A Full Review of LED Bowfishing Lights (and others)

Bowfishing, Bowfishing Lights, Halogen Bowfishing Lights, HPS Bowfishing Lights, LED Bowfishing Lights -

A Full Review of LED Bowfishing Lights (and others)

Quality LED Bowfishing Lights are essential for a successful night out on the water. Many times, the lights can be what make or break your trip. The most common comparison among bow fishing lights is made between LED bowfishing lights, HPS bowfishing lights, and Halogen bowfishing lights. Each type of fishing bow light has its own benefits and drawbacks, and we're here to present the facts that will help you form your own opinion. 

Lets take a look at the key factors we need to accomplish in order to increase our odds of spotting more fish and hopefully finding your next set of bowfishing boat lights.


1 - ADJUSTABILITY & CHANGING WATER CONDITIONS

Depending on the wind, tide (coastal regions), and sediment on bottom, you may see clear water or muddy / murky water. Many times this can ruin your trip if you aren’t prepared for what to expect. After interviewing several tournament bowfishermen, we found a common method to address the water conditions was to swap their lights out pre-tournament depending on the water quality of the lake. Clear water lakes result in cool white colored lights while muddy lakes result in warm white colored lights. 

Note: Warm white lights work best for muddy water because they do not reflect on the dirt particles in the water. Cool white lights do a better job penetrating deep in clear water where there are less dirt particles for the cool white light to reflect on. Similar to traveling on a clear night vs in a dense fog. Your fog lights are a warm white color while your brights are a cool white color.  

LED Bowfishing Lights

LEDs are the most recent innovation among the three types of lights and are by far the most advanced in terms of adjustability. LEDs are available in a variety of color tones ranging from a deep warm white (similar to HPS color tone), to a more cool white (Halogen color tone), to a real deep cool white that has a blue hue to it. These changing color tones allow bowfishermen to use LEDs that best fit their local water conditions so they can see deeper through the water.

LED bowfishing lights such as the Swamp Eye Light Bar are the only ones capable of adjusting color tone on the fly, with the touch of a button. You can literally adjust from warm white to cool white depending on what clarity the water currently is within seconds. When looking for an easy plug and play setup, we recommend lights such as these for ease of use. 

HPS Bowfishing Lights

HPS lights come in one single color tone and that is a deep warm white, yellow-orange color combination. When specifically looking at color tone, HPS lights are ideal for muddy water but the warm white color will make it more difficult to spot fish in clear waters. In clear water, the fish will tend to blend in with the surroundings and not stand out. 

Halogen Bowfishing Lights

Halogen lights come in one single color tone and that is a cool white light. Halogen is ideal for clear waters but is not as beneficial in muddy water. In muddy water, halogen lights can act similar to turning on the brights on while driving through fog. They do a great job at lighting up everything, but it all becomes one big cloud and is very difficult to see detail. 

2 - POWER CONSUMPTION

Your lights are one of the most important tools in bowfishing (second to your bow). Thus, your lights need to be able to run all night long (seems simple, right?). There are two common solutions to this - use lights that can run on a generator or use lights with enough battery power to last a full night of bowfishing. If your lucky, you can find a bowfishing light than can do BOTH!

LED Bowfishing Lights

LEDs are available in a variety of wattages and are more power efficient in terms of lumens per watt than their counterparts. In most cases, a quality LED light will illuminate on average between 90-100 lumens per watt. Some LED lights are capable of illuminating over 160 lumens per watt such as the Swamp Eye Submersible Light

LEDs are compatible to run on a variety of power systems and due to their high efficiencies, require less power to illuminate a similar level of brightness. LEDs are DC voltage by nature but with small compact converters available, they can easily be designed or reformatted to run on generators. 

Most LED bowfishing lights are capable of running on either 12V DC, 24V DC, 12/24V DC, or 110/120V AC. There are very few bowfishing lights (LED, Halogen or HPS) capable of running on all of these power systems. One of the select few bowfishing lights capable of doing so is the Swamp Eye Bowfishing Light Bar. This light is one of the only plug and play bowfishing boat light setups truly designed to run on bowfishing boats across a variety of power systems. This can be very important when things go hay wire while on a bowfishing tournament. Whether the battery runs low or the generator runs out of gas, it's best to not rely on just one power source. 

HPS Bowfishing Lights

HPS lights are only available in AC voltage (110V AC) but are available in a variety of wattages. The most common lights used for bowfishing are between 250 watt and 400 watt. HPS lights are at their peak when you first purchase them, and over the course of the first year they are estimated to degrade to 70% of their original light output. Most bowfishermen will replace their bulbs at least once in the first 10-14 months of use. HPS lights also require ballasts which are typically replaced between 12-24 months of use, sometimes sooner.

