bowfishing in sunset

TOP 12 Best Bowfishing Reels Reviewed 2019 for Best Bowfishing Results

Bowfishing has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the US.

It’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s loud, it’s sociable and fun for all the family.

This means that the only thing it really shares with traditional rod and reel fishing is that you’re trying to catch fish!

And while you can use any bow for this adrenaline-fueled sport, it is recommended that you get yourself a proper bowfishing set to stand up to the rigors of a day on the water.

But it wouldn’t be bowfishing if you didn’t have a reel, and some of those beginner sets could do with an upgrade.

So, have a look at this review and see if you can find the best bowfishing reel that’s right for you.

A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow.

You’re going to need something “reely” good to land that bad boy you can lie about in the bar afterward.

TOP 12 Best Bowfishing Reels 2019

Cajun Bowfishing Tape-On Drum Wheel

Review: Let’s start with the bowfishing equivalent of a piece of twine and a fish hook. This is an entry-level, no-nonsense bowfishing reel that you tape on to the riser of your recurve bow.

The all-metal drum simply attaches to the front of the bow using some kind of strong tape, and it includes 50′ of 80 lb. test braided line. A screw-in version is available, but why bother damaging your bow when you can simply adapt your existing kit with this easy-on and easy-off drum reel?

It’s about as basic as they come, but for a fun bit of casual bowfishing at this price, you really can’t beat it.

Pros

  • Great value.
  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Fast set up.
  • Portable.

Cons

  • Hand retrieval.
  • No use for large fish.
  • Extremely slow operation.

Takeaway

For a no-frills reel to get you started in bowfishing, this is ideal for beginners or casual bowfisher-people only.

However, master the basics with one of these reels and it will stand you in good stead to progress to the more high-tech versions.

SinoArt Bowfishing Reel Seat Spincast Reel

Review: This is a budget SinoArt spin-cast reel that can be adapted to suit right or left-handed users. The external arm uses a stainless steel double-handed counterbalanced rocker for easy application of force.

It’s versatile enough to be used in both slingshot fishing and bowfishing, and the internal gears are made of a die-cast alloy to allow a super-smooth flow when reeling in. It’s corrosion-resistant, so it’s durable enough to stand up to getting dirty.

The BL25 comes with 120 feet of PE fishing line, but there is a slightly more expensive reel that comes with 210 feet and nylon line. It might not be the best bowfishing reel available, but it’s a great little starter that’s inexpensive and ideal if you’re new to the sport.

Pros

  • Excellent price.
  • Easy to use.
  • Right and left-handed adaptable.
  • Slingshot and bowfishing adaptable.

Cons

  • Not as durable as higher-end models.

Takeaway

While this is a great entry-level, budget reel, it’s simply not going to be up to the same standard as the more expensive versions. Perhaps a nice option for the kids to see if they’re into the sport before properly investing.

Zebco 808HBOWHD Reel

Review: Zebco invented the world’s first spin-cast reel back in 1947 and they’ve been producing some top-quality fishing gear and equipment ever since. This is their 808 series bowfishing reel, weighing just 1.4 lbs, and pre-spooled with 210 feet of 80 lbs braided line with a stainless steel front cover.

It features a quick-set anti-reverse system, all-metal gears, interchangeable right or left-hand retrieve, and dual pick-up pins. A nice step up from the super-budget option from a reputable and quality manufacturer – and it’s still a great price.

Pros

  • Experienced brand.
  • Affordable.
  • Durable workings.
  • Stainless steel cover.

Cons

  • Again, not going to compete with more expensive, professional reels.

Takeaway

Another solid option for the beginner, this Zebco reel is backed by decades of innovation within the sport. A decent addition to your bow at a manageable price.

Geelife Bowfishing Reel

Review: For both compound and recurve bows, Geelife brings us this improved power torque reel, with a metal gear set for more cranking pull.

It features a dial-adjustable, wide-range dual cam drag system, interchangeable right, and left-hand retrieve, pre-spooled with a 20 lbs line, and an all-metal drive train with ball bearings at a 3.3:1 gear ratio. Tire your catch out before reeling that sucker in with this quality bowfishing reel from Geelife.

Pros

  • Good price.
  • Metal drive train and internal workings.
  • Powerful reel.
  • Compact and lightweight.

Cons

  • Might still be a little too lightweight for some.

Takeaway

Another good quality reel for an affordable price that will perform well without ever blowing the competition out of the water. So long as it catches fish, it’ll do.

Cajun Spin Doctor Bowfishing Reel

Review: Cajun are a relatively new bowfishing company but I’d give them props for their inventive product names just the same.

