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big bend florida sportsman guide fishing tactics

 

Big Bend Florida Sportsman Guide

Fishing Tips

Anchoring Tips

By Capt Ken Roy

When your get anchored right, bottom fishing gets more productive.  “Right” beats “Close enough” every time.  Here are a few tips that work for me. 

Anchoring Tip #1

Swing Your Boat to get on the Spot.

By trimming your Port trim tab all the way down, you get more drag on the Port side of your boat.  This will cause your boat to swing to Starboard.  Trimming the Stbd. Tab swings the boat to Port.  In both cases, the opposite tab should be retracted.

Anchoring Tip #2

Help the Current for Precise Anchoring.

When wind and tide are at odds, you can increase the effect of the current by deploying both tabs as far down as possible.  The added drag caused by the trim tabs may be enough to allow you to get anchored right under otherwise bad anchoring conditions.

Anchoring Tip #3

More Drag

Tying a 5 gallon bucket to one or both stern cleats by short lines will give the current more purchase on your boat, sometimes allowing comfortable anchoring on a miserable day. 

Anchored sideways in the troughs and crests is a sure way to assure seasickness among your landlubber friends.  Even the saltiest fisherman is uncomfortable in a rolling boat.  Fore and aft motion is much preferable to side to side. 

Anchoring Tip # 4

Use your Line Chocks

Most boats come equipped with a Bow Cleat and 2 line chocks, one on either side of the bow cleat and generally behind it.  Running your line through these chocks directs the anchor pull to one side of the bow or the other.  This allows you to swing the boat to either side. 

By adding additional chocks further aft, you can increase the arc that you can swing your boat through while at anchor.  In deep water, with several hundred feet of line out, you can sometimes swing the boat a long distance.  This will allow you to fish over a large area without re-anchoring.

Anchoring Tip #5

Steer your Boat at Anchor with Rudder of Lower Unit Angle.

When the current is controlling your boat’s position at anchor, you can often swing the boat a few yards to one side or the other by steering your lower unit or rudder.  This can also be used to control how the boat drifts when drift fishing.

Anchoring Tip #6

Fairleads

Basically, a fairlead is a device to control the direction a line is going. Your anchor line, for instance.

A "Fairlead" can be as simple as one of the uprights on your bow rail. A bow chock is an example of a useful fairlead. By using the chocks to direct the line between your mooring bit and your anchor, you can swing your boat several degrees from side to side. On several boats I have owned, I have added multiple chocks to get varying degrees of swing for more precise anchoring. With a lot of scope, you can easily swing a boat 100' in each direction with bits placed 6 or more feet aft of your mooring bit.


Fairleads are important if you choose to anchor and haul from the cockpit rather than hauling from the bow. This is especially true when using an anchor ball. I use a stainless window handle on the side of the upright for my hardtop for my first fairlead. The second fairlead is one of my bow rail uprights. Actually, I could use another one right on the back end of my anchor pulpit but never seem to get around to adding one.

Anchoring Tip #7

Positioning Your Boat at Anchor Using a Tag Line.

First, rig a tag line Long enough to reach from your stern cleat to your bow cleat with a heavy duty snap hook on one end. 

To use, snap the tag line snap around your anchor line outside the pulpit.  Haul on the tag line, pulling the anchor line down the side of your boat.  The further back down the side of your boat that the anchor line is located, the longer the arc you can swing your boat through.  When you achieve the swing you want, secure the tag line to the stern cleat. 

As current and wind conditions change, it is easy to adjust your angle by changing the position your anchor line leaves the tag line snap.

Anchoring Tip #8
Setting and Retrieving your Buoy

First and foremost---You gotta know current direction. How? Look at a tide table or observe a buoy or crab trap. If none of these are available, just drop your buoy on clean bottom and determine how the current is running. This will chance when the tide turns. 

My best advice on buoying a spot is to try to drop your buoy on the up current edge of a spot, just off the edge. That is where the best action should be and the best chance of landing fish is there too. The more active (read hungry) fish are most often on the up current side of the rock, reef, or wreck. 

