Introduction: Flush Mount Rod Holders Into a Pungo 120 Kayak

A quick background brief:

I always wanted a Kayak. I just thought that I would enjoy it. I've had that feeling before and I was always right. So, one day I bought a kayak. A blue Wilderness Systems Pamlico 120. Loved it and the wife loved it. Now we needed another, go figure. A week later I picked up a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120. Loved it more! (So did the wife...) Out goes the Pamlico and in comes a new Pungo. The Son loved it. Damn! Third Pungo. 

The idea:

After a few weeks, seeing everyone fishing from their yaks, I thought I'd enjoy that aspect as well. I always liked fishing and the 60's Alumicraft rebuild in the driveway wasn't getting any further along. So I read websites, visited forums, bought magazines and started to talk to people. The mind boggled at the types of fishing kayaks available and how people customized their own. 

I immediately had a list of the different type-specific kayaks I'd have to purchase. 160's, 135's. Sit on tops, pontoon hulls, stand while casting kayaks. Then I woke the heck back up and tried to figure out how to best use what I already had. If I enjoyed my Pungos so much as they already were I figured I'd enjoy them that much more if I slightly modded them for fishing.

Back onto the web I went and soon found a few different options that cost little but offered some basic functionality. Some flush mount holders to hold some spare rods or to troll with, a gimbal mount up front to hold a spinner rod while maneuvering and an anchor system. Almost exactly what you'd get if you bought the "Angler" version of the Pungo, but for a bit less money but a lot more satisfaction. 

Biggest concern was to keep it on the cheap, make sure it works and prevent the mods from making it look like a glob. Oh, and it still had to float! That was kind of important too...

Step 1: What Kind of Rod Holder to Get?

As a complete Noob on the subject it took me a bit to weave through all the options and suggestions.  DO this, DON'T DO that.  What I settled upon was this.  I wanted my flush mount rod holder to be capped on the bottom.  I didn't want ANY water to get into my kayak.  Ok, maybe a bit extreme.  After all, I'm not even using a spray skirt!  But if I'm going to have a choice, I'm going to err on the side of not sinking faster.  Or something along those lines.

I picked up a few of these SeaDog rod holders.  I liked them for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, their bottoms were sealed.  Not capped with removable plugs like others, sealed.   Capped holders can pop off if filled with water when you're putting in your rod.  Sorry, tried that last sentence several ways, always sounds less than appropriate.  I also liked that it came with a rubber gasket with attached plug.  The gasket helped seal the opening I would have to cut and the plug would help keep water out of the holder when not being used. 

From the same website I picked up a bunch of Aluminum rivets with a soft rubber top.  I believe they were listed as sealing the holes when used.  The one thing I wasn't sure about was if the rivet would damage the underside of the skin when popped so I used some steel washers in between.  More on both those later.

Step 2: You Want Me to Cut a Hole WHERE?

Let me just say that I'm not opposed to completely ripping apart anything I own to "make it better".    Honest, ask my wife!  The first thing I do when I buy a new shiny thing is Tim Taylor it, "I can make it better"!  Drives the wife NUTS!

So the kayaks didn't seem any different.  Until I had cutter in hand and was starring down at my brand spanking new kayak that didn't yet immediately sink when used.  I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

First thing I had to do was figure out where it would go.  I did some research and most if not all looked as they were mounted behind the seat and in the rear watertight compartment.  That started the bells ringing.  I also wanted the holders to be angled backwards a bit.  That caused another issue, the holders would now be pointed back towards the bulkhead.  A misaligned hole could put the holder into the bulkhead. More bells.

Ok, deep breath.  After staring at everything for an eternity I was struck by an idea.  I grabbed a flashlight, dropped it into the holder and stuck it up underneath the Kayak.  BAHM!  There was the oval!  Nice clean lines too.  I soon came across my first of many problems.  The lip of the holder was hitting up against the edge of the lid bump so I couldn't get a good position.  Also, I figured the holder was too long since it's supposed to be top mounted.

Next try.  I cut a cardboard tube that was the same diameter as the holder.  I cut the top end at the same angle as the holder and cut the tube to an appropriate length.  Much, much better.  The tube was no longer hitting the lid bump.  I  put thin strip of foil over the top of the tube which then gave me an accurate angle of the tube.  I played with this setup for a while, trying different angles and placement points making sure I wouldn't bump into the bulkhead.

After several markups with the china marker (WD-40 takes that stuff off in quick second!) I soon hit onto my next problem.   Although I could come up with a good mount position and angle on each side I noticed that no matter how I marked them up, they never matched.  This wouldn't do.  I had three kayaks to mod and having all the holders in different positions and at different angles would eat at me on several levels.

Step 3: Same Place, Same Angle? One String and a Ruler!

More staring.  More markups and fair amount of swearing.  I was using a piece of string to test some less than stellar theories when an idea just popped into my head.  Really, pop! 

I noticed an alignment between one of my placement marks and the bungee cleats.  Three quick tests of wrapping the string this way and then that way and I was done!  I now had a system that was relatively accurate and more importantly reproducible.

