Previously, I helped you choose the best bowfishing bow. Now, it’s time to match your bow with the best bowfishing reel. In this guide, I share valuable tips that’ll lead you to the right reel. In total, there are several types of bowfishing reels, including spincast, drum, and retriever. Personally, I prefer retriever, and if you plan to stay in the sport, you’ll find that retrievers are the best available.
Depending on your budget and age, you might want to start with a drum reel. To explain, drum reels are the most affordable, easiest to install, and most user-friendly. As a result, they’re a good choice for youth and newcomers to the sport. However, the greatest drawback to a drum reel is the manual work it entails. Manually wrapping the line requires valuable time, and since bowfishing is a fast-paced sport, spincast and retrievers are preferable.
Next, spincast reels are very similar to traditional fishing reels. Once you release your arrow, you reel it in as you would with a traditional reel. The drawback to spincast models is that they’re more likely to malfunction and don’t use as heavy of a line as retrievers.
Finally, retriever reels are for serious bowfishermen. With a retriever, you get zero drag, tangle-free operation, tool-less adjustments, a heavier line, quicker retrieval, and heavier-duty housing. All in all, it’s easy to see why the retriever is the best reel for bowfishing.
Now that you have an idea of your available options, it’s time to check out the reviews.
Best Bowfishing Reel Reviews
Each review quickly explains why I chose each model and the reasons you may or may not want to choose it. Plus, you’ll find useful pros & cons that’ll make your final decision that much easier.
#1) AMS Bowfishing Retriever TNT Reel
For fishermen with exquisite taste, AMS’ TNT Reel is a work of art. For ultimate speed, durability, and performance, choose the AMS TNT. First, you’ll be happy to know that this retriever is made in America by one of the leading manufacturers of bowfishing equipment. Second, the monster brass gear on this crank retrieves 27″ of line per crank – let that sink in a minute.
Third, you never have to worry about tangling or drag with this model, unlike a spincast. Additionally, you’ll find that there are no annoying buttons to push when operating this retriever. Plus, it allows for complete tool-less adjustability in every direction. Then, once you’re ready to store your bow, the TNT allows for easy removal.
A couple of final advantages are the included 35 yeards fo 350lb braided Spectra line, stainless steel hardware, and tough corrosion-resistant housing for both fresh and saltwater fishing. Finally, AMS backs its bowfishing equipment with a 1-year warranty.
- Impressive 4.3:1 gear ratio for 27″ line retrieval per crank
- Tool-less adjustments in every direction
- Corrosion-resistant construction
- Quick-release quiver mount
- Includes 35 yards of Spectra line
- Left-handed and right-handed models
- Made in the USA
- 1-year warranty
- Not within everyone’s budget
- Youth may find it complicated at first
#2) PSE Archery Cajun Winch Pro Bottle Reel
The second-best bowfishing bottle reel is this one here by PSE Archery. If you’re unfamiliar with PSE, the company sure does know how to make a great compound bow, and I like what PSE brings to the table with its bowfishing equipment. Comparatively, you’ll find that this model functions similarly to AMS’ TNT with a few minor differences.
One highlight of the Cajun Winch is its Fighting Wheel Brake that allows you to brake & reel simultaneously. Additionally, the anti-reverse function is beginner-friendly and helps to prevent tangling issues. Next, I really like the adjustable ceramic string guard. With this feature, I get one of the smoothest string feeds offered by a retriever.
As for durability, the Cajun Winch is built to last with solid aluminum mounting brackets and stainless steel hardware for sustained resistance to corrosion. Finally, one difference to consider between this model and AMS’ TNT is adjustability. The Cajun Winch allows for vertical and horizontal adjustments, while the TNT allows for up, down, backward, and forward adjustments.
- Great value for the money
- Unique Fighting Wheel Brake for simultaneous braking and reeling
- Aluminum & stainless steel construction
- One-handed operation
- Ceramic string guide for smoother operation
- Less adjustability than AMS’ TNT
- The included line isn’t as good as the TNT
#3) Fin-Finder Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel
Another one of my absolute favorite reels for bowfishing is Fin-Finder’s Winch Pro. As the name suggests, this is a professionally built reel for serious bowfisherman. Also, you might prefer Fin-Finder over PSE Archery’s Cajun department since Fin-Finder specializes in bowfishing. Though, coincidentally Fin-Finder worked with Cajun to design the Winch Pro.
