DIY Rod Storage Part 2 – Built-in Rod Rack for Boats

Many of us carry a full arsenal of rods when we venture out for a day on the water. Having a good storage system in place, not only helps keep the them organized but also helps protect your investments from damage. When it comes to boats there is numerous options available, catering for all sorts of craft. With these things in mind we take a look at a couple of options you can tackle yourself.


Rod Lockers offer the advantage of being able to store your rods out of sight and away from the weather.  When installed in combination with a lock you also have piece of mind when the boat is on the trailer traveling to and from locations that your gear is safely stowed away. As a general rule you will usually be able to fit more rods into a rod locker in comparison to a rack.

Rod Racks (Horizontal) allow for quick and easy access to your rods. They have the ability for each individual rod to be supported and strapped in place when underway. Most rod racks will have a smaller “footprint” as well making them more suitable for smaller craft or in situations where available floorspace is already at a minimum. Racks would arguably be easier to install as well, with many “off the shelf” models available from your local boating store, there may already be a product that suits your application.

Rod Racks (Vertical) similar to above, vertical rod racks have all the same advantages of a horizontal rack, as well as taking up even less room in the boat. While this seems like the obvious solution, vertically stored rods are usually less protected, as they are susceptible to damage from wayward casts, overhanging branches or low bridges

As illustrated above there is both advantages and disadvantages to each option, Careful planning and consideration should be made before deciding on what the best course of action is for your vessel.


Weighing up the plus’s and minus for each I came to the conclusion that in my situation a rack would suit my boat better, so off to the drawing board it was.

My first stop was the internet to scour of products and ideas, it soon became apparent that all of the “off the shelf” products just wouldn’t suit the space that I had to work with, and the layout that I wanted to achieve.

Not only did I want it to function well, but I also wanted to achieve a certain “factory” look about it.

Research and design for the rack easily took up the most time of the project, working out heights and spacing, as well as coming up with an esthetically appealing design, was no easy matter with many drawings and cardboard templates required before the final design was achieved.


Many ideas were considered before the final design was conceived. Here’s was an earlier version I created to suit 3 rods.

When designing & planning your rack here a few key points to consider:


Spacing – Ideally you want to be able to fit as many rods as you can to maximize the space you have available, there is no such thing as too much storage, however its important to work out the correct spacing for sorts of combos you intend on storing. Spacing the rods to close together will make getting them in and out a pain, and they may also push against one another.

Materials – What are you going to make your racks out of? Traditionally, this would be the domain of plywood, it is easy to work with, stands up the marine environment when properly sealed and is still soft and forgiving as to not damage your rods.  Although MDF or Particle board may look like a suitable material to use, steer well clear of these. Due to the construction process of these materials, they will swell up and break apart when the come in contact with water.

Another Material worth considering is Expanded PVC. Used widely throughout the sign writing trade for producing 3D Cut Letters, it exhibits many similar properties to plywood, its rigid, can be cut and shaped with all the same tools but best of all its totally water proof without needing to be sealed or painted.

Location – Location is an important factor to consider when planning to build a rack. Due to the size of most rods and boats, your more than likely going to have to drill into your front casting deck to allow the rods to pass through. Make sure that you don’t have any important fixtures or fittings in the way. Its best to remove the floor and make sure its all clear, the last thing you want to do is cut a 50mm hole into your live well or puncture a fuel line. Also avoid drilling large holes through structural sections of your hull, like support ribs.



Skin Fittings – one for every rod in your rack, Skin fittings are used as an attractive entry point for the rod tips to go through the front casting deck. They come in many different sizes and are made out of wide variety of materials ranging from plastics through to stainless steel and brass, the plastic fittings are more than adequate, however for those wanting the stainless steel look without the cost of full cast stainless check out these fittings made by Stalon. They feature a glass reinforced plastic with a stamped 316 stainless face and really look the part

PVC Pipe– PVC Pipe is used to protect your rod tips underneath your casting deck.

Manufactured Board– Ideally Plywood or Expanded PVC to construct your racks out of.

Stainless Countersunk Screws – Mounting the brackets to your boat.

Bungee Cord – Used to secure the rods down when in transit.

TOOLS: Heat Gun, Needle, Screw Driver Shifter. Drill & Hole Saw Set

So you have your design sorted, its all spaced correctly and its time to make the final the final product. There are several ways to go about cutting them out.

