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Understanding Bowfishing Day 1: A Boat or a Heavy Bow Aren’t Necessary to Bowfish

A bowfisherman aims his bow
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Editor’s Note: Chris James has been bowfishing for about 15 years. “Bowfishing is a sport that has intrigued me for many years. I guess the reason I got into it was because I was looking for something to hunt after hunting season ended. In the fall and winter, I could hunt deer. During springtime, I could turkey hunt until about the end of April or the middle of May. In the summertime, I could shoot 3D archery, but there was a gap in my ability to hunt from the middle of May until about July. I do like to fish, and I discovered that bowfishing was the perfect combination of both hunting and fishing for me. You get to hunt the fish, and you don’t have to wait on them to bite. When I shoot a big fish, I’m very excited when it’s on the end of my arrow, and I have to play the fish down to get it in the boat. I also enjoy the constant action of bowfishing. You never know when or what kind of fish you’ll see. Once you spot a fish, you quickly have to estimate distance, aim instinctively and shoot. My biggest fish ever taken with a bow was a grass carp that weighed about 40 pounds. Often, you have to get two or three arrows in a fish that big to subdue it, but I made a good shot – hitting that fish right in the head and bringing it to the boat. Sometimes people have the wrong ideas about bowfishing. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • A marksman shows off her fish“You Don’t Have to Have a Boat When Bowfishing: Many people are convinced they must have a boat to go bowfishing. That statement isn’t true. Most bowfishermen wade flooded fields or backwaters off major rivers or creek systems, or they walk the banks of creeks. Most bowfishermen get into the sport by wading shallow water and shooting the rough fish like buffalo carp and big catfish. So, the notion that you have to have a boat to be a bowfisherman simply isn’t true.A marksman aims his bow and arrow
  • “You Mustn’t Shoot Too Much Poundage when Bowfishing: Bowfishermen often attempt to shoot too-much poundage, especially in the beginning. If your bow is set-up for deer or big game, usually you’ll have the draw weight at 60 – 70 pounds. With bowfishing, you’re shooting a big, heavy arrow, but you’re usually taking really-short shots in very-shallow water – sometimes 3-foot deep or less. If you shoot 60 pounds, you’ll drive that arrow deep into the bottom just about every time you shoot. You’ll have a night full of heartache trying to get the arrows out of the bottom. Too, you’re going to get really tired of pulling that 60-pound bow, while shooting 100 shots a night.Two bowfishermen wade in shallow water

When you bowhunt deer, you’ll probably only shoot your bow at deer 1 to 10 times all year. But when bowfishing, you may shoot your bow several hundred times in one trip, especially if the rough fish have moved into shallow water. So, the heavier the poundage you try to shoot, the quicker you’ll get tired. With a recurve bow, I typically recommend shooting 40 pounds for an adult. But with most compound bows, I recommend only shooting about 30 pounds – all the poundage you really need.”Two bowfishermen show off their fish

Cover: The Bowfishing BibleTo learn more about bowfishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “The Bowfishing Bible,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at For more information on bass fishing, see John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at You may have to copy and paste these clicks into your browser. When you click on either book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the books for free. On the right side of the Audible page for these books and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible with one click. I’ve attended the Muzzy Classic Bowfishing Tournament before and enjoyed it. This year’s 2022 Classic will take place in Vicksburg, MS, on June 11-12, with first-place prize being $20,000, after paying a $300 registration fee to participate. or You also can visit and observe the Classic without entering.Cover: How to Bass Fish Like a Pro

Tomorrow: Bowfishermen Don’t Need Bottle Style Reels or Safety Slides

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