro requires no introduction – this classic retriever reel is so easy to use and maintain. Although a bit expensive, this reel will bring joy to your trip every time you hit the water.
Our Experience with the AMS 610 Retriever Pro
- Works great and has been doing so for the past four decades. Unlike spincast or bottle reels, the tangle-free design requires no button to push. This makes it easier for the beginners though retrievers are usually preferred by advanced archery anglers
- The ease of use makes the 610 Retriever Pro stand out from the crowd. 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. Even those who have used other types of bowfishing reels for years never switched back to their previous reels once they gave it a try.
- Probably the safest reel out there. You never have to worry about your arrows snapping back and hurting yourself.
- Durability is another factor. Once you invest your money in it, you’ll never have to worry about getting another for the next few decades. That’s why we didn’t mind the high price since the long years make up for that. But this is still a big concern for many – we have to admit that.
- For landing 5 to 15 pound fish, this is your best bet. You’ll find it too slow to hand line bigger fish while spincast reels are actually good for that
What We Didn’t Like
- Of course the price that puts many enthusiasts off from trying out this amazing retriever
Who Is It Great for
- The only reel good for both newbies and seasoned bowfishing anglers!
The best way to apply drag is grab the line and apply however much tension is required by your hand.
- Pulling the trigger is all it takes, so easy to use
- Great performance and construction
- Line highly visible and in a clear bottle. Easy to sight
- Arrow quiver and clamp that telescopes provided
- Laudable pinch pressure drag system
- Made in the USA.
- Line length could be more
- Loud report
02 Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro Spin Style Reel
Why it Stands Out To Us
Muzzy reels are also popular in the bowfishing community for good reason. The Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro is one of their top spincast reels with some added features to make it more user-friendly.
Our Experience with the Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro
- Spincast reels are the first choice for those who go after “the big fish.” It works great every time while making the fish retrieving process much easier – exactly what these types of reels are supposed to be good at
- Very part of the reel is super strong that gives you enough confidence to fight big fish like a pro
- You get visual confirmation that the reel’s in free spool, which is an added bonus
- Retrieving your missed shots is also fast while the 125-feet line length makes it suitable for tournaments
- Great for boat drivers since the lever stays when flipped to release it so you don’t have to worry about whether the button is mashed or not.
- Easier to get replacement parts when compared to other less popular brands
What We Didn’t Like
- Many users complained about poor packaging that caused damaged parts and poor customer service that’s a bit unexpected from such a reliable brand
Who Is It Great for
- Spinners are for the advanced bow fishermen and the same is also true in this case
What Could Be Improved and Why
- Some may find it hard to get it mounted on a bow because the space in the mounting bracket is narrow which will require the use of an Allen wrench.
- Never forget to push the release button or you’ll end up replacing your reel parts
- Ease of shooting with the visual indicator
- Shooting in locked mode
- Reversible hand-retrieval
- Ambidextrous usable
- Heavy-duty design
- The packaging quality needs improvement
03 Zebco 808 HBOWHD, 200, BX3 808 Series Reel
Why it Stands Out To Us
The Zebco 808 has its own following and it has been like this for decades. Well, many would say Muzzy and AMS are better, but there are those crazy about Zebco reels. Also, there is the “bouncing back” factor that many talk about though we never faced that all these years. However, we mentioned how to tackle that below as well so you stay on the safe side.
Our Experience with the Zebco 808
- Solid build, durable and fits 40 to 45 lb bows. Also not much expensive
- Always beginner-friendly. In fact, many of Zebco 808’s hardcore fans began their bowfishing journey with this reel and didn’t change their reels and tried anything else for years.
- The 808 gives you a great gear ratio that’s nice when the action gets real hot and heavy. Compared to this, the AMS 610 is one to one and we often feel like we’ve been reeling in forever.
- So, here is our pro safety tip. Set your 808 with a 200-lb Fast Flight line, get a spray silicone, and liberally shoot it into the reel’s mouth onto the spooled line before going out. Such a setup will help the line fly off the reel so there are no snag ups or drag. We picked the Fast Flight string because it doesn’t stretch, which is good in case you forget to push your button or bump the handle for closing it. The arrow might just snap the line and keep going or just stop and fall if it’s out far enough. But with other strings it might stretch and then bounce back!
- Another tip is to keep the drag a bit loose and tighten it up when needed
- Also, keep sand out of it to let it work fine for years.
What We Didn’t Like
Who Is It Great for
- Both beginners and experienced bowfishermen
- Adjustable drag system
- Rapid anti-reverse system
- Hardy components with a solid build
- Reel snaps after about 20-30 shots
04 Cajun Fish Stick Take-Down Bowfishing Bow Set
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.
- Aluminum raiser of high-grade with composite limbs
- The Cajun bow lasts a very long time
- Mounting sight with a threaded hole for long-distance shots
- Robust roller system enabling easy draw up and control
- The reels are strong
- Available only for right-handed use
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.
05 Fin-Finder Heavy Duty Drum 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 design is simple and easy to use
- Constructed of heavy-duty aluminum
- The line is 80 feet long
- The drum may be a size big for some bows
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.
06 AMS Tournament Retriever Pro Bowfishing Reel
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.
- Pretty fast with its gear ratio
- Great for both beginners and pro anglers
- Ease of use
- Very durable materials used in its construction
- The long handle provides additional leverage
- Thick bowline hindering speed
- Small capacity bottle
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.
Best Bowfishing Reels – 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 setup 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 an 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 of 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.
How to Bowfish?
Since bowfising is done in shallow waters at close ranges, you need to approach the fish carefully without spooking them out.
- Don’t cast a shadow over the target
- Try to get closure to the fish upwind
- Don’t stir the water much, especially when you’re on a boat or wading
- When nearing towards the target from the shore, walk slowly and look for anything that may make a noise
Light travels through water differently than air because water has more density than air. As a result, light waves bend upon entering the water. This means what you see under the water is actually lower than what it seems.
- Aim 6” lower
- Or aim 4” low for every 10 feet of distance to hit a fish that’s 12” underwater
Summertime is best for bow anglers since this allows people to bowfish any time of the day or night. Make sure the sky is clear and there’s no wind before you head out towards your nearest water bodies.
Fish are more active at dawn and dusk. Many also choose to hunt at night on boats where bowfishing lights are used to lighten up the shallow waters.
Bowfishing Tips: 6 Tips to Help You Shoot More Fish
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.
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. For bowfishing what would be the best draw weight?
Ans. Seasoned bow fishermen suggest 40 to 50 pounds of draw weight since that works best.
3. 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.”
4. 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.
5. What’s the ideal gear ratio?
Ans. Experts suggest 5:1. The reasoning is that slow is better.
6. 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.
7. Is the ocean a likely location to bowfish?
Ans. However, once again state laws bar certain species from being fished. You need to check.
8. 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