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Off the rocks - A guide to rod holders

30 November 2015
Off the rocks - A guide to rod holders

One essential piece of kit for every budding rock fisherman is a rod holder. Tom Lusk suggests a few products to suit every spend-level. There are very few rock spots around NZ with perfect fissures to jam a rod butt into while waiting for a bite. One solution to this problem is to carry a rod holder that will keep your rod secure and at the best angle to keep your bait out of the swell and kelp. Here are a few options...

PVC pipes

If you’re fishing somewhere with plenty of loose boulders, a length of PVC or nylon pipe is a pretty good option. You can point the pipe in the desired direction and simply pile boulders around so it doesn’t move.

I used to carry up to four of these pipes strapped to the side of my pack, and although they’re bulky, they are also light. One downside is that they are a nightmare to bundle together - the best way I found was to use gaffer tape, starting with one and gradually rolling the remaining pipes in. This type of holder can be particularly good for man-made rock walls and breakwaters.

Metal rock spikes

If you’re looking for an entry-level product then there is a good range of short metal rod-holders at the bottom end of the market that will do the job. You can pick them up for around $20, which means you’ll be less heartbroken if you leave one behind.

A good, basic, Kiwi-made model is the Nacsan Rock Spike in the shortest size (for convenience). As with all your gear, the dreaded corrosion will attack it at the slightest opportunity. I go further than a simple hose-down after a day on the bricks, actually soaking things like rod holders overnight in a bucket of fresh water. A spray with a product called Lanox (or similar), which is made from sheep lanolin, offers extremely long-term (if sticky) protection from corrosion.

Taking a DIY approach at or near your chosen location makes sense, especially if it is a long walk in to the site. This quickly knocked up tripod from branches and flax will do the job of a much more expensive shop -bought product.

Surfcasting spikes

Designed to be wedged into the sand, these spikes will do the job on a lot of ledges. Often they can be set in piled up boulders, (as with PVC pipes), if a suitable crack isn’t available. They are a bit of an awkward shape to carry around, and suffer the same tendency as rock spikes to corrode horrifically if not taken care of.

Rocky rod holder

In the mid-2000s, a beautiful piece of Kiwi-made kit came on the market, the Rocky rod holder. The Rocky retailed at around $70, but it was well worth it. What set it apart from the low-end holders was its compact design, flat, broad “foot” that jammed securely into cracks, and its construction from solid, corrosion-proof stainless steel. It was a true piece of art.

The author and friends with a nice king taken from the rocks. Good gear and preparation is the key to success like this.

The Rocky disappeared from shops for a few years, to reappear recently in an improved form. The makers have added a small spike of metal to fit into the gimbal nock on the base of game rods, replacing the flat plate that had previously supported the rod butt in the holder. This is a major improvement, because it means that your rod will no longer swing around under the weight of the reel.

I only had two issues with my Rocky products; one was that my heaviest game rod was a tight fit, meaning that when I grabbed the rod, the Rocky would come with it and threaten to drop into the drink. The other problem was that I like to tap my holders in to cracks with a club hammer, and my Rocky started to deform at the top. Rocky Rod Holders currently sell for $75 excluding postage, and are available directly from the manufacturers.

The Rokhopper

An exciting, new, locally designed and manufactured product, the Rokhopper rod holder will hit the market soon. Designed by keen LBGer Jeff Rodgers, it is made from thick but light aluminum, and will be available to buy through Action Tackle Supplies at a slightly lower price than the Rocky.

It is relatively light, at 500g, and looks and feels appropriately tough - a really well engineered piece of kit. It has a sleeve of protective nylon around the top of the rod tube to prevent scarring on the body of your rod. Another thoughtful addition is a lanyard hole for attaching a safety leash, and a very solid gimbal plate. It’s a future staple of NZ land based fishing.

Down with this sort of carry on


The other main way of supporting a rod on the rocks is by turning the butt of the rod itself into one leg of a tripod, and attaching two shorter legs to the rod just ahead of the fore-grip. This is a very stable setup, and is particularly good for the super heavy gear you need to target big kings, sharks, or the holy grail of LBG in NZ, the marlin.

This style of holder has the considerable advantage of being light, yet very solid, and allowing you to effectively deploy live bait from anywhere you can find a relatively flat piece of ledge. I also like this approach because it keeps the rod parallel to the ocean surface, meaning that a predatory fish can grab the bait and move off with very little resistance - important with fragile baits like piper.

A fantastic new bipod called the LBG Buddy is now available in NZ, again through Action Tackle Supplies, for around $90. The Buddy is very popular across the ditch, where it has gained a devoted following. While I haven’t had the chance to try it myself, the LBG Buddy is clearly a quality piece of gear, with precision machining and beautiful aesthetics.

Tips for rod holders

  • If you have the energy, you might like to take a club hammer along to tap your rod spike in. It allows you to find purchase in very narrow cracks.
  • Tying a strip of fluttery hi-vis ribbon or tape to your holder will help avoid leaving it behind.
  • A tripod can be made by securing three flax stalks in a teepee-shaped structure. A strip of flax blade (leaf) holds them together, and then you have a very basic but solid means of keeping your rod supported. Just be sure to wrap the blade individually around each leg of the tripod before wrapping around all three and tying off - otherwise it tends to collapse.
  • Remember, while cementing in your own permanent holder at your favourite spot sounds like a good plan, it is illegal. Plus, it looks ugly; our coastline deserves more respect.
  • Avoid having your rod sticking straight up in the air when in the holder (as you would on a surf beach). This encourages the line to droop into the wash or kelp, and creates resistance that the fish will feel when it moves off with your bait. Angle the rod around 45 degrees.
  • When your rod is in the holder, you don’t want the drag up high enough that a large, powerful fish can pull it out of the holder and into the brine. Equally, you don’t want the drag so low that a fast-moving fish can cause a backlash, which will jam and take your rod and reel off to the horizon. Give your line a good yank to ascertain whether your drag is too high or low.

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