HOLDING YOUR ROD!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: January 21, 2024

Icemen are fond of their Rods and use a variety of Rod Holders. Some are stationary, some move or vibrate, others attach to the rod. The key is to hold on to your rod when a big fish strikes.

The other day at Canyon Ferry, the Big Pig Rainbows were dragging our gear down the holes. We were fishing 6 rods each, that were spread over 20 yards. The ice is smooth and slick, without any snow cover or crunch. Even with traction cleats on our boots, it takes a few moments to get to the rod.

My shorter rods had a wooden homemade bracket attached to the rod. It is designed to be slightly larger than the hole to prevent them from getting pulled under the ice. I set my drags lighter to avoid line breakages. 3 times my rod holders saved my rods, that were sticking perpendicular to the ice and in the hole. I was able to recover them and land the fish.

Making homemade rod holders is an evolution. Some guys just kick up a pile of ice or snow and shove their rod into it. You can buy all sorts of holders that collapse, fold, jig, wiggle, and screw into the ice. Each has its place and may be better in some conditions. Rod holders are important when fishing with kids and newbies. 

The ideal Ice Fishing Rod Holder needs to;

Keep the rod from going down the hole.

Is high enough to keep the tip up without being blown by the wind.

Allows instant rod access and lift to set the hook.

Won’t slide across the ice from wind or fish.

Keeps your reel off the ice, snow, or water.

I use 2 primary homemade rod holders. Each has its advantages, and I am constantly making adjustments. 

Parallel wooden holder.    I make these from 3 pieces of scrap wood. The size fits perfectly into the bottom of my ice sled. The 2 ends hold the reel off the ice and keeps the rod parallel. The reel butt is not in a tube or needs to be pulled out before it can be pulled up. This is critical on days when the bites are light. The V cut at one end is deeper for the rod butt, while the front-end V is shallower for the rod blank. 

I use longer rods when ice fishing. My 4–6-foot rods set the hook faster, handle bigger fish easily, and keep me away from spooking fish near the hole. I sit on the hole side away from the sun, so I do not cast a shadow into my holes. 

Lately, I am experimenting with securing a flat Simpson metal plate to the bottom. This plate has teeth that help to hold on the ice. I also drilled a hole in the base where I can screw in a T-lag to hold the rack in place. A big fish may bounce the rod off the rack but has never pulled the rod into the hole. I am also considering stretching a rubber bungy or band across the rear V groove to keep the rod handle from bouncing off the rack when getting a strong bite.

Rod Attached Holder.

I don’t like rod holders that require me to pull the rod out of a tube before I can set the hook. They hold the rod securely but slow the hookset. If the rod holder is a problem, make it a part of the rod.

This means the holder needs to be wider than the hole, low enough to see the rod tip bites, and keep the reel off the ice and snow. The attached rig also can’t tangle or get in the way.

I started this holder using a block of wood that is cut near the top. I drill 2 angled holes for wooden dials, as the legs. A round wood file will make a hole the size of the rod blank. 2 screws hold the top flat wooden plate to the sandwiched rod and base. A ½ inch hole is cut below for the fishing line to pass through, without tangling. Use a grinder wheel to smooth the line hole. 

I secure this holder just behind the large stripper guide on the rod. The hole diameter needs to match the rod diameter at that point. This system is bulletproof and lightweight. 

Lately, I have been modifying the holder to become one piece and lighter. It starts as a 10-inch triangle. I cut the top point off for the rod grooves. Then I make a round circle, using a plate, that makes 2 sturdy legs but gets rid of the weight from most of the wood. I cut my line hole as before and smoothed it out. I also sand all the edges to remove splinters and burrs.

 So far so good. No lost rods or broken gear. The BIG PIG trout have been doing their best, but my holders have been successful. Just an addition. I number my holders and space them in sequence. When using 6 rods on Canyon Ferry, your buddies know which rod you are getting a bite on and can direct you appropriately. 

Icemen are creative and always upgrading. I am curious as to what other styles, types, and ideas, that you may have. Please share and feel free to use my ideas and suggestions. 


Montana Grant

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