Rod Holder Installation Made Easy

Fishermen tend to have more rod-and-reel gear than they have hands, so conventional fishing wisdom might suggest that you can never have too many rod holders. Like most things fishing related, that may be exaggerated, but a rod holder will allow you to convert your boat from a fishing machine to a cooking station and back. Here’s how you can choose and install a flush-mount rod holder for your fishing and/or cooking needs.

Right Fit for Your Butt
Which holder you select will depend on the type of butt on your fishing rods (bent butt, cork or foam grip), where you fish (fresh or salt water), how you fish (bottomfishing, trolling, kite fishing) and the accessories you intend to place in the holder. Be sure the outer diameter of your fishing gear’s butts will fit the inner diameter of the holder tube.

Flush-mount rod holders are made from materials ranging from plastic to stainless steel, and they are available with angles from 0 to 60 degrees. Do some research online and at fishing stores to determine which material and angle best suit your budget, boat and style of fishing.

Be sure that all of the dimensions of the rod holder (flange size, tube length and angle) will fit the area where you intend to install it.

I originally wanted to install the rod holder so I could mount a grab post for guests boarding my boat, but my boat is currently on a mooring at Catalina Island (35 miles from Los Angeles). So for now, the rod holder will be used to mount a barbecue grill. I chose a 0-degree stainless steel rod holder and decided to install it on the port-side gunwale just forward of the boarding area. The vertical position of the holder will keep my grill upright and near my boat’s cockpit. Furthermore, guests can use the post, instead of my radar arch, as support. Eventually, I will mount another 0-degree rod holder in the same position on the starboard side, so guests can board from either side.

I divided the installation into five steps.

1  –  Wherever you decide to mount a holder, thoroughly check the area for plumbing, wiring, fuel lines and anything that might be damaged while cutting or might obstruct the installation of the rod holder. Be sure you have enough space below the installation area to fully insert the tube and still allow the flange to lay flat against the surface. Turn the holder upside down, and be sure the flange will fit in the installation area. Remember, you may need to offset the flange from center to compensate for the angle of the tube.


2  –  Use a pencil to trace around the outer edge of the tube to identify the installation location of the rod holder. Make several passes with the pencil to make sure the outline is dark. Cover the installation area with masking tape to protect the gelcoat. If the pencil outline is dark enough, you will be able to see it through the masking tape.


3  –  To cut the hole for the tube, you need to use a hole saw with a pilot drill bit. Be sure to wear safety glasses or goggles and a dust mask. The cutting process produces fiberglass and wood debris, which you don’t want getting in your eyes and mouth.

For my 0-degree rod holder, I only had to drill straight into the deck. If you are installing an angled rod holder, you will either have to drill a straight hole and then use a file or electric tool to cut in the angle, or drill the hole at the appropriate angle. As you are drilling, observe the depth of the saw’s teeth into the surface. Once the teeth are below the surface, you may want to chisel away the cut material inside the hole, so it doesn’t become lodged in the hole saw. This will also make it easier to continue cutting the hole.


4  –  Once the hole has been completely cut, insert the holder and use a pencil to mark the position of the holes for the mounting bolts. Remove the rod holder and drill the holes using an appropriate-sized bit. Reinsert the rod holder, install the bolts, and secure them with a lock washer and a nut. Make sure the rod holder is secure and flush with the surface.


5  –  Finally, you need to weatherproof all the holes with either resin or silicone sealant. To do this, you need to remove the rod holder. Apply the sealant to the inside edge of the tube hole and into the bolt holes, and then reinsert the rod holder and tighten the mounting bolts.


By carefully selecting your rod holder and planning the installation, you will be able to mount the holder and move on to the fun part of your day. It is up to you whether fun entails bait or barbecue. If you can’t choose, install another rod holder and do both.



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