Fishing has always been one of the most attractive and popular water activities, and this thing doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon since more and more people are picking up fishing, as a primary hobby, since it is extremely, relaxing, fun, easy to learn and hard to master nature and tons of excitement. Our favorite hobby has branched out to different things as well, and one of the most popular ones has been bow fishing.
This sport is a great way to combine the excitement and thrill of hunting with the amazing qualities of fishing. Bowfishing, in my opinion, is the best way to take your fishing skills and talents to the next level, and of course, it increases your chances of catching bigger fish in the process. The eye-hand coordination will be greatly enhanced, you will learn how certain fish move and recognize their movement patterns, and of course, your reeling game will be improved significantly.
On top of all this it is great fun and super exciting, as you need to anticipate the movement of the fish, and shoot your bow, even that will make things extremely exciting without mentioning catching your game and reeling it in.
However, like any kind of fishing, bow fishing also requires you to invest and know how to use certain equipment and gear to maximize your chances of catching fish and practicing the sport as efficiently as possible. Bows and arrows first come to mind when it comes to bow fishing, which is also essential and without them, it is not possible to practice bow fishing, however, besides that there is something that people overlook and that is reels.
Just like bows and arrows, the reels should also be optimized and be able to deal with the needs and requirements of bow fishing. While you can also get away with a traditional fishing reel, I would most likely recommend you to opt for an optimized reel to get the best performance when it comes to bow fishing.
For this reason today I have decided to give you the best guide when it comes to reels for bow fishing. In this guide I will reveal the best bowfishing reels in the market, things you need to know before buying a bow fishing reel, provide you some know-how for bow fishing, and answer some frequently asked questions. Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
Our Picks For The Best Bowfishing Reels
7. Fin-Finder Heavy Duty
We are going to start this list with a pretty simple, easy to use, affordable, but effective drum reel, the Fin-Finder Heavy Duty. As its name implies the Fin-Finder Heavy Duty is a heavy-duty item that will last for a long-long time, delivering perfect value for its price, what more can you expect from a device like this.
The Fin-Finder Heavy Duty has a heavy-duty aluminum construction on all of its body, and on its spool, right out of the package you will see about 80 feet of specialized bow fishing line delivering more value for its price. This line will allow you to reach far targets from where you are standing, however, I would recommend you to switch to a heavy-duty line if you are planning to catch big game fish, as the provided one is not the strongest in the market.
The Fin-Finder Heavy Duty drum reel comes with a bolt screw which makes it super easy to install your bow to it, and you just have to be a little careful in the setup face and maybe consider filing down the edge.
For a durable, easy to use, and super useful drum reel, the Fin-Finder Heavy Duty is extremely affordable and if I were you I wouldn’t miss it.
6. Zebco 808
If you are just starting and want a super fool-proof option while shopping for a reel for bow fishing, you should check out one of the best and nicest spinning reels in the market, the Zebco 808HBOWHD. This spinning reel is extremely fast, light and is one of the best entry-level models in the market since it is super easy to use, and extremely affordable, and thanks to its weight you can use this one for extended periods.
Zebco has delivered a wide range of interesting reels, however, none has caught my eye more than this model, and the 800 has quickly become the favorite of many bow fishers, amateur and experienced. My favorite feature of this reel is that it has a reversible retrieve, meaning that it is perfect for right and left-handed fishermen. It also has a classic stainless steel design that will only add to its durability and will also look good on your bow.
The Zebco 808 has a fast retrieval rate of 19 inches for every rotation of the handle for efficiency and performance, on top of that it has an adjustable dial drag. The spool has a capacity of 30 yards per 80 lbs, and this reel will be by your side for a long time with good maintenance.
5. Cajun Hybrid AFR1300
Next up we have a super capable retriever model coming up from Cajun, the Hybrid AFR1300. This reel comes with all of the performance of a retriever reel, such as the fast performance, capability for hunting big game fish, and superior durability, however, this reel doesn’t come with the premium price point of those reels.
The Cajun Hybrid AFR1300 is made out of super-strong aluminum alloys and is already equipped with a heavy-duty 75-feet of bow fishing line, so you can just start hunting right from the get-go. My favorite feature of the Cajun Hybrid AFR1300 is that it allowed me to use it one-handed, however, the design of this reel is not the best. On top of that, I wouldn’t quite prefer the included white line since it is very hard to see underwater or in dimmer lighting.
