When you start bowfishing, you may wonder if you should head out on the water with a compound bow or a recurve bow. Having bow fished with both, I feel like I’m well-equipped to answer this question and give you a realistic comparison between the two types of bowfishing bows. What you should choose will depend on how you’d prefer to shoot, and I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of each one so that know the differences.
Compound Bowfishing Bow: What to Know
Most bowfishermen choose the compound bow over the recurve because you can adjust the draw weight and since you take many shots, a full night with a recurve can wear you out. Bowfishing has you drawing and releasing the arrow repeatedly out on the water, and without adjustable draw weight, it will tire you out faster.
You can reach a full draw with a compound bow more easily because of the let-off. This adds to your power when you shoot to puncture the fish.
Especially since bowfishing arrows weigh more, the extra power will improve your accuracy out on the water. Most bowfishing only happens in 4 feet of water, but in cases where you need to shoot farther down, a compound can prove helpful.
Bowfishing differs from hunting in that you must take snapshots. You rarely get the chance to aim. You may not even get the chance to reach a full draw because you need to take a shot fast. With a compound, it tends to be easier to pull back faster than with a recurve.
Let’s say that you want to target the alligator gar or a longnose gar. Both fish sport armored scales that need a special arrow tip. The compound bow tends to do better at puncturing the scaly armor of the alligator gar and the longnose gar because of it being a heavier bow.
Biggest Strengths of a Compound Bow
Compound bows have an adjustable draw weight with let-off, which makes them easier to draw. This explains why so many bowfishermen prefer the compound bow to the recurve. You can also put on more accessories to a compound bow compared to with a recurve. One example of an accessory that you can put on a compound bow that you can’t on a recurve is a whisker biscuit.
Some of the recurve bows, at least the wooden bows, weren’t made to install a whisker biscuit on them. Compound bows, in comparison, can fit most accessories that you would need. You can put on an aim on a compound bow for bowfishing, but because the shooting is snapshot shooting, you will rarely have a need for it.
Weaknesses of the Compound Bow in Bowfishing
The compound bow has a weakness in its cams, and bowfishing is a sport that can prove rough on a bow due to it bumping around in the boat from the waves. For that reason, I wouldn’t advise that you bring your best hunting bow out for bowfishing. You could do it, but it may take a heavy-duty beating.
The compound bow has far more components capable of breaking, which can leave you out for the night if something goes wrong. Some of the most common issues here include bent risers, cracked limb pockets and torn cable bosses. The biggest weaknesses of the compound bow are fragility and the high price tag.
Be careful never to drop the compound bow because you can damage it much easier than a recurve. In addition, if you notice cracked limbs or damage to the bow, you should never shoot it because of how it can injure you.
The average price is around $350, but when you compare it to a recurve, it costs an average of $200 more since recurves will rarely exceed $150. You can often buy them for less than that.
Who Would I Recommend It For
The truth is that a lot of people will prefer the compound bow. I prefer the compound bow because it just feels better at the end of the night after a long bowfishing session. For someone who might not have the strength behind their arms, such as people in their 50s and older, bowfishing lets you continue on in the sport.
Another person that I would recommend the compound bow for is those who like to do a little fancier shooting. If you’re someone with a little extra cash and would appreciate the extra technologies, pick the compound bow.
Recurve Bowfishing Setup
When it comes to the setup of the recurve bowfishing bow, you can choose one in different sizes, which would be the most important part of the setup. You must choose a size that feels comfortable. Don’t bring a longbow out to the boat because it will succeed in beating up your bow and prove useless outside of that. The close walls of the boat make for a death trap for a longbow.
To get the right size for your body, you need to take measurements:
|Up to 5-foot 6 inches||64-inch recurve bow|
|Up to 5-foot 10 inches||66-inch recurve bow|
|Up to 6-foot 2 inches||68-inch recurve bow|
|6-foot 2 inches and over||70-inch recurve bow|
In case you bought the bow and you’re looking for bowfishing reels, check out the article I wrote here.
