Bowfishing, as a sport, is gaining popularity in the US. The traditional means of fishing are declining over time, and are being replaced by bowfishing, which is more fun and less tedious.
Unlike traditional fishing using rods, bowfishing requires specialized archery equipment for shooting and retrieving fishes. In this type of fishing, a barbed arrow is shot at the fish. This arrow is attached to the reel, which is then mounted on a bow.
Some of the most commonly bow fished species include Carps, Alligator Gar, and Bowfin in freshwater, and Sharks and Rays in saltwater.
When it comes to bowfishing, the skill of archery is combined with the thrill of hunting. It is not a new concept; in fact, bowfishing has been around for generations.
Bowfishing reels are of three types, namely, drum reels, Spincast reels, and Retriever reels, all differing in their features and price. Drum and Spincast reels are cheaper and easy to use, and are thus, great for beginners. Experienced anglers, though, may prefer retriever reels, die to its higher precision, accuracy, and capacity.
Those looking for fun in their next fishing trip should get a bowfishing reel according to their preference. Here is a well-researched list of the best bowfishing reels available in the market.
Top 5 Best Bowfishing Reels
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
This is one of the best bowfishing reels and comes with the promising quality of Muzzy Products Corp. This reel has the most sought after design and is excellent, not only for beginners but also for experienced bow anglers who aim for a big fish.
Its reversible reel makes it suitable for both left and right-hand users. It integrates an exclusive mounting bracket system that enables one-bolt mounting, delivers a solid anchor, and reduces weight as well.
The Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro fishing reel is durable and saltwater rated, enabling you to fish in whichever environment you like without damaging the spool.
This reel uses a smart switch activation system that enables its users to lock the reel in a free spooling-shooting mode. It also provides a visual indication that the coil is ready to shoot. This is seen as a safety measure.
This reel comes with a pre-spooled test tournament line, which is 150 feet in length and has a capacity of 150-pounds. It offers a better line flow with a smoother and precise shot owing to its elongated hood.
Its robust drive system made up of brass and stainless steel, and the stainless steel roller pickup pin, promises its durability.
- Very affordable, considering the premium features it offers.
- Stainless steel and brass drive system makes it durable.
- Can be used in saltwater.
- Uses a switch activation system that provides a visual indication.
- Suitable for both left and right-hand users due to the reversible reel.
- Difficult to mount on some rigs.
- Bowfishing Spin cast style reel with integrated mounting system
- Switch activation system allows you to lock into shooting mode and provides a visual indication that the reel is ready to shoot
- Pre-spooled with 150 ft of 150 lb. test tournament line
- Reversible left or right handed retrieve
- Made in the USA
World’s first spin-cast reel was invented by Zebco in 1947, promising and producing premium and top quality fishing equipment ever since. The 808 fishing reel is another high-quality product, offering you the best experience while catching your next big game.
The reel is lightweight and weighs only 1.4 pounds. However, don’t let its weight make you doubt it’s functioning. It comes with 200 yards of line with a 35-pound capacity that makes it sportive, giving you the ultimate fishing experience.
The reel is durable and can withstand corrosion even in saltwater, owing to its stainless steel cover and all-metal gears. It uses the QuickSetTM anti-reverse system, which, when combined with its MagnumTM drag, adjusted using a dial, offers you all the customizability you need to catch your favorite kind of fish.
It uses a 2.6:1 gear ratio, allowing faster retrievals. It is comfortable to use due to its oversized power knob.
This reel offers interchangeable handle positions, making it suitable for both right and left-hand users. One can use this reel when fishing for medium and heavy fishes. It is excellent for beginners, but not so good for serious and experienced anglers.
- QuickSetTM anti-reverse system.
- MagnumTM drag adjusted using a dial offering customizability.
- Durable and corrosion-resistant, due to all-metal gears and a stainless steel cover.
- It is an affordable product for such premium quality and features.
- Reversible handle positions make it usable by both right and left-hand users.
- The reel breaks in some cases.
Frustrated when the fishing line gets tangled? Well, not anymore. The AMS Tournament Retriever Bowfishing reel is one of the speediest there is.
AMS Bow fishing has been in business and producing excellent quality retriever reels, giving tournament like performance, since 1979. This reel is one of their best products, offering smooth performance and durability, and at the same time being easy to install and use.
It is pre-spooled with a Dacron line of 75 feet, which offers high visibility due to its fluorescent yellow color.
The reel also offers a powerful 4.3:1 gear ratio, allowing faster retrieves and provides consistent performance. This quick reel is always ready to shoot and remains completely tangle-free.