The Cajun Hybrid AFR1300 comes as an ambidextrous retriever reel and despite its cons, it is the perfect tool that wants to get the taste of premium retriever reels before committing.
4. Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD
Moving on with our list we have another spinning reel for bow fishing by Muzzy, the Bowfishing 1069 XD. This bow fishing reel is not your average spinning reel and it has amazing upgrades on its body and its a true premium item.
Its biggest upgrade is the steel mounting bracket that is used for reducing its weight and delivers plenty of room for mounting a bolt at a time
The Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD is equipped with a nice spool switch that when activated opens the spool and keeps it that way until you turn it off. When turned off this allows you to change to shooting mode, and it will tell you that the reel is ready to be shot. The drag system can also be turned off so you can fight the fish properly and not miss any chances.
Apart from this, the Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD is also one of the best-designed reels in the market, as it looks super sleek. After missed shots, the retrieval of the fishing line is super fast as well, and I was greatly impressed with the performance of this spinning reel, and it comes complete with 150 feet of pre-spooled bow fishing line, which surprisingly was heavy duty and ready to fish with.
3. AMS Tournament Retriever TNT
On the third place in our list, we have a super capable retriever reel for bow fishing, the AMS Tournament Retriever TNT. This amazing bow fishing reel has amazing reeling speed and comes at the common 4.3:1 gear ratio that when combined with the extended handle delivers amazing ease and feedback when reeling fish in. During testing I revealed that I could retrieve 27-inches of the line for every rotation of the handle, meaning that you will reel fish in, in record times.
This is the easiest one to use, and everything about it is designed to be as intuitive and user-friendly as possible, to ensure maximum performance. It also has zero drag, an anti-reverse for tangle-free performance and has a little-larger opening to ensure that it decreases friction as much as possible.
You can choose both the right-handed or left-handed model of this reel, depending on your needs and both of them come with 35-yards of 350-pound test premium Spectra line, meaning that you can start fishing right from the get-go. The durability of the AMS Tournament Retriever TNT is super amazing and I can comfortably say that this model will last you long times and you can comfortably use it in every bow fishing outing.
2. Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing
On the second place on this list, we have a true runner up that has established itself as a tried and true bow fishing reel, the Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing. The biggest selling point of the Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing is that it was perfect for experienced bow fishers, but was still accessible for beginner bow fishers as well.
The biggest selling point of the Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing is the company’s special Fighting Wheel Brake, which lets you reel and brake at the same time, giving you a tremendous amount of control. As its name implies this reel also has a winching feature, that gives you the ability to catch big game fish such as large carp or northern pike, even from deeper waters if your skills allow it.
This reel allows you to handle super strong fish and its durable aluminum frame, hardware constructed from stainless steel and solid aluminum mounting brackets, will ensure that it will be by your side for a long time. One-handed operation and high visibility 250-pound test line just further add to its value, definitely one of the best reels in the market, delivering perfect value for its high-price.
1. AMS 610 Retriever Pro
Coming to our top pick we have the definite best bowfishing reel in the market, the AMS 610 Retriever Pro. As its name implies the AMS 610 Retriever Pro is a retriever model, and it is one of the most reliable models in the market so far as it has been in production for some years, slowly but surely becoming the favorite of many bow fishers in the process.
This amazing retriever reel comes in both left and right-handed mode, and it is the easiest reels to make use of, maintain and even install, requiring just some basic knowledge. My favorite feature of the AMS 610 Retriever Pro is that it retrieves 17-inches of line per rotation of the handle. On top of that the AMS 610
Retriever Pro casts without the use of a button, and this, in turn, makes your shot precise and quick.
The AMS 610 Retriever Pro is one of the most capable reels in the market so far, and you can see for yourself as many buyers are extremely satisfied with the product, as it is super durable, reliable, quick, easy to use, and deliver amazing value for its price. The 25-yard 250-pound test line just further justifies its amazing value.
What Do You Need to Know Before Buying a Bowfishing Reel?
Not just for fishing equipment, but for everything in life, I try to gather as much information as possible before committing to something, so I am not faced with surprises and I am not disappointed. However, this is especially true with purchases, since if you have a good understanding of how a certain thing works, what it does need, and what can it do, you will be able to make an informed decision. If you follow this guide carefully you will be able to start with bow fishing in no time.