Recurve Bowfishing Bow: What to Know
In contrast, the biggest advantage of the recurve bow comes from its price. You can buy one for under $100 if you want. In fact, I got started in bowfishing on a recurve, and I eventually moved onto the compound when I felt that it served me better while shooting. Many will even overlook a recurve, but just because you shoot with a compound doesn’t mean you will shoot better.
There’s a lot of beauty in the simplicity of a recurve, and I’ve gone bowfishing with bowfishermen who made me look like a beginner with their recurve. It’s not how pretty of a bow you have, it’s how well you shoot it.
The simplicity and affordable cost make them a great choice for beginners. Recurves do well with snapshooting as well because you can pick it up and get started shooting. Snapshots can prove difficult for a compound bow compared to the recurve.
Biggest Strengths of a Recurve Bow
The biggest strengths of the recurve bow are the affordable price and its ability to shoot right from the beginning. The recurve bow is basically a stick and a string and most of them will cost under $150. It doesn’t have a lot of complexity, which makes it easier to get started. If you’re clumsy, you may not want a compound because you can accidentally damage it.
I wouldn’t recommend a compound bow for young children because of how they can break the bow in the boat from regular moving. A recurve bow, on the other hand, can stand up to more abuse because of fewer moving components.
Weaknesses of the Recurve Bow
The recurve is the simplest of technology, and it offers no let-off. That can be an advantage in the beginning, but you will tire out faster with a recurve, which will hurt your accuracy later in the session, especially if you bowfish for longer sessions. I wouldn’t recommend a recurve if you plan to bowfish in longer sessions regularly.
Recurve bows lack the frills and fun of the compound bow. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who likes more of the extras when bowfishing since it simply lacks those things.
Related article: Bowfishing Setup: 6 Things to Get Started
Who Would I Recommend It For
I would recommend the recurve bow for the bowfishermen who want a cheaper entry point since they cost much less than the compound bows. You might choose a recurve for a younger kid since it has less that they can mess up while in the boat. Recurves make sense in cases where you don’t care about the extras, and you can handle shooting the bow without the let-off.
The recurve might make sense for the traditionalist bowfishermen who would like to shoot without all the unnecessary extras. If you’ve got skill, a fancy bow matters the least compared to those things.
Compound Bowfishing Setup
The bowfishing setup for the compound bow will give you far more options than what you might receive with a recurve. That can intimidate you in the beginning, but once you get it started, you will love the freedom. Now, I wouldn’t recommend that you take your compound hunting bow with its expensive accessories out into the bowfishing boat.
The biggest problem here is its fragility and knocking around in the boat will do damage over time. Instead, you may want a bow specifically made for bowfishing since this type of bow can handle the beat-up that happens in the boat.
When you go to set up your compound bowfishing bow, you want to check adjustable the draw weight. Now, keep in mind, the higher you go, the harder it can be to pull back. You also may not want the arrow to completely blow through the fish since this poses a problem all on its own.
The typical draw weight for bowfishing will range from 35 pounds to 50 pounds. Most states don’t have this law, but in California, a draw weight of fewer than 35 pounds is illegal when bowfishing. Anything over 50 pounds can pose other issues. For example, your arrow might get stuck in a log.
The compound bow, in my opinion, tends to offer a little better package. I think most people feel that way, which also explains why they cost more. That and the fact that they have more working components than what you would receive with a compound bow. If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about bowfishing bows, I would an article here on the Ultimate 14 Best Bowfishing Bows.
Can you bowfish with a compound bow?
You can bowfish with a compound bow, and in fact, many bowfishermen do bowfish with compounds over recurves because of the extra technologies. The let-off on them tends to make them more favorable.
Can you turn a compound bow into a bowfishing bow?
You can turn a compound bow into a bowfishing bow, but it isn’t recommended that you take your best hunting bow out for bowfishing. The biggest reason for that being that bowfishing tends to be hard on your bows from all the bumping around in them, and compounds are more fragile.
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