I try to head into the current to set my buoy.  This way, I can be sure I am placing it on the up current side of the rock. With the triangular shaped and very heavy weight I use, the buoy should not move. 

Unfortunately, wind conditions often dictate how your boat will hang at anchor. How your baits will be affected by the current is totally predictable, though.  

When pulling your buoy, approach it from down current. If you try to pull the buoy headed down current, there is a good chance of dragging the weight into the rock and getting it hung. Always try to haul the buoy straight up and fast for the first few feet. This will help prevent weight loss. 

 

Anchoring Tip #9

Before you Drop the Hook.

First, know the direction the current is running.  Two, try to factor in the effect the prevailing wind will have at the time you anchor.  If this is the first time you’ve anchored for the day or since last wind or tide change, consider a trial run on clean bottom. 

Make a quick survey of the bottom with your depth finder.  Pay careful attention to where your anchor will hit bottom.  If you are on an artificial reef, it would be mighty easy to drop your anchor into a spot where it will snag.  Loosing an anchor can ruin a day or at the very least, be expensive and time consuming.

Anchoring Tip #10

Flopper Stoppers, Other Uses

Have you ever heard of "Flopper Stoppers?  Doesn’t that name have a nice ring? I have 2 Flopper Stoppers on Whopper Stopper.                            

 Flopper Stoppers are small orange cones, shaped somewhat like traffic cones with very large lips.  They nest so they can be stowed easily. 

Flopper Stoppers are designed to slow down a boats rolling when at anchor. I have used mine that way exactly once. It only took a few minutes for me to realize they could serve other functions even better. By stringing them on a short line and Tying them to my stern cleats, I can sometimes counter a wind that is overcoming the current.   This makes King fishing so much easier.                          

Stringing both of them on the same line, several feet apart and attaching them to one cleat, I can often swing the boat a few yards. Sometimes that is all it takes to really get on the fish.  

Flopper Stoppers also make a great, light duty sea anchor. Two will definitely hold your bow into the wind while drift fishing. One hint here; keep your line short enough so that they cannot reach your prop in the event you forget to pull them in before starting to run. You will definitely know they are out because they make a helluva drag at 40kts.

Anchoring Tip #11

Hauling Your Buoy, FAST!

Sometimes you need to get your buoy in fast when somebody is running up to get your spot or you spot a school of fish tearing the water up a quarter mile away.

Believe me, casting a rig with a circle hook is not the easy way to do it. A one ounce sinker with a couple of 2/0 hooks above it on a heavy spinning rod will get the job done faster than any method I can think of.

Cast a few feet up current of your buoy and allow the rig to sink a few feet then just reel it in. Most of the time I am anchored within 15' of my buoy so it is a mighty easy job.

This sure beats having to haul the anchor then go back and pull the buoy.

 

Anchoring Tip # 12

An Alternative to a Thimble for your Anchor Line


I can usually splice a decent "Eye Splice" but I often have a hard time splicing in a thimble. I am rigging a new rode and instead of using a thimble, I made a short eye splice in my line. I poked the double line through the top link in my chain and then dropped the chain through the loop. This made a neat and strong connection. I'll check it occasionally and re-splice as needed.

 

Anchoring Tip # 13

Quick Release Anchor Knot

If you fish in an area where anchoring is a little hazardous, or when you fish for large and strong fish and need to follow them in a hurry, this is a knot you need to know.   

In the illustrations below, the anchor will be at the eye splice and there will be a float on the other end of the line.  It was raining this morning so I had to improvise for the illustration.  The PVC pipe hanger serves as a bow eye for illustration purposes.  I shot the pics in Sharon’s Kitchen.   

Here is how to tie the QUICK RELEASE KNOT. 

First, grasp the anchor line and pass it doubled through the bow eye as shown below.

Next, grasp the line on the other side of the bow eye and double it then pass it through the loop formed in the previous step.

