Innovative Marine Hardware

Twelve marine accessories and hardware items that solve problems for boating anglers

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.

Here is a collection of 12 innovative marine hardware items and accessories (5 from our November/December 2016 issue and 7 more for an even dozen) that can help make fishing and boating more convenient, starting with one of the most remarkable.

Combo Rod/Cup Holder

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.

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.

Mate Series combines a rod and cup holder in one.

Mate Series Rod/Cup Holder

The innovative Mate Seriesrod holder doubles as a cup holder. Stainless steel construction offers corrosion resistance and strength.Courtesy Mate Series

Pop-Up Lights

This one reminds one of sports cars with flip-up headline, except these lights help alert other boats to your presence and direction of travel at night. Retractable navigation lights from Accon Marine easily pop up when you need them in the dark or fog, but tuck away during the day to eliminate snag points and keep the gunwales smooth.

Retractable navigation lights

Accon Marine Pop-Up Lights

Retractable navigation lights from Accon Marine pop up when you need them, but tuck away during the day to eliminate snag points and keep the gunwales smooth.Courtesy Accon Marine

Outrigger Support System

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.

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.

Birdsall Marine outrigger support system

Outrigger Supports from Birdsall Marine

Birdsall Marine's outrigger support system keeps outrigger poles from bouncing excessively when underway or trailering a boat, relieving stress on the mounts and hardtop.Courtesy Birdsall Marine

Pull-Up Cleats

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.

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 Marine 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.

Pull-up boat cleats

Gemlux Pull-Up Boat Cleats

Gemlux Cutting Edge stainless-steel pull-up cleats result in smooth, snag-free rails when the cleats are retracted, yet the cleat quickly pulls up when it's time to dock or anchor up.Courtesy Gemlux

Cutting Board with Rod‑Holder Mount

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.

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.

Magma cutting board with rod-holder mount

Magma Products Cutting Board

No cutting board? Consider the Magma 31-inch-wide Bait/Fillet board crafted from resilient King Starboard. The Magma LeveLock rod-holder mount lets you use the board with virtually any rod holder.Courtesy Magma Products

Awkward Hinge Angle

The Intelli-Hinge from Taco Marine solves the problem trying to hinge curving surfaces and joints. The ball-and-socket pivot point accommodates virtually any angle at which a hatch can swing.

Taco Intelli-Hinge offers versatility

Taco's Intelli-Hinge

The innovative Intelli-Hinge from Taco Marine features a ball-and-socket pivot point that proves ideal for use on concave, convex and multiple-plane surfacesCourtesy Taco Marine

Ram Mounts

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.

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.

Ram offers a number of mounting solutions

Ram Mounting Solutions

The quick-release ball-and-socket Ram Mount system lets you add marine electronics just about anywhere.Courtesy Ram Mounts

Short on Cleats?

If you need extra cleat along the gunwale of your boat, think about adding Accon Marine's Cleat/Rod Holder Combo. This stainless steel gunwale rod holder incorporates a pull-up cleat for docking or attaching fenders. Be sure to through-bolt the rod holder for the extra strength needed when using the cleat to tie off.

Accon rod holder doubles as a cleat

Accon Marine's Cleat/Rod Holder Combo

If your boat is short on cleats, think about adding Accon Marine's Cleat/Rod Holder Combo. This stainless steel gunwale rod holder incorporates a pull-up cleat for docking or attaching fenders.Courtesy Accon Marine

Low-Profile Fender Locks

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.

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.

Taco Marine fender lock

Taco Marine Quick-Release Fender Lock

Taco Marine's Quick-Release Fender Lock features a low-profile stainless-steel receiver to minimize snags. A quick-release pin lets you easily hang or remove fenders.Courtesy Taco Marine

Retractable Push-Pole Holders

Accon Marine push-pole holders quickly pop up to secure your push pole between fishing spots, but just as quickly retract to keep the gunwales free of snags and tripping points.

Accon Marine retractable push-pole holders

Accon Marine Retractable Push-Pole Holders

Accon Marine's flush-mount push-pole holders tuck away when not needs to minimize tripping hazards, snagged lines or fouled castnets.Courtesy Accon Marine

Friction Hinges

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.

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.

Gemlux friction hinges keep hatches in place

Gemlux Friction Hinges

Friction hinges from Gemlux eliminate the need to support hatches with a gas-assist strut. These stainless-steel devices come in a variety of sizes to fit virtually any hatch. These are particularly helpful in holding open the lids on livewells.Courtesy Gemlux

Burnewiin Mounting System

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.

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.

Burnewiin's mounting system offers a number of options.

Burnewiin Mounts

The innovative Burnewiin Mounts utilizes a beefy stainless-steel base with a locking receiver that mounting atop a gunwale or transom. A number of accessories fit the base, including cleats and rod holders.Courtesy Burnewiin Mounts
Burnewiin rod holder

Burnewiin Mounts Rod Holder

A robust stainless-steel rod holder from Burnewiin Mounts fits the company's innovative base system. The rod holder locks into the base, and is adjustable on two axes. A quick-release mechanism lets you remove the rod holder when it is not needed.Courtesy Burnewiin Mounts