How to Make a Cheap Bowfishing Reel
Turn a secondhand bow and plastic bottle into a usable bowfishing reel
The other evening as I was coming home from the deer woods, I saw a pickup truck full of bowfishermen towing their boat to Barkley Dam. I live in a pretty good spot for deer hunting and turkey hunting here in western Kentucky, but our bowfishing is off the charts. The pressure from bowfishermen is pretty heavy all summer, but by this time of year, it’s virtually ignored, since about every bowfisherman I know also likes to bowhunt for deer. Still, guys tell me that the shooting stays good clear through the end of October, since we don’t get much in the way of cold weather before then.
Compared to other types of bowhunting, bowfishing is cheap and requires very little gear. You can get even a top-end bow and bowfishing reel for less than $400. If you’re particularly thrifty, you can just buy a used bow at a pawn shop and build your own reel out of a sports drink bottle. My drink flavor of choice is yellow Gatorade, but you could probably get by with a different color, or perhaps even an off-brand flavor. You do need a fiberglass fish arrow, some bowfishing line, and a few pieces of hardware, and you need to ensure that the bow you’re using has a stabilizer port.
My old PSE, which was my dad’s hunting bow a few decades ago, has very little let-off and a long axle to axle length. It’s perfect for snap-shooting with fingers. I set it on 55 pounds, added some finger savers to the string, and a Cajun Archery Fishing Biscuit rest (though you really don’t even need that; I’ve killed plenty of fish shooting straight off the shelf). I’ve probably skewered a thousand-plus fish with it over the years, and have beaten a couple of them into submission with the bottom cam. It continues to work just fine.