There’s quite a range of RAM rod holders available for kayak fishing, almost too much choice, as some have put to me recently. Certainly there is some repetition of styles within the range, but there are notable differences in each of them. This guide aims to try and take some of the mystery out of the equation.
Lets begin by discussing the two materials used for various RAM rod holders. One is a powder coated aluminum, the other is an injection molded synthetic, some kind of hard-wearing plastic. The former is stronger, heavier and more expensive. The latter is lighter and cheaper. There is one other noteworthy difference as well, which is that the aluminum variants (both ball mounts and holder) grip tighter, achieving a sturdier hold. This is especially true of the RAM tube style of holder.
These are probably the most commonly sought after RAM rod holder, the obligatory tube. It’s simple design does have a few inherent benefits. One of them being that the tubes are convenient and simple to use. Rod goes in, rod comes out. It couldn’t be simpler. Another advantage of the tubes is that they do keep reels higher out from the waterline, so there is less chance of splash damage to reels, when you find a big fish. The biggest advantage (and this is especially true of pedal-powered kayaks) is that because the butt of the rod is concealed in the tube, there is no way for the rod but to get in your way. In many other styles of rod holder, a classic trolling position will dictate that the rod butt is pointing inwards toward the deck. If it points too far towards the deck it may just impede a proper pedal or paddle stroke (depending greatly on where the holder is mounted). There goes your classic trolling position. Many who have experienced this for themselves end up proud owners of RAM tubes.
The downside to the tubes, however, is that they simply aren’t as reliable for trolling, because it is harder to get the holder clamped to the ball tightly enough to prevent it from budging. This is especially true of the cheaper injection moulded (2008) version. If the tube is mounted to the ball so that the socket lever faces the bow or stern it is possible to prevent the tube from being bent back any more than about 30 degrees off the deck. If the socket lever faces port or starboard, the tube can be pulled right down to the gunwale (I’ve been whacked in the face by sudden jerking rods). So obviously having the lever facing the bow or stern is best. There’s a slight risk in doing this with the 2008 model, however, as I’ve found that it’s actually possible to pull the tube right off the ball. It takes a hell of a lot of force to do it, but it can be done. Whist the newer, cheaper 2008 tube has a nicer shape and two dead-eyes for leashing, the older allow one has the advantage in grip. The rod holder turnbuckle security system I have created recently would probably work very well on RAm tubes, especially the newer 2008 version (pictured left).
The reason that tubes are more likely to give under weight is that because they support the rods weight differently to most other styles (which typically support the rod at what should be it’s point of balance), the rod itself is a top-heavy load. Gravity is going against it to begin with. For this reason I generally only recommend the tube style of holder to those fishing in waters where torpedo-like 10+kg bruisers don’t lurk.
An interesting new twist on the tube holder concept is the RAM revolution tube, which incorporates a ratcheting system and mounting arm, and this does offer a greater range of movement. It’s easy to imagine this being far more sturdy than the standard tubes because of the alternative mounting system, although this is something that the writer is yet to put to the test, or get much feedback on. They do appear to be a better option for trolling as far as tube style rod holders go. *UPDATE: I have now put these to the test and really like them. I now use one as a 3rd tube mounted at the rear, typically used to carry a net. Indeed, they are a better option for trolling (forward or rear mount) than standard tubes, but the use of rod leashes would be advised. I also believe they would work really well as a rear trolling rod holder position, much like the Light Speed holders (pictured at top of page). Because the hold the rod in a more balanced position, it is possible to achieve a wider degree of angles without gravity becoming a problem. For rods with longer butts, it might be a good idea to cut the end base off the tube with a hacksaw, to allow the rod butt to be passed all the way through to make sure the reel seat arm sits neatly into the groove at the end of the tube.
Of all of the RAM rod holders currently available today, the RAM rod holder system 2000, otherwise known as the RAM-117U, makes for the surest grip onto the mounting ball. This particular model uses an ergonomically (ergonomic for your rod, that is) shaped holder that features on another of their models as well. It works nicely for threadline and baitcasters, is fairly easy to get the rod in and out of, and with a flip-over latch, is pretty secure as well. It does use an aluminum ball and socket, and it is pretty easy to tighten it up nicely – to the point where you can even relax around sharks, tuna and mackerel. The socket allows the user to position the holder up and away from the gunwale, and allows for a fair range of movement, giving various usage options. This particular model is the writers holder of choice. *UPDATE: The salt water version of this model has now become available, which although more expensive, comes with a stainless steel mount base and an injection moulded socket arm.
The RAM-114-RBU Ram Rod Holder system 2008 is a newer version featuring the same holder but different attaching arm. Its a little higher, lighter and cheaper. Being made of plastic, it won’t grip the balls quite as tightly, but it’s still nicely secure. It’s not at all far behind it’s older brother and is also well suited as a good sport fishing option. It should be noted that although both of the above mentioned holders will fit most rods, they aren’t well suited to rods with big balls on the butt. On the plus side, they both also allow the user to have the reel facing out to the left or the right and depending on where it’s being mounted, having this versatility is handy.
The RAM fly rod holder is an interesting proposition in that it’s the most secure out of the lot of them and works nicely for more than just fly rods – it’s a great flick stick holder as well. Because it has a flip-over latch that locks in at two points it is more secure than just about any other holder available. You won’t lose your rod if it’s latched in this holder, no matter what. Because of this, it’s not quite so important to have it locked so tightly into position. The downside to this holder is that it only allows for the reel to be facing to one side, which may or may not be an ideal facing direction on it’s mounting point. A major plus for this model is that it’s also one of the cheapest options available as well, but by no means the bottom of the barrel.
Another good inexpensive option is the RAP-340 RAM baitcaster/overhead rod holder, which is a bit of a cross between the fly rod holder and the rod holder system style. It does work nicely with a threadline reel, but has been designed with baitcasters in mind as well. It also features a flip-over tab that secures the rod into position. This one sits fairly low and close to the gunwales, so it’s important to make sure the rod butt won’t stick out and get in the way with this model.
My current favorite of the range is the more recently released Light Speed rod holder (pictured left), which are ideal for trolling for sport fish in a faster moving kayak like the Adventure Island. They make for an ideal height for a rear xbar mount, sit up fairly high and allow for trolling the rods out wide of the boat. Incorporating a jaw-locking system to secure the rod into place, a leash isn’t really mandatory, although we have discovered that it is in fact possible for the lock to be broken open under immense pressure, say from a heavy strike from a shark or cobia.
To get around problems with the holder being pulled backwards from heavy strikes on larger sport fish, I’ve conducted various experiments, the most successful of which incorporates turnbuckles and d-shackles, is described in detail here and pictured at the top of the page.