As a bowfisherman, you may be wondering if you should buy bowfishing generators or LEDs. We’re going to look at each type so that you can decide for yourself which is right for you. Every bowfisherman has a preference.
Bowfishing generators vs LEDs: What should you choose? Each has its advantages. Some bowfishermen prefer LEDs because you can install them easily, and the light pierces the water without a problem. Generators, on the other hand, cost less than LEDs, and they usually put out more light than LEDs.
What Bowfishers Think of LEDs
Many bowfishermen don’t like LEDs. You have a host of problems that come with them. For example, LEDs run on batteries, which can become a royal pain in the tuchus to keep energized. Nothing worse than being out on the water and having to call it an early night because the batteries on your LEDs ran out of juice.
Another huge disadvantage of LEDs come from how if you’re shooting in muddy water, forget it. These lights won’t get you too far.
When you have clear water with LEDs and enough batteries, you can run all night without a problem. LEDs don’t dish out a lot of glare on the water to interfere with your shots. In that way, you can take more accurate shots that skewer the fish.
Unlike generators, LEDs don’t make any noise. If you don’t want to deal with the racket of a loud generator that may scare away the fish, LEDs will serve you well. The other thing that you will like about LEDs is that they require little to no maintenance. These lights have no internal parts that lower the chances that something will go wrong. You can buy some with up to 50000 hours of service life, which will serve you well. I’ve heard good things about the Rigid Industries 120312, and it comes from a solid and reputable brand.
An estimated 99 percent of the time, these lights will be dependable and work well for you. Provided you have enough batteries, you don’t have to worry that they will cut power just as you’re about to shoot a monster catfish.
Let’s say that you dislike how LEDs run on batteries, but you like how they put out less glare. You can hook up your LEDs to a generator with a converter so that you don’t have to worry about your batteries going dead at that opportune moment to strike.
Pros of LEDs
- Work astoundingly well in clear water.
- Don’t require maintenance like with generators.
- Runs on batteries—an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.
- Easy to install on your boat.
- You can hook these up to a generator if you don’t like battery power.
- Runs more quietly than its generator counterpart.
- Puts little glare on the water for accurate shots.
Cons of LEDs
- Terrible choice when choosing muddy water.
- LED lights will cost you a lot if you want one with good light penetration.
- In comparison to generators, you get poor light penetration that leads to fewer fish.
- Keeping batteries charged can serve as a constant pain in the neck that never ends.
What Bowfishers Think of Generators
Before I go any further, I should emphasize that the choice of bowfishing generators vs LEDs is a highly personal preference. However, in general, most bowfishermen tend to have a preference for generators. Even despite the noise on the water, they still perform better in many ways than what you get with LEDs.
You have too many negative things that conglomerate to make LEDs less appealing. Generators can be loud, but it doesn’t seem to affect the fish too much. Not to mention, you can get around this problem by buying a quality generator that runs quietly. If you want a good generator that doesn’t make too much noise, I’d recommend the Honda 2000i. This is a quiet generator, and if price isn’t an obstacle, it’s worth it for getting more fish on the water. You don’t have to yell over the top of it to speak with friends.
Northstar is another one that I liked, but it wasn’t as quiet as what I might have hoped for. Half the fun of bowfishing for me comes from the camaraderie that you get from bowfishing with your buddies.
With lights that use a generator, you also tend to get better light penetration than what you would with LEDs. For example, halogen lights, a popular choice among bowfishermen, uses a generator, and you get much better light penetration than with LEDs. Here’s the kicker—these lights still cost less than what you’d pay for LEDs, and you have widespread access to them.
One thing that I previously mentioned was how LEDs have up to 50,000 hours of battery life. You’re going to have to spend a long time on the water before you have to replace LEDs. In comparison with generator lights like HPS, you’ll get 20,000 hours of life, and with sodium, you’ll only get 5,000 hours before you have to replace them.
Some bowfishermen have gotten headaches from fishing with HPS or sodium with the orange lighting. That’s another thing to consider is comfort. When you go bowfishing, you most likely go to have a good time shooting the rough fish. The last thing that you want is to have a headache all night shooting carp. It doesn’t translate to a good time.
Pros of Generators
- Costs less than its LED counterpart.
- You tend to get much better light penetration on the water.
- The only choice when it comes to bowfishing on muddy water.
- You can buy generators that don’t make too much noise.
- The light bulbs will cost much less, and you still get a reasonable lifespan.
- You can spend longer on the water without worrying about the battery.
- Widespread access to this type of setup.
- You can pay under $600 for a generator and still get a good one.
Cons of Generators
- If you use the orange lighting, it has given some bowfishermen a headache.
- The noise of some generators makes it hard to converse with friends.
- Less lifespan with the light bulbs than what you get with LEDs.
- You get what you pay for and cheaper generators aren’t always better.
- The generator takes up more space in the boat than with LEDs.
