The U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship is the pinnacle of one of the fastest growing activities in the outdoor space. To those passionate about bowfishing, it represents much more. The U.S. Open is a celebration of community—an event that raises the profile of a growing sport that is rapidly expanding in popularity and participation. A yearly invitation to come together to swap stories, reconnect and attempt to take home the title as best of the best, the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship is a party.
The U.S. Open draws bowfishermen and women from across the United States to test their skill against one another—competing for the heaviest stringer of 20 fish in a single night. The winning team will take home a purse of $30,000—the largest in bowfishing. All told, the tournament will award more than $100,000. There are also side bets for the largest bighead carp, silver carp, common carp and grass carp.
The 2022 U.S. Open hosted more than 200 teams, with anglers from 29 states. The 2023 edition takes place Saturday night April 29. Teams of four shooters will depart from the Bass Pro Shops in Nashville, Tennessee.
The tournament area includes lakes and rivers across the Tennessee River Valley—waters in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi. Competing teams travel to the region as much as a week in advance—spending pre-tournament nights illuminating stretches of lakeshore and river bank to pattern carp, gar and buffalo.
Saturday night competing bowfishermen will leverage their scouting, knowledge, skill and strategy to harvest the largest 20 fish they can. For one team, everything will come together and the week will culminate in a big check, custom championship belt buckles and trophy, and bragging rights for a lifetime.
The Many Charms of Bowfishing
People have been harvesting fish with bows for about as long as their have been people and bows. What began thousands of years ago with people shooting flint-tipped arrows propelled from longbows of wood and sinew has evolved to include Tracker Grizzlies transporting shooters equipped with American-made, technology-infused Oneida lever bows.
For those new to the sport, bowfishing can be something of a gateway to the great outdoors. Bowfishing is action-packed. You don’t have to wake up early. It is low pressure (when you are not competing for the $30k purse at the U.S. Open, that is).
What’s more, you shoot big fish. A good carp will run 25 pounds. The trophy mark for longnose gar is around the mid-20s. As for buffalo, anything over 50 is a trophy.
In the spring time, carp and gar come into shallow water during the day time to spawn. Depositing their eggs onto vegetation, they are accessible to well placed arrows. As spring gives way to summer, the fish stop coming into shallow water during daylight hours but come nearshore at night to feed.
The standard bowfishing trip involves leaving the dock around sunset and turning on the lights when the sun goes down. As you slip into the productive zones, shooters position themselves on the bow to scan for activity. This is when the action starts.
The lights illuminate profiles of carp and gar… sometimes easing themselves into the light, sometimes their silhouettes hover before darting into the darkness. This is part of the experience… you never quite know what you will see or what will happen once you see it.
Shooters scan the water, peering into the night trying to will fish into appearing. When the time is right they loose arrows into the water. Their buddies on the back of the boat hang on every shot and every sighting. They whoop it up when the shot is true, sometimes giving their buddies a hard time when the arrow comes back empty.
Bowfishing starts as many things for many people. An action-packed night on the water. A way to stay sharp with your bow before hunting season. A fun way to take big invasive species out of the ecosystem (bighead carp, silver carp and grass carp are not only not native to North America, but have no predators once they reach a certain size).
For some who start for these reasons, the sport becomes a passion in and of itself. It is such for many of the 200-plus teams who will converge on the waters surrounding Nashville this weekend.
Check Out the U.S. Open for Yourself
Equal parts celebration of sport and community and serious competition, the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship has a charm all its own. The event takes place this Saturday night in Nashville.
If you want to fish, there is still time to register. Even if you’re not ready to challenge the heaviest hitters in the sport, stop by and check out the party.
The people who compete are friendly and welcoming. In fact, the bowfishing community is known for being good, hospitable and down to earth. Bass Pro Shops, the event’s primary sponsor, knows how to throw a party.
This is a great combination. The day will include bowfishing vendor presentations, the latest in bowfishing gear, live music, fun contests, appearances by some of the sport’s biggest names and exciting giveaways.