How to Convert Any Hunting Bow to a Bowfishing Bow

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Video bowfishing set up

Bowfishing has become a popular off-season sport for bow hunters, which has lead to a commonly discussed topic in figuring out how to convert any hunting bow into a bowfishing bow. If you plan to stick to bowfishing for the long haul, I would recommend saving your time and money by just purchasing a bowfishing bow rather than doing this conversion package. However, if you are new to the sport and just want to see what it’s about, then learning how to convert any hunting bow into a bowfishing bow is well worth your time.

Converting Your Hunting Bow to a Bowfishing Bow

Hunting season is over, it’s time to turn your hunting bow into a bowfishing bow. In bowfishing, aiming is by reaction. Sights are not used. Instead of having a quiver of arrows that may easily attach to your bow, you only have one arrow. The stabilizer on your hunting bow is typically used for a bowfishing bow light and/or your bowfishing reel.

Step 1: Strip Down Your Hunting Bow

The first step in converting your hunting bow into a bowfishing bow is to remove all of your accessories, leaving a blank bow. Common hunting bow accessories that should be removed include an arrow rest, stabilizer, arrow quiver, and sight. While you’re at it, you can put your hand release aside as well. Releases are not used for bowfishing, typically finger savers are added so you can quickly pull back with your fingers. Once your bow is bare, it should look similar to the photo below. The bow on the far left is a bare hunting bow, while the two bows on the right are both bowfishing bows.

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Comparison of Bare Hunting and Bowfishing Bow

Step 2: Add Your Bowfishing Reel

There are 3 types of bowfishing reels: hand reel, bottle reel, and spinning reel. Hand reels were used in the early days of bowfishing, but are more difficult and less efficient in comparison to the other two options. The most commonly used bowfishing reel is the bottle retriever reel or the spincast bowfishing reel.

Stabilizer Mounted Bowfishing Reel

The spincast bowfishing reels and hand reels are both stabilizer mounted bowfishing reels. They come with a mounting bracket that threads into the stabilizer hole on your bow. The photo below shows a spincast reel (left) and a hand reel (right) mounted to a bow.

Hand Reel vs Spincast Reel Comparison for Bowfishing

Side Mounted Bowfishing Reel

The most fail-safe reel available for bowfishing is bottle retriever reel. They are mounted to the side of the bowfishing bow, rather than to the stabilizer hole on the bow itself. The AMS Bowfishing bottle reel comes with an arrow holder, which is one less thing you will have to purchase later on if you choose this option to convert any hunting bow into a bowfishing bow.

convert bow with bottle reel for bowfishing

Step 3: Add an Arrow Rest Made for Bowfishing Arrows

Your hunting bow arrow rest may not be the best option for bowfishing. Common arrow rests used for bowfishing include whisker biscuits and various forms of rolling arrow rests. Here are some bowfishing arrow rest examples from AMS Bowfishing.

convert hunting bow to bowfishing bow with arrow rests

Step 4: Mount a Light to Your Bow

There is no comparison in bowfishing at night vs the day time. Bowfishing lights tend to attract most fish, which make for much closer shots.

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There’s a lot to consider in finding the best bow mounted bowfishing light. Ideally, you’ll want a bow mounted light that can be used for bowfishing and hunting. If you’re able to choose a light that works for hunting as well, then that may be an added perk if you want to convert your bowfishing bow back to a hunting bow during hunting season.

Key features to look for

  • Turn on and off quickly
  • Change between warm white and cool white color tones for seeing through clear or muddy water
  • Light is compatible with all bows and reels

The bow mounted bowfishing light in this photo comes standard with the bowfishing package, which includes an integrated on/off and momentary pressure switch, warm white and cool white LEDs, and mounting hardware for mounting to a bow with any bowfishing reel. A hunting package is available in the event you wish to convert your bow back during the hunting season.

Step 5: Add Finger Savers

Finger savers are cheap, and they’re important for bowfishing because you do not use a release like you do for bow hunting. They are soft pieces of rubber that slide over your bow string and mount in place where you pull back on your bow. Finger savers roll on the string as you draw back and will help reduce blistering from a long night of bowfishing. The downside to installing finger savers is you need to have the proper experience to remove the string and install them. Most archery shops can help you with this, but it’s something to consider when you convert a hunting bow to a bowfishing bow.

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Step 6: Start Practicing!

Now that you have converted your hunting bow into a bowfishing bow, it’s time to start practicing! Unlike hunting, it’s best to aim low when bowfishing. Here are some good pointers to learn how to aim when bowfishing, but ultimately it is going to take some time on the water to get your reactions down. A good strategy for practicing your aim is to pick out a spot on the bottom in 2-3 ft of water, and try to hit it consistently. Some bowfishermen will even submerged milk jugs to practice shooting. Just make sure you don’t leave them in the water once you’re done practicing.

Outrigger Outdoors is your trusted source for all things bowfishing. Shop our selection of bowfishing lights and supplies today!

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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 >>