Where to Mount Rod Holders on a Boat?

Rod holders are an essential fishing accessory for any boat, but mounting them in the right locations is key. There are many factors to consider when deciding where on your boat to install rod holders to maximize accessibility, comfort, and fishing efficiency.

Down The Center: Ideal for Multiple Anglers

Mounting rod holders down the centerline of your boat, running from bow to stern, can be a convenient setup for multiple anglers targeting various species. The pros of a centerline rod setup are ease of access and versatility for almost any type of fishing. Rods are easily within reach from any angling position on the boat, whether you are standing, sitting, or even partially reclined. You can switch between casting, jigging, and trolling techniques without moving too much. This rod placement works well for boats under 20 feet where space is limited. The main con is that a center mount setup offers limited versatility for any single angler. There is often interference between anglers when targeting the same school of fish or structure. Center boat rod holders work best when all anglers are fishing independently for different species.

rod holder

Along The Gunwales: The Ultimate Casting Setup

Mounting rod holders along the gunwales of your boat provide the ultimate setup for casting. The pros are that you have a full range of motion to make long casts to any location around your boat. You can also employ techniques like walking the dog, which allows you to cover water from multiple angles. However, the main con is that gunwale rod holders restrict where you can actually fish from on your boat. You will often find yourself limited to fishing only from one side of the boat or in specific locations that provide a clear casting lane. This can limit your options for targeting different fish species around the structure. Still, for anglers who focus mainly on casting baits for bass, panfish, or crappie, gunwale rod mounts offer the longest casting range and the most autonomy to cover the water how you want.

At the Transom: Ideal for Vertical Jigging and Trolling

Mounting rod holders at the transom of your boat provide an ideal setup for techniques that involve vertically presenting baits like jigging and trolling. The main pros are that the transom location works well for vertically jigging baits to suspend fish and placing rods in inline, gimbal, or outrigger mounts when trolling. Having the rods at the back of the boat also allows for an unimpeded view of your fishing area from the console. However, the main cons are that a transom rod setup usually requires a more permanent installation since the rod holders are often molded into the material of the transom. You also have a limited view of your lines and cannot see biting fish before setting the hook. Nonetheless, for anglers who focus on techniques like vertical jigging for species like crappie and white bass or low-speed trolling for walleye and panfish, mounting rod holders along the transom can be a productive setup.

On The Casting Deck: The Overhead Casting Setup

Mounting rod holders on the casting deck or bow of your boat provide an ideal setup for anglers who favor making long, overhead casts. The main pros are the unobstructed view it provides and the distance it allows for making long casts. Since you have open space in front of you, it's easier to watch your line and see fish strike. This location also provides greater clearance for landing bigger, fighting fish on the deck. However, the primary con is that accessing your rods mounted on the bow or deck can be more difficult, especially if you're seated toward the middle or stern of the boat. You'll likely need to get up and move forward to reposition or change out your bait. Overall, if long overhead casts and a good line of sight are priorities for your fishing style, mounting rod holders on the deck and bow provide an effective setup, as long as you don't mind the extra effort in accessing your rods.

Rod holder for boat

For Trolling: Specialized Rod Placement is Key

When mounting rod holders for trolling, the placing of your rods is crucial for efficient line management and angles that minimize line twists. There are several rod holder configurations for trolling:

  • Inline: Rods are lined up side-by-side, pointing straight back. This spreads lines evenly but provides little directional control.
  • Gimbal: Rod tips pivot from side to side. Gimbal mounts centralize weight for less vessel strain and allow adjusting line angles to control depth.
  • Outriggers: Rods are mounted toward the bow and held at varying angles. This wide placement provides superior directional control of lures and flies for targeting specific zones.

The key to productive trolling is matched with the appropriate rod holder design and placement for the type of trolling you're doing. Slower speed trolling for walleye may require inline rod holders placed at the transom, while deeper crankbait trolling for salmon may work best with outriggers. Specialized trolling rod holders can greatly improve your success by optimizing your line angles, management, and depth control.

Choosing The Best Location Requires Considering Your Needs

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mounting rod holders on your boat. The best location depends on your specific needs, fishing style, boat size, and the species you're targeting. First, consider the techniques you use most often - are they casting, jigging, trolling, or a combination? Next, think about the space available on your boat - do you have room for multiple setups, or is optimization more important? And what are the behaviors of the fish you pursue most - are they pelagic and require upright or angled presentations, or do they relate to the structure where casting is key?

Once you understand these factors well, you can begin mounting rod holders in a way that aligns with how you actually fish. A large bay boat with plenty of room may support multiple rod holder configs to allow for variability. But an advanced angler fishing from a smaller craft or targeting a specific species may optimize for one location. There is no right answer - just the location that fits your distinct needs and style of fishing. With this in mind, take the time to thoughtfully choose where rod holders will provide the greatest benefit to how you fish, and it will pay dividends on the water.


Q: How many rod holders do I need?
The number depends on the size of your boat and the number of anglers. Aim for at least one-rod holder per seat and consider adding extras.
Q: Can rod holders damage my boat?
Properly installed rod holders using the correct hardware for your boat material should not cause damage.
Q: Can rod holders rust?
Over time, exposed metal rod holders, clamps, and fasteners can rust if not protected with paint or another coating.
Q: What type of rod holder is best?
There is no "best" rod holder type. In-gunnel and deck-mounted rod holders each have benefits for different boats and angling styles.