Maybe you just started bowfishing and you’d like to learn how to buy the best bowfishing arrows to guarantee you put a few carp or alligator gar at the end of your arrow. When I first started bowfishing, I didn’t realize that you had a difference in bowfishing arrows until later. You had to choose based on the fish that you planned to target for the best results. Here’s what I learned about how to choose bowfishing arrows.
Bowfishing Arrow Tips: What to Know
Beginner bowfishermen may want to choose the less expensive arrow tips since they will miss more and sink them into mud, rocks and logs. None of this will benefit your arrows and may lead to dulled tips and a shorter lifespan in the beginning. You may want to lessen the draw weight to help with this problem. Check out the article that I wrote here on “How Much Draw Weight for Bowfishing?”
You have two main bowfishing arrow tips: Gar points and grapple points. The gar points were designed to penetrate the rough scales of the gar. Gars, such as the alligator gar and longnose gar, will have hard scales that interlock. They’re known as ganoid scales, and they have two layers that you need to penetrate with your arrow. Many people who clean them will use a hatchet to open them up.
The characteristics of a gar arrow tip include:
- Low profile to quickly penetrate the scales
- Arrow point has two prongs
- The strong barb allows easy retrieval of the fish
- The barbs usually retract or unscrew to make retrieval easier
Gar arrow points will perform awesome against gar, but don’t use them for carp since they often pull off the arrow. It isn’t the right tip for carp.
On the other hand, grapple points are a bowfishing arrow that they intended for the carp. The sharp arrow tip has a grapple-like barb. After it penetrates the fish, it expands to keep the fish on the arrow so that it doesn’t slide off.
You have one distinct disadvantage of a grapple point. They function well on all fish, but the arrow removal takes time. Most people will unscrew the arrow tip to take the fish off. Grapple points have another disadvantage in that they don’t retract during the shot, which hurts accuracy. Nevertheless, they have incredible power for holding the fish as you reel it in.
Looking for an arrow tip for saltwater bowfishing? We would recommend that you choose this arrow point over the gar point since it’s the best for saltwater bowfishing.
What Arrow Tips Do We Recommend?
Once you look at the type of fish that you will target, we would recommend Cajun, AMS or Muzzy bowfishing arrow tips since these are the biggest and most trusted brands in the business.
Remember: In the beginning, you want less expensive arrow tips since you will miss the fish often. Be vigilant about where you bowfish since mucky, sandy and muddy areas will prove the best. You want to avoid bowfishing in areas with jagged rocks since this will dull your arrows sooner than necessary.
Bowfishing Arrow Shafts: What to Know
Unlike regular arrows, bowfishing arrows don’t have feathers on the shaft because they would misdirect the arrow in the water. Instead, they made them heavier for easier water penetration. Bowfishing usually happens in 3 to 4 feet of water.
You have three types of materials used for bowfishing arrow shafts. First, you have fiberglass bowfishing arrow shafts, which are probably the most common. These shafts tend to be heavier than the other materials. The advantages of fiberglass arrow shafts include:
Most consider them the standard in bowfishing, and they usually cost between $2 and $8 for each arrow.
Expert Tip: You want to check fiberglass arrows for splinters and fraying. Never shoot a damaged arrow since it can lead to serious injury. Once the arrow splinters or frays, throw it away and buy a new one.
Fiberglass arrows don’t last as long as other choices, and common issues with them include arrow tips falling off and the slide stopper getting stripped off of it.
Carbon Fiber Shafts
Think of carbon fiber as the upgraded version of fiberglass shafts. They cost more than fiberglass shafts, however. Like with fiberglass arrows, the slide stopper may strip out after long-term use, but they hold up better than fiberglass arrows.
They do suffer some disadvantage in that the arrows weigh less. In bowfishing, you want a heavier arrow because it can splash through the water more easily. The water doesn’t misdirect your shot.
Expert Tip: This arrow shaft material proves most valuable at higher draw weights. You might choose it if you target the larger fish like those in saltwater.
You get a faster recovery with this arrow, which matters because bowfishing is a fast-paced sport where speed rules. Most bowfishermen take snapshots rather than full aiming with their bows. You will pay anywhere from $6 to $14 for carbon fiber shafts.
