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Installing an anchor system for a kayak

Craig Vertigan
One of the most useful things to aide fishing from a kayak is an anchor system. I say "anchor system" rather than just "anchor" since an anchor on its own attached to a kayak can be dangerous and a sure fire way to tip yourself out of your kayak.
You may be able to get away with attaching an anchor to the side of your kayak in perfectly calm conditions, but generally in those conditions you wouldn't need an anchor anyway. But an anchor tethered to the side of your kayak in waves is asking for trouble. A kayak is designed to tackle waves head on at the bow or from behind from the stern. To have waves hit you from the side is to risk capsize. This is even more so the case when you are tethered by an anchor and therefore can't go with the flow of the wave.
This is why kayak fishermen use an "anchor trolley" as the system for securing the anchor to their kayak. An anchor trolley is simply a rope pulley system for attaching the anchor line and then positioning it anywhere between the stern or the bow. This then allows you to position your kayak to face oncoming waves, or sit in the current correctly.
Some kayaks such as my Ocean Kayak Prowler have built in screw in lugs to attach deck eyes for the purpose of building an anchor trolley. An anchor kit is also available from Oceam Kayaks. Other kayaks have enough deck eyes along their sides already, which you can use for attaching your trolley. If your kayak doesn't have the required deck eyes in the position you want them, then you will need to drill holes and attach them where needed. If you need to drill holes to place bolts through, then it is recommended that you apply some silicon sealant to make the connection fully waterproof.
The anchor trolley I installed on my kayak goes all the way from the stern to the bow. I generally use it in the stern position, so that the anchor line isn't in the way of my fishing line. But there are times when I may choose to position it at the bow, to see all oncoming waves for example.
You can find everything you need to make your anchor trolley at your local chandlery. You'll need about 6 metres of 4 mm low stretch rope to form the loop from stern to bow and back again. You may need more or less depending on the length of your kayak, or whether you are going to make it go the full length of your kayak or just from the cockpit to the stern. You'll need a couple of deck loops to attach it to. If, like me, you want it to be removable then you'll need a couple of carabineers for attaching the trolley to the deck loops. I use a couple of heavy duty ones to attach it to the deck loops and a couple of small ones to act as guides for the top line, which I attach to the running deck line. This makes the trolley a bit tidier, keeping the rope out of my way.
To get your rope moving backwards and forwards you'll need to thread it through a couple of roller blocks which you attach to the carabineers. Then you need to join your rope onto either side of one large carabineer. This one is what you use to run your anchor line through. The other thing to do to finish off the trolley is to attach a couple of clam cleats facing opposite directions on the side deck for setting the anchor line in place. One for when you want to secure the anchor in the stern position and one for the bow position.
The next thing to consider is the anchor itself. It's good to have a small sea anchor for when you want to slow down your drift when fishing for flathead or drift spinning for example. The smallest size sea anchor will do the trick for any kayak. Just attach this to about 4 to 6 metres of 4 mm rope for the anchor line. Then attach a float such as buoy to the end of the rope, just in case you lose the line overboard you'll be able to retrieve it.
You don't need a very long line when using a sea anchor on a kayak. In fact most of the time I only feed out about half the length of line. If you're fishing in a decent chop then you'll want to have enough line fed out to place the sea anchor at the same distance as the tips of the waves, so that there's a constant pressure on the line, making for a smoother ride.
To anchor to the bottom you can either use one of the smallest size folding anchors or in moderate conditions use just about any 1 kg weight object. Many people find a small dumbbell to be the perfect anchor for a kayak. Adding a metre of chain to the anchor can increase the holding power of the anchor. If you're using a folding anchor it's a good idea to attach the chain to the bottom of the anchor with a galvanised shackle. Then lay the chain down the length of the anchor and use a plastic cable tie to join the chain to the top of the anchor. Then if the anchor gets snagged the cable tie should break with a hard tug and you can then pull the anchor out from the opposite direction. When anchoring to the bottom an angle of 45 degrees is ideal. So you'll need enough rope to feed out your anchor to the bottom at that angle. So consider the depths you usually fish before buying your length of rope to make sure you have enough. Also consider getting some kind of hand line to hold the rope neatly and make retrieving the anchor easy.
There is one other use for your anchor trolley. When fishing amongst submerged trees you can use a length of rope to tie up to one of the branches on a tree. Then feed the line through your anchor trolley to put your kayak in your preferred position for casting.
So there you go, not much effort is required to build an anchor trolley and a lot of benefit is gained from having this kind of anchoring system on a kayak. Give it a go on your own kayak and reap the benefits!

Craig Vertigan