How many is too many when it comes to rod holders?
Long ago, I read a story in a now-defunct Great Lakes fishing-oriented magazine in which the author claimed that if a fisherman planned to regularly use 10 rods in their trolling array, the proper number of rod holders to have on the boat is 20. Was he right or would that be overkill?
Now that I have set up five different boats for Great Lakes trolling and now that I’ve fished on dozens of other boats set up for Great Lakes trolling, I think 20 holders would be slightly excessive. Many rod holders these days have easy-to-set adjustments so they can be tilted to almost any angle and swiveled forward or back. They can do double duty, set to be used with a planer board in the spring and repositioned for a downrigged rod in mid-summer.
On the other hand, if the trolling plan for a boat maxes out at 12 lines, having only 12 rod holders may be too few.
Sure, it’s a handsome sight having all 12 rods set in their specific position, lined up, each downrigger rod doubled over identically, each planer line set in a way that would make a drill sargeant happy.
That’s when the boat is trolling along, waiting for action. How about during the busy times like when there’s a fish on one line halfway to the boat and another fish bites on a line set on the other side of the boat? How about when the boat slows to trolling speed at that magic time of day and everyone knows the faster the lines get set, the sooner the first fish will be hooked?
That’s when “spare” rod holders come into play. I have a pair of holders on the stern of my boat with a main purpose of holding the rod while I’m clipping it’s line to a downrigger release. When a fish is hooked in the corner of it’s mouth it will often pull significantly to the side when being reeled into net range. With static rod holders, all that can be done is hope the fish doesn’t get into the other lines. A couple of spare holders can provide a spot where rods can be repositioned “out of formation” and out of the way on a temporary basis.
If you are setting up a boat for Great Lakes trolling and planning what is needed and where to put it, add in a few extra rod holders. If you have a Great Lakes trolling machine, the next time out, consider when and where an extra rod holder or two would help in special situations.