Arrows fishtail due to multiple factors, including but not limited to sloppy release, weak spine, improper tuning, spring tension in the cushion plunger, off centershot match, drawing the bowstring with too much pressure, hand torque, nock height, and fletching contact.
Arrow fishtailing is one of the various arrow flight problems you can encounter in archery. It refers to the side-to-side flexing of the arrow, making it appear wobbling while in flight.
If you feel like you find yourself shooting arrows everywhere lately except the bullseye, you might be having a problem with your arrows. It can be an unusual movement toward the target, such as up and down or sideways motion.
It can be challenging to spot since it may look like the arrow is flying through the air straight because it is moving so fast. But, instead of flying mid-flight straightly, the arrow actually turns right and left, causing you not to hit the bullseye. You can also tell that you are experiencing an arrow fishtailing problem if there is an indicated and obvious horizontal tear in the paper you shot.
So, why does this happen?
Among these causes, the most common is the sloppy release. If you use the wrong approach to releasing an arrow, it may reflect your arrow’s movement mid-flight causing you to miss the bullseye.
Remember also to be careful in concluding too fast that you are experiencing an arrow fishtail because falsely doing so can worsen the problem instead of solving it.
Therefore, always be mindful of the causes mentioned above to help you spot the possible arrow problems you are encountering so you can solve them as soon as possible.
How to fix arrow fishtailing?
You can fix arrow fishtailing by adjusting the tension on the plunger, the rest assemble, or the bow’s brace height, practicing the proper releasing of arrows, aligning the arrow rest, or replacing your arrow spine. However, how you fix the arrows will depend on what caused them to fishtail.
Since various factors cause arrow fishtailing, it is wise to identify the cause first before trying to start fixing your arrow. You must learn that there are different approaches to treating an arrow fishtail, so you must be careful about what method you should use.
Below are the common causes of arrow fishtail and how to fix them:
Incorrect arrow spine match
Before anything else, you must know that arrow spine matching is essential to ensure your arrow has a stable flight.
You can tell the stiffness of the arrow by its spine. In other words, the arrow spine will help you determine the flexibility and stiffness of your arrow.
For example, an arrow that bends too much won’t fly and hit the target correctly, which similarly happens with too stiff arrows—either of the two results in an arrow fishtail that will hurt your shooting accuracy.
In case you are uncertain whether you are using an arrow with a spine that is too stiff or too weak, you must first identify which one it is before fixing it by following the steps enumerated:
Step 1: Set up a target at a distance of 20 yards, aim and then fire two or three fletched arrows in that direction.
Step 2: This time, shoot with two or three unfletched arrows at the same distance and target.
After the steps above, approach the target and see which spot your arrows landed. Only two results arise from the actions you performed, and either your arrow has a weak or stiff spine. To diagnose carefully and to fit it accordingly, please refer below:
Stiff arrow spine
You can tell your arrow has a stiff spine if the unfletched arrows hit the target to the left of the fletched arrows. To fix this problem, you can choose among several solutions:
- Start by re-centering your arrows and bringing the arrow points closer to the bowstring. To do this, you can either decrease the tension on the plunger spring or move the rest assembly towards the riser.
- You can replace the existing arrow points with heavier ones if you do not have a rest assembly or plunger. For instance, if you have an arrow point with a 100-grain weight, try replacing it with 125 grains.
- If none of the first two options work, this time, try to increase the brace height a little. But, if none of the previous solutions work, it is time to consider getting new arrow shafts with lesser spine number or stiffness than the ones you currently use.
Weak arrow spine
To know if your arrows have a weak arrow spine, look at the target and see if the unfletched arrows hit the mark to the right of the fletched arrows. If it does, you’ll likely have to do a reverse to try if any of these solutions will help:
- Similar to solution #1 mentioned above for the stiff arrow spine problem, you can fix this problem by trying to re-center the arrows and bringing the arrow points further away from the bowstring.
You can do this by accelerating the tension on the plunger or moving the rest assembly away from the riser.
- If you do not have a rest assembly or plunger, try replacing your current arrow tips with slightly lighter ones.
- Likewise, try to decrease your bow’s brace height this time by 1/8″ – 2/8″ and see if it helps.
- Nevertheless, if nothing works among the previous solutions, you will have to get new arrow shafts with higher spine numbers and stiffness than the ones you currently have.
Suppose you have to replace your arrow spine with new ones; you may wonder how to figure out the correct one you need. Here are a few tips to note:
- Consider using a spine selector to aid you in finding the exact arrow spine size fit for your bow.
