ArticleBoatingService Repair

Installing Flush Mount Rod Holders

It’s obvious that by adding more offerings to your spread, whether trolling or live baiting, you’ll exponentially increase your odds of hooking up. In theory you’re trying to imitate a fleeing school of baitfish, so why not add more students to your class? With most boats equipped with four standard gunwale mounted rod holders in the cockpit, two on each side, it can be difficult to put together an enticing spread with such limited options.


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Photo: Steve Dougherty

While rod holders are essential and invaluable accessories, they’re often overlooked for more glamorous devices, however, properly installed and positioned rod holders will dramatically increase your comfort and success on the water. When it comes to rigging your boat with fishy features like depth finders, underwater lights and other desirable accessories, unless you’re extremely skilled, these tasks are better left for the professionals. Installing a rod holder on the other hand is a fairly simple task that with only a few basic tools you can easily perform on your own. While you’ll undoubtedly save money by performing your own installation, it will also give you a great sense of gratification every time your drag starts to sing.

…properly installed and positioned rod holders will dramatically increase your comfort and success on the water.

With the help of ingenious manufacturers anglers now have the ability to transform their rod holders into bait/filet tables, cup holders, tackle holders, chum dispensers and even a grill for impromptu barbeques. For the purpose of this editorial though, were going to strictly talk about flush mount rod holders. If you’re a die-hard angler the choice is simple. Will it be aluminum, chrome or stainless steel? Common sizes are 1 5/8 and 1 7/8-inch (inside diameters) and 2 or 2 1/4-inches (outside diameter). Before making any purchasing decision be sure the inside diameter isn’t too narrow. A slick-butt trolling rod may fit perfectly, but a spinning rod with a thick cork or foam butt may not fit at all.

Almost all flush mount rod holders have an inside liner to protect your rod butts as well as a gasket where the rod holder rests on the gunwale. When it comes to customizing your craft with flush mount rod holders you have a choice between 15, 30 and 45° offsets. Best suited for trolling, 30° rod holders place less stress on the reel seat under the pressure of a powerful strike. If you enjoy kite fishing, 15° rod holders will be your best bet. A bent-butt outfit designed for high-speed trolling or deep-dropping should be placed in a 45° rod holder equipped with a heavy-duty backing plate. No matter what type of fishing you enjoy most, or if you want to do it all, you can easily customize your boat for nearly any application.

Before you even think about cutting into your gelcoat there are a few things you must be conscious of. Most importantly, you should always wear a dust mask and safety glasses when cutting into fiberglass. If you plan on installing more than a single rod holder, you can complete the process in an assembly line to save time.

Measure and mark where you would like to mount your rod holder once you’ve checked underneath the gunwale for obstructions that may be in the way (fuel filler lines, wiring harness, etc.). You can measure across the gunwale to determine the center. To protect your gelcoat from undue damage, place masking tape over the area you plan on drilling. Since you’ve measured twice, it’s time to make your hole. Using a 2 ½-inch hole saw with a pilot bit, start drilling (Image 1). Depending on the angle of rod holder you’ve selected you may have to grind away some additional fiberglass with a hand file (Image 2). Once the rod holder sits flush on the gunwale, ensure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Now you can mark where the mounting hardware will be installed (Image 3). Using a drill bit, make three holes through the gunwale. In order to prevent your gelcoat from chipping, it’s highly suggested that you countersink each hole (Image 4). When you’re about to bolt everything into place, put a generous amount of silicone sealant into each hole. Set the screws in place, add the washer and bolt and tighten with an appropriate size wrench. You’re fishing!

Rod Holder Manufacturers

Attwood Marine

C.E. Smith


Rupp Marine