We would say that aluminum fiberglass shafts are the rarest. They have a reputation for rock-hard stiffness and penetrating deep water. Getting an aluminum fiberglass arrow fully assembled will cost you anywhere from $25 to $35, making them the most expensive on this list. Anyone who plans to shoot in deep water may get the benefits from this one.
They have things that have made them rarer, however. First, shooting in areas with lots of hard surfaces becomes nearly impossible. You will bend the arrow shaft’s form and make it largely unusable. Never shoot a damaged arrow since it can lead to injury.
Most shoot them at draw weights higher than 50 pounds since they go for deep water.
The Weight of the Arrow Shaft Materials
The typical weight for the arrow shaft materials mentioned will range:
- Fiberglass arrows — 1400 to 1800 grains
- Carbon fiberglass composite — 1200 to 1400 grains
- Full carbon — 1000 to 1100 grains
Bowfishing Arrow Nocks: What to Know
Most arrow nocks are what you’d expect—a clear and transparent piece of plastic with glue on the end. You do have an interesting nock here called a lighted nock bowfishing arrow. Especially if you will bowfish at night, you can see where your arrow hits even in the dark. If you missed your shot, you can still see where it hit to retrieve it even if the string to your arrow broke.
The one thing to consider with a lighted nock is that that part of the component will change how the arrow flies. It won’t hurt the accuracy much, however, if at all. For those interested, you can buy the Nockturnal-X Lighted Archery Nocks for Arrows. The nocks will add about 25 grains to the arrow, which won’t make a difference in bowfishing.
Bowfishing Safety Slides: What to Know
The safety slide will loosely fit on the bowfishing arrow, and you attach the string to the slide. After you take a shot at the fish, you reel it back into the boat. In that regard, it has the same similarities as fishing except you can force the fish to “bite” the arrow.
After you shoot, the bowfishing safety slide moves to the back of the arrow. This is where the slide stops will be inserted into the arrow to stop it from going further.
You have two common safety slides for your arrows that include spring-loaded slides and plastic slides.
Spring Loaded Slides
Spring-loaded slides are the newer technology. Bowfishermen may choose this slide because of how it allows more give than the traditional plastic slides to increase accuracy. The one con about these slides comes from how they will scrape off the sides of your arrow because of the metal spring that rubs against the arrow.
AMS Bowfishing invented the plastic safety slides about 20 years ago, which made the sport safer. Before that, they would use rings to protect shooters, but they considered the plastic slides an improvement on the rings. The rings do offer less drag when you go for shooting at greater depths. However, most bowfishing wasn’t intended to shoot in depths greater than 3 to 4 feet since it throws off accuracy.
The issue with rings comes from how they will chew up your arrow shafts quickly.
How to Tie a Bowfishing Arrow without a Slide
Don’t shoot a bowfishing arrow without a safety slide. You put yourself at risk because the string could tangle with the bowstring and sling the arrow back at you. People have died doing this, and it simply isn’t worth the risk. You can buy the AMS Everglide Bowfishing Safety Kit for a fraction of what it would cost for the emergency room visit and eye surgery. In some cases, the arrow will fly back and kill the person. This has happened more than once.
Bowfishing without a safety slide is the greatest danger that you face in a sport that remains safe on the whole.
We don’t want people to think of this as idle talk. Here’s an example of someone who lost their eye while bowfishing:
It’s such an easy issue to avoid that it makes no sense not to use a safety slide with your arrows. The shame is also that the person in the video is a very talented bowfisherman, and he went on to continue shooting with one eye and doing a great job at arrowing the fish even then.
Can You Use Any Arrow for Bowfishing?
You must use a specific arrow for bowfishing to participate in the sport. Bowfishing arrows don’t have feathers on them since this would misdirect the arrow when it hits the water. Regular arrows meant for archery will weigh 5 to 6.5 grains on the lighter end and 8 grains on the heavier end.
Compared to bowfishing arrows, a bowfishing arrow will weigh anywhere from 1000 grains to 1800 grains, depending on the materials. If you tried to shoot a regular arrow into the water, you would see that it doesn’t work very well, and the risk of extra distance makes it a danger to people in the area. Because bowfishing arrows weigh so much, they don’t shoot farther than 20 yards in most cases.
