Field Test: Best Bowfishing Rigs

Photo by Satoshi

Don't trash your whitetail bow shooting carp, suckers, and gar. Get a dedicated bowfishing rig. We tested four top models to find out which one is best for you.

Bowfishing shots are close, fast, and instinctive. You don't need the heavy draw weights and blazing speed of a top big-game rig. What you need is a bow that's tough as nails because it's apt to get shot hundreds of times in a day, baked in the sun, and walloped by a giant, hemorrhaging goldfish. Here's what our test crew found after shooting four of the hottest models.

(Bows tested from left to right in the above image)

AMS Swamp Thing
amsbowfishing.com

SPECS 351⁄2" axle-to-axle • 73⁄4" brace height • 3.5 lb. • 50-lb. peak draw weight, 20 percent let-off • 30" fixed draw length • 102 fps • $345 bow only, $460 rigged
THE LOWDOWN New for 2014, the Swamp Thing has enough length and brace height to accommodate finger shooters without being unwieldy. Although comparatively slow (see "The Test"), you can make up for that by cranking it up to 50 pounds or drawing it back to the full 30 inches. The bow was easy to shoot quickly and accurately.
HITS Silky-smooth draw cycle is perfect for snap shooting.
MISSES Shooters with a sub-30-inch draw can't get the most from these big cams.
WHO SHOULD BUY Anyone with a long draw length, or those after jumping or surfacing fish.

Cajun Sucker Punch
cajunbowfishing.com

SPECS 351⁄4" axle-to-axle • 71⁄4" brace height • 3.2 lb. • 50-lb. peak draw weight, optional 60 percent let-off • 17" to 31" draw length • 101 fps • $300 bow only, $450 rigged
THE LOWDOWN This bow is smooth and long enough to shoot with fingers. Interchangeable draw modules let you set it up for a constant draw cycle with no let-off, ideal for snap shooting; or a 60 percent let-off with a set draw length for deliberate shooting.
HITS The package's Hybrid Reel combines the free-spool advantages of a bottle reel with the quick retrieve of a spincaster.
MISSES I like a thicker grip for bowfishing.
WHO SHOULD BUY Anyone who wants a versatile, affordable rig.

CP Oneida Eagle Osprey
cponeidaeagle.com

SPECS 44" axle-to-axle • 6" brace height • 3.3 lb. • 50-lb. peak draw weight, 50 to 80 percent let-off • 26" to 32" draw length • 106 fps • $745 rigged
THE LOWDOWN The Osprey is a surprisingly lightweight bow that handles like a recurve and performs like a compound. The adjustable draw length allows you to set the bow up to hit the back wall, but the Osprey's incredibly smooth draw makes it great for snap shooting, too. The test crew was blown away by how well it shot.
HITS Its length lets you rest the bottom limb against your leg at full draw, so you can hold the bow back for a very long time.
MISSES It isn't cheap.
WHO SHOULD BUY Anyone who wants the best bowfishing rig money can buy.

PSE Tidal Wave
pse-archery.com

SPECS 32" axle-to-axle • 6" brace height • 3.3 lb. • 40-lb. peak draw weight, no let-off • 30" fixed draw length • 112 fps • $280 bow only
THE LOWDOWN The all-new, compact Tidal Wave was the hardest-hitting bow in our test. That extra power comes in handy when you tackle big fish in deep water. This is not a snap shooter. Too short for finger shooting, it is best used with a release aid, and for more deliberate shooting.
HITS It's built like a small tank, so you could use it as a carp de grace club. It's a bargain.
MISSES A heavier peak weight and an adjustable draw length would improve it.
WHO SHOULD BUY Anyone who will take mostly deep-water shots at big fish.

The Test
It was too cold to shoot fish at this writing, so three fellow bowfishing nuts and I tested each bow by shooting at sticks, sunken bottles, and whatever else we could see floating down the river. Indoors, at Hinton Archery in Murray, Ky., we set each bow at 40 pounds, drew to 28 inches, and shot the same fiberglass fish arrow through a chronograph to test for speed. All but the Cajun were equipped with AMS Retriever Pro reels and roller rests. The Cajun package had a factory-provided Hybrid Reel and Fishing Biscuit rest. --W.B.