Few fishermen describe their boat’s hardware as exciting or sexy. Yet marine hardware serves a crucial role aboard saltwater fishing boats, in the form of cleats, hinges, rod holders and more. And this field is advancing, with innovations emerging each season.
Let’s look at eight challenges that boating anglers face as well as some cool marine hardware and other gadgets that help overcome those issues.
Livewell Hatch Won’t Stay Open
You open a livewell hatch about halfway to retrieve a bait, but the lid keeps slamming shut. In the past, a gas-assist strut helped keep the hatch open, but these pieces of hardware snag cast nets when you’re loading bait and interfere with dip nets.
Solution: Friction Hinges
Available from hardware companies such as Gemlux, friction hinges are ingenious devices that use a tensioning system within the hinge-pin assemblies to keep a livewell lid or hatch in place throughout its arc. “We were inspired by laptop computers,” says Matt Bridgewater, CEO of Gemlux. “If you can keep a laptop screen open at any angle, why can’t you do the same with a livewell lid?” Utilizing corrosion-resistant stainless-steel construction, the elegantly simple friction hinge does the job and does it well. Prices start at about $27 per pair.
Snagged Nets and Stubbed Toes
A few years back, I broke a toe when I jammed my bare foot into the horn of a spring cleat while making my way forward along a catwalk. OK, I know: I should have been wearing deck shoes. But conventional cleats still pose tripping hazards that can send crew members tumbling. Even in the best-case scenario, they tend to snag fishing lines and cast nets.
Solution: Pull-Up Cleats
Pull-up cleats have existed for decades (thank goodness), and they rank as one of the greatest marine-hardware innovations of all time, especially for boating anglers. You will find them on virtually every saltwater fishing boat sold today. Available from brands such as Accon and Gemlux, pull-up cleats let boatbuilders create smooth, snag-free rails (when the cleats are retracted). Yet these robust stainless-steel devices quickly pull up when it’s time to dock, anchor, or tie off a bait bag. Retail prices start at about $35.
Not Enough Cup Holders
Some hardcore anglers used to scoff at the idea of cup holders on a boat. Now anglers realize the importance of staying hydrated, and they want places to keep beverages from sliding around and falling to the deck in choppy water. In fact, many captains want more cup holders but lack space to install them.
Solution: Combo Rod/Cup Holder
File this one under “Why didn’t I think of that?” The rod/cup holder from Mate Series serves as a conventional gunwale rod holder for trolling, drift-fishing or just stowing rods. The holder’s sturdy stainless-steel construction means you sacrifice nothing when it comes to strength or corrosion resistance. Yet when it’s not holding a rod, this cool item doubles as a handy cup holder. Prices start at about $120 for stainless models; ABS plastic models sell for around $20.
Can’t Position Fenders Properly
Using only your boat’s cleats to position fenders for maximum protection against dock rash can be risky. Cleats are situated for tying up, not fender positioning, so your fenders might not hang in the optimal places for guarding the hull. Also, belaying a dock line and a fender whip to a single cleat is unseamanlike, cumbersome, and requires extra time to unravel both lines when casting off.
Solution: Low-Profile Fender Locks
Dedicated fender hangers are a great solution. To eliminate snag and tripping points, brands such as Taco Marine offer low-profile fender locks that you can add virtually anywhere along the rail of your boat. The Taco Quick Release fender lock features a smooth, round receiver that measures just ¼ inch high and is easy to install. A corresponding pin comes with a swiveling eye for securing a fender whip. A locking mechanism keeps the pin secure but also lets you quickly remove the fender. Retail is around $51.
No Rod Holders at the Transom
Virtually all saltwater fishing boats feature gunwale rod holders, but not all have them installed across the transom. Many times this is because there’s a hatch covering the transom for a fish locker or other stowage, rendering the surface unsuitable for a flush-mounted gunwale rod holder.
Solution: Burnewiin Mounting System
There are a number of workarounds, but one of the best I’ve seen for this problem comes from Burnewiin Mounts. Its mounting system features a beefy stainless-steel base with a locking receiver that mounts atop the transom. An equally robust rod holder then snaps into the base. The rod-holder angle is adjustable on two axes, and a quick-release mechanism lets you remove and stow the holder when it’s not needed. If you mount this system atop a hatch, make sure the hatch lid latches securely to prevent the strike of powerful fish from pulling it open. The stainless base sells for about $150; add $350 for the rod holder.
No More Room for Electronics
Twenty-first century anglers with 20th-century boats face an interesting issue. The millennium has ushered in a host of new electronics choices, but many older boats lack adequate space to mount the additional displays or other electronic accessories that boating anglers might desire, such as cameras, antennas and mobile devices.
Solution: Ram Mounts
Pedestal mounting offers a great solution. One of the most versatile systems comes from Ram Mounts. The quick-release ball-and-socket system offers a mind-boggling range of bases and adapters that let you add electronics just about anywhere. Prices start at about $22.
Bouncing Outrigger Poles
Running in choppy seas or trailering a boat on rough roads can cause outrigger poles to bounce and flex excessively. Even when telescoping poles are retracted, the bouncing action places tremendous stress on the outrigger bases and mounting surfaces, as well as on the poles.
Solution: Outrigger Support System
A simple yet effective solution comes from brands such as Birdsall Marine Design. Its Outrigger Support System consists of U-shaped cradles to secure the poles with arms that slip into the rod holders on a hardtop or T-top. Elastic cords secure the poles. These innovative devices are available in 2- and 6-inch offset versions. They retail for $95 per pair.
No Cutting Board
Many new boats feature built-in cutting boards, but some older boats lack this basic angling amenity. That leaves the crew wondering where to cut bait, filet a fish, or rig a ballyhoo.
Solution: Cutting Board with Rod‑Holder Mount
One of the best solutions is a cutting board equipped with a rod-holder mount, such as the system offered by Magma Products. The Magma 31-inch-wide Bait/Filet Mate board is crafted from resilient King Starboard and features guards across the aft and sides to keep fish from sliding off. It can be equipped with the Magma adjustable LeveLock rod-holder mount, which fits virtually any rod holder. The board and mount sell as a combo for about $170.