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REVIEW ARCHIVE: MARCH 2007 (Updated 04/2016)

The Catawba is now known as the Octane Hostage. Both arrow rests still compete on the archery market to this day and have become powerhouse performers in the arrow rest segment.

When Steve Graf and Ike Branthwaite introduced their newly patented Whisker Biscuit arrow rest in the fall of 1999, they probably didn't realize they would stand the archery industry on its bristles.  At a time when precision spring-loaded prong style rests were still leading the market, the Whisker Biscuit didn't exactly get a warm reception by dealers and hardcore enthusiasts.  Some just laughed.  Others called it a "beginner rest".  Many said it would be impossible to tune; it would be inaccurate.  It just wouldn't work.

But when mainstream bowhunters got a look at the new Whisker Biscuit, the reception was somewhat different.  While the accuracy and reliability of the prong rest is undeniable, their fundamental drawback has always been lack of arrow containment.  If the drawstroke wasn't smooth, or the bow was canted, or if the shooter bobbled a little, there was a good chance the arrow would fall from the rest.  And as many prong rest users could attest, this seemed to happen at the most inopportune moments (like when drawing on a lifetime trophy buck).  The Whisker Biscuit promised total arrow containment; no more fallen arrows, no more missed opportunities.  The arrow would stay tucked safely inside the biscuit, ready to shoot, every time, without fail.  So in spite of the initial criticisms, the Whisker Biscuit was a hit.  

Over the next few years the Whisker Biscuit's popularity soared.  By 2003, the Whisker Biscuit had literally redefined the arrow rest market, sending competing manufacturers into a mad scramble to create their own containment rests. 

Unfortunately for Whisker Biscuit's competitors, bowhunters seemed reluctant to accept substitutes for the original.  Maybe the magic was in those whiskers; maybe it was the catchy sound of that name.  Either way, the Whisker Biscuit left countless competitors flailing in agony.  By 2006, they had nearly wiped the market clean, even driving some old favorites like Golden Key and Bodoodle into retirement.  Not only had the Whisker Biscuit managed to largely create and then dominate the containment rest market, but they had managed to decimate much of the prong rest market at the same time.  Today, nearly half of new bows sold are ultimately outfitted with a Whisker Biscuit.  So love them or hate them, Whisker Biscuits are simply here to stay.

Oddly enough, the Whisker Biscuit didn't come from some big corporate manufacturer.  The Whisker Biscuit company (Carolina Archery Products) was originally founded by two out of work Semi-Conductor engineers.  So it's something of an American dream story.  Two guys with a great idea and a product with a funny name ended up changing the course of our industry - and they managed to make a few dollars along the way too.  In 2006, Whisker Biscuit caught the attention of industry giant, Escalade Sports, and they were reportedly purchased for a whopping $12.6 Million.

So does the Whisker Biscuit deserve such high acclaim?  When it comes to arrow containment, you bet it does!  And arrow containment isn't the Whisker Biscuit's only technical merit.  As it turns out, they actually shoot quite well too.  As the arrow passes thru the biscuit, the whiskers make "equal contact" with the arrow fletching.  Since the contact is equally distributed around the shaft, the fletching contact is effectively "cancelled out".  So ironically, setting up a Whisker Biscuit means you don't really have "fletching contact" issues to resolve.  As such, the Whisker Biscuit has a reputation for being user-friendly and particularly easy to tune.  

Even so, the Whisker Biscuit remains a "love it or hate it" product.  In spite of the obvious benefits, the Whisker Biscuit has always been accused of some misdeeds, specifically damaging fletchingcreating noise, andreducing arrow velocity.  And perhaps these are all fair criticisms.  As the arrow zips thru the biscuit at 200mph, the arrow fletchings must "sift" their ways thru the layer of bristles.  This creates some noise.  It also causes rubber vanes to stretch.  It causes feathers to eventually tatter.  And the resulting friction burns up a little arrow speed.  So using the Whisker Biscuit is often seen as something of a trade-off.  To get the benefits, you have to tolerate some costs. 

Obviously, arrow containment is a key benefit that bowhunters want.  The real question is, can a containment style arrow rest be designed to perform as well as the Whisker Biscuit, but without the undesirable side-effects?  Are there any designs that can incorporate all the positive elements of the Whisker Biscuit while avoiding the trade-offs?  Many have tried over the last few years.  Some designs just didn't work.  Some didn't really catch-on.  Some were too expensive.  And others just seemed to have come and gone.  So last season we began to wonder if anyone could really make a legitimate challenge at the Whisker Biscuit.  But this season, we may have an answer.    


In late December of 2006, we received an email from a new manufacturer, Catawba Archery, based in Mount Holly, NC.  They introduced themselves and sent us photos of their new product.  Since we are always excited to see new design innovations, we quickly responded back to request samples for evaluation.

