Outdoor Life Online Editor

Tony Stetzko is a high-intensity guide, and you don’t want to keep him waiting. He’s no different from any other pro I know who really cares about taking you fishing-in his case it’s likely to the holes and cuts where big stripers roam at night along a prime Cape Cod beach.

Typically, Stetzko is out of his SUV almost before it stops rolling and striding long-legged to where I’ll still be fussing with gear. I’ll be in waders, of course, with all bags and goodies an easy grab away and ready to go. And the rods-heaven forbid they are not two steps away as well-must be rigged and ready to fish.

“Ah, good,” Tony will say as he grins broadly and plucks my rods from the hood-mounted rod carrier. “Can you imagine? I had a client a couple of nights ago who hadn’t started stringing his rods, even. I mean, we gotta go-go. Right now. Fishin’!”

Tony’s own rod racks will already be fairly stuffed, but they’ll manage to swallow my rigs as well. Then we’ll be moving to the ocean with the setting sun at our backs. “Hey, you were so ready, you just might’ve earned a beer tonight,” Tony will say. High praise, indeed.

One For The Road
Not long ago it seemed that only the vehicles of surf-fishers were equipped to carry rods, mainly in the vertical position on front bumpers. A plethora of new carrying devices now lets us tote rigged outfits in a variety of positions inside and outside our trucks, autos or SUVs. This is a good thing, for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’re not always towing boats that can haul all those outfits rigged and ready.

When Thule and Yakima were new kids in the vehicle-ski-rack business, I suggested they consider similar systems for fishermen. No sale, so I and others just started building our own carrying devices that piggybacked onto theirs. In simplest form, you can still carry rigged rods in those blade-type ski racks, or even strap rods down on crossload bars with loop-and-hook fasteners. There are better ways, however. Nowadays you’ll find several rod carriers that attach to the crossbars of SUV roof racks.

One effective homemade design I spotted recently consisted of a couple of pieces of wood and several injection-molded (hard plastic) rod butt sockets-the kind of holders that mount to boat consoles. These were bolted across a wooden strip. For the rod tips, a corresponding number of rubber “pinchers” were fastened to the other wooden strip. Each strip was then C-clamped to the vehicle’s roof rack: one forward, one aft. The roof rack itself was adjustable so that the two sections could be moved apart or closer to accommodate rods of various lengths.

Manufactured versions of this system are sold by several companies for use atop vehicles or across open pickup beds. Some of the most popular racks nowadays are the ones with magnetic or vacuum attachments. As they are customarily used, the magnetic or vacuum carriers hold rod butts on a vehicle hood with the blanks angled up over the windshield and the tips held at roof level. Either type of carrier will hold onto rods at road speeds far beyond legal limits. The newly improved magnetic model from Orvis (800-548-9548) is a personal favorite. When I travel with my own rods I bring one of these rigs and attach it to the rental vehicle. At home, when I’m meeting friends, the carrier goes on whoever’s rig we end up taking.

Minimalist Racks
On extended trips I sometimes haul disassembled rods in lockable, PVC-pipe carriers clamped or bolted to a roof rack. These are the ones you’d check in as luggage at the airport. For safety’s sake, use schedule 80 (refers to wall thickness) PVC rather than the standard schedule 40.

Cam Sigler came up with a minimalist approach to toting rods during a Cabo San Lucas safari where we had to transfer gear by van from a hotel to a boat each day-and back again. The first time out, rods and reels bbecame tangled messes because we didn’t have an exterior carrier with us. Sigler was inspired to use two hook-and-loop fastener straps that, once attached, kept the outfits wrapped tightly as one unit. Today, there are any number of hard carriers on the market that will do the same thing, of course, but the hook-and-loop fastener straps take up the least room on trips.

Considering all the great mobile racks available nowadays, nobody should have to worry about tangled fishing outfits on a road trip. Besides being a frustration-buster, a durable rod-and-reel carrier offers a sure way to keep your guide smiling.

Maybe he’ll even buy you a beer. ROD CARRIER SOURCES:
Cam Sigler’s Rod Carrier: www.cascadecrest.com/ catalog/page8.htm
Cabela’s: 800-237-4444; www.cabelas.com
Fentress Marine: 727-581-9991
G. Loomis (Velcro wraps): 800-662-8818
Rod Mounts: 888-925-4487; www.rodmounts.com
Blue Water Designs (Delstang rod holder): ** 860-582-0623; www.bluewaternet.com/BW/index.htm
**Pappe Co.-Rod-Hugger (Velcro wraps): ** 228-467-6340
800-253-2538; www.redington.com
SporTube: 800-423-4439

Rod Racks to GoDry Toting
I’ve used Patagonia’s Stormfront Pack ($160) for a full season now to haul camera, wallet and clothes while I’m out fishing. It’s a totally waterproof daypack with large clamshell opening and waterproof zipper. That zipper is what makes the pack expensive and you need to use the included lubrication (in moderation) to make it slide easily. You can tote a couple of pack rods with the removable shoulder-strap harness, which has a non-waterproof pocket. This is a good rig on the trail or in a boat where dry-storage room is scarce.

Contact: Patagonia (800-638-6464; fax: 775-747-1992; www.patagonia.com).