Judging by its name, bowfishing seems to blend archery, fishing and hunting. Although it’s similar to all three sports, bowfishing is unique in many ways, and requires different exercises than fishing, hunting or archery workouts.
Brent and Emily Martin discovered bowfishing 11 years ago and soon learned it was a fun sport they could do together. They bowfish on date nights, and travel to tournaments as AMS Bowfishing pro-staff members. They live in western Kentucky, where invasive fish species inhabit nearby waters. These include bighead and silver gar; and Asian, grass, common and buffalo carp.
The Martins recently competed to the U.S. Open in Missouri, and their top tournament finish so far was second place at the 2013 AMS Big 30 Challenge in Henderson, Kentucky.
During bowfishing tournaments, competitors start at 7 p.m. and weigh in the next day at 7 a.m. The Martins say staying awake and standing in a boat all night while bowfishing is physically tough. Therefore, when they aren’t traveling to tournaments, they work out at a gym six nights a week.
Here, they explain their bowfishing and archery workout.
When bowfishing, Emily uses an AMS retriever reel and draws 35 pounds. She says the sport tires her elbows and neck because she looks down while holding the bow for up to 12 hours each night. She recommends stretching your neck and shoulders by slowly putting your chin to your chest and then your right ear to your right shoulder, and so on.
Work Your Upper Body
Brent, who uses an AMS Swamp Thing bow and AMS retriever reel, draws 55 pounds. He lifts free weights and recommends resistance bands to build strength. Because bowfishing is tough on the upper body, he says men and women should try seated rows, lat pulldowns, one-arm rows, shoulder presses and back extensions. The extensions help stabilize the lower back.
Strengthen Your Whole Body
The Martins suggest building upper-body strength first so you can draw your bow, and then strengthen your lower body so you can stand for hours. Brent said his bowhunting workouts are similar to football exercises because he strengthens his back and shoulders while keeping full-body fitness in mind.
“I tackled a 50-pound carp once and had to wrestle it into our boat,” Brent said. “One guy had shot, and had a fish on his arrow. Emily had shot and missed, and the fish I shot pulled off the arrow but didn’t swim away. All our arrows were in the water, so I jumped in after the fish. Consistent workouts help me prepare for bowfishing and hauling in fish that weigh up to 90 pounds.”
The couple’s fitness routine doesn’t change much before a tournament, except they work out less because they’re busy scouting fishing spots. Doing cardio helps your fitness level, but Emily notes that bowfishing isn’t fast-paced. Therefore, cardio workouts aren’t as important to bowfishing as strength training.
How Bowfishing is Unique
Standing: When bowhunting, you might sit in a tree stand or ground blind for hours. Bowfishing requires long hours of standing in a boat and looking down at the water.
Shooting: When you get shooting opportunities while bowhunting, you’ll likely only shoot once. When bowfishing, you could shoot 200 times per outing.
Seeing: When aiming, bowhunters and archers must compensate for their arrows dropping a certain amount between the bow and target. In target archery and when bowhunting with a compound bow or modern recurve, many archers use sights to help gauge distances and shoot accurately.
When bowfishing, sights aren’t as helpful for judging distances and placing shots. Archers must aim lower than what they see because water causes refractions that trick the eyes. Many archers suffer eye fatigue from fishing all night and staring at the water for hours. When bowfishing during the day, anglers wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and minimize eye strain.
Interested in bowfishing? Don’t Just Fish, BOW Fish!
Also look for Explore Bowfishing through your state wildlife agency in Fall 2014.
Hero Photo: Bowfishing 10 Photo: Brent and Emily Martin