Published Sep 18. 2011

Car rod holders

If you are like most anglers, you sometimes change location during a fishing day. A rod holder for your car will be a very welcome gadget if that's the case.

Way to go - Rods in the Vac-Rac rod holders, ready to go
The rod shop - Some rod holders have a high capacity. This Tightlines system can hold eight rods
Rod holders
Martin Joergensen/Henning Eskol

When I go fishing with my friends, we often move location one or more times during the day. The conditions might change, there may be no fish or we simply want to see new water.
As we arrive on the first spot of the day, we unpack and rig the rods and fish. When we decide to move, we don't break down the rods or even take them apart and stick them inside the car. No, we get out our rod holders for the car and mount them on the outside, fully rigged and ready to fish right away.
And as I wrote back in 2004: "Your fly fishing life really first starts when you get a magnetic rod holder"

Safe and convenient

The idea behind the rod holder is simple: it's a special made device, which allows you to strap the rods on the outside of the car, and drive while the rods are mounted in this way.
The rods are strapped down fully rigged and assembled with reels, lines and even flies in place.
As most of you know a fully assembled rod is the best and most convenient way of transporting it unless you want to take it apart and put it in its sock and tube.
Transporting it in one piece and all ready to fish, also means less time wasted braking down and rigging again, which again means more fishing time.

Crushing the cork - If you mount the bungee over the cork as seen here to the right, you risk marking it permanently, especially if it gets wet
One for the road - The principle is one part on the bonnet and one on the roof, and the rods mounted tips pointing backwards
A quick solution - The rods are simply tied down with the bungees holding the pontoon boat on the roof of the car
On the inside - Many cars can hold rods inside, but in most cases it's far more hazardous than having them on the outside
Different solutions
Martin Joergensen/Henning Eskol

Magnetic, vacuum or rack?

Even on sports cars - An alternative fishing car! But the vacuum rod holders still mount nicely on the bonnet and the windscreen
The roofless solution - A simple solution: Drive an open sports car and let the roof down!
Open air solution
Nils Jorgensen/Martin Joergensen

There are three basic versions of rod holders:
- The vacuum one that sucks to the bonnet and the roof.
- The magnetic one that sticks to the metal using magnets.
- The more or less permanently mounted ones that can be mounted like a roof rack or roof rails or bars or can be mounted with straps in the door openings or under the bonnet.
Personally I made my choice long ago: the magnetic type is the only one I use and trust, and way the most convenient one: easy to mount and dismount, compact and very safe.
There are several types of magnetic types, utilizing solid magnets or magnetized rubber plates. The rubber plate type is the lightest and least "harmful" ones, rarely causing any damage to the car, while the solid ones, even though they are all coated with some softer coating, can be a bit rough on the surface they are mounted on.
I personally don't like the vacuum type much. Some of them tend to loosen their grip, and they have problems sucking sufficiently in very cold or very warm weather.
The rack type can be smart if you have a permanent rack on your car, and in many cases you can easily convert a normal rack or a set of bars or rails to a makeshift rod holder with a few small bungee cords.

The reels - The Vac-Rac system has two bungees in the reel end and holds four rods
Tips down - The tips are held in place by a simple bungee system on the Vac-Rac system
Upwards - On rod holders with a smaller clearance to the hood, you can mount the reels pointing upwards
Strapping in
Martin Joergensen

Tips to the rear

When you mount the rods there are two things to consider: the rods should be firmly and securely attached to the rod holder or rack, and secondly they should always be mounted with the tips pointing to the rear.
Fly rod tips are thin and fragile, and the wind resistance could easily damage them once you get up in speed and into the wind. This risk is minimized when having handle and reel pointing forward.
Most rod holders will be able to hold your rods securely and stick to the car at fairly high speeds, and even though we never use them for really high speeds, they will be fine at 60, 80 and even 100 kilometers per hour or up to 60 mph or so. If we need to go faster than that, we put the rods inside the car.
With the rods on the outside you need to take a little care when going down small roads in forests and in particular when driving backwards under such circumstances. If the tips get caught in branches, you are almost sure to break them.

