One of the great things about bowfishing is that you can make it as expensive or as cheap as you want. I’ve known people to drop $4500 on a bowfishing boat and setup. At the same time, I’ve known bowfishermen who only had a bowfishing bow and a buddy with a boat. Having a boat isn’t even necessary because you can bowfish from shore on rivers.
Establish a Budget Right Away
Like anything, you can get carried away with the expenses if you weren’t prepared to spend ahead of time. For that reason, you should design a budget right from the beginning. Have a basic concept of what you plan to spend to get started with bowfishing.
If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend that you start with a lower budget because you don’t have to spend a lot to get started. Some of the things that you may want to add into your budget include:
- Bowfishing bow
- Bowfishing arrows
- Bowfishing boat
- Proper apparel
- Arrow tips (you smash them on the rocks occasionally)
- Polarized sunglasses
- Gaff for securing fish
- Fishing license
- Bowfishing lights
- Seating on your boat
Knowing Where to Cut Corners and Where Not To
You have to understand where to cut corners and where to pay a little extra to get the right bowfishing setup. On some things, you may be better off with paying a little extra. For example, many bowfishermen have complained about using orange light with sodium lights.
Granted, they may not cost as much as some of the other choices, but you suffer for it because of how it can cause headaches. Some bowfishermen have complained about having a headache all night long from these lights. In some cases, you may be better off paying a little extra for the comfort. After all, bowfishing is done for pleasure, and you won’t enjoy it as much if you feel uncomfortable all night.
Figuring out what matters the most to you can help you to determine where to cut corners and where to pay a little extra. Personally, I believe in paying a little extra for the boat because of how this will determine your comfort level. You don’t want something too small that will be a hassle to stand up in for taking shots. The type of boat you choose can also determine how accurate you are with your shots.
How to Get a Good Bowfishing Bow
One of the ways that you can get a good bow comes from buying one on eBay or Craigslist. You can practically pick them up for nothing on there. You don’t want to use your deer hunting bow because of how this type of sport can be hard on bows. You will smack it around a lot, and you take hundreds of shots at fish in a single night. It can be really fun but hard on the bow.
You may want to buy one off Craigslist or eBay because of how you can find them for cheap. However, for you, this may also be an area where you choose not to cut corners. As a result, you choose to add a little extra into your budget for the bow. Not all bows were created equal.
To begin, you will have to determine your bow length. After you have figured out your bow length, next you will need to select the right draw weight. For bowfishing, you want anything from 40 to 50 pounds. You don’t want too much more than 50-pound draw weight because of how the arrow will go straight through the fish and into the mud or a log. This can make your time on the water a lot more unpleasant.
When looking at a bow, another thing that you may want to buy is known as finger tabs or fingersavers. You put this on your bow to keep the string from ripping up your fingers. Especially when you shoot a lot like you do with bowfishing, you want to do something that will protect your fingers. You could also use a glove, but I like finger tabs because of how it doesn’t restrict my finger movement as much.
For a quality bow, you can expect to pay around $100 for a quality used bow. However, you shouldn’t buy one strictly based on pricing. To begin, you may want to simply use a bottle fishing reel. It costs less, and it accomplishes the same thing. It’s also a better start for beginners. I wrote about that here in another article called, “How to Make a Fishing Bow.”
Also, pay close to attention to the strings of the bow that you purchase. You want to buy a bow with good strings. You don’t want frayed or dried out bowstrings because this can cause unsafe shooting conditions. In addition, you want to pay close attention to the bowstrings on the bow purchased because restringing a bow can cost a small fortune. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 up to $150 at your local archery shop. You will also need bowstring wax so that you can take care of the bow.
Getting Bowfishing Arrows and Tips
The next thing that you have to consider when it comes to budget comes down to the bowfishing arrows and the tips. For the conventional two-prong classic, you can pay under $20 for them.
You can cut costs on the shaft of the fiberglass arrows, but I strongly advise that you don’t cut any corners on the budget end for the tips of the arrows. That’s because you don’t want to miss a big fish because the tip of the arrow didn’t stick into the fish right. Normally, however, you can get by with fiberglass arrows without a problem.
You may want to spend an extra $5 to $10 on quality broadheads for bowfishing. It’s worth the extra cost because you will shoot more fish this way. This will give you a good bowfishing setup. As a beginner, I would recommend that you buy arrows that have already had the tip set up, but you can probably get by without as well because this lets you customize more.
