Rod Holder Mounting Options for Kayak Catfishing

Most kayak fishermen use rod holders to simply hold their rods as they travel from one spot to the next while on the water. For those of us who target trophy catfish from our kayaks, rod holders serve a much bigger purpose. We not only use them to hold our rods while presenting baits but we also need them to be able to withstand the stress that a monster fish can subject them too. A 50+ lb catfish can create a lot of torque on your rod and rod holder when it first attacks the bait. This is especially true when suspend fishing. Because of this, a strong argument can be made that rod holders are a kayak catfisherman's most important piece of equipment.

With this in mind, it is important that we take the time to properly mount them to our kayaks. Most fishing kayaks on the market today have gear tracks in place from the factory. While these gear tracks may be ideal for mounting most accessories, they aren't always the best solution for mounting rod holders. This is because the quality of gear tracks varies greatly between brands. Some manufacturers use thick aluminum tracks while others use thinner plastic tracks. If you are using a track mount base for your rod holder, there is going to be a lot of stress placed on the gear track itself when a big fish loads up your rod. Depending on the type of gear track and how it is mounted to the kayak, it may not be suitable for this application.
Rod holder base mounted directly to my Hobie Outback
If possible, the best way to mount your rod holder bases is to bolt them directly to your kayak. For better quality kayaks with thicker plastic, a nut and washer may be sufficient for securing the bolts. Backing plates can be used for kayaks with thinner plastic to help reinforce the base. Scotty and Ram Mounts both make a backing plates for their bases.
Unfortunately, some kayaks do not provide in hull access that will allow you to install a rod holder base directly to your kayak. In these situations, you may be forced to mount them using gear tracks. The Harmony Universal Mounting Plate allows you to mount a traditional rod holder base to the plate which then installs to a gear track. While this isn't a great solution for kayaks with lesser quality gear tracks, it does provide a bigger surface area to displace some of the stress. You can also make your own plates. Below is a picture of how I mounted rod holders to my Nucanoe Pursuit's gear tracks using pieces of 1"x6" boards.
DIY Mounting Plates for my Nucanoe Pursuit

2007 Native Ultimate 14.5 with DIY Dashboard
If you happen to fish in a sit in style kayak or a canoe that doesn't have gear tracks or a good place to directly mount a rod holder, a dashboard is a good option. Pictured above is how I mounted rod holders to my Native Ultimate. I simply created a dashboard with a piece of 1"x6" board and bolted it to the gunnels of the kayak. The rod holders were then bolted to the board. This setup was used for several years and helped me land many monsters including the fish pictured below which is the biggest blue catfish I have caught in a kayak to date.
Regardless of whether you anchor, drift, or troll for catfish in your kayak, your rod holders are going to play an important role in your success or failure. A tale of a big fish ripping the rod holder off your kayak may make for a good laugh for anyone who hears the story but it won't be funny if it happens to you. Take the time to properly install your rod holders. That next bite could be the fish of a lifetime.
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