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.
Best Overall : CANNON Downrigger Rod Holder
This rod holder from Cannon is rock-solid and built like a tank. Made from heavy ABS plastic, it’s more than tough enough to handle trolling behind your kayak or canoe. The rod holder is well designed, and can accommodate both baitcasting and spinning rods of different lengths.
The rod holder locks into the mounting bracket with a functional and simple locking bar. It’s a bit tough to remove the rod holder from the base at first, but the mechanism loosens up over time.
The rod holder can be adjusted in any direction with the spring-loaded tension bar. They can be mounted vertically or horizontally, making them versatile and useful for a variety of applications.
Keep in mind that mounting hardware does not come included, so you’ll need a few bolts, nuts and washers.
- 360-degree base can be either top or side-mounted
- Tough, well-made hardware – will last for years
- Works well with trolling, baitcasting and spinning reel setups
- Mounting bracket attachment is solid and sturdy
Flush Mount Rod Holder: Yak Gear Flush Mount Rod Holder Kit
If a traditional flush-mounted rod holder is what you’re after, then you’ll have a hard time beating this one. Yak Gear’s flush mount kit includes everything you need to mount it, including hardware, installation instructions, and a drilling template.
The design features an integrated pad eye, which allows you to easily add a leash to your fishing pole. It’s also completely sealed, preventing water from leaking out the bottom and into your kayak hull.
The rod holder requires a 4” x 4” inch flat space for installation, as well as enough internal clearance to accommodate the 8.5” rod holder.
Installation can be performed with the included bolts/screws, or rivets if you don’t have access to the hull’s interior.
- Comes with everything you need to mount – hardware, template, and instructions
- Integrated pad eye allows easy rod leash attachment
- Sealed bottom prevents water from leaking into the hull
- 5-inch internal length works well for most rods
Rocket Launcher Rod Holder: Scotty #479 Rocket Launcher Bottom Pivot Rod Holder
This fully adjustable, 360-degree swivel rod holder is simple but highly effective. It’s a ‘rocket launcher’ style rod holder, which means it’s an open tube capable of accommodating almost any rod type. The tube and mount construction are top-notch and work well for trolling.
With an inner diameter of 1.7”, and a length of 9”, the reinforced nylon composite tube is tough and versatile. It also works well as a flag pole or net holder when set up vertically.
Keep in mind that no mount comes included, so make sure to pick up one of Scotty’s flush or deck mounts for it. If you have more than one watercraft, you can install mounts on both and easily swap out the rod holder between them.
- Rocket launcher tube rod holder is simple but effective
- Can accommodate any rod type
- Tube also works well as flag pole/fishing net holder
- Mount doesn’t come included
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Clamp Mount Rod Holder: PLUSINNO Fishing Boat Rods Holder with Large Clamp
These clamp mounts are the perfect solution if you don’t want to drill into your kayak, canoe, or jon boat. They’re lightweight, tough, and easy to swap from one location to another.
The clamp itself is strong and easy to deploy. You can change where the rod holder attaches to the clamp, allowing you to clamp it in a variety of tight spots.
The rod holder is 360° adjustable and can accommodate spinning, casting, and spincast rod handles. It also works well for dock or pier fishing.
While the clamp mount is sturdy enough for light trolling, don’t expect to use it for heavy trolling applications.
Available in a 2-pack, 1-pack, as well as a variety of clamps and mounting options, you can easily find the ideal solution for you.
- 360° adjustable, lightweight, well-made, and highly versatile
- Perfect solution if you don’t want to drill into your kayak’s hull
- Rod holder position can be moved on the clamp
- Also works well for dock and pier fishing
Fly Rod Holder: Scotty #265 Fly Rod Holder w/ Side Deck Mount
Just like Scotty’s other rod holders, this fly rod holder is well-made and tough as nails. It’s ideal for trolling or freeing up your hands when you’re fly fishing from a kayak or canoe.
The major difference between a typical rod holder and this one is the rubber strap used to secure your fly rod. Without it, your rod would end up in the drink!
The included mounting bracket can either be side mounted or deck mounted, giving you versatile mounting options.
Keep in mind the holder doesn’t come with the mounting hardware, so you’ll pick that up separately.
- Ideal for trolling or storing fly rods when on the move
- Included mounting bracket can be side-mounted or deck mounted
- Well-made, durable, Scotty product
- Doesn’t come with mounting hardware
Kayak Crate Rod Holder: Berkley Tube Rod Rack
This rod holder is the perfect solution for mounting to the side of a kayak milk crate. The heavy-duty plastic is super-strong, light, and easy to install with a little DIY. Mounting hardware comes included, but you can also attach it with simple zip ties.
The width of the rod holder is the same as the width of a standard milk crate, so it fits like a glove. The tubes measure 9 inches long, and 2 inches in diameter, making them ideal for any sized rods – plus nets or flag poles.
Unlike other milk crate rod holders, there’s no reel slot, so your rods will slide down until the reel tests against the top of the tube. This will keep your rods slightly elevated, making them easy to grab when you’re in a hurry.
Both black and white colors are available.
- Tough and durable plastic will hold up to heavy use
- Mounting hardware comes included
- No reel slot in rod holders, so rods are easy to grab in a hurry
- Width is the same as a standard milk crate
Track Mounted Rod Holder: YakAttack Omega Rod Holder with LockNLoad
Compatible with YakAttack’s cutting edge LockNLoad track system, this rod holder is tough as nails and takes mere seconds to install. The design allows you to store spinning, casting, offshore, and even fly rods of all sizes.
The 360-degree rotating collar allows you to quickly swivel and adjust your rod placement while the rod holder remains secured in the track. There’s also a quick-release function, allowing you to remove the rod holder from the track in seconds.
YakAttack backs up the rod holder with a lifetime warranty, so you can be assured you’re getting a quality product.
Keep in mind the track isn’t included – you’ll need to pick it up separately.
- Compatible with YakAttack’s excellent LockNLoad system
- 3 modes: locked, adjustment, and removal
- Fits rods of all sizes
- Unrivaled security and adjustability
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.
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.