Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders

How to replace a conventional gunwale rod holder with a drink/rod holder.

June 14, 2017
Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders Tim Barker

Mate Series-patented gunwale rod holders double as drink holders. Robust polished stainless-steel versions with backing plates withstand the jarring strikes of powerful fish such as marlin, tuna or wahoo while trolling. When you’re not trolling, the cup portion holds your favorite beverage. You’ll find these models along the gunwales of many new fishing boats. Installing a Mate Series drink/rod holder on a boat without existing gunwale rod holders is relatively easy. You cut a 3¼-inch hole perpendicular to the gunwale.

Retrofitting is a different story. Once you remove the old rod holder, there’s no material for the guide drill on the hole saw. Without this, the hole saw tends to “walk” and gouge the finish without biting. Here are ways you can cut a bigger hole to install a Mate Series rod/drink holder, using the C1030ND model as an example.

Skill Level: 2.5/5
Finish Time: Approx. 1.5 hours per rod holder


Tools and Supplies
* Mate Series C1030ND model 30-degree stainless-steel rod/drink holder with rounded top ($119.95 each,
* Optional backing plate ($19.95 each,
* Drill motor and 1/4-inch drill bit
* Countersink bit
* 3 1/4-inch hole saw and arbor ($30.53,
* Optional loaner 3 1/4-inch hole saw with 2 1/4-inch guide and arbor ($75 deposit,
* 1-inch-thick plank of wood
* Rat-tail file (to chamfer edge of 3 1/4-inch hole)
* Large C-clamps
* Extra-long ratchet straps
* 1/4-inch stainless-steel oval-head machine screws (length depends on material thickness of the gunwale), washers and nyloc nuts
* No. 14 stainless-steel oval-head self-tapping screws (for boat with enclosed inwales)
* 3M 4200 marine sealant or equivalent
* Boatlife Git-Rot penetrating epoxy sealer for wood ($24.99 for 4 oz.,
* Disposable paint brush
* Phillips screwdriver
* Masking tape

Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Make a Saw Guide Tim Barker

Make a Saw Guide
Here is one way to cut a precise hole for the Mate Series drink/rod holder. Use a plank of wood (either plywood or solid wood such as pine will work) approximately the width of the boat gunwale, about 18 inches long and least 1 inch thick. Cut a 3 1/4-inch hole with a hole saw in the center of the plank. Tape down the supplied template (additional templates are available at where you want the rod holder installed on the gunwale, then position the hole in the plank (the saw guide) over the main hole indicated by the template.

Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Secure The Guide Tim Barker

Secure The Guide
The second step is to secure the saw guide you just created on the gunwale where you plan to make the cut. If the boat has open inwales, clamp the saw guide in position with two or more large C-clamps that reach under the gunwale. If your boat has enclosed inwales that make access under the gunwale impossible, secure the saw guide with a pair of ratchet straps wrapped under the hull and over both gunwales. As you tighten the straps, make sure the saw guide remains correctly positioned over the template before making your cut.

Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Use a Mate Series Saw Tim Barker

Use a Mate Series Saw
There is another way to make this cut. To make retrofits as easy as possible, Mate Series offers loaner saws — a hole saw inside a hole saw. The inner 2 1/4-inch hole saw (installed backward) guides the outer 3 1/4-inch hole saw. You might need to widen the old hole with a rat-tail file to get the inner guide to fit. Even though the existing hole might be at a 15- to 30-degree angle, the saw guide aligns perpendicular to the gunwale so the new hole is cut at 90 degrees to the surface. A $75 deposit is required for a 30-day loan.

Tip: Cover the affected surface area with masking tape (tape the template over this) before making your cut. Begin the cut with the drill motor in reverse to score the gelcoat, then run the drill forward slowly. These steps will minimize gelcoat chipping.

Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Seal The Substrate Tim Barker

Seal The Substrate
After you cut the hole, lightly chamfer the upper edge of the new hole with a rat-tail file. If the substrate under the gunwale is plywood or another wood-based material, use a sealant such as Boatlife Git-Rot penetrating epoxy to saturate and seal the substrate before you install the rod holder. Mix up a batch of the two-part formula and brush it liberally on the fresh wood surface you just cut. Allow the sealant to cure overnight before proceeding with the installation. This will help prevent moisture from creeping into the wood over time.

Retrofitting With Mate Series Rod Holders
Install The Mate Series Tim Barker

Install The Mate Series
Dry-fit the rod holder and confirm the horizontal tube angle matches that of the old rod holder. Remove the holder and drill the three 1/4-inch mounting holes, lightly chamfering each. Remove the masking tape and template. Bed the mounting surface with marine sealant and through-bolt the rod holder with three 1/4-inch stainless-steel oval-head machine screws with washers and nyloc nuts; add a backing plate for extra security. With sealed inwales, install with three No. 14 oval-head self-tapping screws.


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