Close to ten or maybe even twelve years ago I was fishing for shallow water blue catfish on Lake Lewisville with my good friend Benny Roberts of Sure Shot Catfish Punch Bait and he introduced me to the world of shallow water anchors (or what some people refer to as “portable trees”). Benny would take a piece of two inch PVC pipe and slam it down in the front of the boat, place another one in the rear of the boat and then tie a rope around them to secure his boat on the shallow water mud flats while we were fishing for blue and channel catfish on these shallow flats. I immediately procured some PVC pipe and started using them as shallow water anchors myself.
A few years later I was tarpon fishing in Islamorada Florida and noticed a bunch of the guys there fishing the flats with a much nicer version of these shallow water anchors and I did some checking into them.
I used the PVC pipes for several years and eventually got away from them because every time I pulled them in the boat I ended up with a big pile of mud in the floor no matter how hard I tried to avoid it. This results in my clients walking through it and tracking it from one end of the boat to the other and turning my boat into a big muddy mess. I hate washing my boat and rarely do so, usually only for special occasions (when I writer is coming to fish with me, or someone like Barry Stokes comes to film a catfishing TV show) otherwise I don’t wash it much, especially relative to how much I use it.
After a few years of using the PVC pipes, I strayed away from them because of the muddy mess they created. I always kept my eye on these commercially manufactured shallow water anchors but just couldn’t ever bite the bullet and make myself shell out that kind of cash on them. I had narrowed my search down to the Dig-In Shallow Water Anchors but was looking at around $460 for 2 of the anchor pins and brackets.
A buddy and I were kicking it around and decided we were going to find a way to make a good and effective DIY (so it yourself) shallow water anchor and if we couldn’t we were going to research having some made to see if we could enter the market at a much more aggressive price point than the other manufacturers were at.
I set out on a quest to try to find some materials and a way to make a good DIY shallow water anchor and I hit the target on the very first attempt. I have used these for two weeks now and have used them on every different type of bottom composition and in every different type of wind and am thoroughly satisfied with the results, so I am ready to share this with everyone at Learn To Catch Catfish.
The advantage of anchoring this way in skinny water is they are easy to deploy and retrieve and they also keep your boat super still. I am not giving up my Digger Anchors because I will still use them in deeper water and in very high winds but the shallow water anchor is an excellent alternative for boat control in skinny water.
Make Your Own Shallow Water Anchor (The DIY Shallow Water Anchor)
Total cost to make these DIY shallow water anchors was $21 each, not including shipping, I will cover more details on that below. The hardest part of this was getting the rods and they were also the bulk of the expense and I had to order them online. The rest of the items were obtained by a quick trip to the local hardware store. I called all over Dallas Fort Worth and could not find the fiberglass material anywhere. I finally happened on some fiberglass rod at Grainger but when I went and looked at the material it was not the same thing so rather than waste any more time I just bit the bullet and ordered the material online.
Materials Needed To Make Your Shallow Water Anchor
1 – 3/4 Inch x 8 Foot Fiberglass Rod – $15 Each – Vendor: Max Gain Systems
*The fiberglass rod was $15 each but shipping was $32. When I ordered they told me that could ship up to 22 pieces for the same price. I actually paid $16 shipping per pole (I ordered two) but if you could get a big group of people together and order 22 each (or more than just two) you could net the shipping down to as low as $1.45 each, obviously saving a TON of money.
1 – T- Grip Handle For 3/4″ Rod – $9.95 Each - Vendor: Max Gain Systems
Total Cost $25.00
Torch Or Heat Gun
Scissors Or Knife
Building The Shallow Water Anchor
Building these was a breeze it took me less than 30 minutes to make both of them and 20 minutes of that time was waiting on the epoxy to dry.
- Take the T- Handle from Max Gain Systems and cover the inside of it with 3M 5200 Adhesive and glue it to one end of the fiberglass rod. Make sure you push the fitting all the way down on the fiberglass rod.
- Stand the pole up on end (leaning it up against something) to let the adhesive dry.
- Allow adhesive to set until cured.
The Shallow Water Anchor Bracket
I originally planned to weld some brackets to use these but on my first use I found that I could take my Bee Ready Rod Holders that are mounted to my gunnels and turn the one in the front and the one in the back around (facing out) and insert the shallow water anchors through the Bee Ready Rod Holders (watch the video below and that will make much more sense).
I have been using the shallow water anchors this way for two weeks now with no issues. I have a mockup made for a simple bracket that will work on the front and back of the boat but am going to hold off for now to save the additional expense and prevent having to drill any holes in the transom of my catfish boat.
If I do end up making the bracket I will post some pictures. If that is the route you want to go just email me through the ask a question page and I will shoot you over the pictures of the brackets by email.
Update March 20, 2011
After using these for the second full week I have decided that the heat shrink Quick Grip is not necessary. I originally added this because I thought I would need something to help grip it to get traction. I slide one of these down halfway down the rod and used it without the Quick Grip on there and it works fine without it, so that will save you $10 off the price of two.