Upon receiving the sample rests, we were immediately encouraged.  Much like the Whisker Biscuit, the Catawba rest incorporates a circular housing and sculpted bristles to support the arrow.  But unlike the Whisker Biscuit, the patented Catawba design doesn't feature a continuous 360º ring of bristles.  Rather, the bristles are grouped into blocks and spaced at 60º, 180º, and 300º around the circumference of the housing.  This should allow the fletchings to pass thru the housing at 0º, 120º, and 240º without making any contact with the bristles.

Of course, spacing the arrow supports in this way isn't unique.  Several rest designs have attempted this (Bodoodle Zapper, NAP 360º Capture Rest, etc.).  But what struck us as unique was the idea of incorporating bristles at all 3 contact points.  This would theoretically allow the Catawba rest to yield full containment while still permitting natural arrow oscillation like the Whisker Biscuit.  Incidentally, permitting natural arrow oscillation is one of the reasons the Whisker Biscuit shoots so well.  It's also the reason other capture rests sometimes shoot poorly, since rigid fins and prongs clamp the arrow too tightly to allow the arrow to flex properly.  So we were happy to see that the Catawba rest had similarly taken this into account.
With our initial oooh's and aaah's now complete, it was time to get to work.  We grabbed a bow, bolted one up, and headed to the archery range.  The Catawba bracket design is simple, but effective, allowing plenty of vertical and horizontal adjustment similar to the adjustments on the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit bracket system.  So as expected, the Catawba rest had similar ease of setup and simple tuning.  We were shooting good groups and enjoying the rest within just a few minutes.     

Oddly enough, getting the rest installed and shooting properly wasn't really our goal.  Given the initial look of the design, we rather expected the Catawba rest would be equivalent to the Whisker Biscuit in basic performance.  What we really wanted to know was if the Catawba design was going to outperform the Whisker Biscuit, particularly in the three problem areas where the Whisker Biscuit struggles?  So we focused on three essential tests.
  • Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest cause fletching damage?
  • Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest make less noise than the Whisker Biscuit?
  • Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest have less effect on arrow velocity?



By far, the #1 complaint from Whisker Biscuit owners is fletching damage.  It's a pesky issue that Whisker Biscuit has addressed to limited success over the years.  Whisker Biscuit owners often report that after repeated shooting, vanes begin to have a warped or wavy appearance.  Of course, this isn't the end of the world.  Arrows can always be refletched, and in many cases wavy vanes can be straightened back up with a little heat treatment.  But it's a hassle most shooters would rather avoid all together.  So any real improvement on the Whisker Biscuit design would begin with eliminating this disadvantage.    
To see if the new Catawba rest could outperform the Whisker Biscuit on fletching damage, we prepared two identical test arrows for a little field test.  To make sure we could get plenty of speed (and maximum vane damage potential) we selected some lightweight arrows, two Easton Lightspeed 400's w/4" Offset Vanes, 337 grains total weight.  

We then installed the new Catawba Still Shot arrow rest on a 2007 Fred Bear Truth (29"/63#) and stepped onto the shooting range.  With the help of a runner, our staff shooter took exactly 50 shots with the same arrow.  When the cycle was complete, we carefully labeled the arrow and set it aside.

After a little rest break, we removed the Catawba rest and installed a Deluxe Quikshot Whisker Biscuit and repeated the test with our second arrow.  Again, our staff shooter took exactly 50 shots using the same arrow.  When the cycle was complete we carefully labeled that arrow as well.

When all finished, we placed the two arrows side-by-side and photographed them.  The photo below has been clipped to size, but is unedited.  This is exactly how they appeared after our test.    

RESULTS:  After 50 shots, the Catawba test arrow exhibits little or no vane damage.  Clearly the vanes of the test arrow have avoided contact with the brushes, blocks, and housing of the Still Shot arrow rest.  In contrast, the vanes on the Whisker Biscuit test arrow are beginning to exhibit some early degradation.  

PERSPECTIVE:  Keep in mind that our test indicates a worst-case scenario (soft offset vanes, fast bow, brand new Whisker Biscuit, etc.).  Also note that minor vane degradation doesn't automatically equal poor arrow flight.  A small wave in a vane, as in the photo above, would have a negligible effect on performance.  So in many cases, vane degradation from the Whisker Biscuit is more of a cosmetic irritant than an actual detriment to performance.  Nonetheless, it drives some bowhunters nuts.  If you want containment without the wrinkles, the no-contact design of the Catawba Still Shot may be for you.

While the Whisker Biscuit certainly isn't a "noisy" rest compared to most, it is often criticized for the "ssshhhrrrip" noise the vanes make as they penetrate the biscuit (at the shot).  So to see if the Catawba rest would generate less noise, we fired-up our Center322 Sound Level Meter for a quick test.

