Anglers across America know that trolling is a fantastic technique to catch fish.
Whether you prefer summertime crappie, walleye on the Great Lakes, or offshore salmon, it’s essential to realize that the right rod holder is just as important as proper tackle.
But there are at least as many rod holder options out there as there are rods, and there’s just as much diversity in quality. It’s understandable that so many questions get asked about rod holders.
We’d like to help with some answers, and below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best fishing rod holders as well as a complete buying guide:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Related: Best Fishing Rod Racks
When the heat’s on in summer, spider rigging is the way to go for crappie. But as anyone who's tried this technique will tell you, standard rod holders aren’t going to cut it.
The reason is simple: you’re running a small army of long crappie rods with lots of lines in the water, and you need to keep those rod tips properly spaced. That’s technically possible with a set of standard rod holders but inevitably a lot more trouble than it's worth.
Enter the Spyderlok from Millennium Marine.
Specifically designed for spider rigging, this rod holder mounts securely to the deck of your boat, mating perfectly with the carpet to prevent stubbed toes. Removal is easy: just loosen two knobs to either side of the shat, and you’re ready to clear your deck.
The Spyderlok holds as many as four rods securely and it’s easy to lift them up and out when the time comes.
And Millennium Marine has really thought this rod holder through. Each holder is individually adjustable across a 360-degree circle, and the whole rack is just as customizable via a knob on the shaft. That allows you to work around a telling motor or other entanglements, and it’s a snap to get your rods adjusted just right.
For my money, there’s no better spider rigging rod holder out there, and no other product even comes close.
Scotty’s #230 Powerlock is pretty much standard equipment on fishing kayaks, and it sees a ton of service on powerboats as well. The reasons are clear: it’s a high-quality product that works well without costing an arm and a leg.
Scotty’s pedestal mounts easily, using four screws to hold it in place.
The rod holder swivels through a full 360 degrees, and it also allows vertical adjustment by loosening and tightening the knob on its side.
It holds your rod securely, and even includes a locking ring at the front to keep rods in place in foul weather or when running to and from your honey hole.
As you’d expect at this price point, tough plastic is the material of choice for Scotty, though having used this rod holder for years on a kayak, I never had any trouble from it.
There are a few disadvantages to this style rod holder, and they’re simply a matter of the overall design - not a problem for the Scotty in particular.
First, to remove your rod, you need to pull it up and forward, which can mean a long stretch when this is mounted on a gunwale. That’s not a huge issue, but if you’re running dedicated trolling rods with long handles, it can make the process slower and more cumbersome than with other styles of rod holder.
Second, this isn’t the best rod holder style for bottom bouncers, as the bouncer’s action can result in the rod coming loose.
But for price-conscious anglers who need a rod holder that’s suitable for trolling, you can do a lot worse than the Scotty.
Let me say a word about clamp-mounting the Scotty #230 Powerlock.
You’ll find products like Plusinno reviewed on tackle sites, and at first glance, they seem like a pretty good deal.
Don’t believe it!
These knock-off rod holders have two major flaws.
First, they simply can’t stand the stress of trolling at all, and the bases will fail almost immediately. They also tend to allow rods to shake loose underway, dropping your beloved tackle to the bottom.
Second, they rely on a flimsy tensioning knob to prevent the holder from tipping forward. When that knob loosens, and it will, the holder will drop your rod over the side.
Do yourself a favor and skip these products.
But for kayak anglers who don’t want to drill, or for jon boat owners who need a clamp-mounted rod holder, Scotty’s got you covered.
Their #449 Rod Holder Portable Clamp Mount w/ #241 Side/Deck Mount will allow you to attach a #230 Powerlock to the gunwale of your boat with no issues. It’s going to hold, guaranteed.
Talk to anglers on the Great Lakes and other popular trolling grounds, and one name comes up more any other: Folbe.
That’s a simple fact.
If you’re in the market for a relatively inexpensive rod holder, and a pedestal mount works for you, Folbe’s F042 is the best on the market.
Folbe manufactures this rod holder from some tough combination of fiberglass and plastic (we think), but whatever the secret sauce is, it’s sturdy and durable.
These rod holders mount to your deck or gunwale via four screws that hold them securely in place.
The base, like the Scotty, allows a full 360-degree turn and vertical adjustment via a knob on the side. But what sets the Folbe apart in my mind is the retention system.
A “clamshell” design, it holds your rod firmly in place until you lift up, making it much easier to remove long-handled trolling rods than with the Scotty. But until you do lift, your rod is going nowhere.
Now, like the Scotty, this rod holder design probably isn’t the best choice for bottom bouncers, as the action of the bouncer could potentially cause your rod to come free.