It has been really windy here this week and these have held like a champ in some really high winds, but they do have a point where they will stop holding. Today I fished in 30 MPH winds without any cover and used my Digger Anchor on the nose of the boat and anchored the rest of the boat with the two DIY shallow water anchors (one in the front and one in the back) and it held the boat perfectly and kept it from swaying.
I have received several emails from people asking if this is solid rod and it is 100% solid.
Update January 2013
The response to the DIY shallow water anchor over the past year has been crazy. I’ve had so many questions about these anchor pins that I wanted to do another update. In addition, Max Gain Systems, the company that makes the materials used for these anchors has developed some new products specifically for anglers ordering materials from them to make these anchors.
First I want to address some of the questions that I have received most often here in the past year.
A: No, I didn’t. I’m still using my Bee Ready Fishing Rod holders to slide the anchor pins through and anchor my boat. I originally planned to build a mounting bracket but after two full years of using the Bee Ready Rod Holder to anchor the boat I just don’t have a need to build a new bracket or come up with something else. When I get a new boat I may come up with another system. I’ve had a number of readers send me pictures of mounting brackets they have built though. If you have a bracket you have built send me some pictures, I would love to see them!
Q: What about the fiberglass rods from Grainger, can I use those?
No, as I stated in my original article the fiberglass rods from Grainger are not the same as these from Max Gain Systems. They are not smooth like these and when you handle them you’ll end up with fiberglass all in your hands. I mentioned this in my original article and cannot tell you how many people have emailed me saying they ignored my advice and wasted money and ended up having to order again and get the correct materials from Max Gain.
Q: Do you need the rubber grips?
No, I added the heat shrink rubber grips when I originally built these and it was a total waste. You don’t need it and it actually makes them more difficult to use because the rubber slides around when you are trying to drive the shallow water anchor into the ground or pull it up.
Q. How deep will these work?
A: It’s going to depends on your boat, how high the gunnels are and how soft the bottom is. With my boat they will hold it rock solid in water that is about 4 feet deep or less. I have not experimented with using them in water an deeper than that because I have not had the need. If you wanted to use them in water deeper than 4-5 feet you would need a longer pole. Max Gain has developed a product that will allow you to join two poles and create a 16 foot anchor pin also.
Q: Can you drive these into the ground even though the tip is not pointed?
A: The bottom here in the lakes and reservoirs is very muddy and soft so a tip is not needed on the shallow water anchor. I’ve had several people email me and tell me they cut the end of the rod at an angle so they could drive it in the ground in saltwater. Max Gain has also advised me they have a stainless steel tip in development that will attach to the end of the shallow water anchor. If you are driving the shallow water anchor into hard ground, mussel beds or rocky bottoms then one of these tips may be needed. I’ve just never had the need due to the nature of the lakes and reservoirs here in Texas.
Q: Where do I get the items needed to build these?
A: The fiberglass poles, handle and joint comes from Max Gain systems. You can order them here or call them at 770-923-6251. The 3M 5200 adhesive can be purchased at just about anywhere that sells boat parts and supplies or you can order it here from Amazon.
DIY Shallow Water Anchor Product Updates
The guys over at Max Gain Systems have recognized all of the cool anglers who see the DIY Shallow Water Anchor on Learn To Catch Catfish and call them to order this stuff. They know that fishermen are the coolest people on earth, especially catfishermen, so they’ve developed some products to help fill the need for the shallow water anchors.
Not only do they work VERY well but they are also incredibly affordable. You can now build a shallow water anchor system that looks just like the ones that you would buy, and you can build them for a small fraction of the price.
Here are the updates on the products:
Fiberglass Rods – These are now not only available in white but also available in black and camouflage. If you want a darker color to match your boat then black will fit the bill (and also doesn’t show “rubs” near as bad). If you are a duck hunter type and are anchoring in skinny water to blast some ducks and cannot have a big white anchor pole sticking out of the water blowing your cover then you can use the camo fiberglass rods and they will blend right in. The camo ones are really cool, but are slightly more expensive.
T-Handles – I originally used a PVC T for the handle for the first shallow water anchor. It worked but I had some real issues with it after a few weeks and they kept coming off. The fit was not right enough so they moved around and broke loose a lot and they also didn’t extend far enough down the shaft of the fiberglass rod. The folks at Max Gain have since designed a t-handle for the shallow water anchor and it is only $9.95. It is way better than the PVC I was using, has an excellent fit and finish and works great. It is well worth the $9.95 and the addition of the handle makes the DIY Shallow Water Anchor almost exactly like the same anchors they sell for over $100 everywhere else.
Joint Tube – If the 8′ length is not long enough for you because you have higher gunnels on your boat or need to use them in a little deeper water then you’ll want a longer length for your anchors. Now you can have this with the 1″ tube available from Max Gain, this allows you to join two pieces of the fiberglass rods together and you can cut the pole to your desired length. I’m thing real seriously about making some 12′ ones myself.
Stainless Steel Tip – Coming Soon – Max Gain emailed me the other day and said they have a stainless steel tip in process that will attach to the end for those of you that need to drive these in hard ground. These are not on the website yet but should be soon.