Fishing Rod Holders

If you are a fisherperson who fishes from a boat, more than likely you will be acquainted with fishing rod holders.  I have seen many in my 60+ years of fishing.  The main priority is to hold the rod securely while yet having it readily available with minimal effort of removing it.  Bank mounted rod holders are rather simpler.

Rod Holder Placement : Those of you who troll for salmon may upgrade your hit to hookup ratio by changing how you mount your rod holders.  Most of the fishermen know (or should know) that when using downriggers that the rod needs to be set high in the air and/or to the side and arced rearward under the tension of the release clip to the downrigger wire.  This arcing allows the rod under strain to pop up when the fish hits, setting the hook.

Now, if you only use your rod holders that are mounted on the downrigger as a rod holder even when you are not using the downrigger for normal salmon trolling like Buoy 10, Willapa Bay or Johns River salmon fishing, you are handicapping yourself.   Think about it, if that rod is pointed high in the air, the line is entering the water considerably farther back.  Unless you are using a pool que rod that is strong enough to set the hook in conditions like this, the fish will just hit the bait, and by the time the slack is taken out of the line, with the limber rod (in this upright condition) has not got enough strength to set the hook when the fish takes your herring, the fish may not get hooked 90% of the time.  Here when a fish hits, the 9′ rod moves in a long arc and you can have a 5′ spongy movement of the lure.   If you are using monofilament mainline, it’s stretch will also add more movement.   However if the rod is mounted lower and somewhat rearward, your fairly sold lure movement may only be 1′ and the fish is hooked as it turns to go.   If you just want to spend a day on the water, and do not have to clean that smelly fishbox when you get home, then disregard what I have said above.

For salmon trolling in conditions like Buoy 10, Willapa Bay or Johns River, the rod needs to be mounted low (almost parallel with the water) slightly pointing sternward as seen in the LH photo below. 

You may go on for years thinking of racking your brain for many things on how to increase your hookup ratio, like changing different style of hooks, going to braid mainline or a multitude of other trials.  And all the time it was simply how you mounted your rods.

Others may disagree with me here, saying that this line spring gives the fish time to not feel the rod’s resistance, turn and get self hooked (maybe).   However the ones that do have a better hookup ration, my bet is that they are making up the difference in the type and heavier power of the rod they are using.  Or they are concentrating on Coho which seem to be a more aggressive biter and usually get self hooked.

Low mounted rod holder

Here the rods are mounted high, with little tension on the rods, and at this line angle how much line do they need out to achieve any depth?

Many Rod Holders to Choose From : Some rod holders are good, others not so good and others simply so cheaply made that they are may only last one trip.   The early ones were simply made on a modification of a carpenters C clamp with a fork on the outside with a open hook mounted lower on the inside.  In use you laid the rod in the fork bringing the handle down and under/into the hook.  These could be moved as desired, but just never seemed to be sturdy enough if you were after anything much more than a trout sized quarry.  Most of these were imported being made of a thin metal stamping.   I have seen one USA made that was basically the same design but was a brass casting as shown below on the left, which was probably the one the later ones copied.

The one problem with most rod holders is that IF A LARGE fish, like a salmon or sturgeon takes the bait and is pulling hard while the rod is still in the holder, some fisherpersons have problems removing the rod from the holder.  From my observation, this is usually inexperienced fisherpersons OR those who do not have a lot of strength in their arms or shoulders, plus they don’t really understand that the rod has to be slightly lifted up (under the fish’s strain) as it is pulled out.  And in the height of excitement, they do not realize the rod has to come out in exactly the reverse order it went into the holder.  There are a couple of rod holders now that have been designed around this situation.

Simple Clamp on Holders ; Currently made Danielson, Bass Pro and others shown in the photo on the right;   This simple design has been made for over 50 years by various makers, allows you to quickly attach these rod holders to your boat or dock making it easier to fish with multiple rods.   Constructed from stamped sheet steel, or die-cast aluminum, these portable rod holders are fully adjustable.  The standard size rod holder fits up to 1-5/8’’ diameter rods, and the clamp fits up to 2-1/4” gunwales.

