Imagine if we had as many arms as spiders have legs.
Our productivity would be off the charts!
And you’d be able to paddle and reel in catches when you’re kayak fishing, all while sinking a cold one at the same time!
Alas, evolution hasn’t been that generous to us (yet), but we can make up for it by introducing “hands free” technology that helps make life a little easier.
The best kayak fishing rod holders do just that, and will offer you a place to conveniently park your rod and reel, while you relax, set up a new rig, or paddle to a better spot.
Let’s take a look at what’s out there.
Table of Contents
- The 7 Best Kayak Fishing Rod Holders 2023
- How to Choose the Best Fishing Rod Holder for Your Kayak
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
The 7 Best Kayak Fishing Rod Holders 2023
How to Choose the Best Fishing Rod Holder for Your Kayak
Below, you’ll find a handy guide on everything to do with kayak fishing rod holders, to help you make an informed decision before adding to cart.
Do You Need a Kayak Rod Holder?
If you’re going kayak fishing, then you need a kayak rod holder – it’s as simple as that.
Even if you’re using one of these awesome pedal fishing kayaks, you still need to keep your hands free from time to time, and you don’t always want to be holding your rod.
A rod holder is one of the first features or accessories you should consider when in the market for a new craft, and at the most basic level they turn an ordinary recreational play boat into a legitimate fishing kayak.
I’ve tried fishing from a holder-less kayak (usually when I don’t have my own craft with me) and it can be something of a challenge when juggling rods and paddles.
A good kayak fishing rod holder is an affordable solution, and essential if you’re serious about the sport.
Types of Kayak Rod Holders
You’ll find there are several types of fishing rod holders to choose from, and the type you choose will depend on your set-up, preferences, and fishing style.
All rod holders are basically derivatives of these designs.
Flush Mounted Rod Holders
Flush mounted rod holders are pockets that sit within the hull of the kayak – as the name suggests.
When it comes to choosing the best fishing kayaks, like these budget-friendly models – it’s usually the flush mounted holder that is already built-in.
Commonly found to the rear of your seat or along the gunwale of the kayak, flush rod holders have a low profile, and as such their main advantage is they won’t ever get in the way when you’re doing anything else.
However, they are permanent, and a lot of kayak anglers are reluctant to start drilling holes in their kayaks to mount a new one – so you have to be sure and confident with your DIY.
Articulated/Adjustable Rod Holders
Articulated rod holders usually sit on the gunwale and can be mounted in a number of different ways (more on that below).
Ideal for trolling and hands-free angling, they come in all shapes and sizes, depending on if you’re baitcasting, spinning, or fly-fishing – and the size of your rods and reels.
Arguably the most popular of all the rod holders, they can be mounted just about anywhere, fixed on a moveable track or static, and they’re designed to elevate the rod away from the water.
They have a couple of downsides (depending on the quality of the product) with the most obvious being a significantly raised profile, which might get in the way of paddling if it’s poorly located.
They’re also not as solid as a flush-mounted option, with a weaker connection that makes them susceptible to damage or malfunction if struck with force.
Tube Rod Holders
Tube rod holders are designed in such a way that the butt of your rod sits all the way in and rests on the bottom.
Longer than other rod holders, tubes have the advantage of not requiring a locking mechanism or strap, which means you can get easy access to the rod in a hurry.
However, there is more of a chance that either you or a fish will knock or pull it out, which is no fun as you watch a potentially expensive piece of equipment disappear into the murky depths, or whisked off for a tour of the lake.
Vertical Rod Holders
Vertical rod holders are intended for when you need to transport your gear to and from the water, or you need somewhere to stash the pole while you set up the bait.
They are of no use when you’re actually out there fishing, save to keep spare rods safely out of the way.
Horizontal Rod Holders
Horizontal rod holders are usually a simple clip system that you attach to the side of your kayak – similar to a paddle park.
They come into play when you need to stash your rod for negotiating hazards, such as trees and overhead obstructions, but they can tangle your line and lures easily if you’re not careful.
How many rods are you rocking?
Most kayak anglers take around one to three poles with them, but the really serious sportsmen and women out there might bring along several more.
Especially if they want to benefit from a good selection of tackle setups and rigs without the need to fiddle around on the water – which is ideal in tournament conditions where time is of the essence.
Vertical rod holders are the best choice in this situation, and are capable of stashing multiple rods depending on how many you want to install.
They can even be used to store some of these practical kayak fishing nets, safely out of the way, but still close to hand when you need them.
The more rods you have, the more rod holders you need. Look for products that come in packs of two or more, which are handy for saving money while giving you plenty of mounting options for more gear.
Mounting and Location
Depending on the type of rod holder, they can pretty much be mounted anywhere you want them.
Flush-mounted rod holders will need enough space to sit in, and as such, are more commonly found to the rear of the cockpit.
This is where articulated rod holders come into their own, as they can be mounted on an accessory track system that runs perpendicular to your seating position along the kayak gunwale.
