New Wave Anchoring
I AM STANDING in the cockpit of a Grady White Canyon 456, dropping baits on the wreck below us and hauling up snapper after snapper.
Then the bite drops off, and I’m about to suggest to the captain that we try a new section of wreck. But before I can open my mouth, the fish start biting again. A little while later they slack off again, but soon enough kick back into gear. The whole day goes like this—fish biting in waves, and as soon as the action slows up, it suddenly seems to get hot again.
I took a short break to grab a bite to eat and sat down next to the helm. As I glanced at the chart plotter, I had an epiphany. The captain has been working different pieces of the wreck, one after the next, all morning long.
That chart plotter shows a zigzagging pattern, moving left then right, hopping forward, then left again, and so on, along the wreck in 10-foot increments. How has the captain adjusted the anchor every half hour or so, with such pinpoint accuracy? Much less, how has he done it without me even noticing?—by tapping a joystick.
The boat’s rigged with Yamaha’s Helm Master system, which has the Set Point function. At the press of a button, the engines (interfaced with the GPS) hold the boat in place. Tapping the joystick commands those tiny positional adjustments.
For the angler, the shifts are minor enough that even with a line down you feel less motion than you would swinging at anchor. This capability far surpasses any anchoring job.
By the end of the day we’ve loaded up with groupers, snappers, and triggerfish. We’ve wasted no time raising and lowering the anchor to reposition the boat, and we’ve been able to work every inch of the wreck far more efficiently than old-style anchoring allows. From the angling perspective, this virtual anchoring ability is hands-down better, period.
This is just one of the new-wave anchoring capabilities you can use. No doubt, many inshore anglers are by now familiar with Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock feature. Again the motor, in this case a bow-mounted electric, utilizes GPS data to hover your boat in place as you cast.
Also, like the Helm Master system, you can make minute adjustments in position and creep this way or that. Then lock in your position with the press of a button. If you have the right Humminbird system, you can even do this from your MFD while sitting at the helm.
Motorguide has a similar virtual anchoring capability in some of its motors, Optimus by SeaStar offers a joystick control with functions similar to the Helm Master, and Mercury Marine has its Skyhook version.
On inshore boats, all of these systems can be complemented with (or in some cases supplanted by) another anchoring technology that most of us use today in relatively shallow water—Power Poles and Talons. These give you the ability to “drop” anchor at the press of a button and stick to your location. It does this without any engines running, and without you fighting an anchor and chain to keep the noise to a minimum. For maximum stealth fishing abilities these are probably the ultimate (an electric motor does, after all, create a tiny bit of prop noise).
What are the downsides to virtual anchoring and pole positioning? From a sheer fishing perspective, I simply can’t find any with virtual anchoring in deep water.
In the shallows, one could argue that with the outboard engine systems the constant shifting of gears could spook fish—though I’ll note that while fishing it’s smooth and quiet enough that it didn’t bother me one bit.
On the electric side, when fishing in very skinny water there are some scenarios where using Spot-Lock requires a bit more draft than you might like. This explains why many anglers opt for one of these systems, but still invest in pole anchoring.
Yes, those poles do get in the way when they aren’t deployed and you’re trying to cast or fight a fish up to the boat. Still, these are all minor prices to pay for the advantages you gain.
That brings us to the final downside of both virtual and pole anchoring systems, the additional cost. Even the smallest pole system, the Power Pole Micro, costs a hair over $600, and that’s just for very small boats and kayaks.
Most of us will spend in the thousands for a pole anchoring system. And those outboard joystick systems can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.
As to whether or not the investment is worth it to you, personally, only you can make the call. Still, having fished extensively with all of the above, my advice is quite simple: if you can afford them, get them. These systems will help you become a much more effective angler, period.
The bottom line? There will come a day when anchors will not only be considered old technology, but an utter handicap from a fisherman’s perspective. Actually, scratch that—this day has already arrived.
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]