The QUICK RELEASE KNOT is completely tied in the above step.  The pic below shows the knot cinched up but not completely tightened.

The loose line in the foreground has a float on the top end.  By pulling on the float end, the knot unties and you can get away from your anchor in an instant. 

 

Anchoring Tip #14

Make a Cheap Small Boat Anchor

If you need a cheap small boat anchor, fill a ½ gallon plastic container with concrete.  A rectangular container works best because it will not roll around in your boat.  Heavy gauge plastic containers will prevent scrapes in your boat for a long time. 

I poured my last anchor in a 100 oz fabric softener bottle.  After pouring, I tied a knot in the end of a piece of ½ inch nylon line and poked it through the opening of the jug and all the way to the bottom.  I put an eye splice in the other end of the ½” line to tie my anchor line too. 

 

Anchoring Tip #15

What to do with the Bitter End of the Anchor Line

It is surprising how often this question has been posted here.  Capt. K says it is amazing how many anchors he finds with the entire anchor line attached which indicates that some folks don’t secure the bitter end. 

For your main anchor, definitely secure the bitter end.  Most often, I have secured mine to the threaded rod that goes to the bow lifting ring.  Some boats have a permanently installed line tie bit inside the anchor locker.  Generally, the anchor line goes from this tie inside the anchor locker, through a “Hawse Pipe,” through the windlass or out through an anchor pulpit. 

If your boat has a hawse pipe but lacks a place for a secure connection inside the anchor locker, tie a large knot (too large to fit through the hawse pipe) in the bitter end of the anchor line. 

A quick release anchor should have a float on the bitter end of the line.  Store a quick release anchor line in a 5 gallon bucket with drain holes or in a basket. 

 

Anchoring tip #16

Anchoring a Small Boat in Rough Water

If you must anchor a small boat in rough water, try to use your bow eye as the tie off point for your line.  The lower line angle reduces the pull against the cleat.  This is the perfect place to use the QUICK RELEASE KNOT.   I don’t think I would want my anchor line tied to where I could not release it instantly if I were anchoring a flats boat in rough water.

 

Anchoring Tip #17

Make a Grapnel Anchor

 I use a grapnel anchor made with a 1-1/4" shank and 4-3/8" hooks with about 6" radii bends. My anchors are made of 316 grade Stainless. On my small boat, I use an anchor with 1" shank and 3/16" diameter hooks with 4" radius bends. 

The key to success with grapnel anchors is lots of heavy chain. The longer and heavier the chain, the less anchor line needed. 

The light rod for the hooks allows them to bend and come free if hung. I use an old rod butt to re-form the hooks after straightening them if they get hung. 

If you use a ball to pull your anchor, you will seldom loose one of these homemade grapnels.

 

Anchoring Tip # 18

A Better Way to Rig an Anchor Ball


Everything I have ever read concerning the use of an anchor ball show photos or drawings of a ball, ring, and about 3 feet of rope between the ball and the anchor ring.

I've heard many tales of guys wrapping their anchor line in the prop when using this rigging. The 3' of line allows your anchor line to slip underneath the boat where it is in harm's way. This 3' lanyard may be the reason more folks do not use an anchor ball.

If you eliminate the 3' lanyard and install the ring around your anchor line, then attach the ring directly to the ball, the anchor line cannot easily get into the prop. The ball slides down the side of your boat, keeping the anchor line on the surface. As the ball goes by, I reach over, grab the anchor line and take one turn around the cleat and there is no way I can screw up then.

Yes, I have managed to get the line in the prop while pulling anchor but I'd bet it hasn't happened more than once in the last 10,000 times I have anchored.

My anchor ball stays on my anchor line 24/7. Yeah, it is sometimes in the way but it is NEVER IN THE PROP.

This is, by far, the fastest and safest method of anchoring and hauling anchor. As far as I am concerned, for single hand operation, it is the ONLY way to fly.

