Bowfishing 101 | Buying and Setting Up a Bowfishing Bow

Setting Up a Bowfishing Bow

Even if you are new to the sport of bowfishing, buying a bowfishing bow and putting it together doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

Getting a bow to the point of actually shooting accurately doesn’t take a lot of work or even equipment!

This blog should help you find a bow that works for you and help set up your bowfishing bow.

Converting a Bow or Buying a New Bowfishing Bow?

One of the most common questions is “do I need to buy a new bow for bowfishing?”

Although you certainly don’t need to buy a new bow (you can likely use your hunting bow if you have one) it is recommended that you have a separate bow for bowfishing.

Bowfishing can be very messy and the corrosion of dirt, blood, and fish slime can definitely be hard on bowfishing equipment. Particularly if you use a high-end compound with expensive accessories, you may want to consider getting a second setup for bowfishing.

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If you have an old bow laying around that you can put a bowfishing reel on, that’s fine too.

Yard sales, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay are all great places to score a cheap compound or recurve bows that are suitable for bowfishing.

If you do choose to purchase a new bow to use for bowfishing, you have a few options.

You can opt for a recurve or a compound bowfishing bow, whichever you prefer…there are a variety of bows that are specifically designed for bowfishing.

Compound Bowfishing Bow

If you are looking for a compound bowfishing bow then consider one of the F-31 and the various F-31 bowfishing bow packages.

The F-31 is a great all-around ready-to-fish bowfishing bow.

The packages make it super easy to get your bowfishing bow set up and ready to hit the water in no time!

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F-31 Compound Bowfishing Bow

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F-31 SideWinder Drum Reel Package

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F-31 Winch Pro Reel Package

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F-31 RefractR BLS and Winch Pro Reel Package

If you’re someone who is just getting into bowfishing, but needs a lighter draw-weight compound bow you can pull back easier – check out the F-31LE bow and bow packages.

The F-31 LE (Light Edition) features a 15 – 29 lb. draw weight which is perfect for beginners, women, children, and teens.

F-31LE Winch Pro Package

Recurve Bowfishing Bow

If you are looking for a recurve bowfishing bow or recurve bowfishing bow package, the Bankrunner recurve bowfishing package is a great option that can be customized to fit your particular style including several riser color options.

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BankRunner Recurve Bowfishing Bow Package

The great thing about shooting a bow designed specifically for bowfishing is that they have very little to no let off.

This means you will be able to take quick shots without needing to come to full draw. This is known as snap shooting.

Bows specifically designed for bowfishing are also meant to stand up to the elements that are a part of bowfishing.

Waterproof and rust-proof parts will make cleanup easier, and the bow will last longer.

Bowfishing Bow Draw Weight

The ideal draw weight for bowfishing is generally around 30-40 pounds. However, if it’s a little more or even a little less you can still kill fish. Many youth bows can be converted to bowfishing bows for young shooters who wouldn’t be able to shoot a 40-pound draw weight.

Whether you choose a compound bowfishing bow or a recurve bowfishing bow, the equipment used on them is the same.

Converting a Hunting Bow to a Bowfishing Bow

If you are converting an old hunting bow, you will want to remove all of the accessories.

The arrow rest, peep sight, D loop, bow sight, and stabilizer will all be useless on a bowfishing bow. You also won’t need a release.

Setting up a Bowfishing Bow

Bowfishing Reels

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Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel

The first thing you will need when converting a bow or setting up a new bowfishing bow is a bowfishing reel.

There are a variety of bowfishing reels that you can choose from, they break down into three basic categories: hand reel, bottle reel, and spinning reel.

The hand reel and bottle reels will both mount into the riser of your bow where a stabilizer would normally be.

A bottle reel like the Winch Pro bowfishing reel will mount on your bow using several bolts, and be placed right above the handle of your bow.

All of the Fin-Finder bowfishing reels are designed to fit both compounds and recurve bows, with the exception of traditional wood recurves and longbows.

Bowfishing Arrow Rest

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Current Arrow Rest

Next, you will need to choose a bowfishing arrow rest.

Many people think they can just use a standard arrow rest that is also used for hunting. However, this can be dangerous.

Most standard archery arrow rests are not designed to shoot arrows with a string attached to them. If your bowfishing line gets tangled on your rest, this can lead to serious injury.

Bowfishing rests have a more open shoot-through design and are simpler to avoid complications.

Bowfishing Arrows

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Raider Pro Bowfishing Arrow w/ The KRAKEN 3 Barb Point

The next thing that you are going to need is bowfishing arrows.

Bowfishing arrows are made of fiberglass, and much heavier than your standard carbon arrow. They are designed to penetrate water and hit hard.

All bowfishing arrows will come pre-drilled for a safety slide. If you are shooting a bottle-style reel, safety slides are something that you should definitely be using.

If you are using a spinner-style reel, you can opt to tie the string directly to the arrow or use safety slides.

There are a variety of bowfishing points that come on bowfishing arrows.

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Kraken 3 Barb Bowfishing Point

It’s up to you to decide which will work best for you, and that will be a matter of trial and error. The type of fish you target will play a big part in which tips you choose.

You can reference our Recommended Wrecking Level Chart to help you determine which bowfishing arrow and bowfishing point will work best for you and your pursuits.

Also, if you want to step up your bowfishing arrow game – you can customize your bowfishing arrows with our Custom Bowfishing Arrow Builder.

You can customize your bowfishing shaft color, knock, and bowfishing point to have a one-of-a-kind bowfishing arrow that matches your bowfishing rig!

Bowfishing Accessories

Although they are small, and sometimes overlooked, rubber finger savers on your bowstring will make shooting frequently much easier. Finger savers do just that — save your fingers.

Since you won’t be using a release to shoot like you do when you use your hunting bow, having something to protect your fingers from the bowstring can be helpful. Another alternative is to wear a glove on the hand that you use to draw your bow, or use a shooting tab.

Putting all of the accessories on your bowfishing bow is pretty easy and you can do it all yourself, with the exception of the finger savers. Unless you’re an experienced bow technician with a bow press (or if you’re using a recurve), you’ll need to take your bow to a bow shop to have the finger savers installed.

If you are in fact using a recurve, familiarize yourself with how to safely string and unstring your bow. Investing in a bow “stringer” will make your life easier if you’re going the traditional route.

Once your bow is set up, now the only thing left to do is to shoot it.

You probably already know or have read that the toughest thing about bowfishing is getting used to the refraction on the water. It tricks your eyes into thinking the fish are closer than they are, which means you will have to aim low when you’re trying to shoot at fish.

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RefractR BLS Bowfishing Laser Sight

This is where a bowfishing laser sight can come in handy! The RefractR BLS bowfishing laser sight can take the guesswork out of the refraction, allowing you to shoot more accurately and faster.

This seems like it would be difficult but after a few tries, you will get the hang of it.  Getting a few fish under your belt will not only build your confidence but will continue to improve your shooting.

If you have shot traditional bows at any time in your life, you will notice the similarities between that and bowfishing. It’s all about the instincts.

Keep in mind even the most seasoned of bow fishermen still miss from time to time.

Unlike hunting, missing a fish is an everyday occurrence that you don’t need to beat yourself up about… and the fish is likely to turn around and swim right by you again!


Now that you’ve determined whether you’re buying a brand new bowfishing bow, or converting one – you’re well on your way to hitting the water to bowfish.

All that’s left is to get a bowfishing reel, bowfishing arrow rest, bowfishing arrows, and it’s time to get wreckin’!

If you are looking for more advice or guidance regarding bowfishing equipment, tips, and tactics – make sure to check out our Fin-Finder bowfishing blog.

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