Bowfishing on the Rise, According to USA Today

USA Today has figured out what we knew all along: Bowfishing is the best!
Photo Credit: Cajun Bowfishing

Author: Cassie Scott

Bowfishing is on the rise because it’s a fun, fast-paced sport with widespread appeal and frequent shooting opportunities. As the general public takes notice, more archery retailers are jumping on bowfishing’s bandwagon to boost their business.

Retailers are intrigued by reports like this: According to USA Today, bowfishing is expected to be Wisconsin’s next big recreational trend. Wisconsin has no bag limits on rough fish, which means many opportunities to arrow gar, carp and other rough-fish species. With all those opportunities, no one’s getting bored. Bowfishing is lots of fun!

Tim Morris, a policeman in Mount Washington, Kentucky, has been arrowing fish with a bow for eight years.

“I like several things about the sport, but mainly the camaraderie,” Morris said. “You can talk, yell and high-five, and not scare anything away! It’s challenging to see if you can hit a fish, and it’s exciting to see what’s going to swim along next. When you put it all together, bowfishing is a lot of fun!”

Bowfishing is good for the archery and bowhunting industry because it has the potential to recruit new archers, reactivate lapsed anglers and bowhunters, and create a gateway into bowhunting deer, turkey and other game.  Photo Credit: Cajun Bowfishing

Rachael Crume, a bowfishing fanatic and executive director of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, started bowfishing 12 years ago. She bowfishes because she likes all the shooting action when the water quality is good. In addition, she thinks the gear improved as more archers and manufacturers got into bowfishing in recent years.

“Only a few companies had bowfishing equipment (in 2005),” Crume said. “There wasn’t a lot of gear then, but the market has changed. More people are picking up the sport and more companies are offering bowfishing gear.”

Scott King, owner of King’s Archery in Louisville, Kentucky, notices a similar trend.

“There’s been a huge increase in bowfishing the past 10 years,” King said. “Bowfishing is fun, relatively inexpensive and very accessible because public bodies of water are everywhere. I’d say the accessibility and ease of the sport lends itself to popularity.”

King has been bowfishing 30 years, and thinks it offers more immediate gratification than bowhunting.

“Everybody loves to shoot,” King said. “However, for most people, a good deer season means shooting one buck and a doe or two. With bowfishing, a mediocre trip to the water may produce 35 or more shots.”

Bowfishing is also good for the archery and bowhunting industry because it can recruit new archers, reactivate lapsed anglers and bowhunters, and create a gateway into bowhunting deer, turkeys and other game. Likewise, those factors open the door to more business and greater profits.

Retailers who capitalize on bowfishing do three things:

1. They know the sport.

Trial and error is the best way to educate yourself about bowfishing. Hands-on experience will help you relate to – and better assist – customers. Photo Credit: Cajun Bowfishing

To help customers succeed in bowfishing, you must know all about it. The best way to learn is firsthand trial-and-error, so try it yourself. The more you bowfish, the more you’ll relate to – and better assist – your customers.

Talk to other bowfishermen as much as you can. Find and share online resources, and locate decent spots to bowfish. Share your knowledge when discussing the sport with customers. They’ll appreciate your inside tips and trust your expertise. Experience also helps when selecting bowfishing equipment for your shop, and teaching an introductory bowfishing course.

2. Sell bowfishing equipment.

Having a wide selection of bowfishing equipment is appetizing to consumers. It’s also important to sell replacement parts like bowfishing arrows, points, line and reels. Photo Credit: Cajun Bowfishing

Your insights help you select gear for your shelves. You’ll need bowfishing reels, line, rests, arrows and points. A wide selection of equipment can intrigue customers, but it might be more important to keep replacement parts well stocked. Bowfishing can be hard on equipment. Customers are apt to smash points, lose arrows and bust their bottle reels. If they liked your store when buying their bowfishing gear, they’ll likely return for replacement parts.

Sell bowfishing packages made by reputable Archery Trade Association-member manufacturers. King believes a bowfishing display in the front of your store helps attract and interest customers.

3. Offer Explore Bowfishing and a class.

The ATA’s Explore Bowfishing program teaches students about bowfishing gear, the many fish species they can pursue and the various habitats where fish live. Photo Credit: AMS Bowfishing

The ATA offers its retail members the Explore Bowfishing curriculum for free. Explore Bowfishing helps instructors, educators and program leaders teach students basic bowfishing skills. Students also learn about bowfishing gear, the many fish species they can pursue, and the various habitats where fish live.

Explore Bowfishing was modeled after ATA’s successful Explore Bowhunting program, which teaches students basic bowhunting skills. Both programs are exceeding expectations and creating archers. Offering a class can give newbies information they need to succeed.

To learn other ways to take advantage of bowfishing as an archery retailer, read “How Popular is Bowfishing?” by Darron McDougal on

Contact Josh Gold, ATA’s education programs manager, if you want to launch Explore Bowfishing in your store.

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