Welcome to this installment of Flylords’ “Small Business Spotlight” series. When it comes to fly fishing and the outdoor industry as a whole, constant innovation and ingenuity are synonymous with the spirit of sport. New products are constantly being released, many of which don’t really meet any actual needs of anglers. However, every now and then, something comes out of the woodwork that really catches the eye and makes one think, “Wow! Now, this is a game-changer”. In an effort to support the foundation of the industry, Flylords is looking to bring a spotlight to small businesses we believe in. Here, we’ll highlight the up-and-comers in the industry we hope to see in every angler’s loadout one day.
For this Installment we are heading out on the river and checking out why Tornado Anchors might be the next best upgrade for your drift boat or raft.
I remember the first time I saw a Tornado anchor when I was on a float trip in Tennessee with a good friend which forced me to turn my head and say “damn, what is that anchor”. It isn’t often that an anchor turns your head as we were used to seeing the same old lead anchors on drift boats. Since I couldn’t discern it from a distance, as soon as I hit phone service, I had to look up this new anchor I saw on the river.
Fast forward about three years to when I moved out west had access to my own raft. In that short amount of time, you have a hard time going on a float anywhere out west and not seeing his anchors on guide rigs and in shops. I got connected with Keith Webster, the owner, and inventor of the Tornado Anchors, and not soon after, there was a very heavy box waiting at the front door.
One may wonder, what makes one anchor different from another. I personally was asking this question when I got my first raft. At first, I found myself picking up one of the classic lead pyramid anchors, needless to say, it did not stop my boat. Whether that was an issue of the weight of the anchor or the weight of the people in the boat is up for debate.
The first thing I noticed about the anchor was the obvious, stacked plate design that sets it apart. While a 25-pound anchor is not something you casually can pick up to feel the quality, you could tell the anchor was well constructed. I immediately slapped it on the end of my anchor rope with a carabiner, I claimed a half-day off work for “research” and booked it to the closest boat ramp.
While it looked great on the back of the raft, it was time to put the anchor through the real test. Lucky for us, the first fish of the day was worthy of dropping anchor. Now, how fast your boat comes to a halt isn’t something you ever notice with a pyramid anchor because it continues to shuffle you downstream. However, we noticed that our raft came to a complete stop.
After the fish was landed, we continued, we noticed the steel plates in the anchor had all moved, showing that the rotating plates on the anchor served a useful purpose in our successful halt. By conforming to the riverbed, the anchor was more effectively able to grab onto rocks rather than rely solely on weight. This gives you the ability to use a lighter anchor than you traditionally would use.
Concluding our experience with the anchor. We took it outside of our usual float, across state lines, and into different fisheries with the same success. I never thought I would be so impressed with an anchor for my boat. Whether you have a raft or drift boat, this anchor is universal.
Tornado Anchors founder, Keith Webster, was kind enough to take some time to answer a couple of questions about the anchors and how this idea came to life.
FL: What is Tornado Anchors?
Keith: Tornado Anchors is a reactive design anchor. The anchor is built using a series of galvanized steel plates that rotate independently. Our design allows the anchor to contour itself to the river bottom dramatically increasing its effective surface area. This increased amount of surface contact creates the maximum amount of stopping power.
FL: Where did the idea for the anchor come from?
Keith: The idea for the Tornado Anchor was born out of pure frustration at the performance of my traditional lead pyramid anchor. The simple solution would have been to just get a heavier chunk of lead! But I am a raft owner and throwing extra weight at this problem seemed like a bad idea. I needed an anchor design that worked better pound for pound. The core design concept for the anchor design was a series of stacked fixed plates. This design would create a “ribbed” surface which I believed would help the anchor have more grab. The design quickly evolved on the very first prototype! When I started to assemble the stack of steel plates they were rotating. It was a kind of Smack your Hand on your Head moment. It was obvious that allowing these plates to freely rotate would only add effectiveness to the anchors’ design and actually be the primary feature that creates its performance.
FL: Why does your anchor make a difference?
Keith: I think the anchor has been this untalked about piece of equipment in the industry. It’s always been an afterthought or deemed unimportant. But when you think about it, it is one of the most used items on your boat! I wanted to create an anchor that worked better. That translates into a safer experience on the water. Our design stops the boat faster so you can deal with whatever the reason is that you stopped. We also wanted to make sure that we didn’t use any lead in the construction of our anchors. It is no secret that any amount of lead in our waters is a bad thing. We feel that we offer a win/win product. It works better & is better for the environment.
FL: What is it like owning a small business in the fly fishing industry? What are some of the struggles that come along with that?
Keith: Honestly, it has been an awesome experience starting this company. I have had the opportunity to talk with and form relationships with people all over the country. I am finding that this industry is a tight-knit group of guides, shop owners & boat builders that truly care about their customers, their products/services, and the environment. As far as the struggles, well they are present, but it is what it is! I guess the biggest concern is trying to keep up with demand for our anchors. All in all, we are in a good place.
FL: What is next for Tornado Anchors?
Keith: Our goal is pretty simple, we want to continue to provide the best anchors in the industry to our customers. And to that effort, we will be adding some new anchor weight models for the ’22 season as well as adding in some accessories such as Anchor Nests, Rope, Carabiners & Swivels.