October 12, 2021 14 min read

Yellow buoy and rusting anchor

Your kayak is loaded with your tackle box, a cooler, and the gear for a full day of fishing. Your fingers twitch as they grip the fishing pole and cast your line. You feel the tug, your reel zings with the promise of a big catch!

Just then, a gust of wind blows, and your kayak drifts away from your fishing hole. You grab your paddle to keep from floating away, but as soon as your hand lets go of your reel - the fish breaks free of your line. 

After a few choice words, you lean back in your kayak seat and wish you’d brought an anchor. 

This guide to kayak anchors will tell you everything you need to know about the best anchors for your kayak and the appropriate way to secure your vessel. Keep reading and the next fish won’t get away!

Why Use a Kayak Anchor?

Kayak anchored in the middle of the ocean

A kayak is designed to move effortlessly across the water, and it will move even faster with a current or gust of wind. And sometimes you need to stop your kayak! 

A kayak anchor can hold your kayak in one position while you’re parked in your favorite fishing spot, if your arms get tired and you need a rest from paddling, or if you’re connecting with friends mid-lake and simply want to float. Anchoring your kayak will protect you from endless paddling when the wind, waves, or current threaten to whisk you away. 

You can also use a kayak anchor for other watercraft such as canoes, personal watercraft (PWC), and paddle boards. Have you ever tried fishing from a paddle board? SUP fishing is another great option to access tight fishing holes while having a great vantage point to visualize the water. Some even prefer SUP fishing over kayak fishing!

Types of Kayak Anchors

There are multiple types of kayak anchors and we’ll review the different basic designs and anchor systems. When choosing an anchor, take into consideration the depth of the water, the weight of your boat, the consistency of the water’s bottom, and your ability to transport the anchor. 

We’ll review the different types of anchors, recommend our favorites, and then dive into the best way to anchor your kayak.

Grapnel Anchor

Kayak Galvanized Grapnel Anchor

A grapnel anchor is the most common kayak anchoring system. A grapnel anchor consists of four folding flukes that open up to grasp the bottom of the lake or ocean. It can hold easily in almost any substance such as sand, rock, mud, or weeds to keep your kayak in position. 

A grapnel anchor’s flukes fold down nicely for easy transport and storage in your kayak. Most grapnel kayak anchors come in either 1.5 lb or 3.5 lb sizes.

Because grapnel anchors are the most versatile and able to adapt to most any environment, they are the most efficient and useful way to anchor a kayak. See our list of favorite kayak anchors below to see our favorite grapnel anchors.

We Recommends: Kayak and Paddle Board Anchor Kit

Mushroom Anchor

Kayak Mushroom Anchor

A mushroom anchor is a simple weight shaped like an upside-down mushroom. It is not designed to grasp the bottom, but it’s simply heavy enough to prevent your craft from floating away. The good news is that, because of its smooth edges, it rarely gets stuck at the bottom. 

Because mushroom anchors work by being heavy, they typically weigh at least 8 lbs. They are difficult and awkward to store and transport in your kayak. They work best in calm waters with low wind.

We Recommends: Attwood Cast Iron Mushroom Anchor

Bruce Claw Anchor

Kayak Bruce Claw Anchor

A Bruce Claw anchor is designed for use on a soft river or lake bottom. It usually has three flukes shaped into a shovel-like appearance to dig into the soft ground. 

A Bruce Claw anchor is worthless on a rocky bottom because it is unable to grasp. Although not suited for every environment, it can be a good option for fishing over sand or mud.

We Recommends: MarineNow Galvanized Bruce Style Anchor

Stake-Out Pole

Kayak Stake Out Pole

A stake out pole uses a simple concept to anchor your kayak. Simply stick the pole down into the water’s bottom and attach the other end to your kayak. The principle relies on a soft substrate for the pole to sink into and you’re at the mercy of the pole’s length as to how deep you can go. 

It can be a simple option for shallow water kayak fishing that doesn’t take up much space and is  easy to use and retrieve. While it may be suited to limited environments, it can be perfect for shallow, sandy fishing.

We Recommends: YakAttack ParkNPole Stakeout Pole

Drift Chute

Kayak Drift Chute

A drift chute is not designed to stop your kayak or watercraft, just simply slow it down. A drift chute works like a parachute; when you throw it in the water, it fills with water to create resistance as the wind or current moves your kayak. 

