How to Install Rod Holders to Kayaks

How to Install Rod Holders to Kayaks
Using a kayak for fishing becomes easier if you install rod holders that keep the poles out of the way but within easy reach---freeing your hands for paddling. Rod holders easily mount on any kayak regardless the kayak's material. Although drilling into a kayak can unnerve some owners, using marine sealant to seal to holes will keep the kayak leak-free. Installing a rod holder takes less than an hour and adds hours of enjoyment to your kayak fishing.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Rod Holder Kit (includes hardware)
  • Marine sealant
  • Neoprene washers
  • Drill
  • adjustable wrench
  • hole saw or jigsaw
Step 1
Select the style of rod holders you want to mount. There are two styles: on the deck and through the deck. On-the-deck styles bolt directly to the deck of the boat and protrude from the kayak. A through-the-deck holder is recessed into a large hole and sits flush with the deck. The on-the-deck style adjusts into multiple positions, and the through-the-deck style remains out of the way when not being used.
Step 2
Decide the position of the rod holders. Mounting the holders on the rear deck keeps them out of the way during paddling, but mounting them on the front deck keeps the holders within easy reach. For a through-the-deck holder, select a flat part of the deck. If that area is on the front deck, make sure the location doesn't drop the rod holder into a place that interferes with your body position.
Step 3
Drill holes through the deck to match the rod holder's holes. For a through-the-deck rod holder, cut a hole just big enough for the rod holder to slide into by drilling an initial hole and then using a saw to make the hole the correct size.
Step 4
Seal the holes with marine sealant, and cover the back of the neoprene washers with marine sealant. For a through-a-deck rod holder, run a bead of sealant around the hole you cut into the deck.
Step 5
Bolt the rod holders to the deck, using the hardware provided. On the inside of the kayak, back the stainless steel bolts with neoprene washers--sealant side up. Just before the nuts are completely tightened apply more sealant on both the exterior and interior of the kayak.

Tips & Warnings

A good compromise is to mount one or two on-the-deck rod holders on the rear deck and one through-the-deck holder on the front deck. Then only use the front deck holder when not paddling.
For sit-on-top kayaks, use stainless steel screws and plenty of marine sealant instead of bolts.
When determining where to place the rod holders, you can use a piece of pipe to simulate the position and angle of the rod holder either outside or inside the kayak.
Mounting a through-the-deck rod holder into the cockpit area increases the risk of entrapment. Experiment with wet exits in a controlled situation before heading out on a fishing trip.
When mounting an on-the-deck rod holder on the front deck mount it far enough forward, so it doesn't interfere with your paddle stroke.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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