 

Anchoring Tip # 19

Anchoring Using an Anchor Ball (The Easy Way)

I’ve been using an anchor ball since before the red plastic balls were invented.  At first, I used an empty Freon can.  When the plastic balls were invented, everybody switched to them and eliminated a lot of rust stains on their boat. 

For single hand operation, nothing is as fast, convenient, or safe as anchoring with an anchor ball.  Frankly, I think I can haul anchor faster than two guys hauling in the conventional manner.  When I drop anchor, I can watch my depth finder as the boat drifts back and tie off precisely on top of the fish. 

Here is how my boat and anchor ball system is rigged.

Here is how I anchor.  The first step after finding a rock is to determine where the anchor should be hooked to allow the boat to be positioned over the fish.  I drop anchor from the cockpit as shown below.  The engine is in reverse at idle speed.  The anchor ball is not released.  The anchor line slides out through the anchor ball ring.

Continue adding scope until you are about 2 boat lengths from your buoy and then release the anchor ball.

 

 

Secure the anchor line at the spring line cleat when you are close to your buoy.  You can haul or release more line as needed.

 

I always rig my anchor system on the side of the boat closest to the helm.  This gives me a better view of the anchor line while I haul anchor.  Turn the wheel to port and pull ahead.  The anchor ball will begin to track down the Stbd side of the boat as shown in figure 1.

Continue forward and slightly to port until the ball comes along side.  Reach over and grab the anchor line as the ball passes and secure the anchor line with one wrap around the stern cleat.  No way to foul up now.  See drawing 2.

 

Continue pulling ahead until the anchor catches in the anchor ball ring.  The anchor ball will start following the boat, creating a large wake.  The chain will sink when the boat stops and the anchor will stay in the ring as you haul.

 Stop the boat and haul the anchor and ball back to the boat while flaking the line on the deck. 

Use a ball for a day and you’ll never go back to the old hand over hand method.

 

Anchoring Tip # 20

Anchoring in Very Deep Water

I've anchored in depths greater than 400' when fishing for Tile Fish. It is no great problem if you are rigged right. I'd like to anchor on the up current side of the lumps off Venice and fish the edge just to see if it would work there like it does about everywhere else.

A 12/0 Senator with an Electra-Mate loaded to the bars with 200# test or heavier Power-Pro and a heavy solid glass rod with heavy roller guides would allow you to anchor in 800' or more. You'd need a super heavy duty rod holder with a massive backing plate mounted far forward. For an anchor, 2 concrete blocks tied about 10' apart with 1/2" nylon will work for boats in the 20-30' range. Add about 20' of 300# test mono leader in front of the Power-Pro. A 2 pass overhand knot (Stopper Knot) close to the end of the leader will assure that the leader breaks at that point when you want to break loose. You can break loose by putting the engine in reverse and tightening the drag on the reel. You loose the rope and 2 CC blocks each time you un-anchor.

I used 200# mono and occasionally crushed a reel spool as the line un-stretched. If I waited 30 minutes to haul the line in, I never had the problem. With Power-Pro with its low stretch, I doubt seriously if there'd be any problem with winding the line immediately after breaking off.

Power-Pro is avilable up to 275# test. I'm sure it would easily anchor the Contender 36.

 

Anchoring tip #21

Don’t Foul Your Anchor

Before dropping anchor (please don't throw it) put engine in reverse and lower away. Don't just drop it in and let it go, though. Keep tension on the line until you see that your backward motion is       causing the anchor line and chain angle forward.

If you drop anchor before you are moving backwards, you are just asking for a fouled anchor because the chain will fall to the bottom on top of or in front of the anchor and tangle. If the anchor fouls, it walks. If it walks, sooner or later it is gonna get seriously hung.

If you insist on using an aluminum anchor, you must remember that the chain is heavier than the anchor and, of course, sinks faster causing the anchor to flutter all the way to the bottom. You must be even more careful when anchoring with an aluminum anchor.

When you are about back to your buoy, bump the engine into forward, so that you won't pull the anchor loose with the inertia of the boat. This is especially important with grapnel anchors.