Best Rod Holders and Rocket Launchers

There’s one truism that holds across the spectrum of fishing boats, whether you cast from an aluminum fishing boat, a center console, or a bay boat: you can never have too many rod holders. In fact, very few serious anglers feel that their boat has enough rod holders right out of the box. You say you’d like to add rod holders and rocket launchers to your fishing machine? No doubt you would — here are the types to consider, and some top picks:

  • Flush-mount rod holders
  • Surface-mount rod holders
  • Rail-mount rod holders
  • Leaning post and console vertical rocket launchers
  • T-top rocket launchers

Flush-Mount Rod holders

Flush-mount rod holders are a top pick for many anglers, for several reasons: they’re as sturdy as possible and can even take the pressure generated by huge offshore species like tunas and billfish; they look slick sitting flush on a boat’s gunwales or transom; and most have gimbal-pins in the bottom, for locking trolling rods in place. But there are also a number of limitations on flush-mount holders, and some problems associated with them.

For starters, mounting is difficult and requires sawing a hole or holes in your boat. Not all boats have wide enough gunwales to accommodate them, and some don’t have enough open space below the surface you’d like to mount them on. And on many boats the transom spots you might like to mount them are taken up by things like livewells or fishboxes.

Top Flush-Mount Rod holder Pick

The Gemlux Screwless Cup and Rod Holder is a primo flush-mount which is wide at the top and then narrows down to rod holder size, so it can do double-duty as both a cupholder and a rod holder. We also like the slick-looking screwless mounting system, and the fact that it’s made out of rugged cast stainless-steel. These don’t come cheap, though, and cost is approximately $130.

Surface-Mount Rod holders

Surface-mount rod holders are great in that they can be place just about anywhere, on any sort of boat or surface from a kayak to a motor yacht. There are a zillion and one varieties to choose from, with all different sorts of screw, through-bolt, or track mounting systems. You can find surface mounts made of lightweight plastic, inexpensive metal, or heavy-duty stainless-steel. The options are virtually endless and include all different price ranges.

There are, of course, drawbacks. These aren’t usually as strong as some other types of rod holders, and if you go cheap you may end up with a rod holder that can’t stand up to the force applied by very large fish. Mounting with through-bolts is preferable to screws (since there’s less chance of them loosening over time), but in some cases you may not be able to access the back of the surface to put on the nuts. Since these rod holders stick up from the boat’s surface they can also create tripping points, or snags for your lines. And they certainly don’t look as slick as rod holders that are integrated with the boat.

Top Surface-Mount Rod holder Pick

We love the Scotty Orca because it allows you to pop the rod out in one smooth, hook-setting motion. We also love that the removable bases for these can be either side- or top-mounted, and the angle you set them at is fully adjustable. And although they’re made from fiber-reinforced nylon as opposed to stainless-steel, these holders are quite beefy and can stand up to gobs of pressure.

Rail-Mount Rodholders

If your boat has rails there’s a strong possibility that rail-mount rod holders will be your best option, simply because the rails may interfere with other types of rod holders you may try to mount. Plus, installation is incredibly easy because rail-mounts clamp right onto the existing structure. Be careful, however, about where and how you locate them. If they stick outboard of the boat’s rails they may snag on pilings, docks, or anything else the side of the boat comes up against, and in that case damage to both the rod holder and the rail is the common result.

Top Rail-Mount Rod holder Pick

When it comes to rail-mounts, it’s going to be very difficult to find a better pick than the Taco Clamp-On. These are available with mounts sized for multiple rail diameters, come with clamp inserts to get a perfect fit, are made from top-shelf 316-L stainless-steel, and can be rotated and locked in place in 18-degree increments. Tightly clamp one of these to a railing or a T-top frame, and it will hold up to the most vicious strikes from pelagic big game. They also come with a white PVC liner, to protect your rods.

Leaning Post and Console Vertical Rocket Launchers

Having a set of rocket launchers on the back of your leaning post or on the sides of a console is very convenient. But there are countless varieties of leaning posts and consoles out there, and while in some cases mounting will be easy, in some others it will be virtually impossible. On top of that, on some boats you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of leaning post or console vertical rod holders because the position of a top or Bimini doesn’t allow enough room for the rod tips. The bottom line? It all depends on your specific rig — but if you can add them, you’ll love having them.

Top Leaning Post and Console Rocket Launcher Pick

An option that will allow for mounting on a range of console and leaning post surfaces is the Angler’s Fish-N-Mate 3 Rod Boat/Hook/Plier Rack. Its anodized aluminum construction will hold up for the long haul, and we love that in addition to three rod holders, you get 17 hook holders for your rigs and a pair of slots to hold pliers. Added bonus: at $70, these seem very reasonably priced, too.

T-Top Rocket Launchers

If you have a T-top, honestly, we’d call having a set of rocket launchers up there a must-have. Not only do they add tons of rod stowage capacity to your boat, but on top of that rods kept up in a T-top rocket launcher are always out of your way. Rods stowed in gunwale and surface mounts, on the other hand, can become a casting impediment. So having those extra rigs up top gives you a big advantage.

Top Leaning Post Rocket Launcher Pick

The Stryker 7 Rod Rocket Launcher is about as slick as they come. In order to fit so many rods into the 38-inch width, yet prevent the reels from banging into one another, the rocket launchers sit at different angles. The rack clamps onto two-inch T-top pipe, and it’s constructed from anodized aluminum. The kicker? It also has two swiveling and tilting triple-LED floodlights, so you get cockpit illumination as part of the deal. One downside: like many clamp-on racks the manufacturer does state that trolling from these holders may void the (five-year) warranty.

Pop quiz: how many rod holders does you boat have on it, right now?

A) Not enough, I need to add more
B) The perfect amount
C) Too many
D) I don’t know

If you answered with anything other than “A,” you didn’t pass the quiz. And if you did answer “A” then what are you waiting for? Go out and get the best rod holders and rocket launchers for your boat, today.

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.

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