Giant Fish Highlight Annual Muzzy Classic Bowfishing Championship

This 55.5-inch gar won the longest gar competition at the 2016 Muzzy Classic bowfishing championship on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama. The 69,000-acre lake is one of the nation's best bowfishing lakes for gar, carp, buffalo, shad and catfish.

This 55.5-inch gar won the longest gar competition at the 2016 Muzzy Classic bowfishing championship on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama. The 69,000-acre lake is one of the nation’s best bowfishing lakes for gar, carp, buffalo, shad and catfish.

More than 20 years ago when I worked for a newspaper I got a call from a guy inviting me to go bowfishing with him on Guntersville Lake, which is in north Alabama and part of the Tennessee River chain of impoundments.

I’d been interested in bowfishing and knew about it but didn’t have a boat or gear. Bryan Hughes had both: Oneida bowfishing bows, arrows, barbed heads, and a comortable flatbottom airboat with bright halogen lights around the front deck. We had a great time and later that summer he introduced me to Mark Land with Muzzy Products for a night out on Wheeler Lake, the next reservoir downstream from Guntersville.

Things have changed since then. Hughes began selling bowfishing gear from his home and that turned into Backwater Outdoors, his current store and the biggest locally-owned outdoors store in our area. He’s the biggest bowfishing retailer and stays on top of the curve. Land and I have more gray in our hair since that first meeting, too. But we’re all still geeked about bowfishing.

The 17th annual Muzzy Classic bowfishing championship was held May 23-24 on Guntersville Lake. Almost 70 teams competed for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. I’ve always thought that bowfishing guys love getting a check, but they’re more stoked with the competition. You shot a 49-inch gar? Check out our 53-incher! Dang, y’all got a 58-pound grass carp? We could only manage one about 37 pounds.

Here are the top Muzzy Classic finishers:

Final Results
1st Place – $10,000
Team #3 Giles & Rigsby 466.8 pounds
Matt Rigsby & Andrew Giles
2nd Place – $1,000
Team #1 Thrills & Kills Outdoors – 436.9 pounds
Tommy Woods, Hunter Woods, Scott Baxter
(winners of the 2015 Muzzy Classic)
3rd Place – $700
Team #8 Instant Insanity 383.65 pounds
Robert Adams, Hadden Thomas, Nathan Thomas
Grass Carp – Mountain Men 52.8 pounds
Buffalo – Thrills & Kills Outdoors – 45.5 pounds
Common Carp – Giles & Rigsby – 34.2 pounds
Gar – Southern Slingers – 55.5 inches
Big Fish – Mountain Men 52.8 pounds ($1450)
Grass carp can attain a lot of weight in Guntersville Lake thanks to ample vegetation.

Grass carp can attain a lot of weight in Guntersville Lake thanks to ample vegetation. (Photo: Alan Clemons/DDH)

I love the passion for bowfishing and how folks seem to be willing to help each other with tips and ideas. Bowfishermen are good ol’ boy rednecks (even the girls) who just love to be outdoors and have a good time. The fact they’re getting to do it on the water for big fish with a bow makes it even better.

Boats, Gear Improving
Bowfishing as we know it began way back in the day when Native Americans used their bows to put food on the table. Anyone who believes bowfishing is something new, even 60-year-old “new,” is sadly mistaken. The thing is, though, we’ve adapted and evolved over time with our methods and gear.

Richard Simms of Chattanooga and Mark Land of Muzzy with a nice fish arrowed on Eufaula Lake in October 2015.

Richard Simms of Chattanooga and Mark Land of Muzzy with a nice fish arrowed on Eufaula Lake in October 2015.

Instead of a stick bow and wooden arrows with flint or steel tips, early modern bowfishermen attached spools with nylon line to recurve bows. Or, they figured out some other way. Those were the first steps to today’s gear that includes compound bows, special rests, nocks and line, improved reels with stronger drag systems, better ways to attach them to the bow, and, obviously, better lights and boats.