This old solid brass unit is a Totem model made by Barco Mfg Co. & was used then when I got it from my uncle about 1960 This type has been around for many years & is a cheap steel somewhat copy of the one shown on the left.

Down East ;  According to the website, in 1946 Down East Sportscraft devised a holder that used the DownEaster name.  I came across these about mid 1960s.  In my book they were the forerunner of some we have today.  It again used a C clamp type base, however this was substantially made.  The base clamp had 2 pivot bolt locations & shallow Vee notches so the holder could be adjusted depending on the gunnel it was mounted on.  There are also other bases available.  Above the clamp was a cup that had internal notches with a clamshell type holder that sat in the cup.  It could be rotated 45 degrees in any direction.  In use all you needed to do was lift the rod straight up and the clamshell opened releasing the rod.  The clamshell is stopped from coming out by a cross-pin.

C clamp type Rail mount type
Down-East Rod Holders - high quality, all metal construction !!

Plath / Damielson ; Then in the late 1960s along came a cast aluminum tube with a angled attachment pin about midsection pointing down which went into a base that had 3 sides that mated the holder allowing you to pointy it 45 degrees to the right or left and straight out on the other side.  This unit was very well made as it used a stainless knurled bolt tat the bottom to retain the unit to the base.  The name was Plath Specialty marine Hardware of Portland Oregon 337 N.E. 10th Avenue. 

These could be used with the base either on the flat or side of the gunwale, utilizing either end of the holder as top. The base and the holder were slightly beveled to mate so that when setting bottomed out the holder was wedged into place.

Plath apparently went out of business and Danielson came out with a poor copy.  Danielson tried to copy it but cheapened by using a smaller headed lock screw that once it became exposed to salt air, the screw became impossible to loosed without the use of penetrating oil AND a pliers.  The bases did not usually interchange with the Plath and the holders did not usually interchange with the Plath because the stainless steel pivot was never drilled in the same location on each one during manufacture.  These were finally discontinued about the early 1990s.  The Danielson’s can further be identified by a more abrupt diameter change on the ends as the Plaths were blended in.

Plath #865 pointing out Plath #865 pointing at a 45 degree Danielson copy of the Plath

About the early 1990s a newer method was brought out. This method utilizes a base that is either bolted or clamped onto the boat using a splined center hole that receives the holder itself that can be positioned in about 10 degree increments of rotation.   These are made of a high impact plastic.  The brand that has seemed to been around for the longest is Fish On model by Tempress  These  have the pivot shaft which also has the splines, but at the bottom of this shaft is a notch that matches a small bump in the base as a retainer.  To install the 2 together you need to rotate the holder 180 degrees so that a bump inside the aligns with the notch, then rotate it back to your desired position. 

Fish On ; These Fish On units are cut out on the outer end allowing the rod to lay in, but the rear encircles the lower part of the rod handle below the reel.  There is a separate  white plastic rotating lock ring that you can rotate entrapping the rod until you rotate it back.  This ring is an option that can be utilized or not.  If you are using rods larger than trout rods you may need to remove the lock ring cutting the upper front edges back at a bevel then slightly widen the slot to facilitate the larger rod front cork handle as seen in the RH photo below.

These rod holders appear to be made for usage with trout type rods so when you try to use a salmon rod that has a larger fore-grip is a snug fit, getting the rod out readily can be an issue.  I have removed the white rotating rod safety ring, widened the upper groove, then cut the forward top section at a slight angle.  This alteration has worked great for me when targeting salmon for a number of years.

Tempress Fish On model Tempress Fish On in use
Fish-On! Rod Holder - Black

Fish On Copies ; There are or were a few knock offs of this type that interchanged, a couple being Danielson, Action Outdoor Rod Tender and Roberts products.   All of these holders do not have the rigidity, strength or flexibility of positioning the holders a the Fish On do.   And most do not use stainless steel fasteners.  The bases seem to be pretty much interchangeable however.

