Choosing the Best Bowfishing Arrow for Penetration and Recovery

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Bowfishing is an exciting sport that involves shooting fish with a bow and arrow. To be successful at bowfishing, having the right arrow is crucial. The arrow must be able to penetrate the fish deeply and allow for easy recovery. This article will cover everything you need to know about choosing the best bowfishing arrow for optimal penetration and recovery.

Key Points

  • Fiberglass and carbon are common arrow materials – carbon offers strength and speed
  • Arrow weight affects performance – light arrows sacrifice power, heavy arrows reduce speed
  • Barbed tips provide a secure hold on fish
  • For maximum penetration, use broadheads and aim for soft spots like the belly
  • Focus on easy retrieval with proper line attachment points

Arrow Construction Materials

When selecting a bowfishing arrow, one of the most important choices is the construction material. The two most popular options are fiberglass and carbon.


Fiberglass arrows are a top choice for bowfishing. The fiberglass material makes these arrows strong, durable and resistant to splintering or breaking on impact. Fiberglass has good spine consistency, meaning the arrow’s flexibility and stiffness are reliable. This leads to excellent accuracy. The strength of fiberglass allows it to penetrate tough scales and bone. Fiberglass arrows are also fairly affordable.


Carbon arrows provide unparalleled strength-to-weight ratios. This makes them extremely fast. Carbon arrows are lightweight, with excellent spine consistency for superb accuracy. They have tremendous penetration capabilities, easily piercing through fish. The carbon material practically eliminates splintering. Carbon arrows are more expensive than fiberglass.

Both fiberglass and carbon make excellent bowfishing arrows. Carbon offers superior strength and speed, while fiberglass provides affordability.

Importance of Arrow Weight

Arrow weight is a crucial factor for proper arrow flight and penetration. A balanced weight is key for optimal performance.

Light Arrows

Very light arrows can reach great speeds but often lack the momentum and power to deeply penetrate fish. Lighter arrows are more affected by wind drift and other weather conditions. Light arrows offer some advantages, like allowing for rapid follow-up shots. But the trade-off in penetration is usually not worthwhile.

Heavy Arrows

Conversely, too-heavy arrows sacrifice speed and kinetic energy. Excessive weight robs an arrow of velocity. Heavy arrows may fail to fully penetrate fish. However, they resist wind drift better. In general, moderately heavy arrows around 400-500 grains balance speed and power well.

Finding the Sweet Spot

The ideal arrow weight varies based on your bow, draw length, arrow material, and fish type. Experiment to find the sweet spot where an arrow has enough mass for penetration but retains enough speed for flat, fast trajectory. Many bowfishers recommend starting with a finished arrow weight of around 450 grains and adjusting from there.

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Arrow Point Types

Choosing the right point is critical for arrow performance. Points affect penetration and how securely the arrow lodges in the fish. Common tip styles include:

Standard Points

Simple cone or bullet shaped points are affordable and widely available. They penetrate fairly well but don’t prevent the arrow from dislodging. Standard points work for easily retrievable species in calm conditions.

Barbed Points

Barbed arrow tips feature angled barbs that spear into a fish’s flesh, preventing the arrow from slipping out. This secure hold is useful for large, aggressive fish that might tear free of a standard point. Barbed tips aid retrieval in fast currents too. Downsides are potential snagging hazards and issues reshotting arrows.

Retention Points

These hybrid tips add rear-facing prongs behind a sharpened tip. The prongs provide extra holding power once penetration occurs. Retention points reduce slippage compared to standard points. They can be easily reused as the prongs fold back during shots.

Chisel Points

Chisel tips have a flared, sharpened shape resembling a chisel. The broad cutting diameter creates massive wound channels for maximum hemorrhaging. This causes rapid incapacitation, preventing fish from swimming away with the arrow. Penetration is deep and secure.