This ensures you can adjust to suit, so if you’re not happy with the initial setup it’s an easy fix.
Some rod holders are designed with mounting clamps that clip to the side of your cockpit – or anywhere there’s a suitable location to place them.
Couple them with one of these travel fishing rods, and you can be ready to kayak fish on holiday without actually taking a kayak.
However, of all the kayak rod holder mounting options, this is the least secure, and if they’re not properly tightened, you can easily lose them given the right circumstances.
Some rod holders come with a locking system or strap to prevent your rod from going walkabout when you’re out there on the water. There are a few different types.
Tube rod holders rarely come with such a feature, which is both an advantage and disadvantage, so bear that in mind if you’re thinking of purchasing this type.
A rubberized strap that wraps around and attaches to a clipping point on the other side of the holder is an easy-access solution – but it’s not as secure as other options.
The rotating locking clip that you find on higher-end models seems to be the best choice, as your rod isn’t going anywhere when it’s activated.
However, it might be a bit tricky to unlock should you need your rod in a hurry.
As you can see, they all have their pros and cons, so it will just come down to your own personal preference and/or how much you value your rod.
Head on over to this article if you’d like to take a look at the best kayak fishing rods currently on the market, that are just right for the sport.
How high a fishing rod holder sits up on your deck or gunwale needs to be taken into consideration, especially when kayaking.
You need something that’s not going to get in the way of paddling, or any other physical activity while you’re on board.
Flush-mounted rod holders have all but zero profile, but when choosing adjustable models, make sure to check their size.
Some options can be raised and lowered depending on your needs, while track-mounted holders can be moved out of the way when required, so their height might not necessarily be an issue.
Kayak Fishing Crates
There is another option when it comes to fishing rod holders, and that’s to use a kayak fishing crate set up.
They usually come with built-in holders on the sides, and can be particularly useful if you’re rocking multiple rods and rigs.
This option from Wilderness Systems (link to Amazon.com) is one of the best, but you can also make your own if you’re handy. And you’ll find the same product and much more in this article about the best tackle boxes for kayak fishing.
Check out the video below for more information on how to perfect a kayak fishing crate loadout.
Fishing rod holders for kayaks aren’t going to break the bank, but if you’ve plowed your dollars into other aspects of the hobby, you might need to tighten the belt a bit.
For the most part, you’ll get a quality rod holder for around $25. High-end models can be anywhere upwards of $30, and some premium versions might even reach 100 bucks.
Always buy the best you can afford, and relative to how much use you’re going to get out of it. The “buy once, cry once” mantra is quite applicable here.
Can you put a rod holder on a kayak?
You most certainly can. If you weren’t able to, then I’ve got no idea what I’ve been doing writing this article for the last couple of hours.
The beauty of aftermarket accessories for kayaks is that they’re designed to fit the craft, so even if you purchase a cheap play boat like a Sun Dolphin or Perception Zip for example, you can easily pick up a good fishing rod holder to convert it to a fishing kayak.
Where should a kayak rod holder be placed?
That depends entirely on your own preference, how you sit in your cockpit, your overall loadout, and whether you’re right or left-handed.
Some anglers prefer their rods in a fixed position on the gunwale, others like to have the versatility of a track system, so it can move. Deck-mounted rod holders between the paddler’s legs are also popular.
You might have multiple rod holders – one of each type – which can be useful to switch between depending on the situation.
Wherever the rod holder is placed, you’ll want to make sure you have easy access to it, and that it’s not going to get in the way of anything else – especially paddling.
And if you’re thinking of adding one of these awesome kayak fish finders too, then space might be at a premium.
Don’t let it stress you out, though – a huge part of the fun of kayak fishing is organizing your loadout, so experiment to find out what is going to work best for you.
What is the best rod holder for a kayak?
Any of the rod holders in this review could be the answer to this question – but it depends on what is right for you. A flush mounted rod holder isn’t going to be the best if you’re looking for an articulated one, and vice-versa.
Any product that manages to fit your needs will be the best – there isn’t one “overall winner.”
How do you put a rod holder on a sit-on-top kayak?
Great question. Of course, it depends on what type of rod holder you’re installing, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that it’s a flush-mounted model.
Check out the video below for a useful how-to guide on adding one to just about any kayak – at least before you start drilling random holes in your craft.
Can you attach a rod holder to a kayak without drilling?
Many kayak owners are reluctant to start poking holes in their kayaks – especially if the craft wasn’t designed that way in the first place, it’s on the expensive side, and/or they’re not DIY confident.
This is where clamp rod holders come in, and the Plusinno version in the review is a great example. Just make sure your kayak has somewhere the holder can clamp to, and you’ll be good to go.
There are so many accessories out there for keen kayak anglers that can make your head spin like a reel.
But hopefully, this article has helped you narrow down your search for the best kayak fishing rod holder that’s right for you.
Let me know in the comments section which model you’ve gone for and why – or if you have any other kayak fishing tips and advice you’d like to share.
Tight lines, y’all – and happy fishing!