In order to make our test results reflect the sound of the actual arrow rests, rather then overall noise of the bow or the sound of the arrow impacting the target, we decided to conduct our test by positioning the dB meter's microphone just 1 inch from the arrow rest, held at 90º from the vertical axis of the bow.  This allowed us to isolate the sound of the arrow penetrating/clearing the rest.  
Using our 2007 Fred Bear Truth (29/63#) and 10 more identical new Easton Lightspeed arrows, we conducted our sound test. 

Distance from Source = 1 Inch

Our dB readings (weighted dBA actually) indicate the amount of noise you would perceive if you held your ear 1 inch from the arrow rest when the bow fires (don't try that at home).  With the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit still installed from our previous test, we captured a peak dBA reading from it first.
As you can see, the sound of the vanes clearing the Whisker Biscuit generated a peak noise level of 95.4 dBA at 1 inch. (view full screen shot).  

We then removed the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit and installed the Catawba Still Shot back on our Fred Bear Truth.  No other adjustments were made to any of the bow's settings, the environment, the shooter, etc.  All variables except the arrow rest remained the same.  

With our remaining 5 arrows, we repeated the test for the Catawba Still Shot.  As you can see from the software screen shot, the peak noise level for the Catawba rest was only 91.7 dBA (median of the 5 attempts).
RESULTS:  As a matter of direct comparison, our results indicate that the Catawba rest generated 3.7dBA less than the Whisker Biscuit.  However, be advised that this is no small difference.  A jump from 95.4 dB to 91.7 dB is NOT a 4% decrease.  The dB scale is logarithmic, so a 3.7 dB decrease is more than a 50% reduction in total noise.  To learn more about dB fundamentals, view this article.   

  Keep in mind that our test was conducted with a very close proximity to the source, so the results are a little deceptive.  A 90+ dB sound is generally considered very loud (lawn mower, kitchen blender, heavy truck, etc.) but that's at distances from source of about 1 meter.  Our measurements were taken at just 1 inch from the source.  So be advised that we're not suggesting any arrow rest makes as much noise as a lawn mower.  Sound intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance away from the source (more).  So give or take, the measured sound level would drop six decibels with each doubling of the distance from the source.  Therefore, if we measured our arrow rest noises at the standard distance of 1 meter instead of 1 inch, the readings would be in the 60's rather than the 90's.  However, at a distance of 1 meter, our device would detect the overall noise of the entire bow rather than an isolated sound of one component (arrow rest).  So a close proximity measurement was more appropriate for this particular test. 

The final test is a simple arrow speed test.  Critics of the Whisker Biscuit often claim that it wastes some arrow speed.  We tested this claim years ago and found it to be true, but usually only to the tune of about 2-3 fps - not exactly a deal breaker.  Of course, given the design of the Whisker Biscuit bristles, some loss of speed due to friction is to be expected.  But will the Catawba rest do better?  If the Catawba Still Shot can provide the same arrow containment without the arrow speed reduction, that only makes it more appealing.  After all, when it comes to arrow speed, every little bit helps.
So to get this test underway, we powered up our Easton Bow Force Mapping System and set the chronograph in place.  Again, we called on our test bow, the 2007 Fred Bear Truth and chose an arrow from our Easton Lightspeed test set.  The bow was still set for 29"/63# and our total arrow mass was 337 grains (5.34 gpp).  Our bow had the Catawba rest still installed from the sound test, so we started there.  We fired 5 shots and saved the results.  We then removed the Catawba rest, installed the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit, and took another 5 shots with the exact same arrow.  All other conditions remained the same during the 10 shot sequence.  The only thing we changed was the arrow rest.  Our results were as follows:
CHRONOGRAPH TEST Shot 1 Shot 2 Shot 3 Shot 4 Shot 5 Average
Catawba Still Shot 283.6 283.8 283.6 283.5 283.8

283.7 fps

Deluxe Whisker Biscuit 280.2 280.5 279.8 280.5 280.5

280.3 fps

RESULTS:  The Catawba rest tested an average of 3.4 fps faster than the Whisker Biscuit.  Obviously the lack of fletching contact on the Catawba rest means less friction and loss of arrow velocity.

  Unlike the quirky dB scale, velocity ratings are pretty simple and linear.  So the 3.4 fps average represents only a 1% improvement in arrow velocity.  And if we convert that to more familiar mph units, we can say that using our test bow, the arrow cleared the rest going 2.3 mph faster with the Catawba rest compared to the Whisker Biscuit.  Will that make the critical difference on your next big hunt?  Probably not.  But the Catawba rest does not seem to have the same negative effect on arrow velocity as the Whisker Biscuit.  In fact, we repeated this same test with a simple QuikTune prong rest (out of pure curiosity) and got about the same average (283.9) as with the Catawba rest.        

