How to Convert a Hunting Bow to a Bowfishing Bow

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Video bowfishing bow setup

When it comes to bowfishing, the most important piece of gear for any outing is your bowfishing bow. And we’ve written about types of bows people use for bowfishing before. Unfortunately, many people do not have the money to go out and buy a brand new bowfishing setup. Fortunately, this isn’t a big problem because if you have an old hunting bow laying around, you can easily convert it into your new bowfishing bow!

Almost any hunting bow, whether it is a compound or a recurve, can be converted and made into a suitable bowfishing bow with the proper equipment. So dust off that old bow in the corner of your garage or shed and give bowfishing a try! An ideal bowfishing bow will be a bow with a draw weight of somewhere around 30 to 50 pounds, but this isn’t an exact science. Realistically, any bow that is decent shape and safe to shoot will work!

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Start with a blank canvas

Before you begin to convert your old hunting bow to a bowfishing bow, you’ll want to remove all of the accessories that might be on it. This includes (but is not limited to) things like a stabilizer, sights, rest, quiver, or anything else that can be easily removed. If the bow has a D-loop, you can remove that as well. You don’t have to, but it really isn’t all that necessary in order to bowfish.

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Add a rest designed for bowfishing arrows

After clearing off your bow, you now should have a blank canvas to work with. From here, you will want to purchase and install all of the right bowfishing accessories for bowfishing. Let’s start with something simple like the arrow rest.

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Drop away types of rests that are very popular in bowhunting are not the best choice here, as they can actually be dangerous when using bow fishing arrows. There are many different bowfishing rests that you can use, and you should pick one that best suits your needs and shooting style. You can learn about the types of arrow rests and how to choose the right one here.

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Consider sights but don’t spend a ton of money here

When it comes to sights on your new bowfishing bow, less is more. In fact, many archer-anglers don’t use sights at all. Bowfishing is fast-paced and most of the time, you’ll rely on shooting instinctively. If you do use sights, try something very basic and simple, as most bowfishing shots are going to be pretty close in range. The bottom line here – you don’t need to spend lots of money on anything expensive or fancy.

Select and install a bowfishing reel

One of the most important accessories on any bowfishing bow is the bowfishing reel. There are a number of different reel options out there, and there are three main types:

  • Hand Reel – Hand reels are the most simple and basic types of bowfishing reels, and are very popular with traditional bows because they are lightweight and can help balance lighter bows. These reels usually screw onto the front of a bow where the stabilizer goes, and line is reeled onto the spool by hand.
  • Spinner Reel – The spinner style of bowfishing reels are similar to your pushbutton fishing reels only bigger. These function much like a fishing reel and use braided fishing line. Spinner style bowfishing reels go right where your stabilizer would normally be on a standard bowhunting bow.
  • Bottle Reel – This style of bowfishing reel gets its name from its design. The bowfishing line is cased inside a plastic bottle which keeps it stored and out of the way until needed. These are very simple in function and mount to your bow’s riser very easily. There are also types of hybrid reels that are a cross between a bottle reel and a spinner reel.
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There is no right or wrong choice here when it comes to which style of bowfishing reel is best. It all comes down to personal preference and your budget. There are many different models and brands available at all price points, so do a little research before you select one. Check out our beginner’s buying guide to bowfishing reels, ask your bowfishing buddies or check out forums to see which brands archer-anglers recommend.

Pick a light for night time outings

Another accessory you may want to consider adding to your bow as you are converting it is a light. Lights are important if you plan to bowfish at night. Bowfishing bow lights are easy to mount and are generally battery-operated. It will come in especially handy in low light situations to help see your target.

Add other optional accessories

Lastly, another accessory that you might want to add to your bowfishing bow is finger savers. These are definitely not necessary, but they can make bowfishing easier for beginners. These small plastic or rubber pieces go on your bowstring in order to keep your fingers from getting worn out. When bowfishing, you will (hopefully) be drawing your bow back many times to shoot fish which can hurt your fingers after a while. If you don’t want to add another accessory to your bowfishing bow but still want some protection, you can opt for bowfishing gloves instead. These will protect your hands and have added grip for helping you reel in the fish after sticking them.

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It’s time to practice shooting

After you’ve installed all the accessories on your converted bowfishing bow, you are ready to get some arrows and line to start practice shooting. Bowfishing can be a dirty and muddy sport, so make sure to clean your bow after every trip and it will continue to perform for you.

No matter what type of bow you have, converting it into a bowfishing bow can be a great way to get some more use out of your old bow without having to spend a fortune on a brand new bowfishing bow. With a little bit of work and practice, your old hunting bow can become a bowfishing rig capable of accurately helping you land hundreds of pounds of fish.

Have you tried converting an old hunting bow into a bowfishing bow? Tell us about it in the comments below or show us a picture of your setup on our Facebook page.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>