How to Transport Fishing Rods Safely in a Car or Plane

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Planning an out of state fishing trip can be one of the most exciting times for an angler. Perhaps you have saved up enough and are now taking the fishing trip of a lifetime to a location with the holy grail of trophy fish.

Regardless of why you need to pack up and transport your fishing rods and other fishing gear, it is something you should take a bit of time on to ensure it is done properly. You don’t want your valuable fishing rods jostling around and becoming damaged during the trip, and if checking them as luggage for a flight, they can be roughly handled by the flight crew.

Whether you are driving to your favorite fishing spot, or taking a plane to a far away fishing destination, let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to safely transport fishing rods, reels, and tackle.

Best Ways to Transport Your Fishing Gear

1. Buy a fishing rod case

Having a good fishing rod tube or case, whether it is made from fabric or rigid material, will prevent scratches and scuffs on your fishing rods.

There are a wide range of different styles on the market when it comes to rod cases and portable rod containers. You can find soft cloth bags for your rod holder, as well as extremely durable and rigid cases with locks.

Depending on how you will be transporting fishing rods, a soft bag may be all you need. If you are traveling with highly valuable rods, a rigid and lockable rod holder may be a better option to consider.

Fishing rod cases work best for rods that can have their size adjusted. For example, four-piece or telescoping rods will have a wider range of potential rod case options than a rod that cannot have its size adjusted.

Fishing rod cases can cost up to $200. This higher end price is normally reserved for the rigid cases with padded interiors and secure locks. These are great for long trips or when you are moving house and have to entrust your gear to a moving company.

The lower end of the price spectrum will include cloth bags with zipper closure which are fine for most car and truck transport, but should not be used when flying or shipping your rods via parcel courier.

Having a good fishing rod tube or case, whether it is made from fabric or a rigid material, will prevent scratches and scuffs on your fishing rods. Rigid fishing rod cases will also prevent bending, and both cases will prevent sun damage if the rods are stored near a window for transport.

2. Make your own fishing rod cases

If you simply cannot afford a fishing rod case, or can’t find one that fits your needs, but you are still in need of transporting fishing rods from one location to another, there is always the DIY option of a rod tube. This can be done with both cardboard tubes as well as PVC pipes.

The cardboard tubes can be found at parcel shipping stores such as the UPS Store or your local post office. You may even be able to find cardboard tubes at local carpet stores, as these tubes are commonly kept in the center of the carpeting roll.

PVC pipes can be found at most home improvement stores, and plumbing supply stores. You may also be able to find PVC pipe of pre-cut lengths at electrical supply stores, as well as many sources online.

Cardboard tubes normally have small and thin plastic lids which can be placed on both ends to secure your rods inside. You will have to secure them with tape, as they are very easy to remove.

PVC tube, on the other hand, have rigid and highly durable end caps which will normally slide on and secure tightly without the need of tape or glue. You can even drill a hole into the two PVC tube end caps to place a cord and make a carrying strap for your convenience. 

Once you have found the right sized cardboard or PVC tube to transport fishing rods safely, be sure to pad your rods inside it. This can be done with fabric such as a bed sheet, or can be done with bubble wrap or standard packing paper.

Any option will prevent the rods from jostling around inside the tube and potentially becoming damaged, though in most cases packing paper will be your cheapest option for storage tube padding.

You can secure multiple rods together as well using packing tape before sliding them into the cylindrical tube.

This ensures you can bring along more than one rod, while also preventing damage to them regardless of how bumpy the trip may be.

3. Transporting your rods by car

External rod racks

This is an excellent option to transport fishing rods that are not able to be disassembled for transport. There are not many other options when transporting a 7 foot long fishing rod from one location to another.

If your vehicle does not have a roof rack to secure your fishing rods to, you can find an external fishing rod rack that uses two highly magnetic pieces. One piece will attach to the hood of your vehicle, the other will attach to the roof near where the roof rack would be.

You will place the handle of your fishing rod into the holder that is attached to the hood, and the fishing rod tips will be placed into the holder on the roof. The fishing rod will have a slight bend and be over the front windshield, but this will not cause damage.

In order to allow safe driving vision when you transport fishing rods in this way, you should always place the external rod rack over the passenger seat of the vehicle. This allows full view from the driver’s side windshield.

You can also find external rod racks for pickup trucks, in a design that is similar to a ladder holder. This simple solution rack will clamp onto the edge of the truck bed giving you plenty of space to store even long fishing rods for your next road trip.

A truck bed rod holder can hold anywhere from 1 to 10 rods, but will depend on the size of your truck bed as well. Additionally, you can place these racks on both sides of the truck bed ultimately doubling the amount of rods you can bring along.

Truck bed racks are potentially the best solution for anglers that travel with large or multiple rods and want all the rods available for easy access. This can also be the best method to transport rods if you are also traveling with a fishing kayak in the truck bed as well.

Internal rod racks for your car

This style of rod rack will depend on the size of your vehicle as well as the size of your rod. It will be secured to the inside ceiling of your vehicle by straps or by spring-loaded pressure rods and can hold multiple rods at once.

Most internal rod holders have room for up to 10 fishing rods, but you can find them in sizes for just two or four fishing rods instead. If you want to transport fishing rods for the whole family, this is one of the easiest ways to do it.

For rods you want to keep close to you and highly protected, this is one of the best options to consider. This also allows for easy access if you happen to find a fishing spot along the way and want to take a short break from your travels.

4. Transporting your rods by plane

Transporting fishing rods on a plane is doable, but can be difficult if not planned for in advance. Due to heightened security when flying, many types of fishing gear and fishing equipment can be difficult or even impossible to get on the plane.

When traveling with large fishing rods, or heavy reels such as beach casting or trolling setups, you will most likely be required to check them in as luggage. Small 4-piece or telescoping fishing rods in proper travel bags or cases may be able to be carried on with you.

One of the biggest issues with traveling by plane is luggage theft. Unfortunately, it is a reality every angler must consider when having their valuable fishing rods and other fishing gear stored in the luggage compartment.

Additionally, there is also the risk of baggage loss. On occasion, some baggage may not make it to the same destination and could end up in an entirely different state or country altogether. This can quickly end your dream fishing trip since you will be left without fishing rods or fishing gear at your destination.

If at all possible, try to take 4-piece or telescoping rods with you and have them as carry on luggage. This ensures the fishing rods and fishing gear goes to the same destination as you, and gives you full control over how the fishing equipment is handled.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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