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Holding Hard to the Bottom

I’ve found an anchor I can depend on

      Running out of options, I had one card left to play.
     Over the last few hours, I had fished a different areas without success. My plan to chum up a pair of fat rockfish for a weekend dinner was coming undone. The wind had freshened and the tide was running stronger than I preferred. But I had still to try one spot that had saved me in the past.
     As I neared, I noted with satisfaction another boat already anchored, set up and fighting a fish.
     However, five attempts and 45 minutes later, without coming even close to anchoring successfully on that hard bottom, I gave up. I headed for home, dejected and out of time. What was worse, similar anchoring problems had plagued me on some of the Bay’s varied seabeds.
     Why? I had no answers.
     My anchor was a No. 13 Danforth, the largest I could fit into the forward locker of my 17-foot skiff. The Danforth, a long-handled anchor with two prongs pivoting from its base, is the most popular and recommended anchor design for small craft on the Chesapeake. I had upped the lead chain length and size twice over the last three years, so the setup should have been enough for even a much larger craft. I resolved to find a better solution.
     I finally discovered it. Cruising the internet, I stumbled across an odd-looking anchoring device with ambitious claims. The modified scoop-type Mantus comes in 10 models, including a simple eight-pound size smaller than my Danforth.
I called the company, whose representative explained that the Mantus was developed and tested for virtually any seafloor composition. He guaranteed it would never fail me. If it did, under any circumstances, they would refund the purchase price and pay shipping both ways. I wasn’t convinced. But he was so confident that I gave the Mantus a try.
     I began using it in April. Holding my breath the first day as I lowered the setup in 30 feet of water over a hard clay and partially shell-covered bottom, I expected disappointment. The tide was running briskly along with a moderate breeze, and I recalled the numerous times that my previous anchor had dragged across this bottom before finally grabbing.
     When you are trying to precisely position yourself in a chumming fleet, dragging is not helpful.
      Feeding out enough line to ensure a decent scope, I cinched it up and waited for the anchor to bite. I felt it start to move, but within a short distance it held tight, and the line almost pulled out of my hands.
      I had never set any anchor so promptly or firmly.
      Over the next few months on every type of Bay bottom imaginable, that anchor has promptly hooked up, hard. On reversing tides and shifting winds it has never broken loose, another first.
     The final test came last week at the site of last season’s failure. This time the wind was blowing even stronger and the tide running harder. Now a stiff chop added its complication. I positioned the boat, my fishing partner released the anchor over the side, let out some line — and it grabbed so promptly that he had to catch himself to keep from going over the side.
     I’d like to say we quickly got our limit and headed home. The truth is the current, the chop and wind were so relentless that it was too uncomfortable to fish for very long.
     But I wasn’t disappointed with the Mantus. And I knew the weather would finally abate, and that anchor would continue to stick hard and fast wherever I cared to place it. 
Fish Finder
     The rockfish bite continues, though there are a lot of throwbacks. Jigging remains the most popular way to work over the available stripers without deep-hooking them.
     White perch, on the other hand, are excellent with plenty over nine inches.
     Spot and croaker are plentiful but small. They make excellent live-lining baits, however. Croaker have to be nine inches to be legal.
     Crabbing has fallen off in places, so moving around is the only solution.