Hoffen’s flush-mounted rod holders, available in 15-, 30-, and 90-degree models, are a fixture on the water and a popular choice for anglers across the country.
Mounted via a 2-inch hole and secured by three screws, I’d recommend getting some high-quality replacements for the three that arrive with this product, as the heads tend to strip pretty easily.
Hoffen’s rod holders are stamped from 304-series stainless, a good choice where corrosion resistance is a priority. As a result, these rod holders will provide decades of service with no worries.
One advantage to flush-mounted rod holders is that they provide unbeatable security for all techniques. Simply put, your rod is not coming out of the 9-inch-deep well without your lifting it clear, and this is fast and easy.
The only weakness of the Hoffens is the thin, stamped head/shaft junction. Under heavy load, it can deform, and that’s just not something anyone wants.
Perko has built an enviable reputation over many decades, and plenty of anglers who’ve finally reached the end of the service life of their old rod holders return as customers.
Made from stainless steel, Perko builds these rod holders tough. Flange finishes range from chrome-plated brass, to polished stainless steel, to chrome-plated zinc alloy or their legendary proprietary alloy, Marinium.
90 degree and 65-degree options are available.
So what makes these rod holders superior to the Hoffens?
Thicker steel and cast heads.
Basically, these are just heavier-duty and won’t deform or break under heavy loads - like monster fish.
Mounted via a 2 ½-inch or 2 ⅜-inch hole and secured by three screws (not provided), these rod holders are easy to install and very secure.
For anglers who prefer a track mounting system, Cannon’s Dual-Axis rocket-style rod holder is a good buy.
These track-mounted rod holders work well with a variety of track systems, including Bert’s and Traxstech’s - and of course, Cannon’s own. They’re easy to install, very secure, and a snap to remove when your fishing’s done.
Made from inherently corrosion-resistant aluminum, long-term durability is good, but more on that in a moment.
One really nice feature that sets Cannon apart from most adjustable rocket-style rod holders is the ease of use. Fully adjustable across a full 360 degrees, this model is also tiltable through 180 degrees - and all of this with only one hand needed!
That’s a big deal when you’re busy setting up your trolling gear, fishing in rougher seas, or just have your hands full.
Rod security is excellent, given the 10-inch depth of the shaft. Simply put, your rod is going nowhere until you want it in hand. And that’s another moment when one-handed operation really pays off, as you can hold your rod in one hand and adjust the Cannon to allow easier removal with the other.
Cannon also includes a UV-resistant plastic cap at the mouth of the shaft to prevent damage to your expensive tackle.
The only problem I can find with these Cannon rod holders is that the one-handed ratchet release arm relies on a relatively weak pin. If that pin fails, the rod holder will stop working.
And this has happened - albeit very rarely - to some anglers.
The vast majority of fishermen never have any trouble with this product, and I’m 100% sure that Cannon will make it right if something goes wrong.
Bert’s is another one of those names that comes up a lot on the water, and if you’re an angler on the Great Lakes, I’ll bet you’ve heard of it!
Their ratcheting track-mounted rod holder is a direct competitor with Cannon, and which model is better is largely a question only you can answer.
Like the Cannon, these rod holders mount to quite a few different tracks, and they tend to be compatible with major brands. Of course, you should be sure about this before you pull the trigger, so contacting Bert’s is the best bet if you have any doubts.
Like the Cannon, Bert’s rod holder is one-hand adjustable, though not nearly as flexible. Expect 70 degrees of rotation at the base and five preset ratchet positions from the shaft.
Is that a deal-breaker?
I wouldn't say so, but for anglers who really need full adjustability, you’re not going to beat the Cannon.
Bert’s makes these rod holders from stainless steel and aluminum, and long-term durability is excellent.
I’d probably give the nod to Bert’s over Cannon in this respect, but only by a hair.
For anglers who run a downrigger and want a compatible rod holder, there’s nothing better than the Cannon Dual-Axis Downrigger Mount.
This machined aluminum base plate is compatible with Cannon’s excellent lineup of downriggers, and it simply mounts between the mating elements of your equipment. That holds it securely in place - no worries.
On each arm, you’ll find the excellent Cannon Dual-Axis rod holders we discussed above.
For anglers who like downrigger trolling, this is a must-have.
Yes, it’s expensive, but the performance is simply top-notch.
Do you like to use planer boards when you troll?
You need to take a hard look at Great Lakes’ vertical stack rod holder.
Let’s start at the base.
Several options are available, including standard bases measuring 5” x 5”, 4 ½” x 5”, and 4” x 4”. Those options are built tough and stay put.
A track-mounted model that’s easily removable from the base is also on offer, and it’s compatible with most major track systems, including Bert’s, Pursuit, Traxtex, Cannon, and Titloc. But if you have another system, just give the friendly folks at Great Lakes a call.