How Do I Choose a Bowfishing Arrow?
You choose a bowfishing arrow based on the fish that you will target. They made the gar points mainly for gar to pierce their thick hide. Grapple point arrows in bowfishing were meant for almost everything else. The other factor is if you will target a species with an armored skin, you will want to keep your arrow tips sharp so that the arrow doesn’t bounce off them. That goes for all bowfishing arrows.
We would recommend going with any one of the bigger bowfishing arrow brands since you can’t go wrong with any of them once you understand the purpose.
Some of the best bowfishing arrow brands include:
- Muzzy bowfishing arrows
- AMS bowfishing arrows
- Innerloc bowfishing arrows
- TNT bowfishing arrows
- Easton bowfishing arrows
The Quick Release Feature
Some arrows, especially those from AMS, will include a quick-release feature. This releases the arrow quickly from the fish because the grapple arrow especially has an issue with releasing the fish. At the same time, it won’t accidentally release the fish once you put it on the end of your arrow.
That would be a particular shame since bowfishing will always kill the fish once you have hit them. They don’t survive the arrow going through them in the same way that they might survive getting hooked on the end of a fishing hook. You can’t practice catch and release in bowfishing, which is fine because most of the fish that we target are invasive species.
Ultimate 5 Best Arrows for Bowfishing
We’ve spoken quite extensively about how to choose a bowfishing arrow, but what about the arrows themselves? Let’s have a look at some of the bowfishing arrows that we would recommend to bowfishermen.
1. Muzzy Bowfishing Classic with Gar Point
My Thoughts and Review
Designed with a quick-release feature that makes it easy to take the fish off the end of your arrow with two simple turns of the tip, we like this arrow because it comes from a trusted name in the sport. Muzzy started in 1984, and they became particularly known for their fixed-blade broadheads.
We would consider them pioneers of the market. They have expanded over the years to sell a huge catolog. Before, they only sold between four to five products, but they have a much bigger offering today.
Keep in mind that this is a fiberglass arrow with a safety slide that comes installed. This arrow can take some punishment and keep going. The overall design of it is simple but sturdy.
Who We Recommend it for
We would recommend this arrow for those who target the gar like the alligator gar. Since this is a gar point, it won’t work the best for carp, and in a lot of cases, the carp will slip off the arrow. You might choose this arrow if you wanted a safety slide installed on it right away. Because this arrow comes with a safety slide, you don’t have to worry about buying one.
You have everything you need to start with this bowfishing arrow, which is what makes it an attractive offer for a beginner. You don’t have to worry about assembling it or anything because it comes ready right out of the box.
2. AMS A206-Wht Fiberglass Arrow
My Thoughts and Review
Another pioneer in the sport of bowfishing, AMS Bowfishing has been around since 1979. They remain one of the only companies that strictly makes bowfishing products. We have seen some awesome innovations from AMS over the years, and when you buy an arrow from them, you can trust that you have bought one from a reputable name.
This arrow includes the patented AMS AnKur FX point. The collapsed barbs and short body will give you great penetration. You would consider this the perfect choice for the soft-fleshed fish and the larger fish. This grapple point has great penetration to bring in the fish and hold him there. Once the arrow enters the fish, it will spread out to cover 2.5 inches.
It comes with a safety slide to protect bowfishermen. As you can see, even the bigger names in this business take the safety slides seriously. The arrow shaft is 32 inches, and many have commented about how the arrows are good quality arrows.
Who We Recommend it for
We recommend this bowfishing arrow for those who will target the soft-fleshed fish like carp or those who would go after the bigger saltwater fish. This arrow will hold them as you crank them in. The arrow has great penetration and holding power. Again, this arrow is complete right out of the package, which makes it a perfect choice for someone who doesn’t want to assemble bowfishing arrows.
Someone who wants a trusted name will know that they can’t go wrong with a name like AMS since they have been around for 40 years. That and their dedication to the sport makes them one of the best choices over all the others.
We would also recommend this choice if you want an American-made product. Did you know what the AMS in AMS Bowfishing stands for? It stands for American-made and all of their products are made in the USA!
