DiY Vehicle Rod Holder

diy rod holder 01Like most things in the overpriced niche market of Fly Fishing, vehicle rod holders were something I wanted, but wasn't willing to spend $100-$200 on anytime soon. I studied a few of the designs I had come across and decided that I could probably make something comparable on the cheap. 

With a design in mind I made a trip to Harbor Freight and the local hardware store to pick up some supplies. About an hour later I had the first one made and testing it out on the car, a little later on its first trip to the San Juan in New Mexico. 

Almost 2 years later it has been on multiple trips, held a lot of rods and working great! I've had it up to 80mph on the freeway loaded down with rods, bumpy 4x4 trails in the forests, monsoon rains, frozen 18f mornings, 115f midday blazing sun and wet slushy snow all with no signs of failure. The key is getting a good suction location on the hood and windshield.

Recently my good buddy Ben Smith of Arizona Wanderings asked me if I could make a how-to on the rod holders. Luckily I had all but the collapsible nut on hand and built a second one for this tutorial. Its pic heavy as I tried to document each step in detail to make it easier to follow along at home... Here you go Ben!


diy rod holder step 01Items you'll need to build a setup.

From Harbor Freight:
Double Suction Cup #46134 $6 on sale
Single Suction Cup #40993 $3 on sale
4pc Ball Stretch Cords #47302 $2.50
*1/8" Aluminum Pop Rivets

**40mm Round Magnet #96649 $2


From Hardware Store:
3/4" Schedule 40 PVC $1.50(3ft)
3/4" Pipe Wrap $1.25(6ft)
5" 1/4"x20 Bolt $.45
1/4" Washer $.05
1/4"x20 Collapsible Nut $.55
**Length of Cordage 


*You can use screws instead of Pop Rivets to secure PVC to single suction cup if you don't have one.

**Optional backup "peace of mind" security

diy rod holder step 02Basic tools needed:
Hand Drill
1/8", 1/4" and 1/2" drill bits
PVC Cutter
Dremel with Sanding drum or a rattail file
Razor Blade
Pop Rivet Tool*


Total cost with the extra safety measures is about $18 for a set. 

diy rod holder step 06First measure and cut your PVC. 

You'll need 2 12" lengths and one 3.5" length.

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diy rod holder step 09Measure, mark and drill a 1/4" hole in your dual suction cup in the center of the handle. 

Thread your 5" long bolt with a washer through.

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diy rod holder step 12Using a sanding drum on a Dremel or a round file, remove some material on the end of the 3.5" PVC section so it sets on the handle of the dual suction cups and cradles one of the 12" sections of PVC. You can skip this step, but the holder will not be as tight and secure, it will tend to slide a bit otherwise. 

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diy rod holder step 16Measure to the center of a 12" section of PVC and mark.

Drill out your hole for the collapsible nut. The tighter the fit the easier the next steps will be.

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diy rod holder step 18There are a few ways to get the nut to collapse and lock into place inside the PVC but this is the easiest way I've found.

Thread a nut onto the bolt and then thread in the bolt till its sticking out of the back of the collapsible nut by 1/8" or so. I tried to get a photo of this step, but its didn't work out so well. You'll understand when you get there. 

Use a long thin screwdriver to slide into the PVC and lock into one of the legs of the collapsible nut and holding the head of the bolt steady turn in the nut on the bolt to get it to start collapsing. Keep cranking along till the nut collapses fully and locks itself into the PVC.

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You can see the fully collapsed nut in the large photo to the right.

diy rod holder step 20Test fit everything before adding the insulation in the next step.

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diy rod holder step 23Slide the foam insulation onto the PVC pipe with the collapsible nut. Find and poke a hole for your bolt to go into the nut. 

Put it all together and tighten it all down.

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diy rod holder step 26Grab 2 of your ball stretch cords and slide the ball down to expose the knot on one of them. Untie the knot paying attention to how it was tied so you can retie it when you're done.

Remove the ball end and thread the untied stretch cord through the other to daisy chain them. 

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diy rod holder step 28Thread the untied ends of the stretch cord daisy chain through the PVC and out the other side. Slide on the ball and retie the knot.

You're finished with the dual suction cup part of the rod holder!

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diy rod holder step 33Measure and Drill the other 12" section of PVC with 1/8" drill bit.

On the inside of the stationary part of the handle of the single suction cup are 3 mold release markings. These are perfectly spaced and placed for us to use for our pop rivets (or screws). Mark and drill these out as well with the 1/8" drill bit.

Test fit your pop rivets, they should fit snug. 


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diy rod holder step 38Slide the foam insulation onto the section of PVC you just drilled and poke a hole through where you drilled.

Press the handle up against the foam and trace with a marker the general outline. Using a razorblade cut away the foam so the handle can get a direct lay against the PVC. 

Set the center pop rivet and pop it. 

Straighten the handle on the pvc and drill the PVC where the other 2 holes on either side of the center are. Set and pop rivet those as well.

Repeat the step for the ball end stretch cords for this holder as well and you're done! 

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diy rod holder step 40The completed rod holder set.

Check out the next steps for ways to even further secure them with a velcro lock for the single cup, and magnetic backup for the dual cups.

Look at the photos at the end of the tutorial of the rods mounted to see how to secure the reel ends. Just grab the front most cord of the 2 running across the rod handles and pull it back and under the butts of the rod. This will pull the reels up against the foam, and keep the rods from moving or sliding around. 

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diy rod holder step 44To secure the dual cups incase they come undone on the road, you can add a magnet with some cordage as shown.


diy rod holder step 50Adding a velcro strap to the single cup will prevent the cup from accidentlly opening on a rough road. I've actually never had it happen, but its peace of mind for me at the very least.

Mark and drill out the center mold release mark on the handle with 1/8" drill bit. 

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Cut a length of velcro to go around the PVC, and handle once and secure to itself when the cup is closed. Poke a hole in one end of the velcro so it can thread onto the rivet. Pop rivet it onto the handle. Or use a screw/nut if you don't have rivets.

When you close the suction cup you then just wrap the velcro around to keep it from popping open.

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