- Remember that longer arrows mean a higher spine number.
- The heavier the arrows, the higher the arrow spine number needed.
- Shooting broadheads longer than a field point may require a stiffer arrow.
It is better to use an arrow spine chart to help you determine the exact spine number you have to buy. To use the arrow spine chart properly, follow the steps:
- Begin looking for the draw weight and point weight (grains) from the arrow spine chart.
- Measure your arrow’s length from the nock throat down to the end of the insert.
- Next is to find the correct group number in the chart.
An arrow with the correct spine size will help you reduce arrow fishtailing because the perfect spine size should prevent the arrow from bending or becoming stiff. It will also give your arrow an accurate flight and less possibility of encountering the “Archer’s paradox.”
Your arrow’s flight is also dependent on your shooting skills. A sloppy release will lead to arrow fishtailing. If you are still a beginner and are yet to figure everything out, don’t be too pressured and take your time to master the basics of archery first.
Since a sloppy release causes arrow fishtailing, it is understandable that you want to correct it to yield results and improve your accuracy of hitting the target. Here are the practical and essential tips you can follow to help you avoid sloppy releases:
- Relax and avoid releasing the arrows fast. Archery isn’t a race; it’s more about technique, proper execution, and precision.
- Before shooting, always ensure that the bow’s brace height is not out of whack and appropriate.
- After releasing the arrows, follow through and observe if you keep missing the target repeatedly.
- More importantly, practice makes perfect so do it as much as you can. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn how to release the arrows properly.
Releasing the arrows might seem simple; however, doing so requires proper form and enough experience to avoid firing arrows sloppily. Therefore, try to master an appropriate arrow release first to eradicate this cause that results in an arrow fishtail.
Off centershot match
Another thing that causes arrow fishtailing is an off centershot match. It refers to aiming and positioning your bow to the center of the target for a center shot.
However, doing a centershot match isn’t easy since arrows can experience the “archer’s paradox.” Because of this, your centershot match will be off, resulting in arrow fishtailing.
Additionally, an incorrect arrow spine affects your centershot match effort. That’s why the spine of your arrow must be flexible and stiff enough to hit the bullseye. If it isn’t flexible and rigid enough, you won’t be able to hit the target bullseye because of the “archer’s paradox.”
On the other hand, if it is stiff and flexible enough, the arrow will correct its flight path down to the target. Here are the ways to try to fix an off centershot match:
- Open-handedly hold the bow so the back of the handle lines up with the string line of the cams and the riser’s centerline.
- Observe if the arrow is to the right or left of the bowstring.
- Adjust the arrow rest if it seems slightly off to the right or left.
- If you have a fractured bow, fix the faulty bowstring first.
Hence, a correct arrow spine and right releasing arrows are crucial in achieving a centershot match to avoid and fix the arrow fishtail.
What are the common arrow flight problems?
The common arrow flight problems you can encounter besides arrow fishtails are arrow porpoising and arrow corkscrew. You can differentiate the two by the arrow’s movement mid-flight. Arrow porpoising exhibits up and down movement, while arrow corkscrew does clockwise.
There are three common arrow flight problems that archers experience: arrow fishtail, arrow porpoising, and arrow corkscrew.
Since we already have talked about arrow fishtailing, there are also two other common arrow flight problems you should be aware of if you run into such issues.
- Arrow porpoising
- Arrow corkscrew
Arrow porpoising usually occurs on recurve and compound bows. Like an arrow fishtail, it shows an unusual movement on the arrow that leads to missing the bullseye. The main difference with arrow porpoising is that the arrow wobbles up and down in flight.
It is hard to notice mid-flight, but you can determine by looking at how the arrow hit the target because you can see a vertical tear in the paper. The reason behind arrow porpoising is the incorrect nocking point position.
It happens when the arrow’s nock point is too low or too high on the bowstring. You can try to fix arrow porpoising by adjusting the arrow’s nock height.
The difference between arrow corkscrew from arrow porpoising and arrow fishtail is that the arrow flies clockwise instead of straight to the target.
As a result, you can notice that you have an arrow corkscrew problem if the arrow starts to wobble in flight clockwise.
Knowing that such arrow flight problems exist allows you to quickly determine if your arrow flight has something to do with your inaccurate shooting.
Arrow fishtailing is only one of the problems you may face in archery that causes you to shoot inaccurately. There are, however, a variety of solutions you can try.
Thus, knowing those arrow flight problems will help you address inaccuracy issues efficiently, even if they aren’t as common as others.