It works well on lakes or large bays to launch a drift chute and let the wind slowly push you across the water. Your hands are still free to fish and your speed slows enough to work your fishing line—a perfect option for trolling.

We Recommends: Moocy 24-Inch Drift Sock Sea Anchor Drogue

Brush Gripper

Kayak Brush Gripper

A brush anchor or brush gripper is basically a clamp that attaches to an inanimate object such as a dock, brush, weeds, tree, or other objects. You tie the other end off to your kayak like you would any anchor. 

Brush grippers are simple, but using one means you’ll be stuck close to a shoreline as you need to find something to anchor to, and if the weeds or brush break free of your clip, you’ll float away. Sometimes it’s a good option to combine with a stake out pole, however.

We Recommends: YakGear Brush Gripper Boat

Downrigger Weight

Kayak Downrigger Weight anchor

A downrigger weight is a heavy ball with a fin that works similar to a mushroom anchor. The cast iron ball is designed to anchor by its weight alone. It can slow down your kayak and likely hold it still on a calm day without many waves. The smooth surface will not cause damage when you pull it in, but it has no capacity to grasp rocky terrain.

It is a crude version of an anchor that is not easy to transport and store in your kayak, and it’s unable to grasp the bottom to prevent heavy wind or waves from bouncing it across the rocks below.

We Recommends: Extreme Max 3006.6729 Coated Ball with Fin

Drag Chain

Kayak Drag Chain

A drag chain is something you can create on your own out of heavy metal chain links and a retractable dog leash. The concept is that 1-2 feet of chain is dropped overboard by your retractable system, and it drags on the bottom to slow your float. 

It can drag over sand, rock, weeds, or rock and rarely gets snagged. It’s a good way to slow your float in a hands-free manner to allow more time to cast your fishing line into the brush.

We Recommends: SeaChoice Galvanized Anchor Lead Chain

Sand Anchor

Kayak Sand Anchor

A sand anchor is a corkscrew style rod that drives into shallow water, sand or mud to hold your kayak. It’s a great option for shallow water fishing, but it limits your location to shallow waters along the shoreline and typically will not allow deepwater fishing.

We Recommends: SandShark Lite 18" Sand Anchor

How to Anchor Your Kayak

Man throwing his anchor while on paddle board

We’ve looked at a few styles of anchors, so now let’s review the best way to anchor your kayak. When you stop the natural motion of a kayak, you want to ensure that you consider wind and water direction before you drop the anchor. If you do not think through the environment and conditions, you risk capsizing your craft. 

Remember the GOLDEN RULE OF ANCHORS: The 7:1 rule of anchors means that for every one foot of water you are in, you need 7 feet of line. It is a common mistake to have too little line attached to your anchor and this makes your anchor rest vertically instead of laying flat to grip the bottom. If you allow plenty of line, the anchor is able to lie on its side an hold onto the substrate. 

When in doubt, always use more anchor rope than you think you’ll need. 

Where to Attach the Anchor on Your Kayak

Anchoring your kayak can be very dangerous if not done correctly. If not attached safely, you risk capsizing, and the possible need for rescue. 

A kayak is pushed or moved by wind, current, or waves. It is important to anchor your kayak in-line with the environmental conditions. As you sit in your kayak, you want the wind or current coming straight towards you or away from you, but not coming from either side. A force from the side of your kayak is more likely to cause capsizing. 

Use an Anchor Trolley

It’s hard to launch your anchor safely from the bow or stern when you’re sitting smack dab in the middle of a kayak. An anchor trolley system comes in handy to position your anchor correctly. 

A kayak anchor trolley is a nice rig to secure your anchor, and can easily reposition your anchor from the bow to the stern without pulling the anchor all the way out of the water. It helps with quick repositioning of your anchor if necessary due to changes in wind or water flow.

An anchor trolley consists of a loop of rope that runs the length of your kayak on one side and is attached to a pulley on each end. The loop of rope is joined at a ring or carabiner, to which you attach your anchor. Attaching the anchor to the anchor trolley ring allows the kayaker to move the anchor easily along the side of the boat by tugging on the trolley rope. This gives you more control over your anchor to safely move it when the environment changes.

Consider the wind direction and flow of the water when you determine where to position your kayak. As the diagram shows, you should avoid placing your anchor directly off the side - unless you want to get wet. In the roughest waters or high winds, you are safest to anchor off the bow as you face the wind. The biggest drawback of this position is the potential to snag your anchor line when casting. Launching the anchor off the stern is common and good for average wind and water conditions. 