This reel also offers excellent durability owing to the materials it is made up of. Heavy Brass makes up the gear and pinion, and the trigger is made up of aluminum and the fasteners made with stainless steel. It uses a corrosion-free housing that makes it long-lasting.
Its long handle makes its use easier and comfortable. It also features a telescopic mount and a quiver. Beginners and experienced anglers alike can use this reel.
- 4.3:1 gear ratio allows for faster retrievals.
- Excellent for beginners and experienced anglers alike.
- Easy to use as the pool does not require hand winding.
- The fluorescent yellow Dacron line offers high visibility.
- Durable due to excellent quality metallic components and corrosion-resistant housing.
- The thick and heavy bowline might affect speed.
- 27 inches of retrieve per crank
- 35 Yards of 350 Pound Spectra Line
- Simple Operation - No Buttons to Push Before the Shot
- Easy Installation and Adjustment
- Proven - Made in the USA for over 35 years!
The Cajun Winch Pro Reel offers a professional level performance even though it has an out of the box design.
It offers 25 yards of the high-visibility white line with a 250-pound capacity. You can reel and break at the same time because of its fighting wheel brake, making it easier to bring in a big fish back into your boat, that too, using just one hand.
Its package also includes solid aluminum mounting brackets to mount it to the bow. Its stainless steel body makes it lightweight, durable and corrosion-resistant at the same time, and thus can be used in fresh and saltwater alike.
To make sure that the reel fits in any bow, it must be enabled with the horizontal and vertical customization. Both right and left-hand users can use it without any modifications. Its anti-reverse feature prevents the tangling of the fishing line.
- Anti-reverse element prevents tangling of the line.
- Horizontal and vertical adjustments make it fit on any bow.
- It is lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant.
- It uses a high visibility white line with an enormous capacity of 250-pounds.
- The fighting wheel brake feature helps overcome the resistance of the fish easily.
- The reel is expensive.
- Fighting wheel brake allows you to brake and reel simultaneously
- Adjustable durable ceramic string guide for smoother string Feed
- Revolutionary design allows for one-handed Operation
- Rugged aluminum frame for superior durability
- Vertical and horizontal adjustments allow the perfect fit on any bow
One of the most popular spin-cast fishing reels is the Zebco Big Cat XT. It comes with the promise of a premium brand like Zebco.
The second most common freshwater species fished in America are the catfish after the bass. The Big Cat XT is crafted especially for those value-minded anglers who pursue catfish passionately.
Its stainless steel cover, dial-adjustable drag, dual ceramic pickup pins make it an extremely powerful reel when combines with its titanium-nitride plated spinner head, which makes it durable.
The reel comes with a pre-spooled 110-yard line with a capacity of 25 pounds, ideal for your favorite medium to heavy fish species like bass, catfish, striper, walleye and other freshwater and saltwater fish.
Its four bearings (3+1 clutch) along with its 19 inches per revolution retrieve rate help offer smooth and consistent retrievals. The right-handed, as well as the left-handed users, would not have anything to complain about as this reel has interchangeable hand retrieves.
It also features an anti-reverse clutch technology that prevents the dreaded tangling of the reel and helps secure your next prized catch, thus ensuring reliability.
- Titanium-nitride plated spinner head, and stainless steel body ensures its durability.
- Its 3+1 bearing system offers a smooth performance.
- Interchangeable right or left-hand retrieves.
- Instant anti-reverse clutch prevents backlashing.
- It offers all-metal gears and dual ceramic pickup pins.
- The mounting kit needs to be purchased separately.
- POWERFUL REEL: This Spincast fishing reel has a stainless steel cover, durable titanium-nitride plated spinnerhead, dial-adjustable drag, dual ceramic pick-up pins, and comes pre-spooled with 25-pound Cajun fishing line so you’re ready to fish today!
- SMOOTH RETRIEVAL: This reel features 4 bearings (3 + Clutch), an 19-inch retrieve rate, and changeable right/left hand retrieve for many fishing adventures to come!
- RELIABLE: Big Cat brings an elevated fishing experience to a trusted spincast reel. The instant anti-reverse technology on this reel helps you secure your next prized catch, enhancing any fishing trip due to its smooth feel and reliability
- VERSATILE USE: With a mono capacity of 110/25, this reel is especially ideal for your favorite medium to heavy species such as walleye, bass, catfish, striper, and other saltwater fish! Set a new gold standard for angling achievement with Big Cat
- TRUSTED: Since 1954, Zebco Brands have helped people enjoy and discover the outdoors through fishing. Zebco products are warranted for a period of (1) year from date of original retail purchase against defects in workmanship and/or materials
Best Bowfishing Reels Buying Guide
It is always good to equip yourself with some jargon and technical details before you buy anything. Here are a few things you should know and consider for your next bowfishing reel.