A mess

Disassembling the rod in its separate pieces and bringing it inside the car might seem like a good idea, but it's actually much more messy and risky than having it on the outside. If you leave the line and fly on the rod you can be sure that it will tangle, and if you cut off the fly and reel in the line, you will basically have to start all over again rigging line and fly.
Add to that that the loose rod is in severe risk of getting caught in doors, under bags or between seats or whatever crevices found inside a car.
It's messy, it's inconvenient and even risky.

Highway bound - It's not a good idea to mount the rods on the outside of the car when driving fast. The dangers will be greater on the outside than inside the car
Inside job - Rods inside the car can be convenient, but also hasardous
Martin Joergensen

The loose tip

In stead we put the rod inside the car without breaking it down. This can be necessary if you are going into "civilized" areas for lunch, for shopping or other errands, or if you intend to drive at high speeds.
With the rod inside the car you can lock it up, and won't risk theft or just curious hands, and you can go on any road at any speed you please (or are allowed to!).
Most modern cars like trucks, station wagons and estate cars easily hold a full 9' rod, and simply putting it in from the back with the tip in the front window and the reel resting on some luggage in the back can be an easy way of stowing the fully assembled rods. Some sedan cars have a center part of the rear seat that can be lowered, allowing the rods to protrude from the trunk through the seats and into the cabin. It might not hold a 9' rod, but shorter stream rods can easily be stored here.
Rods inside the car can sometimes be shifting around while driving, but that can be avoided by having a passenger hold on to the tips.
Another danger is having the rod tip caught in the front window or some other gap, and we have several examples of rods with tip tops loosening because they have been stuck in the gap between the front window and the instrument panel.

Permanent solutions

If you have a big fishing car, which has the room for rods inside, you may consider mounting a permanent rod holder. A couple of racks along the roof and some foam "grips" or bungee string, and you may have a very practical rod holder, which will hold your rods safely and make sure they are out of the way and unharmed while you drive.
Some manufacturers also make inside rod holders that can keep the rods out of harms way, and a company such as Rod Mounts has a wealth of different solutions for inside mounting of rod holders.

You can leave your fly on - There's no reason to cut off the fly or reel the line in when mounting the rods on the outside of the car
Out of the way - The rods won't disturb the view while you drive
Rod holder heaven - Some places rod holders are always used. This is from Iceland where the two hand rods are easily transported between water and lodge and between the different beats.
Martin Joergensen

Different systems - Rod holders come in all kinds of shapes
The manufacturers


Vac-Rac. The magnetic one is the one that most of my fishing friends use. Very durable, lightweight, breaks down and can take a lot of load. Vac-Rac has a suction system too, as well as different solutions for more rods.
Richard Wheatley. The company most known for fly boxes also makes both magnetic and vacuum rod holders, but I don't see them on their web site anymore.
Tightline Enterprises. I have been using Tightline's magnetic rod holder for almost a decade now, and wven though it's larger and a bit clumsier than the Vac-Rac's it has brough my rod thousands of kilometers during the years. The Tightlines site is severely badly maintained, but I guess (and hope) that the company and the product is still alive.
Oykel Magnetic Rod Holders. These seem much like the Tightline's product in design with solid magnets. They are currently out of stock.
Koller-Craft. This manufacturer has a different design, which lock the rods with a snap lid and needs to be screwed in place.
Rodlok Rod Holder. This Australian company has some significantly different space age rod holders.
Rodmounts. The Sumo rod holder looks like my Tightlines product on steroids with a lot of flexibility and neat details. It's a vacuum based product, but seems very well thought through. Rodmounts also has an inside solution called Rodloft.



Inno (Japan) makes the finest interior rod racks I have found - they are sold under the name of First Strike Rod holders. I can carry up to 10 rigged fly rods - yes rigged and ready - in my car. I have used the rack for 8+ years now and am very pleased with the performance.

This avoids all of the pitfalls and security issues of transporting them outside of your vehicle. Of course, you need a vehicle large enough to accommodate 9' rods.

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