The first thing you need to know before buying or considering a reel for bow fishing is the type or the style of it. I can say that there are three types of fishing reels available in the market, and each of them delivers its advantages and disadvantages. I would recommend to every buyer to consider the three options beforehand and determine which suits your skill level and style most, so you can make a better call. Let’s get on with it.
Drum Reel – Also known as the hand wrap reel, a drum reel is a reel that you wrap the line manually around the spool, and hold it in place. You can do this by using a line holder, and once you shoot your arrow the line will go off from the holder, and when you retrieve your arrow you can start wrapping it again around the spool.
The biggest advantage of this reel is that it is pretty cheap and is easy to use. On top of that these reels also rock excellent durability and last much longer than other reels. The biggest advantage of these reels is that it takes a lot of time to wrap the line around the spool and it can get pretty annoying after a while, especially when hunting for fast-moving fish.
Spincast Reel – A spin-cast reel is the most basic type of reel you will find. However, these reels are also the easiest to use and the most popular types of a reel that are used in the market today. I think that these are the best options for those that are relatively new to fishing and want to give the sport a try. If you have experience with a traditional reel you will instantly recognize this reels, since it looks and operates in the same manner, except that it is attached to a bow.
The biggest feature of spin-cast reels is that they come as pre-round, with a regular fishing line. On top of that this reel is the easiest to use, as you can set your drag and fight the fish without any problem, also it is pretty speedy compared to the drum reel, with simpler words this is a fool-proof reel for those that do not want a hassle. However, the disadvantage of these reels is that they are a lot less durable and may be rendered unusable in a very short time.
Retriever Reel – Last but not least we have the retriever reel, which is quickly becoming the most popular type of reel for bow fishing thanks to its use in catching big game fish and even alligators. However, these are mostly used by more experienced users that can handle a fight. These are built to withstand pressure and use 200-pound braided lines, and the line on this kind of reel is stored in a bottle instead of a spool, allowing tangle-free travel.
I have found many advantages with this kind of reel and the biggest one being that they are lightweight and the use of thicker and more durable lines. On top of that thanks to the use of the crank method instead of spin line, the wear and tear are reduced significantly. The biggest con of a retriever line, however, is that it isn’t the fastest, due to its thick and heavy bowline and they are a little more expensive compared to other models.
Moving on with the things you need to know we have the gear ration, which refers to the speed at which the reel will pick up the line, and every fisherman worth its salt will first take a look at the gear ratio before even considering it. The most popular gear ratio for bow fishing reels is 4.3:1, which means that the spool will rotate 4.3 times every one rotation of the handle. However, this will also depend on your skill level and I can comfortably say that more experienced bow fishers will use higher gear ratios, and less experienced lower.
This is also pretty essential when you need to buy a bow fishing reel and not just that. Since this will decide how long will you be able to use the reel you have invested in and in my opinion it is better to invest in a high-quality, premium and durable fishing reel that will last you a long time than to buy a cheap one that will be rendered useless and possibly ruin your fishing trip if you forget to bring a spare, which happens even to the best of us.
This is a very personal thing, and you shouldn’t be ashamed if you think that your skill level is not as much as you would like. The most important thing is to stick to things that are in your skill level and try not to overcomplicate things until you progress your skills and experience further. When you are confident in your skills then it is the right time to invest in new gear that requires more expertise, and of course, it still won’t be easy but your experience will allow you to have fun while learning it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How to aim when bowfishing?
A: While the answer is not always clear cut some general rules will help you every time, such as aim lower than where your fish is located at least 10 inches from its bottom, and in front of it.
Q: Can I use a normal bow for bowfishing?
A: You definitely can use any kind of bow for bow fishing, however, you might not prefer it that way since it will decrease your performance and take from the experience. Most bow fishing bows are designed to be used for fast-paced action, more durable against the water, and are specifically designed to hold a reel.
Q: What is the difference between a bowfishing reel and a normal one?
A: Essentially I can say that these reels both work in the same ways, with one difference that makes them perfect for bow fishing. Bowfishing reels allow you to attach the line to a bow and arrow, instead of the rod that is in the case of normal rods. This makes things more interesting and adds more games to the experience.
So there you have it, folks, your guide to buying the best bowfishing reel. This guide was written based on my personal bow fishing experience, reference from different colleagues, hours of research and user reviews. I hope that I have given you a great deal of knowledge when it comes to bow fishing reels, if you have read this guide properly then you know how to purchase the best one, however, worth mentioning are the top picks in the market that are the safest choices and will deliver amazing value for the price. Until next time!