Bow fishing is a favorite pastime among many boaters in the south, although it can be enjoyed by anyone with a love of archery and fishing. Imagine the thrill of landing the big catch with an arrow, rather than using a fishing rod and waiting for it to come to you. Bowfishing boats make it easy to get further out in the water by having a flat bottom for easier access to the shallow areas where bow fishing usually takes place.
You’ll need to obtain a bow fishing license, in most places, if you are over the age of 17 and want to enjoy the sport legally. Check with your local Fish & Wildlife Department to get the guidelines and requirements for your state or county. Beyond that, it’s all about finding the right bow, and of course the right boat, for the job. This guide can help you learn more about bowfishing boats, what they have to offer, and which models are the best ones on the market today.
Boats designed for bowfishing have a unique hull shape, which is either flat-bottomed or a narrow V-shape. Pontoon boats, Jon boats, and Dory boats are all commonly used for bowfishing, but there are also many other styles available.
What Can You Do with a Bowfishing Boat?
There is so much that you can do with these boats. Their versatility and simple design are actually what makes them so popular. Of course, their low-profile design and flat bottom make them ideal for shallow waters, but that isn’t all that there is to it. You can upgrade seats, lights, and other features on your boat to create a custom boating experience. Or, you can buy a basic model and make sure that it has maximum fishing capabilities if you want something simple. With the models available on the market today, it’s easy to find precisely what you need.
Top Bowfishing Boat Manufacturers
The leading brands of bowfishing boats include Grizzly, Low, Apex, Alumacraft, and Sun Tracker. Below, you’ll find the top-selling and best-rated bowfishing models on the market from these and other brands, in no particular order.
Grizzly 2072 MVX CC Sportsman
This lightweight aluminum boat is 100% aluminum with foam-filled, welded sidewalls for added structural strength and noise reduction. There is a 28,000 lumen bow light included with this model, as well as a built-in DC generator. The elevated deck includes a seat base and holders for your arrows, as well. There’s a foot-controlled trolling motor included for reliable performance without adding too much power.
Lowe Roughneck 2070 Archer
The elevated deck on this boat is one of its best features, but its slightly larger size offers something to be desired for those who want more room for their friends. This boat can hold up to five passengers, and it has all-welded aluminum construction, which is ideal for the bowfishing style. The blended color also helps guarantee that you’re less likely to be spotted by your prey on the water.
Alumacraft MV 2072 Bowfishing Boat
This boat is ready for play, featuring two removable seats and a fully-welded console, a Lit Cooler and a fuel tank that holds up to 30 gallons—much more than the standard bowfishing tank. Aluminum construction guarantees durability and this boat will hold up to five passengers. There’s also a roomy deck for easy shooting no matter where on the water you want to go.
Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 16 DLX
For family boaters, this boat delivers. This larger pontoon-style boat has room for seven passengers and features a four-stroke engine. There are two fishing chairs and a lounge seat on the back, as well as a storage space and dual-latch gates for easy entry and exit. This 16-foot boat features multi-chambered pontoons for better stability on the water, as well. If you’re more into family fun than a quiet day on the water alone, this might be the bowfishing choice for you.
Classic Accessories Colorado Inflatable Pontoon Boat
This unique boat makes the list because it offers a comfortable compromise between a full pontoon boat and something like a canoe or kayak that could be uncomfortable for bowfishing. When you want to be right up in the water with the fish and make sure that you never miss a shot, this boat has what you need. It’s small, and it includes an anchor system so that you don’t float away while you’re enjoying the fishing. There is an optional motor mount for those who want it. This model is ideal for river fishing but can be used in other shallow waters, as well.
Gator Tough 20 CC BowFish Boat
Designed for swamps and rugged waters, this boat is all about adventure. The front deck is made of sturdy aluminum with a built-in livewell that offers dual aeration. There is also a prep table with tool slots for easy cleaning. Storage is accessible, and the compact center console provides maximum room for moving around, while the livewell can double as an extra seat so that everyone can come along. There is also an LED light system in place, featuring 16 high-intensity lights that will make night fishing easier than ever before.
Compare and Choose The Best Bowfishing Boat
Choosing the right bowfishing vessel is all about your intended use. Size matters, obviously. If you need a trailer ready boat, you’ll be looking at models under 25 feet, for example. Of course, several different factors that go into buying a bowfishing boat. Use the tips here to help you narrow down your options and have a better chance of getting the perfect boat the first time.
