How Many Rod Holders Does a Boat Need?

More rod holders are better, but is there a point when enough is enough?

Contender boat outfitted with plenty of rod holders
Having plenty of rod holders on your boat keeps your angling options open. Greg Poland Photography courtesy Contender

Some modern fishing boats have fishing rod holders lining the gunwales from stem to stern, and others come with a mere two in the stern. Which begs the question: Just how many fishing rod holders does a boat need?

Naturally, personal preference plus a range of variables comes into play. Still, we’d be hard pressed to think of a time when we looked at a boat and thought it had too many rod holders. So, what’s the minimum? Some anglers believe that at least one rod holder per foot of length overall is a good benchmark.

We like that rule of thumb, but let’s take things a little bit farther and try to nail down an ideal number.

What Counts as a Rod Holder?

rod holders on Regulator boat
So, what counts as a rod holder? We think rocket launchers and those in the leaning post certainly do. Courtesy Regulator

Before we start enumerating a boat’s armaments, we’re going to lay down a few ground rules. Any angler worth his salt knows that those horizontal under-gunwale racks are best used for mops and gaffs, not fishing rods. All too often, rods get kicked, battered, and broken under there, and unless you like the idea of busting graphite on a regular basis, exclude them from your count.

Integrated rod boxes get partial credit, let’s call it 50 percent of the total capacity, since you can haul rods in them, but can’t use them while fishing. Rocket launchers at the leaning post get full points as do T-top rocket launchers, but if the launchers up top are too high to reach without standing on a cooler, only give ‘em half points.

Vertical racks on the side of a console underneath a T-top also take a 50 percent reduction, since long rods won’t fit. And even if the T-top has slots for the rod tips, you should still subtract 25 percent because sooner or later you’ll probably snap off an eye when using them.

Okay, ready to do some simple math? Consider the following factors:

  • How many rods do you generally haul along for yourself?
  • How many people do you generally fish with?
  • How often do you engage in multiple tactics or techniques that require different rods and reels during the course of the same fishing trip?
  • How often do you engage in tactics that require a specific set of rods and no more?
  • How big is your boat?

Do the Math

multiple rod holders
The amount of rod holders you need depends a lot on the fishing techniques you use. Jim Hendricks

Now take the number of rods you usually carry and multiply that by the number of people you like to take fishing on an average trip, and you have your bare minimum number of rod holders. That is, you do unless you commonly mix your mornings of jigging along with afternoons of trolling. If so, add the numbers accordingly.

On the flip side of the equation, if you regularly go fishing in ways that require boat rods only, such as trolling offshore with a set spread, you can start subtracting from all those extra rod holders. Wait a sec—you always want to be prepared to bail for mahi if the opportunity arises? Add ‘em back in. Are the keys on your calculator getting worn out yet?

Boat Length Logic

rod holders on Invincible boat
How large your boat is plays a big factor on how many rod holders it can fit. This Invincible has plenty. Jim Hendricks

Whatever final calculation you might come up with, you have to remember that boat size will be a limiting factor. Sure, we’d all like to have three jigging, casting, and trolling rods for everyone aboard. But when you’re taking two buddies out on an 18-footer, you aren’t likely to have room for 27 rod holders, even if you’ve perforated every flat surface on the boat.

On top of the size issue, the way your boat was built can create more problems with adding to the rod count. Some boats have gunwales too narrow to accommodate flush-mount holders, and others have curvaceous Euro-transoms that can’t be lined with vertical racks.

Now that everything is clear as mud, take your calculator back out and start recalculating. Or, don’t. Because asking how many fishing rod holders a boat needs is a silly question with an obvious answer: More is better. And if you think there’s such a thing as overkill, you probably just need to go out and buy more fishing rods.

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