Hands down one of the worst things that can happen to you while bowfishing comes from what is known as “snap back.” This happens when the line that you have tied to an arrow comes flying back at you. As you can imagine, flying arrows when they’re coming at you is always dangerous.
With a safety slide on all your arrows, it’s a strong bowfishing setup because you never have to worry that an arrow will come shooting back at you. While it may cost you extra, I highly recommend this. You don’t want to put yourself in a potentially fatal situation.
Strong Bowfishing Line
Another area where budgeting too low isn’t a great idea. You don’t want to shoot a carp only to have the fish snap your line. Doing this, you will kill the fish, but you will waste it because it got away. When you get a good hit on a carp, they rarely survive getting shot with an arrow. Typically, you want a higher pound weight for the line.
Getting Bowfishing Lights
At times, it may sound like I’m telling you to go more expensive when bowfishing on a budget. That’s not, however, what I’m telling you. In fact, I’m giving you tips on where to cut corners and where it will wind up costing you more in the long term—budget smartly. When trying to plan your budget, you want to think, “How will this inconvenience me?” If you don’t like how it will negatively impact you, you should pay a little more.
In some cases, it’s worth the extra cost to pay a little extra because you avoid the negatives. That said, to find a quality set of bowfishing lights, you will have to pay a little cash.
The Bowfishing Reel
You don’t have to start with the most expensive bowfishing reel out there as a beginner. It costs little, and at the same time, you can still retrieve an arrow easily. You can go expensive when it comes to bowfishing, but you have to remember, the bow that you choose will bang around a lot in the boat, and it will take more of a beating than what it would with a whitetail deer hunting bow. You don’t need anything special, but you might choose something a little more extravagant because you want to have something to show off while bowfishing. This becomes a matter of personal taste. For someone bowfishing on a budget, I’d recommend that you make the reel from a plastic bottle. It accomplishes the same goal.
Beware of the Draw Length
When you go to buy a bow, it costs more if you have to buy twice. Let’s say that you plan to bowfish on a kayak. You will need a shorter draw length to pull this off. You might even go with a nicer youth bow as a way to save money. In addition, you need to consider the bowfishing boat that you will shoot from because this will play a role with the type of draw length that you need.
Getting a Cheap Bowfishing Boat
Outside paying for the lights, the bowfishing boat will most likely be the most costly thing that you will pay for. You don’t even necessarily need to have a boat if you’re on a tight budget. Ride along with your buddies instead and have a fun time.
On a cheap bowfishing boat, you can expect to pay around $2,000 for a quality one, but the cost can go as high as $30,000. First, you should choose boat specifically designed for bowfishing because this sport will normally have you fishing in water between three feet to five feet.
In general, jon boats will typically cost the least. You can expect to pay around $850 to $1000 for an 11 to 13-foot boat. Dory boats can cost you anywhere from $800 up to $2500 depending on the build, but they don’t have the same level of stability that you need for bowfishing. Finally, you have pontoon boats. Unless you already have one, this won’t be cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 for a new one, but you have a ton of stability with these boats, and they do well when it comes to bowfishing.
The biggest thing to remember with a bowfishing boat comes from stability. You want to have the ability to take the shot at the carp without the boat rocking too much. If this happens, you can miss your shot. At that point, the boat winds up costing you more than what you may have bargained for.
You can also save some cash if you buy a bowfishing boat that already comes with lights. Not to mention, you have the convenience of it. However, you have to understand that this will most likely get factored in with the cost, and you want to make sure that if you pay extra for the lights, you want the lights to penetrate well if you will pay a lot more.
Protect Your Investment
Especially if you decide to buy a boat for bowfishing, you should take the right measures to protect your boat. You may want to have a boat cover because this helps it to last longer. When you go to store your boat, you don’t want a lot of extra leaves getting into the boat or rain getting into the boat. With the budget on the boat, you should especially stick with it. Set a price and don’t let yourself go too far over it.
Buy as a Package
Many times, you can get a much better price through buying your bowfishing equipment as one big package. You do have to do price estimates in your head to make sure that you’re not overpaying, but this has the added convenience for a beginner that they can simply get started from a single purchase without overwhelming them. For example, you have many bowfishing kits that you can buy to give you everything that you need to get started.
Another thing that you have to understand is that cheaper doesn’t always equal better. In some cases, you buy cheap secondhand equipment and the product breaks easily, or worse, it doesn’t work at all. You may be better off paying a little extra in some cases to avoid this problem. Bowfishing can be tough on your gear, and you may want to start with a less costly build to get started. You can always replace it later when you decide that you like the sport.