Whether to drift or to anchor is a never-ending debate among reef fishermen, but just about everyone will agree that in certain circumstances one tactic or the other may be necessary. Unless a stiff breeze makes dropping the hook a must, how will you determine whether to anchor up or drift around? Here are the top factors to consider:
ANCHOR when there are large sections of reef in a well defined area. If you can “park” your boat over top of productive bottom, that’s usually the best bet.
DRIFT when the structure is smaller, and scattered. In this scenario, dropping anchor can be the kiss of death if you’re just a little bit off-target.
ANCHOR when strong currents or winds make drift-fishing problematic. A quickly drifting boat makes for very difficult bottom fishing as it’s tough to hold bottom in the first place, and if you up-size your weights to do so, you’re likely to become snagged as your line scopes out through the water.
DRIFT as a probing tactic when you’re fishing unfamiliar territory. Then when you discover a hotspot or locate a big chunk of structure on the fishfinder, you can drop down the anchor.
ANCHOR when you’re targeting fish like grouper and snapper, which commonly sit right over the reef structure.
DRIFT when you’re targeting species like flounder, which often are scattered along the bottom alongside bits and pieces of structure, as opposed to hovering above it.
Truth be told, in this day and age if you have a modern fishing machine, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Electric trolling motors with “spot lock” features, which utilize GPS to hold position and eliminate the need to anchor in the first place, are an excellent asset for reef fishing. In effect they allow you to employ both tactics at the same time since you can drift for a bit then press a button, and stick with that spot until the bites stop or you decide to search for greener pastures.