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December 01, 2021 10 min read

Choosing the Right Kayak Anchor

You’ve decided to give kayak or SUP fishing a try – you’re in for a treat! You’ll want to park yourself in your favorite cove all afternoon, so you can catch plenty of fish. But what if a brisk wind stirs up? No one wants to be constantly paddling to keep in position. You’re going to need a kayak anchor to keep you in place!  

But how do you choose the best kayak anchor? What do you need to look out for to get the best anchor to keep your SUP or kayak in one place?

Lucky for you, we’ve reviewed the different types of anchors, along with all the important considerations, to ensure that you can hold your position in the water and never miss a catch again. Keep reading to learn how you can choose the best anchor for you and find out our top recommendation!

Grapnel anchor on the beach

Why Use an Anchor for Your Kayak or SUP?

Why you should use an anchor while out on the water in a kayak or on a SUP is quite straightforward – they keep you in one place!

You may be casting a line from your kayak, hoping to catch your supper, or perhaps you’re planning a zenful SUP yoga session on a lake. Both situations are made better if you don’t have to worry about drifting off. This is where a kayak anchor comes in handy.

A kayak anchor allows you to quietly cruise into a cove or bay for a peaceful float, allowing you to stay in one place for a while without needing to paddle. This is perfect for a yoga session on top of the water. Anchors free up your hands which is ideal for kayak fishing, allowing you to target fish hiding in the weed beds with both hands on your fishing rod. If the wind picks up, creating choppy water, a kayak anchor will keep your kayak or SUP in one place. 

Perhaps you want to moor up with your friends in the middle of the lake so you can swap stories and crack open a drink. A kayak anchor will hold your spot so you can relax knowing you won’t start drifting. 

An anchor also preserves your arms so you can float without needing to constantly paddle. Just chilling hands-free, without the fear of drifting into shore or out to deep water, is one of the most relaxing experiences.

So why should you use an anchor when paddle boarding or kayaking? It’s simple.

  1. Keep your position on the water, perfect for fishing days.
  2. Relax hands-free with friends.
  3. Enjoy SUP yoga and completely zen out.

How to Choose the Correct Kayak Anchor

Kayak and boats anchored on the river

To choose the best anchor, you need to know what the various types of anchors are. You also need to determine where you're planning to paddle.  

The environment in which you’ll be anchoring is by far the biggest factor when choosing the best kayak anchor. Some anchors are designed to secure onto rocks, while others are made to hold into sand. 

Are you going to be in deep or shallow water? When waves and wind push your kayak or SUP across the water, you’ll need an anchor to hold securely on the water’s bottom. 

  • Shallow waters – you will need a stake out pole to go into the sand or a clamp to secure yourself to a nearby tree (if available). 
  • Deep waters  – you’ll require more line (scope of the anchor) and a heavier anchor to hold your kayak or paddle board in place.

Types of Anchors

There are several types of anchors for you to choose from. Understanding what each type does is important so you can make sure you choose the best kayak anchor for your upcoming adventures.

Anchor Type Best for How it Works Why Choose it?

Folding Grapnel Anchor

Galvanized grapnel kayak anchor

Water: Any water type Bottoms: Rocks, sand, weeds  Four folding flukes open up to grasp the water bottom with a reliable anchor line to attach to your kayak or SUP.  Choose a grapnel anchor if you want a useful all-rounder with great holding power. Grapnel anchors are also great if you want a compact anchor that’s easy to store.

Stake Out Pole

Yellow stake out pole kayak anchor

Water: Shallow, calm, and slow-moving water. Bottoms:  Sand or soft mud A long stiff pole that you drive through a kayak mount or scupper hole, into the sand or mud below Stake out poles are a good option if you’re on a budget or if you only want to anchor down in  shallow water for fishing or other activities.

Mushroom Anchor

Black mushroom kayak anchor

Water: Shallow, calm Bottoms: Sand or soft Mushroom-shaped rounded anchor sits on the bottom and can grasp soft material Mushroom anchors are a great option for anyone who wants a simple anchor who plans to explore waters with a soft bottom.