3. Cajun Bowfishing Fiberglass Arrow with 4 Barb Stinger Point
My Thoughts and Review
Started in 2004 by David White, Cajun Bowfishing has stayed in the business as a big name despite starting sooner than AMS or Muzzy. When I started in bowfishing, I began with Cajun products, and they work fantastically. With this arrow, you have some tough barbs meant to hold the fish while you crank them in. This arrow is another grapple arrow meant for soft-fleshed fish like carp, bowfin, buffalo and suckers.
The red shaft on this arrow makes it much easier to spot than some of the other arrows.
Who We Recommend it for
You would want this arrow if you wanted a trusted name in the business and want to try something a little new. In bowfishing, we would usually recommend that you have two bowfishing arrows on hand for the sport. You want one that you will use during your trips and the second one was meant more for backup.
This arrow includes a safety slide so you won’t need to buy it separately which saves money. Anyone who wants fast removal can unscrew the tip of this one for easy fish removal.
4. Innerloc Bowfishing Arrow
My Thoughts and Review
If you wanted a bowfishing arrow where you could fit a lighted nock on the end of it, you may want to choose the Innerloc Bowfishing Arrow since this one will include that as an option. Especially for night-time bowfishing, which is often when we go bowfishing, having a lighted nock can be helpful, and it makes the sport even more enjoyable.
Aside from that, the replaceable becomes an asset because not all arrows will allow you to do it that easily. The arrows consist of steel in the rear section and fiberglass aluminum closer to the front. We don’t believe that this one comes with a bowfishing safety slide, however, and you will need to buy that separately.
They designed this arrow with a large battery compartment in it for the lighted nock. Another bonus of this arrow? It’s another one that they made in the USA. We believe that this company has been around since 1993 even though we don’t think that they focus exclusively on bowfishing, and they started more with broadheads.
Who We Recommend it for
We recommend this arrow for someone who wants the lighted nock for their bowfishing arrow since this one includes it. Innerloc isn’t necessarily a huge brand in bowfishing, and they mainly specialize in broadhead arrows. However, they sell some arrows for bowfishing that might be worth checking out if you want to try something new.
5. Maifield Bowfishing Head Carbon/Glass-Fiber Arrow
My Thoughts and Review
You know what we like about this listing? It’s the first one we have seen where they include multiple arrows with the offer. For that reason, we would consider it one of the cheaper offerings in comparison to the others, but it does have its downsides, such as it not being a big bowfishing brand that we recognize.
Our gut instinct also tells us that this brand is a more generic brand considering how we couldn’t find a company website with them.
With this pack, you will receive six pieces per pack. Some have commented on how the safety slides with this arrow aren’t the best, which is personally a dealbreaker for me since I don’t want to ruin my experience. If I’m going to have a safety slide, I want it to work flawlessly. They did say that the slides work.
The arrows with this one were well-built, and you can switch out the arrow tips on them if needed. For example, you could put Muzzy Gator Getter Points on them to see if you can reel them in.
Who We Recommend it for
We would recommend this choice for the budget-conscious bowfishermen who want more arrows. Maybe you and a buddy need some arrows, so you buy this one to give yourself arrows, your buddy arrows and a couple of spares. You will get the biggest bang for your buck with this one in terms of quantity.
They would rank in the middle for bowfishing arrows. You wouldn’t consider them the worst arrows, and you wouldn’t consider them the best either. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. For me, I would personally buy a couple of Muzzy arrows or Cajun arrows since bowfishing only requires a single arrow. The only time that you pull out the spare is if you happen to have lost an arrow. For that reason, six bowfishing arrows might be excessive for one person. I’d rather have the quality of a well-known and trusted bowfishing brand.
Hopefully, this clears the air on bowfishing arrows and how to choose them for your trip and the best brands out there for people. You don’t need to think about it too much. You have the gar points intended for the gar and the grapple points made more for the carp and softer-fleshed fish. Outside of those two differences, you don’t have to think about it too much. Pick a brand that you like and buy their arrows. We’d recommend going with a well-known and trusted company since this will give you a good arrow.
If you enjoyed this article about bowfishing arrows, perhaps you would like to check out our article about the best bowfishing bows.