Fishing Rod Storage for Pontoon Boats

Although a lot of bass boat, center console, and inshore skiff devotees are scandalized by the very idea, the fact is that most pontoon boats have quite a bit going for them as fishing vessels. As a rule, pontoons offer space for multiple anglers to fish comfortably, along with lots of storage. Their stability and high sides make them exceptionally safe for young anglers, and they provide plenty of room for non-anglers to relax while others fish.

And it’s not just lakes and slow-moving rivers where pontoons have fishing potential; saltwater-ready models are showing up more and more on coastal bays and flats. Pontoons draw very little water for their size — allowing them to access shallow areas unreachable by similarly sized V-hulls — and, because most have no chines, they tend to be quieter while anchored or drifting than V-hulls with hard chines. Even some inshore guides are using pontoons; they may not be as fast or sexy as a bay boat, but at the end of the day they’re less expensive, roomier, more stable, more fuel efficient, easier to maintain, and draw less water. Hard to argue with that.

'Made, Not Born'

All that being said, with the exception of a few purpose-built models, fishing pontoons are made, not born. All of those basic fishing boat features — rod and tackle storage, bait and live wells, trolling motor rigging, and so on — have to be added. Among your first priorities should be a convenient, secure place to stow rods where they’re easily accessible but can’t be stepped or sat on by your brother-in-law. (Rod holders for use while fishing, as opposed to storing rods when not in use, present another challenge that we’ll look at in another article.)

Pontoon boats have a few quirks that affect rod storage. First, most lack solid interior “sides” and instead have so-called “fencing” typically made of square aluminum tubing and thin paneling, which limits mounting options. Second, virtually all pontoon boats have Bimini tops — most of which stay in the up position most or all of the time. That mostly eliminates the area covered by the Bimini for vertical storage of rods longer than 6’ or so.

fly fishing from pontoon boat using boat outfitters fishing accessoriesfly fishing from pontoon boat using boat outfitters fishing accessories
Although they have their limitations, pontoon boats can be very capable fishing vessels.

Pontoon-specific Rod Racks

rod holders attached to pontoon boats square aluminum tubingrod holders attached to pontoon boats square aluminum tubing
Made of square aluminum tubing and thin panels, the “fencing” found on most pontoons can make mounting rod holders a challenge.

One good solution for pontoons with traditional aluminum “fencing” is a pontoon-specific vertical rod rack like our 4 Rod Pontoon Rod Holder (also available in a 2-rod configuration). Machined from King StarBoard, these two-piece racks are easy to mount and provide more flexibility in locations than standard one-piece racks. Pontoon rod racks consist of an upper part that screws or bolts to the top rail with slots for two or four rods, and a bottom part that attaches to the deck with recesses for rod butts. The distance between the top and bottom parts can vary, creating lots of mounting options.

Pontoon rod racks can be mounted either inside or outside of the rail, take up minimal space when not in use, and hold rods securely. Every boat is different, but these racks are often mounted near the forward corners of the boat, close to where most fishing takes place and well clear of the Bimini top. On a tight budget, you can achieve the same thing with a cheap plastic indoor storage rack (like you see in tackle shop displays), but these don’t stand up to UV, wear, and salt like starboard.

Of course, standard one-piece vertical racks like our 4 Rod Deluxe Rod Rack or even single rod tubes can be used too, provided your pontoon has a suitable vertical surface for mounting. These racks can be mounted to flat wood, fiberglass, or plastic with self-tapping screws, or, preferably, through-bolted if you have access to the back of the mounting surface. They aren’t well suited for mounting directly to the thin paneling of a pontoon boat rail and instead work best on the vertical sides of seating modules, consoles, etc.

Locking Pontoon Rod Boxes

A unique and relatively new option is the Pontoon Rod Storage Box from Boat Outfitters. This freestanding box is made from King Starboard and securely holds four rods in vertical racks, along with two small Plano-style tackle trays. What sets the storage box apart from rod racks is that rods and tackle can actually be locked inside it.

Since so many pontoons live in slips or on lifts at marinas and residential docks across the country, lockable storage adds a real measure of convenience. Just secure your rods and tackle in the box at the end of the day, and they’ll be waiting there for you next time.

Freestanding rod storage boxes can be mounted virtually anywhere they’ll fit on your pontoon, but since they occupy quite a bit more real estate than a standard or pontoon rod rack, the preferred locations are on the aft or forward decks, outside the rail.

Again, every application is different, and there are quite literally thousands of different pontoon boat models on the water today. Your ideal rod storage solution might be one of the options discussed here, a combination or them, or something completely different. We welcome your call to discuss possibilities.

A locking pontoon rod box holding 3 spinning rods and fishing tackleA locking pontoon rod box holding 3 spinning rods and fishing tackle
A locking pontoon rod box means rods and tackle can be left on your boat in the slip or on the lift.

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