First, the 4:1 gear ratio equals lightning-fast retrieval that’s close to what AMS’ TNT can do. Second, the Winch Pro is made for both freshwater & saltwater fishing with its stainless steel bearings and aluminum construction. Third, a unique feature you’ll find on this model is a built-in arrow quiver.
Lastly, the Winch Pro includes 25 yards of 250# braided line, anti-reverse bearings, and a 100% aluminum mounting bracket. Also, one drawback to consider is that the Winch Pro is available for right-handed only, so left-handed fishermen will want to stick with another option in this guide.
- Stainless steel bearings & aluminum construction
- 4:1 gear ratio for quick retrieval
- Built-in quiver
- Includes 25 yards of 250# braided line
- Watertight Warranty
- Same as the Cajun Winch compared to the AMS TNT
#4) Muzzy XD Pro Spin Style Bowfishing Reel
Muzzy is one of the top bowfishing brands and the XD Pro is my favorite spincast bowfishing reel. Firstly, this reel won’t set you back as far as a good retriever, and you might find that it’s easy to start with as a beginner or youth bowfisherman. Secondly, the XD Pro allows for ambidextrous use, so left-handed fishermen don’t have to worry about tracking down a left-handed model.
As for the features, the one feature that I really like is the visual indicator. With the visual indicator, you know for sure that you’re in shooting mode. Clearly, this convenience is excellent for both newcomers and veterans with aging eyes. Additionally, the switch activation allows you to effortlessly switch in and out of shooting mode.
Several final highlights of the XD Pro are that it’s made in the USA, it includes 150 ft of 150# tournament line, and the integrated mounting system makes it easy to install out of the box. Plus, the upgraded elongated hood design adds to the efficiency of the stainless steel and brass internal drive system. All things considered, this is the first spincast reel to check out, and it comes backed by Muzzy’s 1-year warranty.
- Switch activation with a visual indicator
- More affordable than a good retriever
- Includes a lightweight mounting bracket
- Stainless steel and brass drive system
- Pre-spooled with 150′ of 150lb tournament line
- More likely to act up than a good retriever
- The line isn’t as strong as a retriever
#5) Zebco 808HD Bowfisher Direct Mount Spincast Fishing Reel
Last up is another good spin-cast reel that you might prefer over Muzzy’s XD Pro. First, at the time of this writing, Zebco’s 808HD is more affordable than Muzzy’s XD Pro. Second, there’s the option to get the 808 with a 200lb test line. Since some complaints about the XD Pro are about the line breaking, it’s nice to see that the Zebco 808 does come with a stronger pre-spooled line.
Beyond those considerations, the 808HD is basic in nature. It features all-metal gears, a QuickSet anti-reverse system, a dial-adjustable magnum drag, and a stainless steel nose cone. Personally, I like the 808HD as a good budget bowfishing reel for beginners and fishermen who own multiple bows. For me, this is more of a get-the-job-done product than a reel on my primary bow.
However, when compared to hand-spooling a drum reel, the 808HD is certainly a big step up, and the price difference isn’t that big between the two types. Plus, the 808HD’s metal construction is certainly better than the cheap plastic parts commonly used on budget reels. Finally, the integrated Picatinny rail allows you to easily mount a light.
- Best bang for your buck
- All-metal gears
- Picatinny rail for easily mounting a light
- Safe shoot thumb button with a visual indicator
- You might prefer some drag when reeling in big fish compared to using a retriever
- Must know how to maintain the line
- Not the most durable
Selecting the best bowfishing reel is all about your preferences mixed with performance. One reason you might want to choose a spin cast reel over a retriever is that retrievers have no drag. Since some bowfishermen prefer some drag, you might prefer a spin cast reel. On the other hand, retrievers are the fastest and least likely to give you problems such as tangling issues.
As for drum reels that require hand spooling, these should only be chosen if you’re on a shoestring budget or teaching youth how to bowfish. Undoubtedly, once you get serious about bowfishing, a drum reel will be too slow for your needs. For this reason, I didn’t include any drum models in this guide. If you do decide to choose one, check for models made by the same brands in this guide.