How to Install a Fishing Rod Holder on a Kayak

If you enjoy kayak fishing, but you don't use a rod holder, you're missing out! Luckily, we'll tell you everything you need to know, to up your kayak fishing game.

Last updated: April 4, 2024

By: Brandon Sanders

Have you ever gone kayak fishing?

If so, you definitely know how difficult it can be to have all the gear you need—while keeping it organized. 🛶

Having the appropriate equipment is crucial for success given the amount of gear required for a typical day on the water. Monster bass can be caught on a kayak—but paddles, multiple poles, tackle boxes, safety gear, and a cold beverage can be a lot for one pair of hands to keep up with.

Therefore, organization is absolutely crucial when fishing from a kayak. A rod holder is a well known organizational tool that is common on most, if not all, fishing kayaks.

The Benefits of a Rod Holder on a Kayak ✅

When it comes to bass fishing, soft plastics are a very popular lure—but it’s often a slow moving approach to bass fishing success. While fishing for bass with soft plastics makes sense for targeting specific pieces of cover or beds, search baits like spinner baits, buzz baits, and crank baits are needed.

Both approaches require completely different rod, reel, and line setups. A great way to manage having both capabilities is to have multiple rods that are tailored to each approach. Rod holders can aid in the storage of kayak fishing equipment, which allows fishermen to have all the gear they need to focus on fishing.

One of the most important recommendations for kayak bass fishing that you can keep in mind is the use of a rod holder. A common method to employ rod holders while fishing is to have multiple lines out at one time. This could come in the form of fishing off the bottom at anchor or in trolling through open water. In either approach, the employment of multiple rods stationed in rod holders increases the chance of catching fish.

As stated previously, largemouth bass fishing requires unique approaches to each situation and therefore, specific and unique tackle to achieve this. Yet, time on the water is a sunk cost and broadening your approach to multiple species can enhance your fishing experience.

Having different poles that are ready to target different species can be an excellent way to hedge your bets if one species simply is not biting. Having a catfish pole, an ultralight for crappie, and your bass rods at the ready can maximize your time on the water.

Where Should a Rod Holder Be Placed on a Kayak? 💡

Deciding to place a rod holder on a kayak is very easy. However, deciding exactly where to place it can be quite a challenge. No one wants to punch holes in their boat to only wish they had placed the rod holder elsewhere.

This gets more complicated when considering where to put a trolling motor on a kayak as well as other gear. Salt water, white water, and flat water all demand different approaches that must be accommodated with the proper placement of rod holders.

The best advice that can be given to someone about mounting a rod holder is to think through what a typical fishing trip looks like and tailor the rod holder placement to that. For someone who fishes off the bottom a lot or does a lot of trolling, having two just beyond the seat may be ideal.

For a bass fisherman, contending with trees is something that will have to be taken into account. These fishermen may do better having a more aggressively tilted, rear facing rod holder approach. In either case, the realities of the type of fishing that the boat will be used for should be accommodated.

No matter the placement of the rod holder, one key concern will always be safely transporting a fishing kayak. Rod holders are a protrusion that can easily be caught on things during the loading process or during transportation.

Taking into consideration how your boat is typically transported and accommodating for that will save from costly damage to the kayak. This can usually be accomplished by using adjustable RAM mounts, removable DIY holders, or simply not installing them at all.

Installing Rod Holders 👇

The process of installing rod holders is fairly simple and oftentimes requires nothing more than a drill. Gathering the equipment needed can be accomplished by simply finding tools that are common to the American homeowner. This should consist of a drill, a set of drill bits, a cross tip screwdriver bit, a magic marker, and some sort of sealant.

As to the sealant, it can be as simple as caulk, but the job will be done better with some sort of marine silicone sealant or RTV. Either can be picked up at an automotive, marine, or big box retailer.

The first part of the entire process is to mark the holes that need to be drilled. While this is simple, it is incredibly important. Misdrilled holes will always be a part of the boat. They will forever be an eyesore and run the real possibility of being a place for water to get into places you would rather it not be.

Create a template by laying a piece of paper on the bottom of the rod holder then marking where the mounting holes are. Then lay the template on the boat and mark them with a magic marker. Then proceed to drill the marks safely where the mounting screws will go.

After the holes are drilled and the holder is installed, the next most important part of the process is to seal the holes properly using RTV or an equally effective alternative. This should be done in three parts.

First, the threads of the screw should be covered in sealant so that the inside of the hole is plugged. After installation both the head of the screw along with the nut should be covered liberally with sealant. This will prevent water intrusion, corrosion, and having the unpleasant experience of having to redo your work later on.

A word should be said as to the debate between buying a ready made rod holder and building one yourself. As with many things, building a DIY fishing rod holder allows for lower costs and the freedom of customization. There are many ways that someone can utilize PVC pipe and plywood to meet their individual needs.

However, for ease of installation, quick turnaround time, and low cost, look at an off the shelf rod holder. A fisherman can’t go wrong with either and each person should look to meeting their own individual needs with their choice. Whatever path you decide to take is not the most important factor at stake. Kayaks that are specifically equipped for fishing really need to have a rod holder; so long as you have one - you'll be ready to go.

Conclusion 🎣

A fishing rod holder is the first step into the world of upgrading a fishing kayak. Being able to use both hands without the fear of losing a rod into the depths of your local waterway brings a great peace of mind.

With that, fishing becomes much more enjoyable and relaxing. Regardless of what type of largemouth bass fishing techniques you typically use, consider adding a fishing rod holder as your first step of taking your bass fishing to the next level.

Using a Rod Holder on a Kayak: FAQs ❓

Can you drill into a kayak?

Yes you can drill into a kayak. However, it is good to employ the best practices that are widely used in the kayaking community to ensure quality work.

Is it easy to install a rod holder on a kayak?

It is fantastically easy to install a rod holder in a kayak. Where many modifications take specific skill sets and tools, rod holders are so easy to install that they are even talked about in popular magazines as a simple upgrade.

What equipment is needed for a DIY fishing rod holder for a kayak?

Depending on your own design and desires, often the only equipment needed for a DIY fishing rod holder for a kayak is a drill. Provided you have the appropriate drill bits and screw bits, you will find you are more than prepared to take on this project.

How long does it take to install a rod holder on a kayak?

It does not take long to install a rod holder on a kayak. With a simple off the shelf rod holder, it is often a task of drilling four holes and driving the corresponding screws. You can realistically expect to mount a rod holder in 15 minutes.

Is there a specific location that’s best for a rod holder on a kayak?

The location that is best for a rod holder on a kayak will be largely dependent on your boat, type of fishing, and personal preferences. It is common to have them within easy reach so that they are convenient, but there are many rod holders installed on boats that are behind the angler as well.

About the author: Brandon Sanders, who goes by BBSanders, is a freelance outdoors writer that enjoys hunting and fishing across the world. He is a combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other smaller deployments. He lives in East Texas in a small cabin with his wife and two dogs. You can learn more about him on his own website, here.