How to Select Rod Holders

Last Updated: 8/22/2019

What Rod Holders Do

In essence, rod holders are anglers' assistants that keep fishing rods right where they'd want them. Size and design of the boat plays a key role for the kind of rod holder and the mounting option you want to use.

What to Look for When Choosing a Rod Holder

clamp mount rod holder

Clamp mount rod holders easily install on boat railings and can be removed if needed.

flush mount rod holder

Flush mount rod holders install in the gunwale of your boat.

surface mount rod holder

Surface mount rod holders can be mounted vertically or at an angle depending on your needs.

  • Fresh vs. Saltwater: Rod holders come in nylon, ABS plastic, fiberglass, aluminum, stainless steel, chrome plated brass or zinc. While nylon and fiberglass do not corrode they are not as sturdy as treated metals. We recommend stainless steel or chrome-plated brass holders for fishing in rough waters because they are rigid enough to withstand rod motion when running or trolling in a seaway. Fiberglass and plastic are good options for budget-conscious anglers or for fishing calmer venues.
  • Fixed vs. Removable: Many heavy-duty rod holders are fixed because they can be installed in holes provided by the boat's designer or they are screwed onto a vertical surface like cabin sides. If your vessel isn't set up to accommodate fixed-mounted rod holders, or it is very small, we recommend removable rod holders that slide into small, vertical-mount brackets. This set-up allows you to install or remove the holder quickly and easily when not in use.
  • Flush, Swivel/Pivot and Clamp-on Mounts: Flush mount holders that keep rods vertical or at a fixed angle of 30 degrees typically are inserted in existing holes in the gunwale. High-end models in chrome or stainless steel feature Vinyl liners to protect the rod's butt. If you go after big game fish, we recommend rod holders with a pivoting or swivel base because they allow the rod to rotate under side-pressure, minimizing the risk of frayed fishing line or sheared-off pins. Clamp-on mounts are the most versatile of the bunch, attaching either to a horizontal rail or to a vertical stanchion, making them suitable for positioning on the stern push pit, the bow pulpit on the tower, hard-top or radar arch.
  • Adjustable vs. Non-adjustable: Adjustable rod holders are convenient, cost-effective alternatives to stainless-steel models. They tilt, rotate and lock in place and can be mounted in a variety of spots with different mounting brackets. They may not be quite as sturdy as fixed mounted holders but they are more versatile and are often used in spinning or bait-casting set-ups.


Where you fish and what kind of boat you use determine what kind of rod holder is right for you. We recommend stainless steel or chrome models for heavy duty ocean fishing and consider Nylon, fiberglass and ABS plastic rod holders cost-effective alternatives for calmer waters. Among various mounting options such as fixed-angle mounts that slide into existing holes in the gunwale, clamp-ons that attach to vertical or horizontal railings, we consider swivel/pivot bases very practical because they allow the rod to rotate and avoid wear and tear when a large fish strikes and applies side-pressure. Adjustable rod holders that rotate, tilt and lock into any desired position offer good value and a lot of convenience. Small boats, or boats that are occasionally used for fishing are best equipped with rod holders that can be removed when not in use.