Whether you’re new to the bowfishing world or just in the market for a new reel, choosing the right bowfishing reel can be a little overwhelming. So how do you choose one that will best fit your needs? Follow the guidelines below to learn more about different bowfishing reels and find your go-to bowfishing reel for this spring. 

First things first, there are three basic types of bowfishing reels; drum reels for hand retrieving, bottle style reels, and spin cast reels.


  1. Screw-on Drum Reel or Hand Reel. The Screw-On Drum Reel is the first orginal reel of bowfishing reels. This style has been around for many years. If you ever see a photo of Fred Bear bowfishing, chances are you will see that's what he is using. Why? Because of its simplicity and the traditional aspect of it. You will often see drum style reels on bowfishing recurves. 

Cajun Bowfishing Hand Reel or Drum Reel

Pros of a Drum/Hand Reel:

  • It's extremely simple and easy to use. Your bowfishing line is spooled around the drum and after your arrow is released, simply grab your line and wrap it around the reel again.
  • These reels are budget-friendly and cost considerably less than any other style.
  • Less moving parts. This reel is ultimately made up of the drum and a bolt that screws into the riser on your bow. This also means it's easier to clean and it really can't get out of working order. 

Cons of a Drum/Hand Reel:

  • The heavy line you need to use on hand reels can prevent your arrow from flying as far, especially if you're bowfishing with a traditional bow.
  • Pulling in a heavy fish by hand can put wear and tear on your skin. If you're shooting big fish, gloves are a must with these reels. 
  • You can't reel in quickly for a backup shot. Since you're grabbing the string by hand, it can be a bit slower than other types of reels.


  1. Bottle reel or winch style reel. This is a very popular type of reel and it can hold its own in the bottle vs spincast reel debate. This reel encloses your line in a bottle and has a handle you turn to reel in your line. The Winch Pro Reel features a Fighting Wheel Brake allowing you to brake and reel simultaneously to better reel in those monsters.

Cajun Bowfishing Winch Pro Bowfishing Reel

Pros of a Bottle Reel:

  • Very sturdy, these reels can withstand pretty much anything.
  • The enclosed line in the bottle makes it harder to get tangles, but if you DO get a tangle, the bottle is easy to remove.
  • These reels can withstand the dirt, mud or sand that comes with the bowfishing territory.

Cons of a bottle reel: 

  • These reels aren't designed to be reeled in with big fish on the other end, so often you may be grabbing line by hand.
  • Similar to the hand reels, you will be using heavier line.
  • More moving parts. Although bottle reels are generally easy to use once you get the hang of it, there can be a bit of a learning curve in the beginning.


  1. Spin cast reel. This type of reel is extremely popular in the tournament world of bowfishing. The spincast reel looks like an enlarged fishing reel that mounts onto your bow. A great option is the Cajun Spin Doctor reel. Simply push the button to release the line and crank the handle to reel it in.

Cajun Bowfishing Spin Doctor Bowfishing Reel

Pros of a spincast reel:

  • You can shoot and retrieve faster than other reels. The lighter line lets you take farther shots more accurately.
  • If you've used a fishing reel, you can operate this.
  • When using with a Reel Seat (purchased separately), it's easy to take the reel off and on your bow for cleaning and replacing the line.

Cons of a spincast reel:

  • These reels can get dirty quickly, especially if you're shooting in an area with a lot of sand. You will need to take your reel apart and clean it about once or twice a year, depending on how often you shoot.
  • Spincast reels use a thinner line compared to the line used with the other two types of reels. Although the line is tough, you should check it regularly for frayed spots as gar teeth and dragging the line across rocks can create weak points in the line.
  • Big and heavy fish can strip the gears if you reel in too quickly. I learned that with this type of reel you will often have to "play" a heavy fish a bit to get it into you.


Honestly, whichever you choose, there is no wrong answer. They are all made for success! Now that you understand which type of reel will work best for your style of bowfishing it’s time to get out there and start reeling in those big fish!