Fishing without a rod holder can be a major pain. Trying to juggle a paddle, rod, net, and hook remover with an angry fish on your line can get pretty hectic. Luckily, there’s an easy solution – kayak rod holders.
If you’re a kayak angler, installing one (or several) rod holders is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to step up your fishing game. Multiple rod holders offer a high degree of versatility and customization – enabling you to take a ‘shotgun’ approach – with several different lures and baits in the water simultaneously.
Rod holders are kind of like vacation days – you can never have too many! If you’re like me, you might have an unexplainable urge to bring every rod you own on your kayak – now you can.
Quick Answer: 7 Best Kayak Rod Holders
- Best Overall: CANNON Downrigger Rod Holder
- Flush Mount Rod Holder: Yak Gear Flush Mount Rod Holder Kit
- Rocket Launcher Rod Holder: Scotty #479 Rocket Launcher Rod Holder
- Clamp Mount Rod Holder: PLUSINNO Fishing Boat with Large Clamp
- Fly Rod Holder: Scotty #265 Fly Rod Holder w/ Side Deck Mount
- Kayak Crate Rod Holder: Berkley Tube Rod Rack
- Track Mounted Rod Holder: YakAttack Omega Rod Holder with LockNLoad
Why do you need a kayak rod holder?
Besides being an ideal place to mount rods, newer kayak rod holders have several features that make them highly useful.
Unlike the flush-mounted rod holders that come built into most fishing kayaks, many aftermarket rod holders are fully adjustable. They have articulating arms and ball-and-socket joints enabling you to customize the exact angle and direction of your rods.
These mounts also give your rods more clearance than flush-mounts. Your rods will be several inches higher, making them easy to grab when a fish blows up your lure.
As they can be installed anywhere on your kayak, you can pick the perfect mounting location for your height, reach, and preferences.
Top 7 Kayak Rod Holders
How to pick the best kayak rod holder?
With so many different mount types and configurations out there, picking the right rod holder for your needs can get a little confusing. I’ll break down the different rod holder types, plus how and where to mount them on your watercraft.
Rod Holder Types
Flush mount rod holders are the simplest and cheapest option for storing your rods. You’ll often find them pre-built into the decks of fishing kayaks. Flush mounts are recessed into the kayak’s hull, giving them a low-profile and a sleek look.
These mounts are tough, having no moving parts or detachable components that could break while trolling for large fish. The recessed design means your rod handles sit lower than other rod holders do. This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your fishing style and preferences.
There are several downsides to flush-mounted rod holders. They’re slightly more difficult to install, and due to the fixed angle, you can’t adjust the rod’s angle or position.
Deck mount rod holders are fairly easy to install, come in a wide variety of configurations, and are typically easy to remove and swap over to another mount. Many of these rod holders are fully adjustable, allowing you to easily adjust the angle and direction of your rod in 360 degrees.
Most deck mounted rod holders will work with a wide variety of setups including spinning, casting, offshore, and even fly rods. They also typically have a separated mount and rod holder, meaning the rod holder portion can be removed during transport.
The downside of deck-mounted holders is they have several moving parts, making them more vulnerable to damage and breakdown.
Clamp mount rod holders are highly versatile, allowing you to quickly change positions, or swap from one watercraft to another. These mounts are ideal for folks who don’t want to (or can’t) drill into their kayak’s deck.
Clamp mounts make sense when your borrowing or renting a kayak or canoe, or for travel. They also work well for dock and pier fishing, allowing you to free up your hands for eating lunch or cracking open a cold one!
Crate mount rod holders are designed to be compatible with kayak fishing crates and typically come in sets of 2 or 3 rod holders. They’re easy to mount to a standard milk crate, which can be done with screws or simple zip ties.
These rod holders are great for a variety of tasks, including holding nets, flags, kayak lights, gaffs and more.
Track mount rod holders are designed to be mounted onto tracks. They’re quick and easy to adjust by sliding from one position to another along the track. You’ll need to install some form of track system before you can use one of these rod holders.
Some of the more popular track systems are made by YakAttack, Scotty, Hobie, and RAM.
Another consideration to keep in mind is rod compatibility. Most rod holders are fairly universal and are able to accommodate a wide variety of rod types.
Flush-mounted and ‘rocket launcher’ style rod holders are able to hold nearly any rod style or size, while deck mounted rod holders may not fit particularly large or small rod handles.
If you’re looking to stash a fly rod, specialized fly rod holders are available – allowing you to troll or free up your hands for paddling and other tasks.
Whenever you’re relying on a rod holder, it’s a good idea to attach a leash to the rod – just in case your mount fails.
Where’s the best place to mount a rod holder on a kayak?
This really depends on your reach, preferences, and your kayak’s dimensions.
Generally, any rod holder should be mounted so it’s within your reach, and easy to grab in a hurry. The last thing you want to do it tip over your kayak while stretching out to reach a rod!
If you’re trolling, mounting the rod holder in the bow of your kayak makes the most sense.
Otherwise, mounting slightly in front of you on either gunwale makes sense. You probably don’t want to mount directly next to your seat, as it could interfere with your paddling stroke. Mounting in front of you allows you to see any action on your rod tip, and reaching in front is easier than trying to reach behind you.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.