Choose materials wisely
When you’re in shallow water, weight matters. Make sure that you reduce hull weight by choosing a lightweight aluminum platform for fishing. If you’re worried about all the welding when you’re doing the work yourself, you can use plywood instead.
Build or buy a solid platform
Your boat’s platform needs to be properly angled for easy, comfortable fishing. Make sure that it has enough room to move around while fishing, and if you want extra seeing power, elevate the platform so that you’re on higher ground when trolling through the waters.
Think differently about size
Some boats are meant for size. When you buy them, you want the biggest model in your price range or the most powerful engine on the market. Bowfishing boats are designed for slow trolls through shallow water, so you’re not looking for size necessarily. Choose a boat that’s appropriately sized and that you can still power with a trolling motor that is bow-mounted for better results.
Consider your budget
Like all boats, bowfishing models are available in every imaginable price range and style. Therefore, you’ll want to know your budget and limit your options before you even begin shopping. That way, you don’t fall in love with the perfect boat only to find out that you can’t afford it.
Look at the layout
Like the platform, the rest of your boat needs to function effectively for you to make the most of your fishing excursions. Check out the console, the deck, and the lights (if you’re into night fishing) to ensure that you have space you can work with when you’re out on the water.
Make sure there is a guard rail
A lot of boaters don’t think of it in shallow waters, but a guard rail is going to be your friend. Accidents happen, and unless you like ending up in the water, your model should include a guard rail to prevent said accidents.
Building Your Own vs. Buying a Boat
When searching for bowfishing boats, you might notice a lot of information about builds and plans. That’s because a lot of people will start with a simple flat or near-flat bottomed boat and build up from there to create their custom bowfishing model. This is effective because it guarantees that you get precisely what you want, but it can be more time-consuming. If you’re not familiar with parts, you’ll also have to get to know them so that you know what you’re buying.
Sometimes, the best option is a compromise between the two. You can work with a reputable boat dealer or shop to pick and choose the right components to create the perfect bowfishing vessel, no matter what you have in mind. Buying a ready-to-go model saves time and gives you everything in a single, easy package that you can take to the water. If you’re not as picky about components, accessories, or other features, this may be the best way to go. It’s also ideal for first-timers who still might not know exactly what they want in a boat designed specifically for bow fishing.
Building a bowfishing vessel will start with the hull and platform. You’ll need to choose styles that provide the space that you need and offer easy access to the waters where you want to fish. Then, you’ll be able to select your motor (which generally doesn’t need to be too powerful), your accessories (like fish finders, seats, coolers, and other upgrades), and the finishing touches for your boat.
The customization options are so vast that you can find everything from models with one or two optional upgrades to complete custom bowfishing vessels that are genuinely one-of-a-kind.
Which is better, though? Honestly, this is all about personal preference.
Take the time to see what’s out there. Compare the price range variances between building and buying, as well as what you get for the money. That way, you’ve got a full picture of your options so that you can build or buy the perfect boat, no matter what you have in mind.
Must-Have Bowfishing Accessories
Every bow fisherman needs the right accessories to outfit their boat. If not already equipped or purchased, you need to consider adding a seat to your boat. Not only will it give you a place to rest, but if you are adding an extra seat, it means you’ll be able to take a friend along on your trips from time to time.
If your boat doesn’t have one, a good storage and cooler box are essential. You’re fishing, after all, and need to keep your catches on ice until you get back to land. Plus, even if it’s catch-and-release, you could use a place to put a few drinks or a sandwich.
Protect your boat with a shade or awning to cover the console and a boat cover to protect the rest of the vessel.
Bowfishing boat covers will protect the platform, seats, motor, and other components of the boat entirely. Make sure that you choose a size that fits your boat appropriately. Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a generator onboard if you’re going to indulge in night fishing or you use any other electrical items out on the water. Then you’ll have it with you in case of emergency, too.
Choosing the best bowfishing boat is all about finding what you want. Fortunately, the best of 2019 offers a lot in the way of modern comfort and fishing utility. If you consider building a boat, remember to work with a reputable retailer or boat builder that knows how to fit the perfect components to create the bowfishing vessel that you need.
Any of the models in this guide are sure to deliver an exceptional bowfishing experience. Or, you can use the insight provided here to find a completely different model or purchase a kit that includes all the components that you need. As long as the hull is flat and narrow for shallower waters and you’ve got room to fish, the rest is really up to you. When you’re shopping for your boat, keep this guide in mind so that you can get the perfect boat every time, whether it’s one listed here or another bowfishing model that catches your eye.
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