The Right Anchor for the Job

claw style anchor on a boat

You’re out fishing. Trolling around. Spot to spot, just waiting for them to hit. Then you get a bite. And another. They’re practically jumping in the boat. You’ve found a little honey hole. Or as my uncle likes to say, “You in ‘em.”

This is just one obvious instance in which you need an anchor. But there are hundreds. When you’re tired of cruising around and just want to hang out, enjoy the sun for a while, maybe hop off the boat and float for a while.

There are emergency uses too: if you can’t start your motor, you don’t want to be drifting aimlessly at sea.

This shouldn’t surprise you, but not all anchors are made equal. And there are a lot of things to consider before you pick the anchor that’s best for your boat. Whatever you choose, it’s highly recommended that you select two anchors of different styles to make sure when you’re setting anchor, you’re staying put.

Types of Anchors

When we talk anchors, we’re looking at four primary types. 


fluke style anchor
Image from Overton’s.

AKA a Danforth, a Fluke anchor plays best in sand and mud and doesn’t play well at all otherwise. It’s easily the most popular type of anchor on the market today because it’s light and folds to stow flat.


Delta plow style anchor
Image from Overton’s.

The wing is technically a variation of the plow. The difference: a plow is a solid one-piece design, while the wing features a hinge to help its response. Plow anchors tend to be heavy and large, though the Wing (also called a Delta) is lighter and among the most popular of anchors today.


claw style anchor
Image from Overton’s.

Very popular, the claw style (sometimes referred to by its trademarked name the Bruce) is an all-around, all-purpose anchor that holds well in a lot of bottom conditions and sets easily thanks to its three claws. 


grapnel style anchor
Image from Overton’s.

A favorite for smaller craft like canoes or kayaks, the grapnel (as you may be able to tell from the name) looks similar to a grappling hook. Four claws (usually) fold up for easy storage and hold onto many kinds of bottom conditions.

While we’re at it, let’s throw in a bonus:


mushroom style anchor
Image from Overton’s.

It gets its name from its shape. Mushroom anchors work well in sand and mud, as those materials fill the rim and help hold it down. While they aren’t great for sea use, they’re popular in rivers (though retrieval can be a nightmare).

Holding Power

The most important factor in any anchor is how well it holds you where you want to be held. Its holding power depends on a lot of factors, but much if it is how well it attaches to the sea or riverbed.

Some designs can hold up to 200 times the anchor’s weight, which is important to keep your boat light while maintaining plenty of staying power.

Weight Range

Of course, every anchor style comes in a variety of weights as well—because boats are not created equal. Most anchor manufacturers provide weight suggestions for different boats. Your boating style matters as well. Will you be setting up somewhere briefly while you’re fishing, or anchoring out weeks at a time to enjoy life on the water?

There’s no hard and fast rule for anchor weight, but a properly sized anchor (read: a big one) can make a big difference in nasty conditions. And thankfully, modern anchors have come a long way in holding power without getting more drastically heavy. That’s particularly nice if you have to haul anchor by hand.

Bottom Conditions

sandy ocean bottom
Image by PublicDomainPhotos from Pixabay.

The bottom—that is, the type of material the anchor is anchoring to—makes a big difference in how well your anchor will perform. You’ve got four primary conditions you’re looking at: sand, mud, rocks, and smoother surfaces like clay, grass, or shale.


Fluke anchors tend to work best in these conditions, where they can get as deeply into the mud as possible (and potentially into whatever material is beneath the mud).


Sand makes it easy for most anchors to hold, though plow and wing anchors are particularly good.


Plow and claw anchors tend to work best on rocks, but any of these holds can be precarious due to shifting.


Smooth and vegetal surfaces make it difficult for anchors to penetrate, which means it’s more difficult for them to hold. In these cases, weight matters more than design.


grapnel style anchor and a chain
Image by 304cina62 from Pixabay.

Of all the other things to think about as you’re selecting your anchor, you only get three types of materials to choose from. Galvanized steel is the most popular, both because of affordable price and good strength.

Lightweight aluminum-magnesium matters for boats that are particularly light or need to cruise at high speeds. Grade 316 stainless steel looks and operates really well—but it’s up to you to decide if the added cost is worth it.

Now that you know all you need to about anchors, head over to Overton’s to find the one that you need.

Do you have any thoughts or concerns? Leave a comment below!


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