Anchor Clete

Kayak Anchor Clete

If you don’t want to rig up an anchor trolley, then you can attach your kayak anchor line to a clete.

If mooring in areas of wind or waves, attach the clete to either the bow or stern to prevent capsizing. Once you’ve dropped your anchor, weave the line through the clete to secure the line and then easily release it when you’re ready to move again. 

We Recommends: Tbest Zigzag Anchor Cleat

Anchor Lock

Kayak Anchor Lock

An anchor lock system attaches to a scotty mount on your kayak. Your anchor line can easily feed through the system to adjust line length. Remember to affix your anchor lock at either the bow or stern and not on the side of your kayak.

We Recommends: Scotty #277 Anchor Lock Release System

Power Pole Micro Anchor

Kayak Power Pole Micro Anchor

If you opt to use a stake out pole to anchor in shallow water, you’ll  want a good system of attachment. There are many pole adaptor systems, but the key is to ensure that your stake out pole is tightly secured to the kayak to withstand waves and wind.

We Recommends: Power-Pole Micro Anchor Adjustable Mounting Base

Where to Drop Your Anchor?

Once you decide on where you want to stop your kayak, you need to consider the wind, tide, or current before dropping your anchor. If you wait until you’re on top of your destination to launch your anchor, the water will carry you beyond your target before your anchor can grasp the bottom.

The more you prepare for your anchor launch, the less likely that you’ll miss your mark. Have your anchor rope attached to the kayak and paddle upstream or upwind of your target destination. Drop the anchor and feed out the line remembering the 7:1 golden rule in regards to the amount of line needed. When you’ve reached the desired length, tie off the rope to your clete, anchor trolley or other system. Grab your fishing pole and cast it out!

Quick Release or Direct Anchoring?

Dog on a anchored paddle board

When choosing an anchor - you’ll also have to consider the safety implications of each anchoring system, and determine whether quick release or direct anchoring is right for you.

With a quick-release anchoring system, you can detach from your anchor immediately and move to safety, should you need to escape the path of a speeding boat, for example. 

A direct anchoring system does not allow easy release, but it might be the simplest option to fish on your quiet lake. With either method, it is a good idea to always carry a line cutter for a quick escape.

Direct Anchoring

A direct method of anchoring is easy to use, but the only way to detach in a hurry is to cut the line. It is important to carry line cutters in the case of emergency to allow for quick escape. 

A direct kayak anchor system attaches your anchor line directly to your anchor trolley system or clete. An anchor reel can also be utilized to control the amount of line released, but it’s not necessary.

Quick Release

A quick release anchoring system is designed to easily detach your kayak from your anchor in the case of emergency. It’s a good option if you’re fishing in a high-traffic area and need to get out of the way from oncoming boats. It also is a good option if fishing in a group and you want to hold your fishing position but easily detach to meet your friends for lunch or a photo.

A quick release system consists of your anchor and rope, a floating buoy, anchor reel, and a section of floating rope. Your anchor line is attached to an anchor reel that allows the line to escape as needed. The anchor reel is attached to a floating buoy that is easy to grab on the water’s surface, and a floating line is attached to your anchor trolley. 

If you need to detach from your anchor in a hurry, simply detach the floating rope from your anchor trolley or kayak and you are free. The floating rope and buoy make it easy to locate your anchor upon your return.

Best Kayak Anchors - A Buyer’s Guide

The best kayak anchors are grapnel anchors. They are lightweight and they can grasp everything from sand to rock. They fold up easily to take up little space in your kayak. The alternative types of anchors might be ideal in certain settings, but overall, grapnel anchors are the best kayak anchors. 

Here is our list of favorites!

1. GILI Folding Grapnel Anchor

The GILI Kayak and Paddle Board Anchor is perfect to keep your vessel from floating away when you don’t want it to! A grapnel anchor is ideal when fishing in your kayak or for SUP fishing, because the four-prong design is built to grasp any type of water bottom including sand, weeds, mud, or rocky bottom.  

The GILI grapnel anchor is lightweight with four flukes that easily fold to make transport in its included carry bag. The bright colored rope and buoy make it easy to find when you’re ready to float again.  

