Kayak Bowfishing

Bowfishing Kayak

Bowfishing from a kayak is fun and exciting, but isn’t as stable of a bowfishing platform as if you were in a regular boat. Kayak bowfishing doesn’t require you to be standing, yet depending on conditions, it can be beneficial to stand in order to better see the fish.

11 Foot Pedal Bowfishing Kayak. Click Image For Price.

There are occasions, and lighting conditions, where sitting will more than suffice, but always plan on standing up in the kayak sometimes while bowfishing in your kayak. Don’t let this simple reason of standing while kayak bowfishing deter you from bowfishing from a kayak, because we’ve seen many people be very successful at it while sitting all the time. I have provided a video later in this article with some tips on how to safely stand in your kayak.

One enormous benefit of kayak bowfishing is that it eliminates the need for a heavy battery to run a trolling motor, since you can propel yourself using your own power. That brings us to this next question.

Should I Use a Pedal Drive Or a Paddle To Propel My Kayak?

While both offer great bowfishing platforms, we’ve observed through the years, there is a less complication with using a paddle to operate your kayak. Also pedal driven kayaks are more expensive and can run into drive complications occasionally.

Don’t let that discourage you from a pedal driven kayak though. They can be quick and eliminate the need for a bulky paddle.

There are two types of pedal driven kayak drive units. One is the standard prop, like on an outboard boat motor, and the other is the flipper fins style, which both use a pedal drive.

The propeller style pedal drive is less recommended, because the prop will get caught in grass much easier that the flipper fins style pedal drive.

If, however, you use a flat bottom kayak without a pedal drive unit and use a paddle to navigate with, there is no need to worry about getting caught in grass.

Remember earlier when we talked about how it’s sometimes more efficient and easier to see your fish while standing up? That actually leads to another enormous advantage for your kayak bowfishing adventure.

You can easily steer and turn the bowfishing kayak with your paddle while standing up! This means it prevents the need to keep sitting down and getting back on your feet often. The main point to becoming proficient using a paddle is having a good way to stow the paddle beside, near you, or in your lap if sitting. You need a way that keeps the paddle within easy reach while you hold your bow or after you lay your bowfishing bow down and reach for it.

There are two primary tasks to perfect while sitting or standing in your kayak on the water. One, is being able to hold your bowfishing bow on target while fully drawn. The second is while you’re locked onto the fish, being able to simultaneously keep the paddle from falling into the water while standing or sitting with your bow drawn.

While sitting, this becomes easier, as you can allow the paddle to rest in your lap while the bow is drawn, or while you retrieve the fish using your bowfishing reel.

While standing, this can be a big problem, as the paddle can move and even fall overboard. For this reason alone, you may consider a pedal driven kayak over one that requires a paddle for propulsion.

What Type Kayak Should I Use To Bowfish From?

While a kayak makes a good bowfishing boat, the top key point you need to look at is for kayak models that provide you with the most stability. It’s also important to find one that has the highest sidewall possible, because you might be up and down or on your feet a lot.

This will create a roll condition. While in the Navy, before landing on the ship, we always wanted to know pitch and roll conditions of the ocean before landing on the ship. Here you want to anticipate lots of roll, pitch isn’t much of an issue.

You will also need to think about encountering wake from other boats and from windy conditions. You don’t want water coming in on you constantly. Landing a fish in your kayak is not an effortless task sometimes, so this extra sidewall height helps in the case you have a big fish on.

Video Shows How To Stand In a Kayak Easily

How To Stand In Your Kayak Safely and Easily

What About Inflatable Kayaks For Bowfishing?

An inflatable kayak can make a good bowfishing kayak and they work if you find one that is used for traditional fishing. This reason is because it has more space than a recreational kayak. A two person inflatable would work even better for one the one person bowfisher.

This will give you more space for the gear that is needed, especially if you remove the front seat. Removing the forward seat allows for more room for your gear, like a cooler and your bowfishing bow. Of course, anything inflatable can risk the danger of puncture. Higher quality inflatable boats and kayaks use multiple bladders in their construction.

This means if one gets punctured, you won’t sink as there are others full of air. Make sure you check this in the features of any inflatable boat or kayak to make sure it exists before purchasing. As always, safety is a top priority.

A really great bowfishing kayak option is a sit on top kayak. This kayak already has the space you need to stand and also allows you to add your gear.

This style kayak also gives you the ability to get on and off easier, since a sit in kayak puts your body lower and won’t allow that to be done as easily.