Drift Chute

Hobie black drift chute kayak anchor

Water:Deep Bottoms:Any Also known as a drift anchor, the chute is a parachute thrown out behind the boat/kayak to catch water and slow the drag. Important note: this anchor does not stop the boat, only slows the movement in flowing water Choose a drift anchor if you're into drift fishing! The drift chute helps you reduce paddling time, but prolongs your fishing time, slowing you down on the moving water

Sand Anchor

Aluminum with corksrew sand kayak anchor

Water: Shallow
Bottoms: Sand or soft mud
A sand anchor is a metal stake that corkscrews into the sand or beach and tethers to the boat/SUP with a nylon anchor rope Sand anchors are a good option if you want something that’s easy to use, and you plan on paddling in shallow waters where the riverbeds are soft and sandy

Brush Gripper

Colorful brush gripper anchor

Water: Shallow
Bottoms: N/A
Brush grippers are pliers that grab onto weeds, trees, or brush on the shoreline with a strong and reliable line to the boat This option is great for SUP/kayak anglers who like to fish near the shoreline and on waters with plenty of brush

Bruce Claw

Galvanized bruce claw kayak anchor

Water:Any depth Bottoms:Soft or muddy  Another folding anchor, the Bruce claw is made of three flukes shaped into a shovel that scoops the soft bottom to hold you in place with an anchor line Bruce claes are great for lakes or streams with a soft bottom but will not work on rocky terrain.Only choose this if you’re kayaking the right waters

Downrigger Weight

Black downrigger weight kayak anchor

Water:Any depth, no wind Bottoms:Soft Downrigger weight anchors are a large heavy ball weight that sits on the bottom to weigh down the boat/kayak/SUP. Note: you shouldn’t use this if the winds are strong This is a great anchor on calm waters, with little wind, and a soft bottom. Choose a downrigger weight if you want something simple and have the space to accommodate

Drag Chain

Black drag chain kayak anchor

Water:Any water Bottoms:Any surface A drag chain works by dragging across the bottom to slow your kayak/SUP down. Note: it will not stop you from moving completely If you want to gently float along the water, pick a drag chain!

For more information about each individual type of anchor, you can check out our comprehensive Kayak Anchors Guide.

Considerations When Choosing a Kayak Anchor

So now you’ve determined the type of anchor that you need that best suits where you’ll be paddling, you can start to pin down which anchor will be best for you. However, there are a few more things you need to keep in mind:

  • The size and weight of the anchor
  • The scope of the anchor (the ratio of water depth corresponding to the anchor line/chain)
  • Anchoring points from bow to stern, or nose to tail on a SUP
  • Do you need anchor trolleys? (A trolley system helps change your direction easily)
  • Storage of the anchor

Red, yellow and blue kayak anchored

Size of the Anchor

Size and weight go hand in hand. However, size tends to be more important than the actual weight of the anchor. The larger the grapel flukes, then the better the grip on rocks or on the riverbed/bottom of the water body.

Most kayak anchors weigh in at around 1.5 lb, 3.0 lb, or 3.5 lbs. The weight should correspond to the conditions of the water where you plan to anchor your kayak or SUP.

  • 1.5 lb anchors are perfect for calm waters while you’re in a lightweight kayak or SUP, and when there’s minimal wind
  • 3.0 lb / 3.5 lbs anchors are necessary if you are using a heavier kayak or when the winds are strong creating choppy water. Make sure you consider the overall weight of yourself and your gear when determining the appropriate size anchor.

Scope of the Anchor

The scope of the anchor refers to the ratio of water depth corresponding to the anchor line/chain/rope. The recommended length of line is 7:1 – seven feet of rope for every one foot of water. So, if the water is 10 feet deep, you need 70 feet of line to ensure you effectively grip into the bottom.

Scope is very important to consider so you don’t run out of rope when trying to anchor down in deep waters. Equally, when you’re in shallow waters, you don’t want loads of nylon rope tangling around your feet.

Anchoring Points

You should anchor your kayak from the bow or stern (SUP from the nose or tail) and let the wind come directly toward or away from the bow of the boat.

Never anchor your kayak from the side!The wind’s direction and increased drag force will increase your risk of capsizing when anchored from the side. 

An anchor can be secured to your kayak in many ways. A clete is a device attached to your bow or stern that you wrap your anchor line through to secure it into position. There are also anchor locks that can attach to Scotty mounts to feed your line overboard.  

Anchor Trolleys

An anchor trolley is not a mandatory attachment for a kayak, but it is a good addition when you’re adjusting to changes in wind or waves while out on the water. An anchor trolley can easily transfer your anchor from the bow to the stern of your boat without completely pulling the anchor out of the water. 

