One of the secrets to successful fishing on the flats and in the back lakes is to cover a lot of ground. Another thing that took me a long time to learn about angling in general is when you should stay put and grind it out, or when you should get a move on and find the fish. If I know where the fish are, and I still cannot get them to bite, either they are not feeding or what I am throwing at them is not appealing. However, If I can’t find the fish, I know I need to move. One of the easiest ways to move and fish at the same time (without pedals) is to drift.
Drifting has many advantages in fishing. First and foremost it allows you to cover ground without using your paddle, so it frees your hands up to fish. Drifting, in most cases, is also almost completely silent. This gives you an opportunity to observe fish in their environment without spooking them with the noise of your paddle or hull slap. This can provide you with some great scouting info on what the fish are feeding on (if at all) and how they are behaving. For instance, if you’re floating across a lake and see a large redfish with his face in the mud, you know that he’s bottom feeding, and you can adjust your tackle/techniques appropriately.
The major drawback of drifting is control. If your kayak has a rudder, you can use it to control the direction of the boat in the drift, but not necessarily the direction of the drift, since you are still at the mercy of the wind and current.. If you want to change your speed, however, you’re out of luck. You need to use your paddle to speed up or slow down the boat. If only there were a device that could slow you down, making it easier to see and cast without tearing across the flats…
Enter the kayak drift anchor. The name “drift anchor” itself is a bit awkward, because if you’re drifting, you are by definition not anchored. This is probably why other names for the device have become popular, such as “drift sock” or “drift chute”. The device is fairly simple, and the design is exactly like a windsock. Imagine a bag with a large opening at one end and a smaller opening at the opposite end, kind of like a funnel. With a windsock, air moves through the fabric, causing it to stand out straight. With a drift anchor, the principle is the same, but using water and not air. Instead of being using to mark the wind direction or for decoration, the drift anchor creates drag in the water by forcing water in the big opening and out the small opening. This drag slows your drift way down and prevents wind and current from moving the boat too fast. This device has been used by large ships for years, but is still not widely used by kayak anglers.
The picture above is a shot of the two Yak Gear 18″ Kayak Drift Anchors that I use in my kayak. There are very few situations where I need both of these drift anchors, so for the most part, one serves as my spare. There are a few things I really like about these particular drift anchors. First is the price. At $15.99 they are extremely affordable. Second, they are made of heavy duty plastic so they are very durable. Third, they are very easy to rig. You can buy the drift anchor alone here or as part of a kit here. Which ever way you decide to go, there are a few different ways to rig the drift anchor. Here is a brief explanation of how I choose to rig mine. I’m not saying this is the best way, it is simply the way that works for me.
First, you will need two different diameters of rope. It also helps if the ropes are two different colors. I’ve used 1/2″ blue anchor rope for my main line and a much smaller orange nylon cord for my dump line. I picked both of these up at my local big box hardware store. Start by laying the anchor flat on the ground and extending the nylon webbing. Using your favorite loop knot, tie the main line to the loop at the end of the nylon webbing. I use a perfection loop for mine. The reason for using a loop and not a clinch knot is that the loop will allow the drift anchor to move a little more freely, eliminating some of the twists and tangles cause by a tight connection. Once you have tied the main line on, you will need to cut your rope to whatever length you choose. I find that for my kayak, 10-15 feet of main line is plenty. Tie a single overhand knot in the tag end of the rope opposite the drift anchor and fuse the tag to prevent it from getting messy and frayed.
Next, you will need to attach the dump line. This line should be the small diameter cord as it is not load bearing. I used bright orange utility cord for mine. The dump line will attach to the small end of the drift anchor so that if you need to “dump” the water out of it to retrieve the anchor, you can do so with ease. Some folks will argue that this cord is not necessary and that it just gets in the way, but being able to dump the anchor quickly has saved me from breaking fish off or turtling several times. Trying pulling in a fully loaded drift anchor, in a swift current, while fighting a fish with the other hand, and you will immediately see the appeal of the dump line.
To attach the dump line, begin by running it through the loop where you attached the main line as is pictured below:
The tie the dump line to the nylon webbing loop on the small end of the drift anchor (See picture below). Attach the dump line with another loop knot for the same reasons listed above.
Extend the main line completely so there you can use it to measure the length of the dump line. Run the dump line down the length of the main line and leave an extra foot of cord at the end so that the dump line is longer than the main line. Tie the ends of the two lines together. The result should look like this:
Once your two lines are tied together, you’re ready to use your drift anchor. For storage, flatten the anchor and lay the nylon webbing back on top of it.
Fold the anchor in half the long way with the webbing inside, then fold it in half the long way again. Fold the wider end down and wrap the lines around it, tucking the tail under to keep it from coming apart.
To use your drift anchor, deploy it exactly as you would your regular anchor. If you have an anchor trolley, use it together with the drift anchor to change the angle that your boat moves through the water. If you do not have an anchor trolley, tie the drift anchor off to a handle or cleat. You’ll have to play around with the amount of main line you use and how far the drift anchor should be positioned away from the boat. In most of the situations where I use the drift anchor, the water is shallow, so I have very little main line out. In deeper water, I let out extra line so that the anchor sinks down a little lower in the water column.
You can also add a float to your drift anchor so that you don’t lose it if it accidentally comes free from the kayak. Yak Gear’s Floating Accessory Leash works great for this, or you can just purchase any old float and rig it yourself. Adding a float can also help keep your drift anchor off the bottom in shallow water.
When you’re done with the anchor and you’re ready to pull it in, simply pull on the dump line until the drift anchor inverts, and then haul it in by the main line. Shake the water off, fold it the long way, fold in half, wrap the lines around it, toss it in your crate, and you’re ready to move to the next spot.
The drift anchor can also be used in blue water applications where you need to create extra drag to keep a big gamefish from dragging you out to sea when fishing offshore. Dropping one or two drift anchors in the water behind you will act like air brakes, slowing you way down when you don’t have something to tie off to.
However you rig it, the kayak drift anchor is a handy piece of equipment that I can’t imagine hitting the water without. It is definitely on my must-have list, and once you try it, you may find it a permanent fixture on your kayak as well.
Got a question about the drift anchor or about rigging your kayak in general? Drop us a note below in the comments and we’ll help you find the answers you need.
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