Broadhead arrow tips have wide cutting blades spanning 1-3 inches. The huge cutting surface induces massive blood loss for quick kills. Broadheads leave large entrance and exit wounds making tracking easy. Their wide diameter improves stability in flight. Broadheads require higher draw weights.

Maximizing Penetration

With the right arrows and technique, you can achieve consistent penetration to land more fish. Here are some tips:

  • Use fixed-blade broadheads with a cut diameter over 1 inch. The large cut slices through fish cleanly.
  • Choose a heavier arrow above 400 grains. The added mass produces momentum for deep penetration.
  • Increase bow draw weight. More power behind the arrow translates to better penetration.
  • Aim for thicker muscle areas like the dorsal or abdominal region. Thinner areas can lead to pass-through shots.
  • Hit at perpendicular angles. Striking fish sideways at 90 degrees maximizes penetration.
  • Use lighter lines or reels with low drag. This allows the arrow to penetrate fully without slowing prematurely.
  • Consider mechanical broadheads. The blades open upon impact for maximum cutting diameter.
  • Sharpen arrow tips frequently for optimized cutting ability. Dull tips require more force to penetrate.

Easy Arrow Retrieval

Recovering your arrow after each shot is important for reusability. Here are some factors that affect arrow retrieval:

Line Attachment Point

Arrows specially made for bowfishing have an attachment point for the line near the tip. This balances the arrow during flight while keeping the line away from the fletching. Locating the attachment point up front makes retrieval easier since the arrow pulls out head-first.

Streamlined Design

Choosing an arrow with a smooth, streamlined design avoids tangling the line underwater. Protrusions and blunt ends tend to snag compared to cleanly tapered arrows. A streamlined arrow also moves seamlessly through vegetation and debris.


Using a high-visibility arrow color like fluorescent orange helps you spot the arrow for recovery. Visible nocks allow you to orient the arrow properly as you retrieve it. Reflective wraps also improve visibility in low light.


Durable arrow materials like carbon or fiberglass resist bending, denting, or sustaining damage upon impact. A damaged arrow can prevent smooth retrieval. Quality construction ensures arrows last through many hunting trips.

Barb Design

Some barbed broadheads feature folding barbs or prongs that retract partially into the arrow during penetration. This reduces drag compared to fixed barbs. Retractable barbs allow for easier withdrawal. Solid, non-movable barbs make arrow removal more difficult.

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FAQs About Bowfishing Arrows

What draw weight do I need for bowfishing?

Most bowfishing experts recommend a minimum of 45-50 lbs draw weight, but up to 65 lbs is better for consistent penetration, especially on larger fish. The extra power helps drive the arrow through thick scales and bone.

How long should bowfishing arrows be?

Bowfishing arrows are usually 2-4 inches shorter than standard target arrows to improve maneuverability in boats/tight quarters. Subtract 2-3 inches from your regular arrow length. Popular bowfishing arrow lengths range from 21-27 inches.

Can I use just any arrow for bowfishing?

Specially designed bowfishing arrows are recommended for best performance and safety. Regular target arrows lack appropriate arrow points and line attachment systems. They also pose a greater risk of the arrow dislodging and the fish escaping.

How do I aim with a bowfishing arrow?

Aiming a bowfishing arrow is similar to bowhunting. Visualize a horizontal line from the fish’s spine to the belly and aim low on this line to compensate for refraction. Piercing the thicker bottom half of the fish improves penetration. Consider wind direction and fish movement as well.

When should I replace my bowfishing arrows?

Inspect arrows for cracks, dents, bent tips, or damage after each trip. Replace immediately if any defect is found that can affect penetration or cause injury. Also replace arrows that are repeatedly difficult to pull from fish due to warping or barb issues.

In Conclusion

Choosing the optimal bowfishing arrow involves balancing speed, weight, penetration power, retention, and retrievability. With the right arrow, bowfishing becomes easier, safer and more successful. Carefully test different arrow materials, weights, and tip styles to discover what works best in your conditions and for your target species. Investing in quality equipment pays off repeatedly in the form of memorable fishing trips.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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