Sooner or later there comes a time when you just need to slow down, drop the hook, and get fishing. Instead of running here and running there the quickest way to put fish in the boat may be camping on a spot. Under the right conditions anchoring up and carefully straining an area can pay big dividends and is method that’s often overlooked and underused. Good walleye anglers know that being versatile is the key to consistent catches and to be consistent you have to be adept at employing a variety of techniques, including anchoring.
One of the keys to successful anchoring is knowing just when and where to employ the technique. For example; if you’re anchoring when you should be rigging or trolling it will probably cost you some fish in the long run. On the other hand if you’re rigging or trolling when you should have dropped the hook the same result holds true.
Knowing when not to anchor may be as important as when you should. For example; walleyes that are spread out along a slow tapering flat or break would probably be better approached with a trolling or rigging technique. Flat areas don’t generally lend themselves well to anchoring because walleyes tend to spread out and anchoring is so slow that you can’t get your bait in front of enough fish. The exception would be when you’ve located a tight school of fish on a flat or slow break that aren’t responding to other presentations. In that case it may be time to throw a marker and drop the hook.
Another case for leaving the anchor in the boat is just about anytime you’re looking for fish, although not always. Finding fish can be done more quickly with a crankbait trolled through potential hideouts, for example. However, if they’re just not charged up enough to chase down a bait you may have to tough it out and get busy with the anchor and hop from spot to spot, and slowly work the most likely areas.
Anchoring can save the day when you’ve located fish, even if mother nature does her level best to blow you off the spot, and off your game. Instead of saying uncle you may be able to stay on the fish and continue to put them in the boat, even under some of the worst conditions. The " worst conditions " can be characterized by heavy winds and monster waves in the three to four foot category that can send you running for cover. Anchoring under tough conditions like these call for specialized techniques, and for some serious equipment.
In order to stay put when you need to you better have an anchor that can get the job done. There is nothing more frustrating than being on fish and not being able to hold. If you’re not prepared you may have to pick up and head for calmer conditions, knowing all the while that you just left the most productive area.
Year in and year out there’s been a couple of anchors that consistently get the job done, and that’s a twenty-eight pound navy style anchor and the Water Spike, which is a fluke type anchor. The navy style anchor will hold today’s larger walleye boats, like my eighteen and a half foot Crestliner Fish Hawk, and do so under some of the worst possible conditions. A twenty-eight pound anchor gets to be a lot to handle and takes a little work to put it out and drag it back in again, but is an absolute must for staying put. The navy style anchor will hold in a variety of bottom content including sand, gravel, mud, and rocks. Where it runs into trouble is when the rocks are so large that the cracks and crevasses created are such that they gobble up an anchor, never to be seen again. Conditions like this call for a specialized anchor and is where the fluke or blade style anchors really shine.
The Water Spike is designed to hold in good sized rocks and has a unique shank that allows you to back it out if it becomes lodged. If it has a down side it’s the fact that it doesn’t hold well in any thing but rocks.
To be able to anchor successfully under a variety of conditions, you might consider having both types on board. But rather than carrying two anchors and two ropes, try attaching a navy style to one end, and a Spike to the other. Anchoring under the most severe conditions calls for a rope of a hundred and fifty feet in length or more. To get the right angle on an anchor so that it will grab and hold you may have to let out most of that long rope.
A good 5/8 inch rope is the way to go and is a lot easier on the hands than the thinner, cheaper stuff. The rope is an important part of the whole program, and no place to save a few bucks.
Rather than attaching directly to the anchor, a six or eight foot piece of chain between the anchor and the rope will keep sharp rock edges from wearing it down, and potentially breaking it off. Another anchoring aid is a stretchy section which is short piece of rope with a shock absorbing rubber center. That extra stretchy section will help to cushion the blow when you get nailed by a really big wave and keep your anchor in place.
Another necessity is bow cleats that are in the right place, and that can handle the big rope. It won’t take long to find out where you want them, but you could start with a pair on both sides of the bow a couple of feet back, and another pair about four feet back. By simply changing bow cleat position you can drastically change the position of the boat, which is a big advantage when you’re trying to work an area over without re-anchoring.
Although anchoring is a relatively slow and thorough technique, it doesn’t mean you should drop the hook and put up your feet. Instead, you may be better off anchoring up, working an area over, and then picking up and moving only to start the whole process over again. It can be a little work, but it may be the big ticket to the mother load.