The aptly named Spin Doctor reel comes pre-spooled with 75 feet of 150 lb fast flight line and features a longer hood design and enlarged hole to assist with super-quick line feeding. It boasts a full metal assembly, with dual pick-up pins for a faster pick-up and retrieve.

The one-sided handle prevents tangles, and it can be adjusted to suit right and left-handers. You can adjust the drag to suit whatever you’re trying to catch, and it’s altogether one of the most durable and innovative reels on the market today.

Pros

  • Beautiful, but simple design.
  • An enlarged hole for a fast feeding line.
  • Tough and durable metal construction.
  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Great price for the quality.

Cons

  • Again, for the bigger fish, you might need something more heavy-duty.

Takeaway

Built by bowfishers for bowfishers, Cajun offers some great entry-level and pro equipment and this is a fine example. A quality reel at a great price, you can’t really go wrong here.

Muzzy 1097 XD Bowfishing Reel

Review: Famous for their broadhead arrows and hunting gear, Wisconsin-based Muzzy produces some top-quality equipment for field sports. This is their foray into the bowfishing world, with a heavy-duty reel built for demanding days on the water.

Like the Cajun above it has an elongated hood for faster and smoother line feed, and it features a tough stainless steel and brass drive system and stainless steel roller pick-up pin.

With a strong stainless steel foot, a solid anchor and dual spool shaft bearings, this is a reel that’s been built to last and will serve you well for many years, even for those punishing, 24-hour, bowfishing marathons.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty reel for tough catches.
  • Stainless steel and brass construction throughout.
  • Convertible for right and left-handers.
  • Saltwater-rated.

Cons

  • If you find one let me know in the comments.

Takeaway

I can’t fault this reel, suburb, all-metal construction, tough, durable and built to land the big fish. This is a powerhouse piece of kit that is still offered at an affordable price.

Probably the best bowfishing reel for the money there is.

Muzzy Bowfishing 1069 XD Pro Reel

Review: Another Muzzy entry solidifies the quality of this company, this time with their 1069 pro spin reel that features an integrated mounting system. This was incorporated to reduce weight and allow one-bolt mounting.

There’s a clever switch activation system that enables you to lock into shooting mode and provides a visual indication that the reel is ready to shoot, with the reel pre-spooled with 150 feet of 150 lb test tournament line.

It offers a reversible right or left-hand retrieve, in a model that’s designed to shoot like a dragless reel but with the option of a drag system for fast arrow retrieval and a higher chance of success.

Pros

  • Visual shot indicator.
  • Integrated mounting system.
  • Quality name and build.
  • Lockable shooting mode.

Cons

  • It might be a little awkward to mount on some rigs.

Takeaway

There’s a lot going for this smart, practical and well-designed spin caster, backed up by the quality of the Muzzy brand. It’s just a really good bowfishing reel that is capable of landing you some monsters.

RPM Bowfishing M1-x Trigger Reel

Review: One of the premier bowfishing companies working today, RPM have something of a cult following with their line of equipment, reels, and bows. This is a trigger-style pick-up, adaptable to right or left-handed archers, with 150 feet of 200 lb monkey wire pre-spooled so you’re ready to go.

It offers the shooter free spooling unless the patented trigger handle is pulled, dual pick-up pins, a stainless steel reel shoe, fast 3.5-1 line recovery, a built-in anti-reverse, and lube ports in the housing so you can keep it ticking over with a bit of TLC.

RPM knows how to make some super-stylish yet practical kit, and this trigger reel is most definitely part of their family.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Super-stylish design.
  • Patented trigger-reel.
  • Lube ports.
  • Fast line recovery.

Cons

  • You might need to improve the pre-spooled line.

Takeaway

An attractive reel that features an excellent trigger-system with a super-fast retrieval time. There are reports of the line not being up to scratch – but that’s easily replaced if it needs to be.

Archenemy Nemesis HD Bowfishing Reel

Review: This Archenemy Nemesis bowfishing reel has been redesigned to make it even stronger and more durable than previous versions.

It now boasts a die-cast aluminum uni-body for extra strength, while 4 stainless steel bearings and dual oversized stainless steel line pickup pin holders promise smooth, long-lasting performance.

The reel comes pre-spooled with a 200 lb test line with 33 lb drag, offering a fast retrieval from the powerful 3.3:1 gear ratio. A strengthened reel foot provides a durable base to bring in the big fish with ease, while the extra-large main shaft and free-flow nose cone ensures a smooth line when shooting or retrieving.

Right and left-hand reversible.

Pros

  • Improved design.
  • Super-strong body.
  • Tough and durable.
  • Four stainless steel bearings.
  • Smooth performance throughout.