Type of bowfishing reels
There are three types of fishing reels available in the market, each with its pros and cons. Thus, your decision should be based on your personal preference and experience.
Drum Reel: This is also known as hand wrap reel, and is true to its name. The most basic of the three reels, the drum reel, just offers you the space to spool your line. The user has to spool the line manually and retrieve it after releasing the arrow to get it ready again.
Using a drum reel is tedious and time-consuming, but manageable. It is durable, long-lasting, and extremely pocket-friendly.
Spincast Reel: The most common bow fishing reel! This is a great option for those new to bow fishing. This type of reel has a pre-wound line; however, that can always be changed whenever necessary.
It is far less time consuming than the drum reel because nothing has to be done manually. It is easy to install and use. It is lighter and allows smoother and faster retrievals. It is, however, the least durable kind of reel.
Retriever Reel: They are new to the market, but have been gaining popularity everywhere. To make sure that the line doesn’t get tangled, these reels use a bottle rather than a spool. This is usually used by professional anglers and is heavy-duty, enabling anglers to catch huge fishes and even alligators.
It uses a crank method to retrieve the line instead of the spin line, which causes it to wear less and increases its lifespan. It is lightweight, but the most expensive among the three.
You should pay attention to this particular specification. It shows the speed in which the reel picks us the line.
Bowfishing reels usually have a 4.3:1 gear ratio. This means that for every rotation of the handle, the spool rotates 4.3 times. The gear ratio describes the effort the user will have to put in to retrieve the line. A higher gear ratio implies faster retrievals with less effort.
It is essential to buy a reel made up of long-lasting material. It may have to withstand harsh weather conditions or the conditions of saltwater. Look for terms like “corrosion-resistant “before you buy the reel. Make sure the reel and line are sturdy because if anything snaps, it will ruin your day. Make sure it is strong enough to catch bigger fish.
They are three types:
- Monofilament, and
Monofilament lines offer the most stretch, while the braided ones offer the least, but are also the strongest. Fluorocarbon lines are new, transparent, and robust. They do stretch but is quite less than monofilament.
Most reels come with pre-wound lines but can be upgraded to a better quality one to make sure it does not snap under higher tension.
The most crucial factor to consider before buying your next bowfishing reel is your level of expertise. For a beginner in bowfishing, a drum reel is the best. They are cheap and are easy to set up and use.
If you are familiar with fishing, then the spincast reel is better for you as it can enable a smooth transition to bowfishing from traditional fishing.
For an experienced angler, the retriever reel is well suited as it offers precision, accuracy, and durability.
Best Bowfishing Reels - FAQ's
What is different about bowfishing reels?
A bowfishing reel is nearly similar to a standard fishing reel except for the fact that the line here is attached to a bow and arrow instead of a rod, requiring you to shoot for the fish you want to catch.
How to install a bowfishing reel?
Installing the reel to your bow depends upon the type of the reel. The manufacturer will provide the most accurate instructions for the installation. Do consider the mounting position as your top priority so that you can select a position that is comfortable when you hold the trigger.
Usually, the package contains the screws with which the reel is supposed to be mounted to the crossbow. Spincast reels, however, may require an additional purchase of a reel seat.
What type of reel is ideal?
Honestly, it depends upon your personal preference and the level of your expertise as an angler. Beginners are good to go with drum or spincast reels, as they are easy to install and use. Experienced anglers, however, may require a retriever reel for higher accuracy, precision, and capacity.
Your budget might also play a factor here as the price of the reels varies with drum reels being the cheapest to the Retriever reels, which are the most expensive among the three.
How to string up an arrow on the reel?
Before you start setting up the arrow, make sure you incorporate the safety slides, even if you are experienced. Tie two loops, one at the end of the string coming out of the bottle, and one through the safety slide.
To start with, take the loop tied on to the safety slide up to the harp. Once done, run the other loop through the first loop and push it through the back of the arrow over the safety slide. Finally, push the loop over the point of the arrow. You will find a secure knot between the two strings.
Which is the most affordable reel for a newbie?
Well, if you are looking for the most affordable option then, I would suggest you try out Zebco Big Cat XT Spincast Fishing Reel. It has some outstanding features, and with a price tag of just $28.64, it surely is one of the most affordable ones.
The products mentioned above are the best of the bowfishing reels, and will, hopefully, stand up to your needs. If not, our buyer’s guide, along with the frequently asked questions about bowfishing reels, will provide you with all the technical knowledge required for making a wise choice for your next bowfishing reel.