I wrapped the string around the working side cleat from front to back and then over the kayak to the opposite side cleat from back to front.  The string ran EXACTLY along the one side of the marks I made previously.  I then measured the two rivet points on that line.  3-1/4" from the bottom of the cleat and then 3" up from that point.  I then removed the string, aligned the gasket to the two side holds and marked the third rivet hole.  I also traced the oval in the center of the gasket knowing that it would be slightly smaller than what would be needed.  A couple of quick straight lines with a ruler and I was done with this side.

I then did the same process to the next side.  String, measure the two holes, place gasket, third hole and oval, remove gasket and draw some lines.  I checked the hole position and angle with my trusty cardboard tube and flashlight once it got dark..  Couldn't be more perfect!  The oval was placed in center of the least curvy area and the angle allowed the tube to just kiss the bulkhead.  PERFECT!!

I must have done something worthy in a previous life.  I couldn't believe how well this trick aligned everything so well.

Step 4: Need a New Dremel Tool! Ahh, the Little Things in Life...

This is the step that I dreaded the most.  Cutting into my beautiful brand spanking new kayak.  I figured I'd muck up mine to refine the process before moving onto the other two.  Did I mention I dreaded this part?

That being said, I was able to calm my nerves somewhat by buying a new power tool.  "Tool make noise, tool good, me like tool!"  OK, so I had a jigsaw but I thought it would just chew up the plastic and have you ever tried to cut a little hole with a one of those?

I picked up the Dremel 400 and an extra all-purpose rotary bit.  It would be my first time using a rotary bit so I tried it out on some scrap first.  I've read good things about it and was not disappointed. Easy to use, nimble and it did a great job.  Couldn't really ask for more than that.  Extra bonus that the sanding drum bit did a bang up job of enlarging and smoothing the oval.

First cut may not be the deepest but it's almost always the messiest.  After checking, rechecking and checking the marks again I took out my Dremel and ponied on up to the bar.  I put on my ear protection ( trust me, this thing screams at 32K rpm), took a stance and pushed the bit into the kayak.  It's a good thing that I started inside the circle somewhat as I caused a chip of plastic to pop off on it's way in.  I then smoothly traced the circle and as they say in the movies, "Voila, she is done!"

Still a bit cautious with my first mount I went back and forth between dry fitting and grinding out the oval.  A few minutes later I had a "flush" flush mount.  I played with the angle for a second and drilled through the holder's mount holes for the rivets.  Wow, this is getting easier.  I dry fitted the holder again with the rivets installed and stood back for a quick look.  Not too shabby!

With renewed confidence I went onto the other side's mount...  Much faster, less hesitation, fewer butterflies...

Step 5: Pop Music, Pop Rocks or Pop Rivets?

Excellent!  I now had to flush mount rod holders sitting in my kayak.  I had the rivet holes drilled and everything was symmetrical.   Now comes the easy part.  After all, what could go wrong?

Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!  Why did you just read that!

Let's start off with the waterproofing.  I placed a bead of Plumbers Goop on the kayak and on the rubber gasket.  Not too much that it would squeeze out with pressure but enough that the seal would be complete.

I dipped each rivet in some goop and then inserted.  I also put some goop on each side of a washer and slid it up the rivet to rest against the skin of the kayak.  I wanted something for the rivet to push against that wasn't plastic.  I was hoping the Goop would keep the washer from rusting, somewhat.  I also wanted it to keep the washer up against the skin as I popped the rivet.

Onto the problem that you caused by reading that one sentence above.  Shame on you.  On the first round of rivets I used a rivet gun that was most likely made in the early 70's.  A Fatherly hand me down.  Snapped all the rivets off with about an inch to go!  Back to the Dremel.  I used the circular cutting bit and flush cut the remaining rivets.  A slight mar on the top of the holder but otherwise neat.

Quick trip to the local hardware store and I picked up a new rivet gun.  Next holder and POP, POP, POP.  All snapped off flush.  Well done indeed!

Step 6: But Will It Leak?

As mentioned in a previous step I put a bead of Goop on both sides of the gasket and made sure I include the rivet holes.  What about the rivets?

Just to make sure everything was sealed and to soften any harsh edges I put on some disposable gloves and put a generous dab of Goop onto each making sure to work it into the rivet splits.  I'd really suggest the gloves.  They're cheap and Goop is a pain to get off.  It's much easier to just roll up the gloves and give them a toss when you're done.

Step 7: Fruits of Labor

Here are some shots of my kayaks with all of their modifications actually being used.

The first four are with a friend of mine, fishing down on the Chesapeake Bay.  The last picture is of me fishing a local watering hole.  As you might be able to glean from these pictures is that I also added some Scotty mounts to my kayak dashes.  Once flush mount and one raised mount. 

I use a pole holder for the raised mount and for the flush I drop in my Hummingbird fish finder.  The battery goes in the front dash compartment, wire holders keep everything up, tight and out-a-site (sorry) and the transducer is a "through the hull" mount epoxied behind the seat.  Works pretty well too!

Step 8: Quick Look Inside

Here's what the inside of the hatch looks like with the two rod holders installed. They fit flush against the bulkhead and don't really take up any usable space inside. They also don't move at all so there's no worry about them pushing into the bulkhead which is a software material.

These holders do NOT have the drain hole in the bottoms so there's no worry about water getting into the hatch.