By Hand – If you are handy in the garage and have plenty of time on your hands, there’s no reason why these couldn’t be made with a few power tools and some creative workmanship. Start by tracing out the design onto your desired material, then using a hole saw make the rounded internal cuts, repeat this for all of the slots in the rack and then cut out the rest with a jig saw. Using a hole saw for all the internal radius cuts will give you a even, more uniform appearance across all the slots. Use a light grit sand paper to sand down any rough or sharp edges, paying particular attention to the slots where your rods will be sitting,

CNC Router – Whilst most people will not have one of these sitting in your back shed, CNC Routers are defiantly the way to go. The precision and finish of the CNC router is second to none.

A CNC Flatbed Router is a large table that has a dual axis computer guided router on top. When programed in with your desired shape, what would take hours to cut and shape by hand can quickly and easily be cut in seconds with next to no sanding or finishing required. There are many places that offer CNC Routing and its more affordable than you think. If your handy on computers and can generate your own vector graphics of your design you will be able to save your self some money. Different places will require different file types, however long as your file is created using a vector based graphics program, it should be able to be saved into a format that works.


The precision and finish of the CNC router is second to none.

Once you have your racks cut out, its time to install the bungee cord that will hold the rods in place when traveling.

To do this insert the bungee cord though the hole in your rack. Then slide on a section of shrink tubing, you want to remember to make the bungee cord a little short so that it has some elasticity when pulled down, which will help keep things nice and snug. To join the two ends of bungee cord, i used a needle and some 20lb braid, stitching the two ends together, then once you have a solid join, slide over the shrink tubing and carefully shrink into place. Slide the bungee cord through the hole until the join sits inside the board, and equal amounts of shrink tubing either side. The shrink tubing not only hides the join but also helps protect it from wear.




With your newly cut racks cut out and ready to go, its time to install them into your boat. The easiest way (where possible) is to attach them to the upright support ribs running up the side of your boat.  The spacing does not need to be an exact measurement and will vary depending on the style of boat you have. Try and ensure that wherever you put them that the rods weight is distribute evenly across the two racks. Ideally  try to put one close to the butt end of the rod, and the other, somewhere around the first guide.



Holding your rack in place, mark out three screw holes to attach the rack to the upright. Using a small drill bit as a pilot, drill through the rack and into the aluminum upright. Replace the drill bit with a countersunk head or larger drill bit and lightly drill out a divot for the screw head to go into. When choosing a drill bit for your pilot hole make sure it is big enough for the screw to screw in firmly without binding. If you find that your screws start to “lock up” before they have finished turning, remove the screw and drill a larger hole, forcing the screw will usually end up breaking the soft stainless fixings. For this reason its best to tighten up the screws by hand using a screw driver. Once the first rack is installed repeat this process for the other rack.


Once both racks are in place, its time to get the drill out and start cutting some holes through your front deck for the rods to pass through.  The best way of finding out where the holes is, is to get broom handle or something similar and insert it into one of the positions on the rack. move it forward until it touches the front casting deck and then mark it with a permanent marker. Repeat this for the remaining holes. Once your happy with the location of the holes, take a hole saw and start cutting holes into your front deck. Depending on the internal framework of your boat, you may need to drill a second set of holes, if you have a divider panel in the way.



If possible lift up the floor of your boat to make access a lot easier. Insert the PVC pipe through the holes you have just cut and then follow with the skin fitting. Attach the rear retaining nut to the skin fitting and tighten. Once everything has been properly tightened, slide the PVC pipe over the rear of the skin fitting. I found that i needed to slightly sand the rear of the skin fitting to get the PVC pipe to fit over it. Once sanded, the PVC pipe provided a nice snug fit onto the rear of the skin fitting and didn’t require any adhesive to remain in place. This will vary depending on the size of skin fittings and PVC pipe that you get. I’d recommend test fitting prior installation, as any alterations are a lot easier to make when you have full access to the parts.




Reassemble your floor and give your boat a good vacuum and your all done!


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Published on: December 10, 2013

Filled Under: DIY

Views: 107191

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8 Responses to DIY Rod Storage Part 2 – Built-in Rod Rack for Boats

  1. […] In Depth Angler have done a great write up on a horizontal rod rack which would suit smaller boats. Check it out here! […]

  2.' Angler Gang says:

    Really clean! I dig it.

  3.' grant says:

    Hey mate what size pvc pipe and fittings did you use?
    Cheers grant

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