Spring brings sunshine, water sports and excellent fishing, which should inspire many bowhunters to try an awesome new way to combine all three springtime passions.
How? By grabbing their bowfishing rigs and climbing atop paddleboards, whose popularity is skyrocketing nationwide. Paddleboarding enthusiasts rave that it’s a great sport for beginners while also providing full-body workouts for all participants.
Anglers quickly hopped on the paddleboard craze in recent years, recognizing its advantages over kayaks and boats. Paddleboards provide a great stand-up casting platform. Plus, they’re so quiet that anglers can sneak up on schools of fish without spooking them. More recently, bowfishing enthusiasts began noticing those benefits, too.
“There’s a little more skill involved because you’ve got to be good to get close,” said Jon Ervin, director of marketing for YoloBoard. “One thing about bowfishing is you’re typically doing it in still and shallow water. I can’t think of a better way to get to some of those areas than on a paddleboard.”
YoloBoard and several other companies recently released new paddleboard lines specifically designed for fishing. Ervin said these boards are the ultimate tools for bowfishing. By standing atop a paddleboard, bowfishers can spot their targets and silently sneak in, something that’s tough to do while sitting in a kayak or steering a noisy boat engine.
Ervin said only paddleboards can deliver that kind of experience, because they’re quiet and stable, and make “a very small footprint.” In bowhunting and bowfishing, archers must get close to their quarry. Because paddleboards are silent and maneuverable, they give bowfishers access to secluded, confined areas they can’t reach by boat or by wading.
In other words, paddleboards provide experiences all bowhunters recognize. “In a tree, on the ground or in the water, you want those quiet places,” Ervin said.
Paddleboards also provide a stable, excellent platform for aiming and shooting while standing up. To ensure those qualities in a paddleboard, bowfishers should look at models designed for fishing. These paddleboards are wider and more stable than those built for speed and quick maneuvering.
When testing a paddleboard for bowfishing, you should consider a few other design features. A heavier paddleboard, for example, accommodates the weight of a bow, cooler and other supplies like food, extra clothing and emergency gear. You should also be able to safely store your bow while paddling to hotspots. Most paddleboards have decks with tie-down anchors for securing your bow with bungee straps.
Despite the many advantages of bowfishing with a paddleboard, never forget that wind can be the enemy of all archers, including those who bowfish. Breezy days make it hard to see your quarry beneath waves or ripples, or take a steady shot once you spot a target. High winds can also be dangerous. Write down your float plan and leave it with a friend or family member in case of an emergency or if they must reach you. Float plans should contain information similar to a hunt plan. The U.S. Coast Guard has information on life jackets and float plans.
Paddleboarders should stick to smaller bodies of water, like bays, to avoid windy weather. Always check weather conditions and forecasts before heading out, and always wear a PFD once underway.
If you want to try paddleboard bowfishing, consider these suggestions for picking a bowfishing hotspot. If you start now, you’ll join the growing fleet of bowfishing paddleboarders, a group that considers paddleboards the ultimate tool for fast-paced, close-up action. You’ll find no better source of water-borne fun as the weather warms up in the weeks ahead.