Two years ago I decided to upgrade my compound bow and inevitably ended up sticking my old bow in our guest bedroom to perpetually build on our mountain of gear. Until Caleb and I decided that turning my old bow into a bow fishing rig would be the perfect way to breath life back into it. Since we are both new to the sport we decided we would start with just the bare essentials until we decided if this was something we really enjoyed and wanted invest more money into. I can say after one weekend of successfully bow fishing and having the most fun this is something we will be doing a lot more often! Here are some quick tips and my guide to setting up a bow fishing rig with only the bare essential items. What you will need:
A Bow — clearly this is a must. You can't exactly go bow fishing without a bow! It is better to actually have a lighter and smaller bow when it comes to bow fishing. It isn't as important that the draw length be specific for your body like it is with a traditional or compound bow. Instead, a shorter draw length and a lower poundage can be better for beginners because it will allow you to hold the bow back longer while trying to aim as you are following a fish. It also means more people will be able to use the bow, so be sure to invite your friends!
A bow fishing reel/retriever — this is what will actually attach to your arrow and help you reel the fish into the boat. We decided to go with the AMS original retriever, mainly because of price and the excellent reviews. It is easy to use and so far has proven to be very reliable.
A Rest — I reused my old whisker biscuit. In order to save money we decided not to invest in a new rest just yet. Instead I decided to stick with my old whisker biscuit that was already mounted on my bow. I've found the whisker biscuit works just fine. You will just want to make sure the arrow doesn't fall into the "whiskers" and so I will just tap the arrow slightly to get it back into place before shooting if that does happen. If the arrow is not resting correctly in the whisker biscuit your arrow will not fly straight, which can result in a poor shot and a missed fish.
Finger Tabs — how you draw the bow. These are small soft plastic cushions that attach directly to the bowstrings in order to protect your fingers while you are drawing back the bow. Unlike a compound bow, when you are bow fishing you don't use a release. You treat the bow more like a traditional bow and actually draw back the strings and then let them roll off your finger tips when you are ready to let the arrow fly. The finger tabs allow you to grip the strings with comfort.
Proper Arrows with Tips— needed in order to shoot the fish. Obviously, it would be impossible to actually get a fish without an arrow and tip. That would be like trying to catch a fish with just a line and no hook. We have started with just two arrows. Our main arrow and then one extra as a back up just in case. So far, we haven't even needed our second arrow but it is nice to know it is an option. The arrows and tips are sold separately but can also be found as a kit and ready to use. We purchased the complete arrow kit because of convenience and cost..
Lights — this is key! My husband and I have discovered it is much easier and much more successful to bow fish at night rather than during the day, at least for our area. In our experience, the fish are less skittish at night and can be found in shallower water, which makes them easier to find and shoot. But in oder to see them you need lights to illuminate the water. A good spot light is key and the more lights the better. Warm lights with a yellow tint (similar to your average lamp light bulb) seem to give a clearer picture under the water vs the white led lights.