Cons

  • Shame the handle is plastic.

Takeaway

For hunting the big swimming critters out there, this is an excellent option with a smooth action, strong build quality, and durable construction.

Cajun Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel

Review: Cajun offers us this pro bowfishing reel setup that packs in a lot of attractive features. The fighting wheel break allows you to break and reel in at the same time, while there’s a durable and adjustable ceramic string guide for a smoother feed to your line.

It’s built with a rugged aluminum frame for added strength and is designed in a way to allow one-handed operation.

The vertical and horizontal adjustments are able to cater to any type of bow, while the stainless steel hardware and aluminum mounting brackets bolster the overall impressive durability of this Cajun entry, that can withstand both fresh and saltwater bowfishing.

Pros

  • Rugged design.
  • Anti-reverse.
  • Fighting wheel break.
  • One-handed operation.
  • Suitable for all bows and conditions.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

A top-quality pro reel from this new company that easily goes toe-to-toe with the established bowfishing big boys. There’s plenty of useful features here to keep most archers happy.

AMS 610 Retriever Pro Bowfishing Reel

Review: It comes as no surprise that the top two spots – in price at least – are taken by AMS Bowfishing. They’re up there with the market leaders in the sport, so this pro reel smacks of quality and experienced workmanship.

Available for right and left-handed archers, it offers a super-fast line retrieval reeling in 17 inches of line for every revolution of the handle.

The 225 feet of pre-spooled line is 200 lbs worth of strength, and it’s very easy to use with no buttons to push before the shot and no spools to hand-wind. It also features an integrated telescoping clamp and arrow quiver for easy arrow storage and removal.

The 610 boasts highly durable construction with heavy-duty brass gears and pinion, aluminum trigger, composite housing, and stainless steel fasteners. This reel is on another level.

Pros

  • Name to trust in the sport.
  • Tough and durable construction.
  • Super-fast retrieval.
  • Easy-to-use.
  • Smooth performance.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

It looks quality, it feels quality, it’s from a quality brand so it must be quality. This reel will take your bowfishing to the next level – if you don’t mind paying a little more for it, that is. Still, for under $100, it’s well worth the investment if you’re into the sport.

AMS Tournament Retriever Pro Bowfishing Reel

Review: You’re probably looking at the best bowfishing reel money can buy. This is a tournament retriever style design that has a powerful gear ratio of 4.3 to 1 to offers unbeatable performance across the board for speed, smooth shooting, and retrieval.

It features a longer handle for increased leverage, with the reel pre-spooled with 75 feet of high-visibility, Dacron line.

Billed as the fastest bowfishing reel there is, the Retriever Pro is ready to shoot at all times, with zero drag and is completely tangle-free. Like the 610 there’s an integrated quiver and mounting system, while the composite, corrosion-resistant housing will ensure this reel gives you plenty of use for years to come.

If you want the best of the best, you’ve just found it.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Tourney-level performance.
  • Fastest bowfishing reel on the market.
  • Hi-vis line.
  • Tough and durable.
  • Tangle-free.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

If you’re ready to take your bowfishing up a gear, then this is what the pros will be using. Go out on the water with one of these beasts and you’ll be competing in tournaments in no time.

How to Choose the Best Bowfishing Reel: A Buyer’s Guide

There’s quite a lot to consider when it comes to buying a bowfishing reel, so let’s dive right in and explain some of the things you should be looking out for before making your purchase.

Type of Reel

The very first thing you need to learn is the types of bowfishing reels that are available. Once that is out the way, you can begin to make an informed decision on which one is right for you.

There are three main types, each have their own advantages and disadvantages and in the end, it will come down to personal preference and what kind of bowfishing you’ll be doing.

bowfisher standing on rocks

Drum Reel

Also known as the hand-wrap reel, this is the most basic of the bowfishing reels. And it is exactly that – a spool that you manually wind the fishing line on to. It is then held in place by a line holder.

When you release an arrow, the line will eject from the drum. You can then wind it back in around the spool by hand.

It might sound like a laborious process – and that’s because it is. The major downside to a drum reel is the fact that you have to constantly be winding it back up with every shot.

This can also get taxing on the hands – especially if you’ve caught something and there’s a weight on the line – even more so if it’s still thrashing around. Make sure your hands are protected.

Of course, the major upsides to the drum reel system is that it’s super cheap, easy to install on just about any bow and anyone can get to grips with it in a very short space of time.

They’re also much more durable than any other type of reel because they have no moving parts and there’s less to get damaged, break or corrode.

Drum reels are perfect for bowfishing beginners, or if you just want a simple set-up and shoot.

Spincast Reel

Probably the most common bowfishing reel is the spincast – the vast majority of reels in this review fall into this category.

