Product: DriftPro Anchor Winch

Made: In Michigan

Michigan Out-of-Doors Credentialing: Must-have for steelhead, salmon and trout fishing

Good ideas are rarely born from thin air; most of the time they are an evolution of someone else’s idea that can be made better, cheaper or more efficiently.

For Michiganders, part of our fishing pursuits often include rivers where fast current and changing topography can make fishing difficult. This is especially true when trout, salmon or steelhead fishing and boat placement/set up on a particular run is crucial.

Enter the anchor winch — an often overlooked but crucial piece of equipment. Some companies like Minn Kota have tried to mass-produce these winches, but they are unable to hold up to the constant beating and heavy anchor poundages needed for big river systems like the Manistee, Muskegon, Pere Marquette and Au Sable.

Without a well-built, dependable winch, it would be near impossible to navigate and try to find the “X” on our swollen spring and fall streams when chasing Michigan’s anadromous offerings. Spring and fall fishing can provide some of the most exhilarating battles and shows (imagine a 25-pound king you caught on the big lake… in a river), but without the proper equipment, it can be dangerous, unsafe and unproductive.

Michigan has several winch manufacturers (Pier Pressure and River Larry) who pioneered heavier duty winches, but it didn’t take long for others interested in river fishing to take notice.

Being skilled with machining and CNC applications, Paul Merdzinski, founder of DriftPro, started to dissect other anchor winches. What he learned was that he could produce a quality anchor winch at a more affordable price. Using his professional knowledge and skills, he was able to create a product that he would stand behind and use on his boat. 

A DriftPro (formerly RiverPro) Anchor Winch in use. This winch includes the tower and full DriftPro assembly.

Merdzinski didn’t venture into this business to make money, he said. He did it to help offset the costs of his hobbies like fishing. These hobbies and time outdoors took an even more meaningful turn for Merdzinski when his wife and he moved to Northern Michigan from Grand Rapids where they now live with their three children.


A DriftPro Anchor Winch is pictured without the tower.

After a few years of pushing winches out of his garage, Merdzinski was noticed by Mike Batcke and Stealthcraft (a boat manufacturer made in Baldwin). Batcke started to use DriftPro winches on his builds and the winch business started to take off.

Stealthcraft boats have made their way across the country and as the business has grown, DriftPro benefited from being the anchor of choice for so many of the company’s builds.

Word of mouth has also driven sales for DriftPro, and it’s Merdzinski’s personality and his down-to-earth nature that make you want to do business with him.

Each winch is handmade in Merdzinski’s shop at his home in Oscoda, MI. The assembly includes a rope, solenoid, relay and housing. Customers will need to purchase their anchor and wiring or switches separately.

The cost for each anchor winch is $800 — a couple hundred less than most competitors. Towers, or davits, are an additional $200. Davits are used as crane-like devices to help move the heavy anchor away from the boat during use and allow reinforced mounting of the tower to the boat.   Merdzinski said not including or forcing people to buy the tower if their boat doesn’t need it helps to also keep the end cost down.

Towers will generally be needed on bigger boats, including jet sleds, power drifters, riverboats, etc. with higher horsepower motors to help accommodate the boat’s size, draft and anchor size. They are often not needed on drift boats, skiffs, rafts or some smaller Jon boats where at most a simple davit might be needed.

DriftProWinches run on a 12-volt system that can be run in parallel to, effectively, double the amount of run time. The company is offering a wireless option for lifting and lowering the anchor. If interested, reach out to Merdzinski at


A DriftPro setup using a davit that was purchased separately. By not forcing anglers to buy DriftPro towers if they don’t need them, the owner said costs savings can be passed on to the consumer

As someone who has spent hundreds of hours in drift boats, power drifters, jet sleds, flat bottoms and Jon boats utilizing all three Michigan-made brands on the river fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead, I can comfortably say that DriftPro winches get the job done.

Currently, I am in the process of building a new boat for my fishing and hunting adventures, and a DriftPro winch will ride up front helping to stop me on a dime when needed. Please let me know if you have any questions, and Paul will also be happy to answer any questions. You can reach him by emailing him at or by messaging the DriftPro Facebook page.

Please consult the Michigan Boater’s Safety handbook, and learn the marine laws in our state. Please wear a lifejacket and boat responsibly.

Our world-class fishery provides endless opportunities throughout Michigan’s four seasons to enjoy river fishing for coldwater, warmwater and cool water species.