There are some basic tips and tricks you can employ to make your time on the water a bit more enjoyable and help you put more fish in the bucket. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you’ve got a neat tip that’s not covered here, please feel free to leave it in the comments below!
- Let’s start with the golden rule of bowfishing: aim low! Without getting too science-y, the reason you need to aim low is simple; water refracts (bends) light, making things in the water appear farther away than they actually are. The amount of refraction depends on a few different things, such as how deep the water is and how far away you are from the object horizontally, but the end result is nearly always the same: you need to aim lower than your target, or you’re going to miss on the high side. The exception to this rule is when you’re shooting straight down, which does happen from time to time. If you have a straight down shot, aim right at your target and let ‘er fly! Overall, the best way to get the hang of aiming is to shoot into water…a lot. Shoot at different depths, different distances, and in different water conditions, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
- Bring extra gear. I’m not saying you need a whole extra setup, but it’s wise to bring an extra arrow or two and some extra tips for your bowfishing points. At some point in your bowfishing endeavors, you’re probably going to lose an arrow. You’re also going to hit a rock, a stump, a clump of cattails, or something else hard that will dull the tip of your arrow. Both of these things happen from time to time, that’s just the way it is. Fortunately, they’re easy fixes if you come prepared. If you want to be really prepared, you can also bring a small repair kit with extra safety slides, slide stops, nocks, and some superglue in case something on your arrow breaks.
- Go slow in heavy cover. If you’re fishing over a weed bed or along a weeded shoreline, sometimes it pays to slow down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen fish, especially carp, burrowed down in the weeds with just a tail sticking out, but missed the opportunity to shoot because I was going too fast. While it can be tough to remain patient, sometimes it pays to slow down and fish at a more leisurely pace. If you’re in open water and just want to cover ground, you may be able to crank up the trolling motor and move faster.
- Did I mention aim low yet? Seriously, aim low.
- Clean your gear. Bowfishing is a messy sport, and there’s no other way to say it. Well actually, there is: grimy, slimy, dirty, bloody, fish gut-y, muddy. Take your pick, any one of those adjectives will fit. Keeping your gear clean will not only allow it to perform better, it’ll last longer too. I’m not saying you need to wipe your arrow down after every shot. But it does help to give your bow, reel and arrow(s) a once-over with a clean cloth every now and then to remove the dirt and grime. Compound bows are susceptible to rust, so drying them off after each use is a good idea. Any dirt or grime on the cams or in the groove of the cams should be removed too, to prevent the string from jumping off the track the next time you shoot. As the old adage says: take care of your gear, and it will take care of you.
- Be ready. It happens in the blink of an eye: a fish suddenly appears, in range, but it’s on the move. You’ve got about two seconds to raise your bow, draw, aim, and get the shot off. If you’re ready, it’s doable. If you’re a bit slow though, you might as well save your shot for the next one. Bowfishing can be fast and furious if you are “on” the fish, so be ready to shoot quickly.
- Have a gaff, and don’t be afraid to use it. If you’re fishing in an area where the big fish are plentiful, a gaff can be a real life…make that fish…saver. Even with a good shot and decent penetration, the strength of a big carp or gar can pull your arrow out when you’re reeling it in. If you’ve got a big one on and it’s getting close to the boat, have a gaff-man ready and waiting. It’ll take some of the weight off of your arrow and increase your chances of getting that bruiser into the boat. If you don’t have a gaff, a net will work too.
- In case I haven’t said it yet…aim low.
Do you have a good tip or a neat trick you use when you’re bowfishing? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll include it in this list!