The Goods on Ground Tackle
Fishermen often regard the anchor on their boat as either a vital part of the equipment or a chunk of metal used as much for ballast as a fishing tool.
If you use your anchor often, you are probably knowledgeable and have good equipment. Those of us with boats that are usually tied to a dock, on the trailer or out trolling don’t usually give our “ground tackle,” as it is known, much thought.
We should. The benefit of keeping the boat floating above a school of panfish is easily apparent but the anchor as a piece of safety equipment is often overlooked.
There are times when deploying an anchor can save you and the boat after a mishap, making proper ground tackle is as important as the “high profile” safety gear such as fire extinguishers, VHF radio, visual distress signals and even personal flotation devices.
An anchor only does one thing. It keeps your boat secured to the bottom so it doesn’t float away. When it works right, that’s all anyone can ask. When it doesn’t work right, it is a problem; once you realize there’s a problem, it’s probably too late.
Boaters rely on one of two types of anchors. The first is a weight anchor. Whether that’s a chunk of steel, a concrete block or some other heavy object, it does its job only when the weight of the anchor is sufficient to keep the wind, waves or current from overcoming the gravitational force keeping the weight in place.
The other sort of anchor don’t rely on weight; instead, they are designed to work by having flukes or shovel-like projections which dig into the soil at the bottom of the lake. These styles work great in sand, silt or clay bottoms. They fail miserably on a rocky bottom.
The “Navy” style anchor is a combination of these having flukes that will dig in but are made from steel or cast iron to make them heavy. In reality, Navy anchors don’t work either way exceedingly well.
If you only boat in one area, you might get by with one sort or the other. If you hop around from place to place frequently, you might need to have one of each. In either case, the anchor has to be sized to the size of your boat.
A proper rope (called a rode in nautical lingo) is as important as the proper anchor, with “Proper” defined in three ways- Proper material: The rode should be made of nylon, either three-strand or braided. Nylon rope is nearly impervious to the elements and is very elastic, making it a great shock absorber for sudden loads caused by wind and waves. Polypropylene and natural materials such as hemp or manila lacks stretch and deteriorate with exposure to UV rays, heat, moisture and will need to be replaced at least annually.
Proper strength: There are charts which show a boat 18 feet long should have a rode with a breaking strength of so many pounds, a 20-footer something stronger and so on. Those are only generalities. A 20-foot bass boat won’t need as strong a rode as a 20-foot cuddy cabin. Better to err on the heavy side.
Knots, as well as splices decrease the strength of a rope. A simple square knot reduces rope strength by 55%, a bowline by 40%. Using an eye splice with a thimble to attach the line to the anchor only cuts the rode’s strength by only 10%.
Proper length: You’ll need more than you imagine. In normal conditions, a rode 3 to 4 times the depth of water in which you are anchoring and a proper size or style anchor will probably hold quite well. A fisherman at Brookville Lake with a maximum depth of 140 feet could theoretically need 300 to 400 feet of rope, though in reality he could probably get by with less. A Geist Reservoir crappie angler (50 feet deep) would theoretically need up to 200 feet of rode, but will likely get by with around 75 feet.
In emergencies, when anchoring in high wind or waves the scope (the ratio of rode paid out to the depth of the water) may need to be 8:1 (eight feet of line for every foot of water depth.).
Anchors aren’t just fishing tools. Ground tackle may not be pretty, handy or even useful most of the time.
However- it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Capt Mike operates Brother Nature Charters out of marinas in Lake and Porter County, Indiana. Check out his webpage at www. brother-nature.com or give him a call at 877-SALMON-5 for more information.