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Top Bowfishing Bows
By Jack Thatcher
Apr 5, 2006, 10:16


Lately, I have been getting a lot of emails regarding Bow choices for bowfishing.  So I decided to write a short article about what I feel are the top two bowfishing bows on the market today, the Browning Barracuda and the AMS Bowfishing Fish Hawk!  

Browning Barracuda

These two bows represent the pinnacle of bowfishing technology today.  Both bows are purpose built and designed to cater to the specialized needs of the bowfisher.  Both bows are extremely agile, easy to shoot, easy to maintain, and can fit multiple users with no adjustment.   Both can be snap shot like a recurve while delivering much more power.  Both are relatively light in weight and can be fished all night with little to no strain.  Most importantly, both are very affordable.

So what is the difference between the two bows?   I recently had an opportunity to compare and evaluate both of these bows and I must say they do not disappoint.  Some of the testing was for performance but most was in the field under actual shooting conditions.   So here it goes!

AMS Fish Hawk


Fish Hawk Specifications:                             Barracuda Specifications:

  • Draw Weight: 30-40#                           Draw Weight: 30-40#
  • Draw Length: 15-30"                                        Draw Length: 14-30”
  • Approximate Let-off: 20%                                Let-off: 7.5%
  • Axle-to-Axle: 35 1/2"                           Axle to Axle: 32”
  • Brace Height: 7 3/4"                                         Brace height: 6.25”

First I set up both bows with AMS Wave Roller Rests and Retrievers loaded with BCY 350# line.   The arrow used was a standard fiberglass arrow tipped with the Muzzy 1010 Garpoint.  I adjusted both bows to exactly 40 pounds and began the tuning process.  Both bows were tuned for finger shooting (split finger).  Once both bows achieved bullet holes with bare shafts (not tied to the string yet), I was ready to move on to performance testing.

I decided to test the bows at two different draw lengths to evaluate possible nock travel issues.  The arrow was marked at 26.5 and 29 inches of draw.  I enlisted the help of Scott Hausmann of Mesquite Creek Archery in San Antonio to provide the short draw shots through the chronograph.  The following results were shot at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, indoors with 80% humidity, and seven feet from a chronograph.  The speeds are a result of a three shot average and are in feet per second.  The formula for kinetic energy was used to establish foot pounds.  The arrows weight was 1468 Grains.

                                                26.5” Draw                  29” Draw

Browning Barracuda  115 FPS                      128 FPS         

AMS Fish Hawk                    103 FPS                      118 FPS

I must admit I was a little surprised in the difference between the two bows.  Further testing would show why we had such a large disparity in speeds.  While both bows reach peak weight at about 14.5 inches of draw, the Browning Barracuda maintains its weight and only loses three pounds thru the draw stroke.  Once you get past the peak weight of 40 pounds the bow then lets off to about 37 pounds at full draw.  The AMS Bowfishing Fish Hawk bow lost eight pounds after peak which left us holding 32 pounds at full draw.  The result is lost speed.

Ok, so what’s ten feet per second right?  When you factor in that the arrows weight of 1468 gr., it can mean a lot!  The Barracuda (53.41 ft#s) delivered eight foot pounds of energy more than the Fish Hawk (45.39 ft#s) at 29 inches of draw.   The Barracuda will hit harder deeper into the water than the Fish Hawk all things being equal.

So are all things equal?  Not really.  Speed is not the only thing that affects penetration into water.  The arrow must leave the bow straight before the line is attached for the best performance.  While I spent considerable time tuning both bows to perfection, most people do not.  I found the AMS Fish Hawk very forgiving and easy to tune.  It launched bare shafts perfectly into the target with various adjustments to the rest and nock shot after shot.  This is truly rare!  A very shooter friendly bow!

The Browning Barracuda tune up took some time and was a lot more sensitive to a poorly released shot.   This of course is due to the 32” axle to axle length and finger pinch.  I would very much like to see a 35” version of this bow in the future! 

Alright so how did they compare on the water?  In truth, both bows shot very well at my draw length.  I had no trouble taking fish at various depths and distances.  Both bows sent arrows to where I was looking with little exception.  Both were unaffected by canting or string tweak.  Both exhibited plenty of speed and penetration.

Everything was going great until I tried some quick snap shooting.  This is the act of short drawing a bow so as to limit penetration into the fish.  The AMS Fish Hawk while smooth, whipped arrows wildly when short stroked on quick shots.  I can only assume that this is caused by its single cam design.   The two cam Browning Barracuda delivered its arrows straight at all lengths of pull. 

Overall, both are remarkable bowfishing bows and are very capable of taking the largest of fish!   Both aim naturally and have generous sight windows to track your quarry.   I would however recommend the Browning Barracuda for kids and short draw shooters.  It builds considerable power at the smaller draw lengths while delivering accuracy shot after shot.  It was not designed for big hands though.  Larger draw lengths will enjoy the AMS Fish Hawk with its smooth draw and slight let-off.  This bow will accommodate hands of all sizes and is a pleasure to shoot!  

Shoot straight and stay in the boat!

Jack Thatcher


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