When I first started bowfishing, I ignored the advice of experienced bowfishermen who suggested that I use a bow dedicated for that purpose. Instead, I chose to use my treasured high-dollar deer hunting bow. I quickly realized the error in my decision after only one bowfishing trip filled with many tense moments of watching my Mathews being subjected to very wet conditions, several hard clashes with the bottom of the boat as we bounced across the lake and a couple of dry fires as the heavy fiberglass arrow pulled itself loose from the string during the draw. As soon as I returned, I focused my attention on finding a bow that was designed for bowfishing. I knew I wanted something that was short, had the power of a compound and the quickness of a recurve and could take the abuse of an all night bowfishing trip. The Browning Barracuda seemed to fit the criteria. I picked one up at a local sporting goods store and prepared to put it to the test.
From the first look, it is apparent that the Browning Barracuda bow was
designed for the water instead of the woods.
Although the Browning Barracuda sets itself apart from other bows, it still
allows for the attachment of most standard archery accessories.
Although paint is mostly for cosmetic purposes (other than some level of protection for what lies beneath), the AquaFlage film-dipped, water-resembling camouflage certainly sets the Barracuda apart in the bow rack and leaves little doubt that it was designed for bowfishing. Browning touts it as being effective camouflage over water but I doubt if the blending between the small surface of the bow limbs and the water will somehow make the fish forget about the human silhouette or the giant boat gliding towards them. Either the fish is going to hold long enough for a shot or it isn't.
The AquaFlage camouflage is promoted as being effective over water but is probably
more effective in revealing the bow's purpose as a bowfishing device.
With a 32-inch axle-to-axle length and a 6.5-inch brace height, the Barracuda is similar in dimensions to many of the popular "hunting" bows on the market. This allows someone that enjoys chasing game in the woods and on the water to use bows that have a similar feel. At 2.6 pounds, the Barracuda is however a lighter bow than most hunting bows of a similar size.
The Barracuda has an adjustable draw weight from 30 to 40 pounds but it sets itself apart from other compounds with similar draw weights in a very important way. The HyperMax cam allows the bow to be drawn without a let-off, which allows an arrow to be released anytime the string is pulled back between 0 and 30 inches. It actually takes a pull of about 14 inches to reach the peak draw weight, but you get the power of a compound cam with the shot versatility of a recurve. Anyone that can pull the minimum 30 pound draw weight can use the bow regardless of their draw length.
The Browning Barracuda was designed to be adaptive to many different sizes of shooters and types of shots.
The HyperMax cam allows the bow to be shot at any draw length up to 30 inches.
After arriving home with the bow, I quickly scheduled a bowfishing trip to see how the Barracuda would perform in the real world. I headed to a local lake that contains a large population of common carp as well as plenty of gar. We hit the water about the time the sun was setting, fired up the generator, flipped on the floodlights and were quickly into fish.
After my previous mishaps with my bowhunting rig, I was cautious about ensuring the arrow didn't fall off of the string during the draw on the Barracuda. It actually wasn't a problem due to a combination of tight fitting nocks, excellent serving on the bow string and the security and support of a roller-type arrow rest that I installed on the bow.
A roller-type arrow rest holds the heavy solid-fiberglass bowfishing arrows securely.
As anyone that has spent any time bowfishing knows, shooting can be fast and furious and every shot changes. You have to be ready to instinctively shoot at fish at constantly changing distances, depths and speeds. This is where the no-let-off, no-draw-length design of the Barracuda really stood out. I was able to achieve the power necessary to make longer shots by bringing the string to my full draw position but could also fire off split-second shots at fish next to boat with a short pull and quick release.
The "universal-fit" grip on the aluminum riser is built up with a felt-covered foam pad on each side but has a slim design. The bow is well balanced when an arrow is nocked and stayed vertical when the grip was held loosely. It remained comfortable even as the night wore on but the felt coverings came loose at the edges. It appears that the factory glue did not hold and before the night was over I chose to completely remove the flapping pieces of fabric from the bow.
The narrow universal-fit riser allowed consistent shots while still contributing to the light weight of the bow.
The felt coverings on the riser came loose during wear but proved to be a minor issue.
Even with the felt coverings removed, the foam remained comfortable.
The Barracuda performed well and shot accurately when I could control my release. A few times the arrow kicked in one direction or another but that problem was solved with a couple of modifications when I got home. First, I installed a set of finger rollers. These soft, finger-saving, rubber rollers slip over your bow string and provide a comfortable, consistent location for your three shooting fingers to connect with the string. I also decreased the length of my arrows to a couple of inches longer than my personal maximum draw length. The combination of these two changes made the bow shoot more accurately and the arrow a little faster (due to less weight).
Soft, rubber rollers make the frequent shots of bowfishing more enjoyable and easier on the fingers.
The short axle-to-axle length allowed for quick maneuverability in the confined space of the boat and the cam provided enough power to penetrate the water to deep fish and even the hardened scales of some snaggle-toothed gar. Although the brace height would be fairly short for a long distance target bow requiring pinpoint accuracy, it proved to be sufficient for bowfishing where most shots occur within a few yards of the boat.
As the night ended and several hundred shots had been taken, the bow successfully survived the rigors of bowfishing unscathed with the exception of the felt grip covers. The light weight design made me forget I had been holding the bow for five hours and I went home pleased that the Browning Barracuda proved to be a reliable, effective bowfishing bow.
The Browning Barracuda is available online or at many sporting goods stores for around $230. It also comes in a kit that contains everything you need to start bowfishing for around $370. The kit includes an AMS Reel with line, 2 bowfishing arrows with points and built-in safety slides and an AMS Wave Roller rest. Flinging an arrow with a string tied to it at a fish sounds easy enough but can quickly become dangerous without the proper equipment. The accessories in the kit ensure that the heavy fiberglass arrows are held securely and that the string doesn't become entangled in any part of the bow. No matter what bow you use for bowfishing, these safety requirements should be a top priority.
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.