OVERALL PERFORMANCE:  It appears the Catawba Still Shot has some impressive potential.  As a matter of performance, it seems to be equal to the Whisker Biscuit in most areas and manages to exceed it in others.  It installs easily, tunes well, it's convenient to load and shoot, and delivers a consistent shot.  Better yet, it's quieter and faster than the popular Whisker Biscuit and it does it all without damaging your fletching.  So it that it?  Can we declare that the Whisker Biscuit has been bested at its own game?  Well.....not just yet.   


Our initial nit-pick to this design was about the choice of material.  You may have noticed from the photos that the Catawba rest isn't machined aluminum like most other arrow rests.  Since the housing isn't made of metal, we assumed it was just simple plastic.  However, it appears we don't know much about polymers.  After Catawba designer, Kevin Yoder, bristled at our suggestion that the Still Shot rest was a "cheap plastic Whisker Biscuit knock-off" we got quite a lecture on the process.  Turns out that the housing and windage bracket are actually made of a high-density injection molded fiberglass-filled nylon polymer (say that three times fast).  It also turns out this choice of material wasn't selected for improving production costs, but rather because the material is immensely strong, lightweight, and doesn't conduct vibration like machined metal.  So much like the polymers used in the construction of Glock™ Pistols, the Catawba materials are thoughtful elements of the overall design.  Of course, we had to try and prove that to ourselves, so we even made an effort to break one; pushing, pulling, twisting, and squeezing the housing - but to no avail.  Whatever the Catawba rest is made from, it's some seriously tough stuff.  We humbly retracted our cheap plastic comment.              
But that didn't stop us from disassembling one for a closer look.  The Catawba Still Shot rest is composed of 15 individual parts (including the 2 brass washers).  The housing, brush blocks, and windage bracket are nylon polymer.  The mounting bracket is the only machined aluminum component.  All the parts fit cleanly (and with impressively tight tolerances).  There are a series of windage and elevation reference marks on the housing and windage brackets to make setup easier too.
BRUSH BLOCKS:  The real heart and soul of the Catawba rest is the brush blocks - custom molded blocks with nylon bristles which are staple set into the block by a precision automated process and then trimmed to a v-shape to center the arrow at full draw.  The brushes are arranged in 8 bundles, separated into two lateral rows.  They are formed directly into the final polymer of the brush block, so they're in there to stay.  We even tried pulling bristles free with some needle-nose pliers, but they wouldn't budge - it's a very tough and effective brush configuration.

The brush blocks are also identical, so they're interchangeable to any of the 3 positions around the housing.  And it doesn't matter if they're installed facing in our out.  So changing them, should you ever actually wear-out the brushes, is a snap.  According to tech folks at Catawba, the brush sets are good for about 10,000 shots (about 5 years for the average hunter or recreational shooter).  Replacement brush sets are available for around $18. 
RH/LH AVAILABILITY:  The Catawba rest is totally ambidextrous.  There is no RH or LH specific models.  It can be converted from left to right just by flipping the mounting bracket over.  This gives archery shops one less SKU to have to worry about (thank goodness).
MORE ARROW DIAMETER COMPATIBILITY:  While the current model will accommodate standard diameter ICS carbon shafts (Gold Tips, Beman ICS Hunters, Carbon Express Terminators, etc.), the Still Shot rest does not yet accommodate small diameter shafts (Axis, A/C/C, Beman MFX, etc.).  However, Catawba will soon be including a simple block shim kit with every arrow rest.  So users will be able to adjust the block alignment and diameter of the rest opening to fit any popular shaft (again, without another SKU).


  Catawba Still Shot        DLX Quikshot Whisker Biscuit  
So how do our two rests compare side by side?  Here are the highlights.


Ease of Tuning/Install:



Ease of Loading:

Excellent Excellent  
Arrow Containment: Excellent Excellent  
Reliability: Excellent Excellent  
Accuracy: Good Good  
Fletching Care: Excellent Poor  
Quiet Upon Release: Good Fair  
Arrow Speed Loss: Excellent Fair  
Ambidextrous Use: Yes No  
Reference/Tuning Marks: Yes Yes  
Total Windage Adjustment: 0.75" 0.63"  
Total Elevation Adjustment: 0.31" 0.31"  
Arrow Rest Total Weight: 679 grains 1392 grains  
Arrow Rest Price Range: $49.95-$59.95 $49.95-$59.95  
So has Whisker Biscuit Met Their Match?

We think this newcomer has a lot of potential.  But will that be enough?  Defeating the reining champion often requires more than just raw talent.  Nonetheless, we give Catawba a solid puncher's chance.  And we'll all be watching to find out if Catawba can use their strengths to challenge the supremacy of the mighty Whisker Biscuit, or if they'll ultimately join the long list of battered contenders who have come before - tried - and failed.  Someone please ring the bell!