Kayak Rod Holders: How to Choose the Right One

If you’re anything like me, you understand that kayaking is more than just paddling around a serene lake or tackling wild river currents; it’s about accessorizing your kayak to fit your specific needs. And when it comes to fishing from your kayak, there’s one accessory that’s a true game-changer: a kayak rod holder. Stick around, and I’ll tell you all about why you need one, the different types you can get, and even how to install one yourself. Sounds like a plan? Great, let’s get started!

What is a Kayak Rod Holder?

A kayak rod holder is essentially an attachment for your kayak designed to hold your fishing rod securely. Instead of juggling paddles, your fishing rod, and maybe even a snack (we’ve all been there!), a rod holder frees your hands so you can focus on navigating or enjoying the surroundings. Imagine being able to paddle efficiently while your fishing rod sits securely beside you, allowing for a more enjoyable and productive fishing experience. Intriguing, right?

Why Kayak Rod Holders Are Essential

Now, you might be thinking, “Do I really need a rod holder?” The answer is a resounding yes! Here’s why:

  • Hands-Free Operation: Kayaking requires focus and at least two hands, especially if the water gets a little choppy. A rod holder ensures you don’t have to compromise between fishing and paddling.
  • Safety: Juggling multiple items in a kayak isn’t just inconvenient; it can be downright dangerous. A securely placed rod holder can significantly reduce the chances of accidental tumbles or equipment loss.
  • Increased Fishing Success: Let’s be honest, we all want to catch more fish. A rod holder allows you to troll multiple lines at once or keep your rod at the optimal angle for longer periods, increasing your chances of making a catch.
  • Convenience: Ever tried taking a sip of water or snapping a quick photo while balancing a fishing rod? It’s not easy. With a rod holder, you can take short breaks without having to lay your rod awkwardly across your lap.

Types of Kayak Rod Holders

So, you’re convinced that a kayak rod holder is a must-have, but you might be scratching your head over which type is the best fit for you. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered! There are mainly three types of kayak rod holders: Flush Mount, Clamp-On, and Tube. Let’s dive into the specifics of each.

Flush Mount Rod Holder

Flush Mount Rod Holders are designed to be permanently mounted onto the deck of the kayak, with the top sitting flush with the surface. The design is typically cylindrical, ensuring that the rod sits securely within the holder. They require drilling into the kayak for installation.


  • Streamlined Design: Integrates seamlessly into the kayak’s structure, reducing the chances of entanglements with lines or other equipment.
  • Sturdiness: Being directly attached to the kayak, they often offer a more stable hold, particularly in rough waters.
  • Low Profile: The flush design minimizes obstructions while paddling.


  • Permanent Alteration: Installation requires drilling into the kayak, which might not sit well with everyone.
  • Angle Limitations: Typically, they offer fixed angles, which can sometimes limit your fishing approach.

Ideal For: Anglers who have a dedicated fishing kayak and prefer a clean, unobtrusive look.

A flush mount kayak rod holder on a blue kayak.


Clamp-On Rod Holder

Clamp-On Rod Holders are versatile attachments that can be securely clamped to various parts of the kayak. They’re ideal for those who don’t want to commit to permanent alterations. These holders are often made of robust materials like stainless steel or high-strength plastic.


  • Versatility: Can be attached to any part of the kayak, be it the gunwale, transom, or even a rail.
  • Adjustability: They often come with mechanisms that allow rotation and tilting, offering varied fishing angles.
  • Easy Installation & Removal: Perfect for shared or multi-purpose kayaks since they can be taken off easily.


  • Stability Concerns: While many are sturdy, they might not be as rock-solid as flush mounts in very turbulent waters.
  • Potential Wear & Tear: Clamping and unclamping frequently can lead to wear in the clamped area over time.

Ideal For: Those who frequently switch between leisure kayaking and fishing or those using rented or shared kayaks.

A kayak rod holder on steel railings on the boat.

Tube Rod Holder

Tube Rod Holders resemble extended tubes or sleeves that hold the fishing rod. They offer adjustability similar to clamp-ons but with a design that provides enhanced protection to the rod. They can be either clamped or bolted to the kayak.


  • Enhanced Protection: The extended tube design ensures that more of the rod handle is shielded, reducing the chances of it being pulled out by a strong fish.
  • Adjustability: They often come with a swivel base, allowing for 360-degree rotation.
  • Versatile Mounting: Depending on the design, they can be either clamped or bolted, offering a choice in terms of permanence.


