Many times, I’ve heard new bowfisherman asking what kind of lights do you use for bowfishing? A successful night out on the water hinges on the type of lights that you use for bowfishing. In fact, bowfishing lights have a reputation for either making the night or breaking it because of how the lighting will impact whether or not you can see the fish. When you think of bowfishing, you may think of only the need for a bow, but in fact, you will need illumination as well if you bowfish at night.
What kind of lights for bowfishing? The first thing to consider is the type of bulb. You will find that you can use a variety of bulbs for bowfishing ranging from LED lights to halogen lights to high-pressure sodium lights. Each bulb will have its own set of pros and cons.
Let’s have a look at the different types of lighting options so that you can decide which light to choose for yourself.
The bowfishermen who choose LEDs favor them because you can install them on the boat easily, and they penetrate into clearer waters without a problem. LED lights have the advantage of being 99 percent maintenance free, and they don’t put out a lot of glare that can stop you from shooting the fish.
In clear water, LED lights give you a huge advantage, but if you will be shooting in muddy water, you may want to choose high-pressure lights because the light penetration will be poor with LEDs.
- Not much glare to interfere with your shots on the water.
- Great for clear waters.
- Easy to install.
- Virtually zero maintenance required.
- Runs on batteries.
- Poor choice for muddy water.
- Expensive for a beginner who wants to get started for cheap.
- Not as good of light penetration in comparison to others.
- Batteries are annoying to keep charged and knowing how long it will last.
High-Pressure Sodium Lights
If the waters you plan to bowfish on have a lot of murky and hard to see waters, then you’ll want to buy high-pressure sodium lights. You can carry HPS lights easily because they weigh little, and they have a long life for each bulb. HPS lights offer less colors in comparison to LED, but they light up murky waters with yellow or orange lighting. It’s extremely high-powered lighting that lights up the waters, but many bowfisherman prefer HPS lights over LED because of how they penetrate much better. You will use a lot more electricity with these lights, however, over LED lighting. Still, they take less electricity than halogen lights.
Sometimes bowfishers will call murky waters chocolate milk, and this is where HPS lights shine best. Because of the high electricity demands, you will also need to have a heavy generator. Some people prefer the gas generators, but this makes noise that can scare off the fish. If you want one of the quieter generators, you would go with the Honda brand. They win this battle by far. I’d only recommend that you choose high-pressure sodium lights if you have a big enough boat to allow for space with the generator.
- Penetrates murky waters the best.
- High-powered lighting that makes it easier to see.
- The bulbs have a long lifetime.
- The lighting itself is lightweight and easy to carry.
- Preferred lighting choice among many fisherman.
- Cheaper than LEDs.
- Requires a generator for the electricity.
- The generator is heavy and bulky to carry.
- If you choose gas, it will make noise that could scare off the fish.
The biggest advantage of halogen lights comes from its wide accessibility. You can get halogen lights from any hardware store. Halogens have the advantage of throwing out loads of lighting, but they also require the most power to keep lit. You will need a generator if you choose halogen lights, and that means you need the space for it on a boat. Many bowfisherman have chosen halogen lights because of how it hits the budget sweet spot. You won’t pay as much for halogen lighting as what you will the other two.
If you were to compare LEDs to halogen lights, LEDs don’t penetrate the water quite as well as what halogen lights do. If you want to cut into the water, halogen lights still probably won’t be your best option. In all likelihood, you’ll want the high-pressure sodium lights because they penetrate better. Another aspect to keep in mind is that halogen lights have a shorter bulb life than HPS lights or LEDs. Like with HPS, you will need a generator because it takes a lot of electricity. One tip with halogen lights and making them last longer, the less you abuse them, the more likely they will last longer. The bottom line: If you’re on a budget, halogen lights will offer you the cheapest entry to bowfishing at night, but they fail in many other aspects.
- Wide availability at any hardware store.
- Budget-friendly choice for bowfishing at night.
- Penetrates the water better than LEDs.
- Throws off tons of light.
- Consumes the most electricity of the three bulb options.
- The bulb life of halogen makes it burn out the fastest.
- Doesn’t penetrate the water as well as HPS lights.
- Requires a big and bulky generator in the boat with you.
How Bright Can Your Bowfishing Light Get?
Equally important in getting the right kind of bowfishing light, keep in mind that while watts measure the energy used from a bowfishing light, the brightness comes from a unit of measurement known as lumen. In night bowfishing, in general, the brighter the light, the better, so you usually want as many lumens as possible. However, if it is too bright, you will have issues with reflection and glare. I’d recommend that you focus more on lumen over wattage so that you can choose the best light for bowfishing.
Here’s how to convert watts into lumen:
- 40W = 600 lumen
- 60W = 900 lumen
- 75W = 1125 lumen
- 100W = 1500 lumen
What Kind of Light Colors are Best for Bowfishing?
Understanding the color of the water, you can choose the right light for your bowfishing needs. This is the most important question for setting up a bowfishing light and determining your success, so please consider it carefully. When it comes to bowfishing light colors, you have three main colors that include:
- Cool White Lights
- Warm White Lights
- Yellow Light
Cool White Lights
In general, cool white light will work the best for clear water to semi-clear water. This kind of light works best under the circumstances because of how it cuts through the water better than what you’d receive with a darker light.
Usually, with this type of lighting, you will want to penetrate the water from the top down. It works well because you don’t have to deal with as much debris in the water interrupting your view. With cool white lights, you can normally see further than what you normally could. Cool white lights tend to be LED fishing lights, and don’t have as many problems with glare. In addition, cool white lights also make the silver scales on certain types of fish more visible.
Warm White Lights
Used all over the East Coast for bowfishing, warm white lights work best in waters where you have poor visibility. With a cool white light under these circumstances, you’d have a difficult time seeing through the waters. Warm white lights also tend to be LEDs, and they have an amber or slightly more yellow color to them. You’d make the best use out of warm white lights in an area where you have a tea-stained color to the water. It illuminates the water in such a way that the fish have less chance of escape.
When you match the lighting correctly, you will also be able to identify the fish more easily to determine if you should take the shot or not.
Some people prefer to use yellow light because of how it lowers the glare on the water over warm white lights or cool white lights. This was intended more for murky waters, and you can see into the waters much easier this way. Like said above, you want more the yellow lights with tea-stained colored water because you will penetrate deeper into the waters than what you would with cool white lights.
You have a variety of factors what it comes to deciding on bowfishing lights. Everyone will have different preferences. Certain features on bowfishing lights will make some better than others. Some of the key things to consider with a bowfishing light include boat size, light color, ease of installation, duration of your bowfishing session and light sources. Understanding these key things, you will be best equipped to make a final decision on a bowfishing light. The Sansi 70W LED Outdoor light is a good choice because it has an IP65 waterpoof rating (link to Amazon here).