GILI Folding Grapnel Anchor

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Grapnel anchor with 4 flutes
  • 30 foot rope
  • 3.5 lbs
  • Galvanized, Blue, Green, or Orange Coated
  • Great for kayaks and SUP fishing as well as for SUP yoga
  • Stainless steel snap hook/D-ring

What we love:

  • Convenient carry bag
  • Easy to store
  • Bright colored buoy and line to find it easily
  • Works for both kayaks and SUP
  • Durable and will last

What we don't love:

  • Rope could be even longer

Find Your Anchor and Set Sail!

You’ve been schooled on the best anchors for your kayak and the safest way to secure your vessel. Consider your environment, the water’s depth, and consider an anchor trolley. Follow the tips to safely anchor your kayak to avoid a wet day on the water!

All that’s left is to find your favorite fishing hole, and drop anchor.


🏆 What size anchor do I need for a kayak?

The most common kayak anchors will be either 1.5 lbs or 3.5 lbs in weight. The size of anchor you need will depend on the wind and water conditions as well as the weight of your gear. On a windier day, or in water with high currents, your anchor will be tested. A folding grapnel anchor provides the most security to grasp the bottom to keep your kayak still. 

👍 What is the best kayak anchor?

The best kayak anchor is a folding grapnel anchor. A grapnel anchor is the most versatile with four flukes that can grasp onto weeds, mud, sand, or rock. The ability to fold the anchor and transport in a convenient carry bag also makes this a nice option when you’re limited on storage space. We recommend the GILI grapnel anchor kit to use for your kayak or stand up paddle board. 

🏝️ How do you set up a kayak anchor?

There are various ways to attach an anchor to your kayak, but whereto attach your anchor is the most important consideration. You should  attach your anchor to the bow or stern of the kayak to prevent the risk of capsizing. 

An anchor trolley is a great system to attach a kayak anchor. While sitting in the comfort of your kayak seat, you can easily maneuver your anchor from bow to stern with less risk of capsizing. Other ways to attach your anchor include a cleat to secure the rope or attaching an anchor lock.

❓ How long should a kayak anchor line or rope be?

The golden rule of anchor line is a 7:1 ratio: for every one foot of water depth, you need seven feet of anchor line. If your anchor line is too short, your anchor is less likely to grasp the water bottom and you will drag. It is better to release too much anchor line than too little. 

📦 Where do you put the anchor on a kayak?

Attach your anchor at the bow or stern, but never in the middle. Face your kayak directly into the wind/currents or directly away and affix the anchor at the bow or stern. If the sheer force of wind and water comes toward your kayak from the side or if your kayak is attached at the side, it increases your risk of capsizing. Safety first.

📦 Do you need an anchor for kayak fishing?

Yes and no. If staying in one place is not your goal and you want to let the wind and water assist with trolling, then an anchor might not be necessary. But we recommend one. 

A kayak anchor can give you a hands-free way to concentrate on your fishing pole and reeling in the lunkers instead of paddling into position. A kayak anchor secures your vessel when faced with windy conditions or water currents. 

It’s possible to use an anchor such as a drift sock or drag chain, which does not keep your kayak stationary, but slows down your speed enough to work your fishing line. 

📦 What is a kayak power pole?

A power pole or stake out pole is an easy and convenient way to anchor in shallow water. Simply drive the power pole into a soft substrate such as mud or sand and then affix it to your kayak. When you’re ready to move to a different fishing hole, simply pull it up and move on. It is lightweight and easy to transport in your kayak. 

📦 How do you use a kayak anchor trolley system?

An anchor trolley is a convenient way to attach an anchor that provides a safe mechanism to reposition your anchor. An anchor trolley system consists of a loop of rope attached to the side of your kayak by a pulley system. A central attachment ring provides the attachment point for your kayak anchor. 

An anchor trolley is easy to use while sitting safely in your kayak seat. Simply reach over the side and tug on the rope to pull the anchor up to reposition from bow to stern.

📦 Is an anchor trolley necessary for a kayak anchor?

You do not have to use an anchor trolley to anchor your kayak; you can use other attachment systems such as a clete or anchor lock. Remember to only attach your anchor to the bow or stern of your kayak to prevent capsizing. While a kayak anchor trolley system is not required, it is a safe system that can be used while kayak fishing to reposition your anchor with little effort.

Pat McCaw
Pat McCaw

Author, physician, mom and lover of all things outdoors. If there’s water or a hiking trail nearby, that's her happy place. Throw in family and a couple of dogs and it's paradise!

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