What to Look for in a Generator
In general, if you want a quieter generator, you should look for one that puts out 60 decibels or less. You don’t have to pay $1,000 for a generator. They have plenty of great generators that you can buy for under $600.
Along with the noise, you have to pay attention to the gas tank. What’s the capacity? With some generators, you can get up to 10 hours on a full tank before you have to refill it. Larger tanks mean that you can keep the lights on for longer.
Portability becomes the next concern. You don’t necessarily want something that is going to be heavy. In addition, look for something that includes an ergonomic handle as this can be a huge bonus.
When getting a generator, look at the size of it. How will it fit on your boat? You don’t want the generator to take up too much space because you will have to stand up on the boat to take your shots. This is an individual pursuit because a lot of the answers will depend on the size of the boat that you have.
How to Choose the Right LEDs
The last thing that you want to do is to pour a lot of cash into LEDs only to find that you bought the wrong color. You should choose the color of lights based on what you will fish the most. Cool white LEDs typically work the best for clear water or semi-clear water. This penetrates the water better than what you get with other choices.
Next, you have warm white lights. Warm white lights have especially become popular on the east coast. That’s because this type of light will have an advantage in areas with lower visibility. If the water is a tea-stained color, you may be able to do well with warm white lights.
Finally, you have the yellow light LEDs. Some bowfishermen prefer this because it doesn’t have as much glare on the water. This light works on murkier waters, but in all honesty, generators still perform better when it comes to muddy water.
What Happens if I Bought the Wrong Colored Lights?
Don’t worry too much if you happen to have bought the wrong color of LED lights. You only need a little bit of DIY knowledge, and you can change the lights yourself. To do this, you will disassemble your lights. After you have disassembled them, you will unsolder the existing light and solder in a new 50W LED light.
I’d recommend testing out the different LEDs to figure out which color will work best in your area.
How Much Do Generator Lights Cost
The housing for generator lights will normally cost you anywhere from $85 up to $125. This depends on what you have chosen. Next, you have the digital ballasts for 400W. Depending on the brand, you can pay anywhere from $75 up to $125. Finally, the bulbs will only cost you between $7 to $12—not bad. It gets the job done.
The thing that I like about with generator lights is that you get a lot more options in terms of budget. Sure, you can choose to pay more for generator lights, but you can also go cheap if you’re new to the sport of bowfishing, and you want to dip your toes into the water before getting started. You can also see much further than three feet ahead of you.
How Costly Can LEDs Get?
For a good set of LED lights, you better be prepared to pay a little. Otherwise, you won’t get the same level of penetration on the water. Here’s how we factored up the cost for a good set of LEDs. Let’s say that you want to buy 50W LEDs—necessary for good light penetration on the water. You can expect to pay around $100 per LED bulb. Some brands will cost you more than others.
You could go on eBay and get the price for anywhere from $80 to $120, but to get a good lumen output, you’ll need 40 of these bulbs. That translates to 2000W, but the price can be jawdropping. To take on a project like this, you will have paid an average of $4,000 at the end. However, this gives you great coverage, and you can get some awesome benefits with it. For those who love LEDs, this might be worth it to you.
You could also go with a project for a little less to see how you like LEDs. Either that or you could hook up with a buddy who runs LEDs to see if you like how it operates.
Beginners: Where to Start?
If you have never gone bowfishing before, I’d recommend that you start with a generator. That’s because LEDs simply cost too much for someone getting started. You can accomplish much of what you would with LEDs, but you can do it better and at a lower price. I personally prefer generator lights over LEDs, but this choice is highly individualistic.
As a beginner, I’d recommend you start with a generator on your boat like the Champion 2000 Watt Stackable Generator. As you get more accustomed to it, you can decide later if you want to put money into LEDs. Some people swear by them.
Let’s say that you’re bound and determined to try LEDs. How can you get them at a lower price? You might buy smaller LEDs because this will cost you less. However, you will have to sacrifice some light penetration for this.
This isn’t to bash LEDs. In fact, I’ve heard of some guys who enjoy the challenge of fishing with only a flashlight on their bow. This all comes down to personal preference.
Brightness Matters with Either
Before you begin, you should consider the brightness of the lights that you will be buying. This will make a big difference while on the water. In general, most bowfishermen prefer brighter lights because this helps them to illuminate the waters farther to see the carp.
You don’t, however, want the lights too bright because this can make it difficult to shoot them. You get issues with reflection off the waters if you have lights that are too bright. If you’d like to learn a little more about bowfishing lights, check out this post here that I had previously written on “What kind of Lights for Bowfishing?”
In general, I tend to say that I prefer generators, but every bowfishermen has to walk their own path. You may want to try both of them to figure out which one you like best. On the one hand, there’s nothing like bowfishing quietly over the moonlit waters with LEDs. Still, I like the illumination that generators give, and this setup doesn’t cost as much to get started.