Muzzy has been on the cutting edge of bowfishing equipment for decades and this year is no exception. The new Mantis bowfishing rest was introduced this year with upgrades to keep arrows secure at all times. Few things are as aggravating while bowfishing than to be set and spot a big gar or carp and begin to draw only to have the arrow slip off the rest. The Mantis should easily solve that problem.

One of the cool things about bowfishing is anyone can do it. I’m serious. Your 10-year-old daughter or 78-year-old grandfather could go bowfishing. It does not take much poundage in the bow to get the job done, so there’s no problem having to draw a bow. Compounds can be dialed down and recurve bows are instinctive, so there’s something for everyone.

Scott Jennings and Madison Browning with the BAA World Record grass carp shot on Guntersville Lake in spring 2015.

Scott Jennings and Madison Browning with the BAA World Record grass carp shot on Guntersville Lake in spring 2015.

Muzzy’s hot Addict Bowfishing Kit has everything you need in one kit to start fishing. We used it in October 2015 while fishing at Lake Eufaula in southeast Alabama out of Lakepoint Resort State Park. Eufaula’s also noted for solid bowfishing thanks to ample shallow backwater areas and good vegetation. The Addict bow proved reliable in 2014 while fishing at Lake Fontana in western North Carolina. Both times, unfortunately, cool weather conspired to knock back the good fishing but the trips weren’t zeros and everyone had a good time.

Other companies have picked up on the bowfishing trent. PSE Archery offers five bows, from the moderately priced Kingfisher recurve to the more expensive Mudd Dawg compound kit. Cajun Bowfishing is well known and offers a nice lineup of tried and tested gear.

Two Truths About Bowfishing
Bowfishing is addictive. I think it’s sort of like turkey hunting for some folks; they either love it or don’t. There’s not much middle ground or “Eh, it’s OK. I guess I could go” reaction.

Among the truths about bowfishing, which includes getting wet ‘n slimy and being tired if you’re out late, are these:

Some bowfishing boats are tricked out with giant engines, fan blades (with protective cages), seats and more.

Some bowfishing boats are tricked out with giant engines, fan blades (with protective cages), seats and more. (Photo: Alan Clemons/DDH)

Your Gear Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive: I’ve fished with Land in the Muzzy bowfishing boat, which is uber-cool and specially designed by him for every convenience. It has multiple storage areas, a raised front deck, great lights, guard rails, seats, coolers, a jam-up radio, and even a high rise spotting tower. I’ve also fished with guys in plain flatbottom boats with a few halogen lights.

Point being, anyone can get into bowfishing. You don’t even need a boat because you may be able to wade or bank fish. Check your state regulations, of course, but having a boat is not an absolute necessity.

Adults and children can get into bowfishing. Mentoring and helping with safety along with having fun gets things rolling for newbies.

Adults and children can get into bowfishing. Mentoring and helping with safety along with having fun gets things rolling for newbies.

You Will Shoot and Shoot and Shoot: Deer hunters may draw their bow two, three times during the course of the season (unless you’re really hammering does). Bowfishermen could possibly shoot 50 or 100 times a night, depending on how often you want to draw, shoot and rig up again. Targets could be numerous; you might decide to practice shooting at shad or smaller fish. The possibilities are endless.

Or, even if you’re only going after giant trophy fish like big buffalo or carp, you still could shoot a dozen or more times a night. That’s probably still more than you would during deer season. And shooting a bow is fun. Bowfishing is instinctive, reactive and you learn to laugh more with your buddies. It’s just a hoot, to be honest.

The Muzzy Classic is one of the big events in the bowfishing world. The Bowfishing Association of America has a good lineup, and the big Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open will be at The Pyramid Bass Pro Shops on the Mississippi River in July. That should be interesting, no doubt.

The great thing, though, is bowfishing is fun and cool and something to keep you busy almost all year long.

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