Action Outdoor Rod Tender

 Scotty also makes a similar one, but it uses the retainer knob on the opposite side of the base hole.  This could allow the rod holder to become dislodged and come out under the wrong conditions.  Also Scotty’s splines do not really match the Fish On as the Scotty are just enough smaller that you have to force the Fish On into the splines.   They retail for over $20 each

Scotty Baitcaster/Spincaster Rod Holder
Model 280
Model 280 Baitcaster/Spincaster Rod Holder

Cabelas also sells the above rod holders which were made by Scotty but with Cabelas name on the upper section, Scotty’s on the base.

Scotty has recently come up with a copy of the Folbe shown below.

Folbe ;  Folbe makes one similar to Scotty only more sophisticated using it’s own style of splines, bases and holders.  These act like clamshells and can be adjusted in about any position, plus either RH or LH depending on the side of the boat it is being used on.  One side is stationary, while the other side pivots out.  These are a simple lift it straight up type and are very efficient with little effort required.  They have a base lock so can locked in a rotated position.  The secret to understanding usage of them seems to be that you need to set them so that the solid portion be facing rearward thereby allowing the clamshell portion to freely open up.

Many dedicated salmon fishermen swear by these after they get used to them where the need for a quick rod pickup is desired.  However I have found that there is a trick to get it to lock the rod in, seems it has to be just in the right position to slide down and lock up.  Be sure it is locked in and set right.  Probably any faults here would be operator error.

Folbe Advantage Rod Holder - Side Mount

You will hear the debate over the benefits of a Folbe over the others as far as the ability to grab the rod and remove it from the holder.  Folbes allow the clamshell to open up by just picking the rod straight up.  Using the others you have to lift it up/push out all at the same time, this can and has been done many times yet hook the fish even if the fish is running.  They also run the chance of loosing a rod.  I hear that using these others that the fisherman may be unable to get the rod out of the holder without losing the load in the rod and throwing immediate slack to the fish then loose a fish especially with barbless hooks.  And even among veteran fishermen, a significant number have neither the muscle memory nor the strength to do it consistently. 

However I can see the benefits of the Folbe when being used by a novice, from the side position 90 degrees to the boat and when the rod geared up with no-stretch superline and barbless hooks.  These are the folks that will overwhelmingly benefit from the elegant and effortless release from a FOLBE Advantage rod-holder.

Well I guess it is what you are used to using.   There are some out there who will stick to their old school technology and still catch fish.

Quick Release ;  Here is a different idea.  This is a conversion kit that can be made to fit the popular Fish-On or Scotty regular rod holders, converting them to a quick release.  It is a patent pending idea by Merrell Sager of Olympia WA.  His method is to cut the top rear section out of the existing rod holder, place, then pop rivet a PVC pipe coupler in the bottom rear section.  Then add a stainless steel hinged cover, utilizing the cut out plastic rear, but also adding a spring loaded thumb latch.  In the top center he has added a rubber button which with the rod in place and the latch secured, locks the rod in place when latched.  The thumb release lever has a plastic covering.  This is quick & simple.  You can even unlock the rod without moving it if you are having a bite.  All you need to do is press the lever with your thumb as you grasp the rod handle & lift up.

The only thing I see negative on this design is that the operator has to BE SURE the latch is snapped in place and this could depend on whether or not the same rod was used in the holder as it was adjusted to fit initially.

Merrell is trying to find a business to manufacture these conversion kits in quantity so he doesn’t have to do them all by hand.  To contact him CLICK HERE.

Quick Release conversion on a Scotty With rod locked in place With the unit unlocked ready to lift up

Tube Type ;Then there is the simple pipe type holder.  These are generally used by the charter boats because they are sturdy an d are usually clamped onto the rails.  Other chrome or stainless steel versions have dual positioning bases that attach to pipe type railings. 

You will also see this type used on overhead radar arches and if being used there, they are many times referred to as “Rocket Launchers”.  These are not for fishing out of but for transportation or storage of spare rigged rods, yet readily available.

Tube type, rail clamp Here they are nicknamed “rocket launchers”

Do not even consider just setting a unattended rod (for even 30 seconds) against the gunwale.   I have seen a couple of rods lost this way.   It is rather a hopeless feeling to see a rod go skipping across the water and then disappear.  If you recover one of these, you are very lucky.  The word is you just donated a nice rod and reel to the Fish Gods.


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