They’ll be glad to help.
Great Lakes builds this product extra-tough, using aircraft grade 6061 T6 aluminum for the 48” x 2” mast and providing a minimum 1/8” wall thickness. As a result, it’s both impossible to rust and very, very sturdy.
Designed around planer boards, you’ll find three side-mounted rod holders as well as a fourth slot at the top for an extra rod or your net. A pulley and planer board reel complete the package, making this stack rod holder fishing-ready.
And each of the three side-mounted rod holders is adjustable for spacing as well as spin around the mast.
What’s not to like about that?
Our reviews and buying guide are targeted toward power boat owners who regularly troll for species like salmon, mackerel, walleye, and muskie.
Probably the first consideration for any angler looking at rod holders is how - and where - they’ll mount them to their boat.
And, of course, technique considerations, like the use of planer boards or downriggers, also affect this calculation.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the various options:
Flush mounting - Flush mounted rod holders have a couple of really nice strengths. They’re as low profile as you get, and if your boat’s not dedicated to fishing, that can matter.
If you use your boat for a lot more than fishing, flush mounts may be ideal.
They’re also pretty much bomb-proof once they’re installed. There’s almost nothing to break, no moving parts to wear, and they hold rods firmly in place until you want to remove them.
That makes them dead-simple to use.
As far as disadvantages go, they’re not as versatile as adjustable rod holders, so choose their angle and location carefully.
Pedestal mounting - Pedestal mounted rod holders are pretty easy to install and offer a strong base for adjustments.
And while not as low profile as flush mounts, pedestal mounts typically allow the rod holder itself to be removed, minimizing clutter on your gunwale - and preventing theft - when not in use.
Pedestal mounts offer some really versatile options.
The downside to pedestal mounts is that they’re typically not as robust as other options, as they’re made from polymers and plastics. That keeps costs down, but for really big fish, I’d recommend a strong system.
Clamp mounting - For small boats, clamp mounts may be the only option. Strong when they fit well - and when they’re properly tightened - they typically mate with the same hardware as pedestal systems, sharing their strengths and weaknesses.
Be sure to spend the time to discover if your boat needs some backing material to clamp against, and you’ll be happy with your rod holder’s performance.
One real advantage of clamp mounting is versatility. Since a clamp-mounted rod holder can be moved to any position you like, it’s easy to customize your set-up for any situation.
Track mounting - Track mounting has a lot of advantages.
Not only are the tracks a solid base for rod holders, but they can also accept a variety of tackle and electronic accessories as well, making them a versatile buy.
Spacing, angle, and offset are all adjustable with this system.
And good track systems are strong, offering the support big fish demand.
They’re also easy to adjust, allowing custom spacing between your rods - and when combined with adjustable rod holders, there’s no system as dynamic as this.
The only downside is that you’ll need to spend the money on - and install - a track system.
Obviously, trolling for crappie doesn't demand the same tackle as trolling for salmon, and that’s just as true of rod holders as it is for rods, reels, and line.
Match the durability of your rod holder to the species you’re after, and you’ll be happy. For me, that means skipping polymers and plastics with any fish that run more than 30 pounds or so, as the chance of breaking even durable plastic, stripping a pedestal mount at the connection point, or forcing some other failure is just too high.
For the big species, and certainly, for anything pelagic, you need aluminum and stainless steel.
Corrosion is also a problem, though it’s certainly more profound in the salt.
Plastics, aluminum, and to a lesser extent, stainless steel, resist corrosion and buy you long-term durability.
So, too, does simplicity and fewer moving parts - or none at all.
Rod holders need to keep your rod high and dry, even when you’re running hard to get to your best spots.
Good rod holders will offer deep wells or positive locks, promising plenty of security.
Some of the knock-offs out there - we’re looking at you Plusinno - just can’t deliver on that. Under power, or subject to even light chop, they’ll dip and drop your rod overboard.
That’s why it’s important to do your homework: positive reviews aren’t enough. You really need to dig down and take a careful look at what a product can and can’t be expected to do.
Finally, when the time comes, a good rod holder should be easy to use. If you have to fight it to get your rod in hand, it’s not doing the best job.
In this sense, rocket-style rod holders are probably the best, as they allow you to lift your rod free with no hassle - although trolling rods can create quite a stretch to pull out their long handles.
But rod holders like the Scotty and Folbe are easy to use as well, while still offering real security.
That certainly can’t be said for every rod holder you’ll find on the market.
The best rod holder for trolling depends on the species you’re after, the specifics of your technique, and the attachment style that works best for your boat.
But whatever your choice, we hope these reviews help you make the right decision for you.
If you’ve learned something from this article, or have something to add, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.