  • Bulkier Design: The extended design can sometimes interfere with paddling or other activities.
  • Potential Over-Adjustment: Too much rotation or tilt can sometimes result in awkward fishing angles.

Ideal For: Kayak anglers in varying water conditions who need the flexibility of a swivel base combined with added rod protection.

Material Matters

When it comes to choosing a kayak rod holder, the material it’s made of can be just as critical as the type. After all, you want something that will not only secure your fishing rod but also withstand the elements. Typically, rod holders are made from two main materials: plastic and metal. Each has its pros and cons, which we’ll explore further.

Plastic vs. Metal

Deciding between plastic and metal for your rod holder is a critical choice that impacts both its durability and weight. Both materials come with their unique characteristics.


  • Plastic: Modern plastics like high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or ABS are much more durable than you might think. They are resistant to corrosion from salt water, which is a big plus for sea kayaking. However, they are more susceptible to UV damage over time, which can lead to cracks.
  • Metal: Stainless steel or aluminum rod holders are incredibly durable and can last for years, even in harsh saltwater conditions. However, they are not entirely immune to corrosion over a very long period and may require more frequent cleaning to maintain their longevity.

Bottom Line: If you’re planning on kayaking in various water conditions and are looking for longevity, metal might be the way to go. But don’t discount plastic; it’s come a long way and offers great durability for most freshwater applications.


  • Plastic: Lighter than metal, plastic rod holders are easier to handle and install. The lighter weight doesn’t add much to the overall weight of the kayak, making it easier to maintain speed and maneuverability.
  • Metal: While they offer superior durability, metal rod holders are generally heavier. This could be a concern if you’re trying to keep your kayak as lightweight as possible for either speed or ease of transportation.

Bottom Line: If you’re conscious about weight, plastic may be more suitable. Metal, although heavier, may offer a better weight-to-durability ratio if you’re willing to compromise a bit on the overall weight of your setup.

How to Install a Kayak Rod Holder?

So, you’ve selected the perfect rod holder, taking into account its type and material. Now comes the next crucial step: installation. While the process may vary slightly depending on the specific brand or model you’ve chosen, here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to installing a kayak rod holder. For this example, we’ll focus on installing a flush mount rod holder, the most common type requiring actual installation.

A kayak rod holder on the  red kayak.

Step 1: Safety First

Before you start, make sure you’re wearing appropriate safety gear like goggles. Safety should always be your priority.

Step 2: Choose the Location

Measure and decide where you’d like to install the rod holder. Ensure it’s an area easily accessible to you while you’re seated in the kayak. Use your marker to mark the spot.

Step 3: Test the Fit

Place the rod holder over the marked area to double-check your measurements. Make sure it fits well and that you can easily reach it while seated.

Step 4: Mark the Holes

Once you’re satisfied with the placement, mark the areas where you’ll be drilling holes for screws. If your rod holder comes with a template, this becomes even easier.

Step 5: Drill Pilot Holes

With your drill and the appropriate drill bit, drill small pilot holes at the spots you’ve marked. These act as guides for your actual holes and make the process smoother. Make sure to wear your safety goggles during this step.

Step 6: Apply Marine Sealant

Before you mount the rod holder, apply a generous layer of marine sealant to the bottom. This prevents water from entering the drilled holes and causing internal damage to your kayak.

Step 7: Place and Secure

Place the rod holder over the pilot holes and start inserting the screws. Tighten them partially with your hand first, making sure the holder is correctly aligned.

Step 8: Full Tightening

Using a wrench or screwdriver, fully tighten the screws. Don’t over-tighten as this could strip the holes.

Step 9: Wipe Away Excess Sealant

Use a cleaning cloth to wipe away any excess sealant that might have oozed out during the installation.

Step 10: Final Check

Give the rod holder a good tug to make sure it’s secure. Let the sealant cure for the time specified on its packaging before you take your kayak out on the water.

