Anchoring Your Kayak: What To Buy & How To Use

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

Wind and current will sweep away a small, plastic boat like a leaf in a rain gutter. While you can maneuver your boat to combat the elements, there are times you will want to anchor. Anchoring is a great way to put the pedals and paddle down and concentrate on fishing. But securing a tippy kayak with an anchor can be precarious. Follow these tips to learn how to anchor a kayak.


[This article is part of the Kayak Angler Buyer’s Guide for The Best Kayak Fishing Gear For 2024. Find all the best kayak fishing gear from the top brands for all situations.]

Types of anchors

The trick to anchoring a kayak is to secure the boat with the least amount of weight. A big, heavy anchor takes up valuable space and adds unnecessary weight. Most anglers use a grapnel anchor with four sharp prongs that fold up to fit in the kayak. In shallow water, use a stakeout pole to quickly secure the boat. The best poles are aluminum or fiberglass with a pointed tip to drive into the soft bottom.

For the fastest way to secure a boat, look at a powered anchoring system. To stop the boat, push a button on a key fob and a motor in the stern will drop a stakeout pole into the sand.

Silver anchor for a kayak
Using an anchor will help you focus on fishing.

River anglers anchor in rocky bottom with a drag chain. You can use a two-foot section of heavy chain (7/16-inch works well) wrapped in a bicycle tube or duct tape and tied to a 12-foot rope. Some anglers use a retractable dog leash. With the former method, the chain hangs in the rocks without getting stuck, working to anchor the kayak in swift water. Practice how to anchor a kayak in controlled conditions before heading out into big water.

Choosing an anchor

Different types of bottom require different types of fishing kayak anchors. In sandy or soft bottom, use a folding grapnel anchor. In shallow water over sand or mud, use a stakeout pole equal to the depth of the water. Most anglers choose a six- or eight-foot pole. Aluminum is stronger, but fiberglass poles are usually lighter. It is quicker and easier to use a stakeout pole than to set out an anchor.

Anglers who need to stop the boat in a hurry will choose a powered anchor system. If you sight fish on the flats or float lazy rivers, the convenience of push-bottom anchoring will pay off in that it’ll give you more time fishing. Most river anglers make their own drag chain—see above for instructions.

How heavy should a kayak anchor be?

A fishing kayak anchor should be heavy enough to hold the kayak without adding unnecessary weight to the boat. For a lighter kayak in calm water, a three-pound grapnel anchor will hold bottom. If you are fishing from a larger kayak in deeper water, you’ll want to use a five- to seven-pound grapnel anchor.

Drag chains are heavy enough to sink quickly and stick in the rocks without snagging. A heavy-duty stakeout pole will spear the soft sand or mud and hold a kayak in wind and current. Anglers use stakeout poles in shallow water, so a six-foot pole is long enough without taking up too much space on the kayak.

What else you’ll need

What is a kayak anchor trolley?

One of the earliest inventions in the history of modern kayak fishing is the anchor trolley. Faced with the dilemma of securing a tippy kayak in swift water and wind, anglers needed a way to run the anchor from the bow or stern of the boat. The result is the anchor trolley. A thin rope (550 paracord) runs from midship to the bow or stern and back to midship. The ends of the rope are tied to a small carabiner.

Drop the anchor in the water and clip the rope through the carabiner. Then, like running a flag up a flagpole, pull the trolley line to move the carabiner and anchor rope to the bow or stern of the boat. When the anchor catches, the kayak turns so the current and wind are pushing on the pointy end of the boat.

What size rope for a kayak anchor?

Choosing the correct size rope for a kayak anchor is a delicate balance. You need a rope strong enough to hold the kayak and thin enough to use the lightest anchor possible. Many anglers choose 3/16-inch rope. Too heavy, and water pressure on the rope could drag the anchor or keep it from catching bottom. If the rope is too light, it will cut into your hands or break under pressure.

What kind of rope for a kayak anchor?

To meet these needs, many anglers use a length of polyester clothesline. Clothesline will hold the kayak without stretching. It doesn’t tangle easily and ties a strong knot. Polyester clothesline is round so it presents less water resistance allowing you to use a lighter anchor. Best of all, polyester is water-resistant so it doesn’t soak up water and dries quickly. When it’s time to pull the anchor, a clothesline won’t dig into your hands.

What size chain for a kayak anchor?

Adding a two-foot length of 3/8-inch chain between the grapnel anchor and the rope will pull the anchor into the bottom. This is only necessary with a heavy kayak in swift or deep water. For most anglers, tying the grapnel anchor directly to the anchor rope will hold the boat. River anglers use a 7/16-inch chain.

How long should a kayak anchor line be?

As a general rule, an anchor rope should be twice as long as the water is deep. If you are anchoring in 10 feet of water, expect to pay out 20 feet of rope. The extra scope allows the anchor to drag and catch the bottom. In strong current or rough conditions, let out more line to smooth the ride.

How to attach an anchor to a kayak

Anchoring a kayak is one of the most important skills to master. If the kayak turns sideways in the current or wind, the boat could flip over and the angler might become tangled in the line. To avoid this outcome, learn how to anchor a kayak and then practice to develop safe protocols.

Develop these moves in controlled, calm conditions before heading into big water.

  • Begin with the rope coiled loosely on the kayak deck. Drop the anchor overboard and quickly clip the line through the carabiner on the anchor trolley.
  • As line pays out, run the anchor trolley to the bow or stern. When the anchor hits bottom, continue to release line until you have about twice as much line out as the depth of the water.
  • Hold the anchor rope and let the line come tight. If the anchor drags, let out more line. Once the boat stops, secure the rope in the kayak.
  • The best way to tie off the anchor line is a small, plastic cleat. For a low-profile and quick-release connection, use a jam cleat to hold the line. An important consideration in how to tie an anchor to a kayak is being able to release the anchor quickly and smoothly.
  • When it’s time to pull the anchor, start by clearing space on the deck for the anchor rope. Pull in rope, looping it on the deck, until the kayak is directly over the anchor. Then, retract the anchor trolley and pull the anchor out of the sand and into the boat.

Other notes

Anchoring a kayak at sea

The ocean is rough with swift current and deep water making anchoring a kayak almost impossible. Anglers may choose to anchor their kayak over a wreck or reef. To secure the anchor line to the reef without getting stuck, use a kayak wreck anchor. This anchor features four wire spines stuck into two-pounds of lead. Drop the anchor to the wreck and let the spines catch. When it’s time to go, pull hard and the spines bend back to release the anchor.

Anchoring a kayak in rivers

Due to the strong current, anchoring a kayak in a river is especially difficult. To secure the boat without getting stuck in the rocks, river anglers use a drag chain. Instead of using an anchor trolley, river anglers run the rope directly through the stern of the kayak. This rigging makes it quick and easy to deploy and pull the anchor without risking turning the boat sideways in the current.

Where to store the anchor on a kayak

Carrying an anchor adds significant weight, making it harder to paddle or pedal the kayak. For the best balance, store the anchor in the center of the kayak and close to or under the seat. This places the weight of the anchor closer to the weight of the angler where it will have less effect on the performance of the kayak

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