Why and How to Host a Bowfishing Tournament

ATA members of all categories should consider hosting a bowfishing tournament to draw awareness to the activity and provide community entertainment. Use these tips to run the event smoothly.
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Author: Cassie Gasaway

Compared with bowhunting, bowfishing is an underappreciated gem. But it’s a fun, social and interactive activity that can be done day or night in rivers, ponds, lakes and coastal saltwater shallows nationwide. And it can be beneficial to your business. Anyone, regardless of skill level or size, can participate, making it just as inclusive (if not more inclusive) as bowhunting or competition archery. Plus, bowfishing helps remove invasive fish species from some of the nation’s waterways.

The 2017 Muzzy Classic champions pose with their prize fish. Photo Credit:

Andy Cardwell, regional sales manager for FeraDyne Outdoors, organizes and oversees two large bowfishing tournaments including the Muzzy Classic for FeraDyne and the Jarred Ashmore Youth Memorial Bowfishing Tournament, a benefit bowfishing tournament in Kentucky. He has about 20 years of planning experience and said “it’s so simple to do” that everyone should be doing it to attract newcomers, boost business, and convert current bowhunting or competition customers into bowfishermen and women.

“We’re losing hunters every day because they don’t have anywhere to hunt as people buy and lease ground,” he said. “We’re not losing public waters so there’s a lot of options and opportunities for people to bowfish. It pulls people (often newcomers) into your store and is a great way to increase profits.”

In Cardwell’s mind, there aren’t any cons to hosting a bowfishing event. Sure, it takes time and planning, but it provides so much joy, business and positive attention on archery that the effort is well worth the work. So, how do you host a bowfishing tournament after you’ve committed to the idea? It’s best to create a plan and put it on paper. Cardwell shares the following recommendations to help you be most successful.


1. Check the Bowfishing Rules in Your State

Cardwell said the first thing you should do is check your state wildlife agency’s website to find season dates and information on bowfishing laws and regulations, including what fish species are legal to shoot. Familiarize yourself with the state laws and publish them alongside your tournament information to “keep everyone from doing something illegal,” he said.


2. Determine How to Dispose of the Fish

Leaving dead fish on shore, in waterways, near public boat launches or in dumpsters makes the bowhunting and fishing communities look bad. Cardwell said you must determine how you’ll dispose of the fish that participants shoot. It’s crucial to uphold a positive public image of outdoor recreationists. He recommends contacting your state wildlife agency to discuss your options. Popular places that accept discarded fish include dog or cat food processors, nearby farmers who use fish to fertilize their fields, and zoos or animal-rehab clinics looking to feed injured birds and animals. Call ahead to coordinate and confirm the donations. Then, work out the logistics. Share the information with participants so they know what to do in the future.


3. Research Bowfishing and Do Your Homework

When you’re planning a tournament, Cardwell said the best way to gather information and find what works is to research what other bowfishing tournaments do. It’s as simple as searching Google or Facebook for “bowfishing events” and reading the rules and participant feedback. Use the knowledge you obtain from your findings to frame and craft your event. “You must think about (the tournament) before you do it,” he said.


4. Set the Tournament Rules

Check with your county or state to see if they require special permits for holding events or giving away money or prizes. Then, as long as the rules of your tournament comply with your state’s rules for bowfishing, you should be good to go. But you’ll also need to decide on tournament hours, participation fees, team numbers, how you’ll select a winner, prizes for the winners, a registration platform, and whether participants can wade, use a boat or shoot from shore. Try to make your rules accommodating and your fees affordable so anyone can participate. Most bowfishing tournaments allow participants to weigh their top five or 10 biggest fish, and the combined weight determines participant rankings. Some tournaments also give away prizes to the heaviest fish of each species. Cardwell said you should customize the rules to fit your needs.


5. Contact Someone Who Hosts Bowfishing Tournaments

The last thing Cardwell recommends is to contact someone who’s familiar with hosting bowfishing tournaments for advice and guidance. Cardwell said many bowfishing manufacturers have staff contacts who would love to help, but that doesn’t mean you should take too much advantage of their knowledge. Put together a thorough plan and compile your questions before reaching out. Be mindful of their time and send a thank-you card or email after connecting. Cardwell said he’s available for questions, as well as the two other gentlemen listed below.

“We’ll walk (ATA members) through the process,” Cardwell said. “It’s our job.”


Use the ATA’s Event Planning Workbook

Cardwell’s tips will help you prepare, but his suggestions aren’t comprehensive for planning and hosting an event. Luckily, the ATA’s got you covered with its Event Planning Workbook.

The workbook was designed to help archery pro shop owners launch and manage archery and bowhunting events that generate revenue, build brand awareness and attract new customers. The workbook describes the planning process and provides tips and insights for making important decisions. It includes an overview of an event, and information about the budget, timeline, checklist, marketing plan, attendee list, equipment and supplies, and how to follow-up and conduct an evaluation. It even includes bonus tips, which are hot insights from retailers and ATA staff. The workbook’s pages also provide space for writing down ideas and taking notes.

You can use our event planning resource to help start the process. Photo Credit: ATA

Please note: The workbook is extremely comprehensive and may seem overwhelming, but you can sort through the information to find what’s applicable to the event you’re planning. If you don’t plan to include something, like an event theme or food services, skip that section. Download the document through the ATA’s Resource Library and only print the pages you need. You must go through the checkout process in your MyATA member dashboard account to obtain the document, but don’t worry, it’s free!

Additionally, before the event, you’ll want to prepare your shop or business for bowfishing enthusiasts. Stock bowfishing gear, teach bowfishing classes, and educate yourself on your state’s bowfishing rules and which local water sources are open to bowfishing so you can pass along the information to customers and community members. Read the ATA’s article “Prepare Your Shop for Bowfishing Season” for more information.

Questions? Please contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s senior manager of outreach, at (507) 233-8146 or

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