The anchor trolley system of ropes is rigged alongside your kayak and secured to your anchor line. The trolley changes the position of your anchor quickly from the bow to the stern so you can quickly adjust to changes in wind direction.

Storage

When you’re paddling for a long day, you’ll likely have a cooler, dry bag, and possibly a tackle box to load onto your kayak or SUP. Make sure there is enough storage space within your kayak’s cockpit or a storage well on the hull to pack your anchor. 

Many anchors will come with a convenient storage bag, to prevent scratching your kayak’s hull during transport, and also keep your anchor parts together when on land.

How to Attach an Anchor to a Kayak

two blue kayak docked and anchored

Attaching an anchor to a kayak isn’t as complicated as it first seems. You may encounter different methods of attachment depending on what type of anchor you go for. However, most styles of anchor use a carabiner clip and J-hook for ease of use and as a safe quick release mechanism in case of emergency.

If you’re using an anchor with a SUP, you should have some D-ring attachment points on your deck to attach your anchor to. All of the inflatable paddle boards in the GILI range include several D-ring attachment points across the boards, perfect for using an anchor to stay in place.

The most important thing to remember is to attach your kayak anchor at either the bow or the stern. This will reduce your chance of capsizing. Ideally, you should anchor with your anchor line with the wind coming straight toward or away from your bow. If a wind comes directly toward the side of your kayak, the force may tip you over. 

Recommended Kayak Anchor Kit

The GILI Kayak And Paddle Board Anchor Kit is a folding grapnel anchor that is ideal for an all-around performing anchor. You can use this in soft sand, on rocky riverbeds, and even vegetated lake floors. The kit includes a 30 foot rope, snap hook/D-ring, floating buoy, and a 5L anchor dry bag for storage. 

The grapnel is made out of strong and reliable galvanized steel and the rope is high marine grade quality. It’s compact, easy to store, and perfect for traveling.

FAQ’S

🏆 How heavy of an anchor do I need for a kayak?

Most kayak anchors come in either 1.5 or 3.5 lbs. You will need a heavier anchor for a bigger kayak, deeper water, and if it is a windy day on choppy water.

Be sure to also consider the weight of your tackle, cooler, and additional gear when deciding on the appropriate anchor. A grapnel anchor of the appropriate weight will provide the most secure hold in most environments.


👍 What is the best anchor system for a kayak?

No matter how you attach your anchor to your kayak, ensure it is attached to either the bow or stern to prevent capsizing. An anchor can be attached to an anchor clete or attachment system with D-rings or metal clips.

An anchor trolley allows you to transfer your anchor from the bow to the stern in response to a change in conditions. The trolley consists of a rope system alongside your kayak and you anchor slides easily without the need to pull it all the way out of the water.


🏝️ How do I choose a kayak anchor?

When choosing a kayak anchor, consider where you will be fishing. If you are going to be in two feet of water along the beach, you might only need a stake out pole to secure your position.

If you’re going to be fishing along the rocky incline by a dam, you’ll want a more reliable grapnel anchor to grasp the rocks without the risk that your kayak will drift in the wind.

When choosing the best kayak anchor, also consider the length of the rope included, and if there’s a buoy or attachment clips. A grapnel anchor at 1.5 lbs is an ideal kayak anchor for calm waters without wind, but you might need a 3.5 lb anchor for larger kayaks or when battling wind and waves.


❓ When should I anchor my kayak?

There are many conditions to use a kayak anchor for your next adventure. The ideal situation is using a kayak anchor to secure your position in your favorite fishing hole. After you anchor, you no longer need to paddle for position and your hands are free to reel in fish.

A kayak anchor also works well for long days touring down the shoreline or floating with friends because it allows you to rest your weary arms and take a break from paddling.


📦 Where should I store my kayak anchor?

Many kayak anchors come with a handy storage bag to store your kayak while you paddle to your intended location. It can be secured under bungees on the kayak’s hull or within the cockpit of a sit inside kayak.


📦 Which kayak anchor should I buy?

The GILI grapnel anchor from GILI Sports is the ideal size for most any kayak adventure. The folding flukes help it to grasp rocks, weeds, or sand, and they fold down to easily store in its included storage bag.

The GILI anchor works well for kayaks, but it’s also ideal for paddle boarding or anchoring any small watercraft.

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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