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Designing an Ultimate Center Console

The wise placement of rod holders greatly enhances the overall fishability of any vessel, but how many is too many? Truth is, the adequate number of rod holders aboard any open fisherman is determined by target species, tactics and techniques regularly employed, and by the amount of available gunnel space. Of course, budget also plays a significant role in how you equip the ultimate fishing platform.


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We’ve all strolled the aisles of boat shows or participated in highly competitive tournaments and spied the latest and greatest high-performance center consoles outfitted with dozens of rod holders lining the cap, many spaced only inches apart. These are in addition to the rocket launcher on the back of the T-Top, rod holders on the leaning post, and vertical rod holders built into the sides of the console. Combined, the entire arsenal results in an incredibly effective fish-catching machine with 360-degree fishability.

For maximum efficiency, these 15° rod holders are strategically spaced within arm’s reach of one another and at a 90° angle to the gunnel, with rod tips pointing out and away from the boat.

With 70 rod holders aboard Florida Sport Fishing’s SeaVee 370Z, I’m just as guilty as the next guy, maybe even more so. I tell everyone who asks—and they ask—no we do not carry 70 rod and reel outfits every time we leave the dock. While tempting, that would be ridiculous. Rather, each rod holder is strategically placed at a certain angle and designed for a specific purpose. Actually, there are multiple sets of rod holders that together may appear excessive, but they each serve an integral role to effective and efficient presentations.

For tournament fishermen looking for the heaviest combination of dolphin, king mackerel, wahoo, cobia and tuna, kite fishing effectively and efficiently from a standing position on the downwind side of a center console with a trio of live baits dangling from each kite means every station requires four rod holders, one for the kite rod and one for each of the three fishing outfits. For maximum efficiency, these 15° rod holders are strategically spaced with-in arm’s reach of one another and at a 90° angle to the gunnel, with rod tips pointing out and away from the boat. Multiply the presentation by three kites for those daring enough to go to the extreme and that already equals 24 rod holders, 12 along each side, and most owners add additional 15° rod holders in between the 24 just so they can fine tune adjustments based on prevailing conditions on any given day.

Obviously not every competitive fishing team flies multiple kites, but for the most serious crews these rod holders are absolutely essential and a big part of their overall strategy and success. An alternative for existing boat owners looking to expand their kite fishing presentation is a trident, or multiple tridents, which essentially convert a single rod holder into three.

When drifting with kites aloft, flat lines and deep baits are also presented along the upwind side of the boat, sometimes as many as six or eight. These rods are spread apart and fished out of the same 15° rod holders as the kite outfits, albeit on the opposite side of the boat, which explains why rod holder placement is identical along both the port and starboard sides…there really is much more to it than only aesthetic appeal.

Trolling requires a different approach altogether, with 15° and 30° rod holders purposefully mounted at 22.5° and 45° angles to the gunnels. The goal is to have the rod tips facing farther out as they go forward. Combined with additional transom mounted rod holders facing the stern, and the rocket launcher and leaning post rod holders which also face aft, crews are able to present a full spread of up to ten or twelve trolling lines. Many also choose to include a pair of rod holders behind the helm seat in the upper station—an ideal spot to pull a shotgun bait, work a dredge while flying kites out the transom, or keep a 20 lb. spinning outfit rigged and ready with a white bucktail.

Let’s also not forget you need a convenient place to store spare outfits. When the bite is hot, success on the water can be a matter of seconds, so re-rigging is best left for downtime. This is where the 0° vertical rod holders alongside the center console enter the equation. Can you imagine running down the side of the boat connected to a crazed fish racing for the horizon with all of the spare rods lying on the deck or sticking out of holders? That is a recipe for disaster. The vertical rod holders alongside the console are also used when traveling to and from the fishing grounds, leaving the entire boat unobstructed with a clean look.

If you are in the beginning stages of designing your next fish-catching machine, think about the way that you fish and how the addition of strategically placed rod holders could increase your level of success. Though most high-performance center consoles come well equipped with a standard set of rod holders, don’t hesitate requesting a customized rod holder layout designed around the way that you fish. And remember that it is always best to let the builder handle the install. You should also consider including a pair of strategically placed swivel mount rod holders for deep drop fishing and daytime swording, if that’s your thing, of course. There are also rod holders available nowadays that double as beverage holders, or beverage holders that double as rod holders depending on how you prioritize your time on the water.

For existing boat owners looking to step up their game, aftermarket rod racks can be mounted alongside the center console, under the hardtop, or under the gunnel to achieve the same result. Clamp-on holders that mount to existing pipework are also an excellent option and can greatly enhance the fishability of any center console. is an excellent resource for all of these options. However before you do anything, think about placement very carefully. Wherever you decide to mount a rod holder, thoroughly inspect the area for electrical wires, plumbing fixtures, fuel lines or any other obstructions. The last thing you want is to cut holes in your boat that you will later regret. Also, stay away from PVC rod holders and instead choose stainless steel options. They are more expensive, but will last forever. Additionally, be sure to include backing plates on all flush-mount rod holders and only utilize stainless steel hardware for all mounting solutions. You also need to weather-proof all the holes with a silicone sealant. Skimping in any of these areas will ultimately come back to haunt you.