Best Bowfishing Reel

Bowfishing has risen in popularity in recent years and more and more places are starting to sell all of the necessary equipment for this activity. However, if you have never purchased this type of equipment before, it can be challenging to know whether the products you are choosing will work for the intended use.

Bowfishing reels are an essential part of bowfishing, and it is vital to source an excellent product to ensure that it will stand the test of time.

In this article, we will be looking at some of the best bowfishing reels as well as discovering some handy buying tips to help you find the best reel for your needs.

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What Is A Bowfishing Reel?

A bowfishing reel is a small piece of equipment with a line that goes into the water with your arrow, allowing you to reel in the catch in a similar way that you would in regular fishing.

There are several types of bowfishing reel, and the style that you use will depend on several factors but mainly your level of experience in the activity. Let’s take a look at the three main types of bowfishing reel.

The Spincast Reel

If you are new to bowfishing, then you will need to use a simple type of reel, and that is precisely what you will get with the spin-cast reel. But just because this one boasts a straightforward design and easy to use nature, that is not to say that it is not extremely effective. It is so effective, in fact, that it is the most commonly used type of reel on the market.

Using a spin cast reel is very similar to the way that you would use a regular fishing reel, and it even features traditional fishing wire – if you have moved to bowfishing from regular fishing, you will likely be very familiar with this piece of equipment.

These pre-round reels are convenient, but it is also worth keeping in mind that they tend to be far less durable than other types of reel so you may find yourself investing in a new one more regularly.

Drum Reels

You might sometimes hear this reel being referred to as a hand-wrap reel and this is because of how you use it. This one is slightly more complicated; the user must wrap the line around the reel with their hand and hold it in place. After you have shot the arrow and wound the reel in, you will need to repeat the initial process.

This may be a little more work, but these reels tend to be a lot less expensive and so are great if you are working on a budget or are new to bowfishing and want to test the water.

Retriever Reels

These are, without a doubt, the most durable type of reel used for bowfishing and have been employed to catch colossal game fish and in some cases, larger animals like alligators. It isn’t hard to see how powerful they are, but they also require a degree of experience if you want to use them.

Other lines are kept on a reel whereas this type is held within a bottle, and this is ideal since it prevents the line from becoming tangled. Furthermore, the type of line used on these reels is far denser and more robust.

There are far more advantages to this type of reel, but the one major disadvantage is that owing to the thicker line, you may not get as much speed as you would with other types of reel.

What Are The Benefits Of Replacing Your Bowfishing Reel?

Aside from the excitement that anyone experiences when purchasing any new piece of equipment; that eagerness to try it out and the thrill of seeing how much better it is, there are many other reasons why you should invest in a new bowfishing reel.

  • Newer bowfishing reels tend to be far more durable than older ones, and this means that you will get a lot more use out of it.
  • As you use your bowfishing reels, they will understandably go through a lot of wear and tear, and this can cause them to lose their function. Over time, the elements will get to them, and you will notice that they do not operate as smoothly as they once did. For this reason, many people choose to update their equipment and get a smoother and more enjoyable fishing experience.
  • If you have been using the same reels for a long period of time, it is likely that you will need to continually maintain them and this can be time-consuming as well as costly if you are replacing new parts. Therefore, it would make sense to simply replace the entire reel for one that will not need any maintenance at all.

What Should You Look For In A Bowfishing Reel?

Before you commit to purchasing a particular bowfishing reel, there are certain things that you should consider. Many people make the mistake of thinking that you can simply pick out any bowfishing reel, and it will do the trick; however, this could not be further from the truth.

As with any product, bowfishing reels come in varying degrees of quality, and some products are very inferior and will not last nor be very effective.

Type Of Reel

We have already looked at the different types of reel, so we will not go into detail about them here. But it is essential to point out that you should select a type of reel that will meet your needs.

For example, if you are an experienced bow fisher who would like a reel that is durable and gives you the ability to catch larger game fish, then a retriever reel might work best. In contrast, if you have never done bowfishing before and want to try something inexpensive and easy to use, you might be better with a spin-cast reel.


Looking for a durable bowfishing reel is an important consideration, especially if you plan to get some pretty heavy use out of the equipment.

In the main, you will find that all modern reels have a reasonable degree of durability, but there are some that will be superior to others. As you go on with the activity, you will come to learn which reels last the longest and can handle the most abuse but, to begin with, you will want to look for something that is made from top-quality materials.

Easy To Use

Nobody wants a piece of equipment that is complicated to use; that would take up too much time that could be spent fishing. For this reason, it is crucial to look for a reel that is user-friendly.

The type of reel you choose will have a bearing on how easy it is to use, but when you are just beginning, it is a wise idea to choose a simple reel and work your way up.

Strength Of The Line

If the line is not strong enough, it can easily snap, leaving you unable to fish. The strength of the line is usually measured in pounds. Some of the thinnest lines have a small strength of just four pounds. In contrast, if you are looking to fish for much larger species then using something around 150 pounds will be far more effective. There are even retriever reels that feature lines with a strength of 200 pounds; these are ideal for catching small sharks and other large fish.

Gear Ratio

Seeing these numbers might be enough to put a lot of people off; nobody wants a complicated buying process. However, when you learn what they mean, it can make choosing a reel a lot easier and less daunting.

The gear ratio refers to how quickly the reel will pick up the line. The most common gear ratio is 4.3:1. At first glance, this might look confusing, but it merely means that the spool will turn 4.3 times every time the handle is rotated once.

Bowfishing Reel FAQs

Q. What kind of fish can I target when bowfishing?

Bowfishing is a very diverse sport, and as such, you will be able to target various types of fish. These might include everything from small carp right the way through to larger species like sharks and even other aquatic life like alligators.

You will always do better when bowfishing in clear water and should keep in mind that your reel should be compatible with the type of fish you are fishing.

Q. Can You Use A Fishing Reel On Any Bow?

In short, yes you can attach a reel to any type of bow. However, bowfishing tends to be a lot more intense than regular archery, and for this reason, several excellent bows have been designed specifically for this sport. They are more durable and far less likely to become damaged.

Q. How Do You Install A Bowfishing Reel?

You do have the option of purchasing a bowfishing reel kit that will include everything you need to install the reel as well as a set of detailed instructions. It might be complicated the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature.

Q. How Deep Can You Do Bowfishing?

The nature of this sport dictates that you cannot fish as deeply as you would when practising a more traditional method of angling. In the main, you can expect to be able to fish around three to four feet in depth.

The arrow would lose speed when going much deeper than this and you would also not have as good visibility of the fish when attempting to fish any deeper.

Q. Do You Need A Sight For Bowfishing?

Bowfishing is much more fast-paced than other types of archery like bowhunting, and for this reason, we would not suggest installing a sight on your bow. You likely won’t have the time to use it, and it will serve as nothing more than an unnecessary addition to the bow.


Bowfishing is a popular sport that requires a specific set of equipment. One of the most critical parts of your setup will be your bow fishing reel which serves as a way to draw the catch, and your arrow, back in to you.

However, there are hundreds of different products out there so it can quickly become confusing when trying to find the right one. Looking at the features of the reel and how well made it is will help you to determine if it will meet your needs. Furthermore, it is essential to choose the right type of reel depending on your level of experience and how you plan to use it.

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