Since we do mostly bowfishing in shallow water, there may be a point where you get off your kayak and stand in the water. Make sure before you step off your kayak, you have a plan to get back on.

You may say with these potential problems, with instability and perceived challenges in navigation, then why use a kayak for bowfishing?

The biggest advantage is that by using the kayak for bowfishing, you will allow yourself to go to different areas that you can’t reach by foot or even a larger boat. Kayaks can operate in super shallow water and have incredibly high buoyancy.

Another advantage is if you get a kayak with foot powered paddles, or also called pedal drive, it will keep you from worrying about needing to handle a paddle as you go along the shallow water, or along areas with lots of brush where it’s hard to use the paddle. Also, they usually have wider platforms and storage areas that are needed for any type of fishing.

How Quiet Are Kayaks For Bowfishing?

I think, from experience and talking to others, that a kayak is the most quiet of all bowfishing boats. Especially if you have a flipper drive. The mechanism is whisper quiet and the only noise would be your outside brush or swamp grass rubbing the hull, and/or your fishing equipment and gear banging on the hull.

A quick note here is that even though we favor kayaks a lot for bowfishing, a canoe also works well for bowfishing. They are pretty stable and have lots of space. They sink deeper into the water, yet a canoe is wider and makes standing up to use your bow easy.

A canoe can tend to roll easier than some kayaks, so you will want to make sure you have great agility and no balance problems. But once you catch your fish, you have lots of room for storage.

What About Outriggers For My Kayak?

Outriggers seem to be a great option for your hard-shell kayak. Kayak outriggers help with stability, especially if you are a large person, so when you stand up, you won’t tip over. Your kayak outrigger can install the outriggers that lift and don’t drag in the water while you are paddling out to the area you’re going to fishing in.

Once they are lowered, the outriggers offer lots of extra stability. Also, another quick tip is don’t forget to have an anchor onboard. Once you get to where you want to be, you can easily anchor your kayak and won’t drift away from where you’ve spotted lots of fish.

What Type Of Bow To Works Best With a Kayak?

Since you will have limited space in the kayak, you may not want to use the traditional recurve bows. You may find it easier to get a short compound type bow like a Cajun Bowfishing Shore Runner, or a shorter bow than you would normally have in the recurve bow category.

Remember, you’re going to have limited room, sometimes you may even be on your knees trying to aim and draw, so with a recurve bow for bowfishing, it may be challenging to have enough height space when you hold your bow in the drawn position.

You can’t go wrong in the beginning using a compound bow, and you can set the draw weight to 40 pounds and still be very successful. If later you want to experiment with a good recurve bow, you’ve already got some experience in the kayak, and can expect what works best for you much easier.

Can I Do Crossbow Fishing With a Kayak?

The answer is yes, you certainly can! Crossbow fishing is tons of fun, and once you get proficient at loading the bolt into your crossbow, you’ll be well on your way to harvesting almost any fish you lock your eyes on.

One important thing about using a crossbow for bowfishing is to ensure you are proficient at drawing the bow back before attempting to do it in a kayak on the water. Many crossbows have crank devices which make this a breeze! Using a crossbow takes a little longer to reload than with a traditional compound bow, so keep that in mind.

Items You Should Include On Your Kayak

Anchor so that you can stay in place once you get to where you are going. You don’t want to keep drifting.

Extra arrows or crossbow bolts, in case yours gets broken or stuck in such a way you can’t get it back.

A cooler to store your fish

Spotlight attached to kayak if doing night fishing


Retriever system on your bow

Bowfishing Bow

Conclusion To Bowfishing In a Kayak

Our initial question was, can you bowfish from a kayak? And the answer is unconditionally yes, you can bowfish from a kayak.

Bowfishing from a kayak is combining multiple sports, all while giving you the best of all these worlds. Answering the question which type kayak to use, either a sit on top or a two-person kayak. The answer is both.

Each will allow you to have more space to handle all of your gear than is probably needed. It is recommended to get outriggers so your stability will not be a problem.

If you choose no outrigger, then you will need to learn how to be stable on your feet while in your kayak. Either way you choose, bowfishing from a kayak will give you some marvelous adventures.

Martin Hamilton

Archery lover and compound bow enthusiast. Love all types of archery. The current technology in compound bows, crossbows, recurve bows and arrows is truly amazing. I was an airline mechanic for years and got introduced to advanced composites. Great to see them put to use in this amazing sport.

Recent Posts