Spincast reels bear a very close resemblance to traditional fishing reels, a spool that has been pre-wound with line. The quality and length of the line can vary dramatically, but remember that you can always upgrade if you need to.

Spincasters will have a gear system and handle – just like a normal fishing reel – so once you’ve shot the arrow, catch or not, you can retrieve it by manually winding the arm to bring it back in.

They’re very easy to use, easy to install and ready to go right out of the box. The line is usually lighter, it’s smooth and fast, and retrieval is straightforward and not nearly as time-consuming as a drum reel.

You can also set the drag depending on the species of fish you’re hunting, so landing is made easier and less of a strain.

However, spincast reels are the most prone to wear, tear and breakages. There are a lot of moving parts and that means stuff that can get busted up – particularly in the often challenging conditions of bowfishing environments.

So, bear that in mind when purchasing – as you should perhaps consider paying a little more for a reel with improved durability in this class.

bowfishing in sunset

Retriever Reel

The most expensive reels on the market are of the retriever design. They’ve been growing in popularity and are widely regarded as the best bowfishing reels available.

They’re generally used by experienced pros or those looking to catch big game, such as rays, sharks or even alligators.

As such, they’re solidly built and utilize a bottle design that stores a heavy-duty braided fishing line with a high strength of around 200 lbs.

When the arrow is fired, the line explodes from the bottle, in theory completely tangle-free.

A crank is then turned to bring the line back in – and hopefully something big on the end of it.

The downside with retrievers is that they’re much more expensive than any other reel – and they’re a lot slower.

However, the premium materials, durability, and high performance make them well worth the investment if you’re serious about the sport.

Line Length and Strength

While your choice of line might already have been decided for you when you choose your reel (the vast majority of them come pre-spooled) you can always switch this up to cater for whatever fish you’re going to be chasing.

It comes down to simple common sense here – for shooting longer distances, pack longer line. For landing bigger fish, look for heavier strength.

No problemo.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio might look a little complex, but basically it’s the speed in which your reel will pick up the fishing line.

A sample ratio – and one of the most common – is 4.3:1. This means that for every single turn of the handle, the spool will rotate 4.3 times.

Although the following video is aimed at traditional rod and reel fishing, it will still give you a good understanding of gear ratios if you’re new to the terminology.

FAQs

Can You Put a Bowfishing Reel on Any Bow?

Yes, you can. But you might not want to.

Because bowfishing can be a fast-paced, energetic sport, your archery equipment is going to be put through its paces.

With that in mind, you might want to invest in a bow that is specifically designed for bowfishing.

They’re usually more durable, weather-resistant, and rugged, built to withstand the rigors of a day on the water. But check out the video below which explains how to mount a simple drum reel on any bow.

For spincast or retrieve reels, you should check your bow is compatible with the reel before going ahead – but most are designed to fit any style.

How do I Install a Bowfishing Reel?

It will vary from reel to reel – but once you’ve managed one you should be able to manage them all.

Reels will nearly always come with a set of instructions on how to set them up to your bow. Choose a position on your bow that is going to be comfortable yet practical to use.

Check out the video below on how this bowfisher attached a retrieve reel on his rig.

Alternatively, simply pick up a bowfishing kit that will have everything pre-installed for you. This is ideal for complete beginners or the younger members of the family.

Or if you just can’t wait and want to get out there nailing fish.

What Type of Reel Should I Choose?

It depends on the type of bowfishing you want to be enjoying.

If you’re a total noob, I would suggest trying a drum reel first just to get the hang of things. Or, at the very least, an inexpensive, basic spincaster.

For more experienced bowfishers, retrieve reels are more suitable – particularly if you’re hunting for bigger game.

However, there’s no hard and fast rule to this – bowfishers of all skill levels can enjoy the sport using whichever reel they prefer.

Try them all and see which one is best suited to your style.

And pick up one of these awesome fishing vests to keep all your gear organized – whatever type of fishing you’re into.

How Do I Attach an Arrow to the Fishing Line?

A good question, because if you don’t do it correctly, it’s going to cost you a fair bit of cash in lost arrows.

AMS, being the bowfishing gurus that they are, have produced the video below that shows you exactly how to safely attach an arrow to your line.

Because this kind of explanation is pretty much impossible with words alone.

Summary

Time to reel it in and wrap up the best bowfishing reel review. Hopefully, you’re a little less in the dark about bowfishing reels and you can make an informed choice on the one that’s right for you.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any further questions, thoughts, criticisms, or just to say hello.

And if you’re still debating trying America’s fastest-growing sport – don’t be too late to the party.

Good luck, and happy bowfishing!