Tips for Using a Kayak Rod Holder

Using a kayak rod holder might seem straightforward, but to ensure safety, efficiency, and prolonged equipment life, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Here are some tips for using your kayak rod holder effectively:

  1. Ensure Proper Alignment
  • Why?: Aligning the rod holder correctly can prevent the fishing line from tangling with other equipment or parts of the kayak.
  • Tip: Always test the placement of your rod holder with your rod and reel setup. Make sure the line runs freely and doesn’t rub against any part of the kayak.
  1. Adjust the Angle
  • Why?: Different fishing techniques or water conditions may require different rod angles.
  • Tip: Use adjustable rod holders, if possible, to adapt to various situations. For trolling, a more horizontal angle is ideal, while for stationary fishing, a more vertical angle might be preferred.
  1. Avoid Overloading
  • Why?: Overloading can lead to breakage or your kayak tipping.
  • Tip: While rod holders are durable, avoid placing excessively heavy equipment or combining multiple items, like a rod and a net holder, on a single mount.
  1. Use Leashes or Safety Lines
  • Why?: These prevent accidental losses, especially in rough waters.
  • Tip: Attach a leash or safety line between the rod and the kayak. This way, even if a big fish strikes suddenly, you won’t lose your rod.
  1. Regular Maintenance
  • Why?: Longevity and performance are maintained with regular care.
  • Tip: After each trip, especially in saltwater, rinse the rod holder with fresh water to remove salt and debris. Check screws for tightness and inspect for any signs of wear or damage.
  1. Protect from UV Rays
  • Why?: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can degrade plastics over time.
  • Tip: If your rod holder is made of plastic, consider using a UV protective spray or storing your kayak in a shaded area when not in use.
  1. Familiarize Yourself with Quick Release
  • Why?: Sometimes, you’ll need to remove your rod quickly, especially when a fish strikes hard.
  • Tip: Practice the motion of taking your rod out of the holder rapidly, so you’re prepared when the action starts.
  1. Prioritize Accessibility
  • Why?: It ensures safety and convenience.
  • Tip: Make sure your rod, reel, and other essentials are easily accessible from your seated position. You shouldn’t have to stretch or shift your weight dangerously to reach them.


There’s no doubt about it: A kayak rod holder is an essential tool for any angler who loves to combine the joy of kayaking with the thrill of fishing. From understanding what a kayak rod holder is to diving deep into the types, materials, and installation procedures, we’ve covered a lot of ground. But don’t let the abundance of information overwhelm you. Remember, the right kayak rod holder not only frees your hands for paddling but also elevates your fishing game to new heights. So, take your pick wisely, install it carefully, and maintain it diligently for an outstanding experience on the water. Here’s to many successful fishing adventures ahead!


Q: Can I install multiple types of rod holders on the same kayak?

A: Absolutely! Some anglers like to have a mix of flush mount, clamp-on, and tube rod holders to adapt to different fishing conditions. Just make sure you have enough space and that the additional weight doesn’t affect your kayak’s balance.

Q: What should I do if my rod holder becomes loose while I’m out on the water?

A: First off, don’t panic. If you notice the holder becoming loose, try to tighten the screws using a portable screwdriver or multi-tool that you should have in your emergency kit. If that’s not an option, it’s best to remove the rod and store it safely in your kayak until you can properly fix the holder.

Q: Can I use a kayak rod holder in saltwater and freshwater?

A: Yes, but remember that saltwater can be corrosive. Always rinse your rod holder thoroughly after saltwater use and consider applying a marine-grade sealant for added protection.

Q: How often should I replace my kayak rod holder?

A: This depends on the material and how frequently you use it. With proper care, a high-quality rod holder can last several years. However, it’s advisable to inspect it regularly for wear and tear and replace it if you see signs of damage.

Q: Is it okay to leave my fishing rod in the rod holder when I’m paddling at high speeds?

A: While most kayak rod holders are built to withstand the forces of moving water, paddling at high speeds with a rod in the holder could lead to it being ejected or even broken. Always secure the rod with a leash if you plan to paddle quickly or through rough waters.


Pinterest post pin for kayak rod holders.

The author, Sophia Monroe, kayaking.

Sophia Monroe

My initial goal to inspire others to embrace the wonderful world of water sports has evolved into a commitment to share my love to the widest audience possible. In a world increasingly consumed by sedentary lifestyles and digital devices, it's vital to reconnect with nature, prioritize physical activity, mental health, and live life to its fullest. I believe that by providing information and resources, we can empower ourselves to embrace strength, vitality, and a life lived to the fullest. Let's embark on this journey together!

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