A premium brand new HPS light can output as much as 90-100 lumens per watt on initial use. However, as mentioned previously, they will degrade to 60-70 lumens per watt within the first year.

HPS lights were designed and intended to be used as street lights. They were never intended to be used on the water, it is actually rather unsafe to use them on the water. High voltage lighting on an aluminum boat in saltwater is quite possibly the most dangerous scenario one can think of. The only thing that would make it worse is grounding the lights to your aluminum boat. This sounds foolish but it happens more often than you may realize. High Voltage (dangerous electricity) + Saltwater (conductor) + aluminum boat (conductor) = DANGER! 

Despite the danger they may cause, they draw a lot of power and typically require much larger generators. While a professional guide may run 6 Swamp Eye Light Bars on one 2000W generator for over 8 hours on a 1 gallon tank of gas, the same setup would not be possible with 6 HPS lights. A larger generator (3000W) and larger gas tank (1.5-2 gal) would be required to run the lights.

Halogen Bowfishing Lights

 In terms of power consumption, halogen lights are no different than HPS lights. They are the cool white version of HPS lights are were also originally intended to be street lights. They were not designed to go on boats. See above explanation of HPS lights. 


3 - WARM UP TIME FOR LIGHT SENSITIVE FISH

Some fish such as bighead carp are very light sensitive. It is crucial to be able to turn on and off your lights in an instant. 

LED Bowfishing Lights

LEDs will turn on and off instantaneously, with zero noticeable warm up or turn off time. 

HPS Bowfishing Lights

HPS lights will initially turn on very dim and over the course of 5-10 minutes will reach their maximum brightness. Think about the old school gyms or street lights, when they turn their lights on it typically takes some time for them to warm up.

Halogen Bowfishing Lights

 Halogen lights will act the same as HPS lights in terms of warm up time. Neither halogen or HPS lights are beneficial for chasing light sensitive fish. They will increase the likelihood the fish spook before you even see them.


4 - HIGH BRIGHTNESS LIGHTS


If you have the right color tone to penetrate the water conditions you are experiencing, the next most important thing to consider is the brightness of the lights you're using. A high brightness light, combined with the correct color tone, will present great opportunities for shooting fish. 

LED Bowfishing Lights

LEDs are the highest efficiency in terms of lumens per watt, but most people do not use large power draws to maximize luminosity. They are typically more concerned with the proper color tone. 

HPS Bowfishing Lights

HPS lights, while lower efficiency than LED, have higher power consumption. Due to the larger power consumption, HPS lights are capable of outputting a higher luminosity in comparison to LED lights. Most debates in LED vs HPS are because of this statistic. People compare a 100 Watt LED light to a 400 Watt HPS Light and wonder why the 400 watt light is brighter than the 100 watt light. When compared watt for watt, an LED light is going to be brighter than an HPS light. However, HPS lights are not commercially available in the lower watt ranges that LEDs are available. 

Halogen Bowfishing Lights

 See HPS lights above. 



5 - LIGHT HOUSINGS MADE TO BE ON A BOAT 

This seems overly simple, but bowfishing is a relatively small sport compared to the lighting industry and most light brands out there spend their time figuring out how to make a light work and are less concerned with it mounting on a bowfishing boat and being subject to water splashing. 

LED Bowfishing Lights

The majority of LEDs are not designed to be mounted on a boat, they are designed to be mounted to houses, garages, carports, etc. They are typically rated for outdoor use which includes weatherproofing for rain but they are not typically rated for mounting to a boat that may take large waves. This is important to keep in mind when not buying a LED light made specifically for bowfishing. 

A bowfishing LED light will have enhanced, strengthened seals to protect the light from rain and waves. The wiring connections are typically water resistant as well.

HPS Bowfishing Lights

HPS lights are not water tight and water in the form of rain or waves can cause the lights to short out in some cases if proper care is not taken. If proper care is taken, it is possible to make them water resistant. In any case, it is important for the lights to be enclosed in a box so they are protected as much as possible from water. HPS and Halogen are both commonly used as grow lights, indoor facility / gym lights or street lights as previously mentioned. 

Halogen Bowfishing Lights

 See HPS light description above. 



Thank you for reading along, we hope we have helped you to make an informed decision on your next steps in choosing your bowfishing lights!


Need Ideas for Your Outfitting Your Next Boat? [Check out these Bowfishing Boat Light Setups]



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