The evolution of the Bullhorn rod holder system, from inception, to prototype, to experiments, refinement, further testing, etc, was a fairly long process, originally documented at yakass.net through 5 separate articles. This article is compiles all of them into one, published in chronological order, in the hope that it all makes sense. Due to the sheer amount of questions I get about various ways of making and mounting them, I thought it would be easier if all of the information is in one article. Its safe to say that my final iteration is my best (pictured above) so if you just want to get straight to that, click right on over to page 4. Otherwise, follow your nose throughout this epic article...
It didn't take me long at all to come up with what I thought would be the most simplistic rear rod holder design I could think of though I am yet to fully test the various methods I came up with to attach it into a kayak. So far I'm up to prototype 2 of the actual rod holder design and have experimented with 3 simple methods of mounting them - one of which is probably AI/TI specific (pictured above), the others of which aren't. The prototype has been cobbled together using basic plumping PVC pipe (have tried 40 and 50mm ID widths).
Part of my design goals was to come up with something that could be just as easily fitted to numerous models of kayak and am pleased to say have achieved that for the AI, TI, Oasis and Revolution. They had to be quick and easy to install and remove... so I could fit my kayak through the garage door! Another part of my design goal was to come up with a system that did not rely on the flush moulded rod holders for installation (like many other custom jobs I have seen). This is because I like those moulded holders just the way they are, fitted with a Hobie rod extension tube, which I find to be ideal for rod storage during carting, launching and landing. On top of that I wanted a secure holding position that wouldn't get pulled backwards under the weight of a heavy strike, nor pulled downwards under the weight of the rod itself. I wanted them positioned right behind the seat so that it didn't really feel like they were far behind me, but more so just at my side where I could see and access it easily. And it had to provide an ideal trolling position, directly out at 90 degrees from the kayak and on a 45 degree angle pointing towards the sky. They also had to be high enough to keep the reels well clear of being submerged in rough water and able to hold the rod (almost any rod) with the rod butt fully consumed inside the tube, right up to the real seat.
To achieve the latter without having to point them too high (making them trickier to handle when in use), I really needed to be able to position the rod so that the end of the rod butt could come in under the height of the gunwales. Thinking along these lines is what led me towards the final design, which just so happened to tick all of the other requisite boxes. Remarkably I arrived at a system that looks somewhat similar to another accessory I helped design recently: the Bullhorn suction-cup kayak car-topper. Behold the Bullhorn Kayak Dual Rod Holder, which I'm pleased to say has passed the first few field tests really well.
As you can see, the basic shape of the device resembles a bullhorn... kinda. Making the 2 individual rod tubes part of one piece like this is part of where the positional security comes from. Because the device is fixed at 2 opposing fixed points (as opposed to one pivoting point as used in RAM socket mount rod holders) it's much easier to insure it won't get pulled backwards under heavy load. This is also what prevents any possibility of rod weight proving too much gravitational force and allowing the rods to sink downward.
The bottom section is just long enough to fit into the rear well of the kayak models mentioned above and the 45 degree angled tubes just long enough to make for a good workable and relatively dry height. While trolling two rods simultaneously the Bullhorn allows for a nice wide spread and keeps the business end of the rod within easy reach, without getting precariously close to the waterline... even on the AI under heavy sail. Because the tubes extend down into the cavity of the rear storage well, there's plenty of tube to slide the rod into, so it's deep enough for even the longest butts to be fully inserted up to the rear seat. And so far every system I have used to attach the thing has worked out surprisingly well. Among those mounting systems is a bare-bones budget version that requires no drilling or mounting equipment whatsoever. It just so happens that the shape and dimensions of the bar are compatible with the screw-in padeyes positioned on the gunwales at the centre-most end of the storage well, in the AI, TI, Oasis and Revo. All one needs to attach the bars securely is a couple of good zip-ties. A small modification is required to prevent it from slipping forward slightly (several ways to achieve this) but it certainly won't allow the tubes to be pulled down or backwards.
I also came up with a method of using the rear bulkhead with a couple of single socket RAM mounts and this method would probably lend itself for use on a couple of other models as well and works on all the above mentioned. This does require a few drill holes be made, but in a relatively safe place to do so. The top of the bulkhead there is pretty tough, with a fair bit of plastic, is not exposed to water and easily welded or sealed if need be. Used in tandem like this, single socket arm mounts make for a surprisingly secure mount and I was more impressed with how this worked out than I was expecting to be. And it does make for a nice simple way to mount and dismount the device. However, the use of single socket mounts (as opposed to double sockets) requires a hex base to be thru-bolt screwed into the tube, which although easy enough with PVC, would be trickier with stainless steel. The RAM ball and strap mounts used with double socket arms would probably make for a simpler way to do it on a stainless steel bar.
Finally, I put some thought into a way to install the Bullhorn using the existing mounts I have already attached to the rear Xbar on my AI (like so many other AI users currently using RAM rod holders). And I'd say that this method has probably worked out the best, as it seems the most secure and also offers more flexibility when it comes to establishing height position. By attaching C sized ball and strap mounts to the arms of the Bullhorn, I then used a short composite socket arm to attach it to the 2-1/2 inch rail mounts on my Xbar. Whilst this method took a bit more jiggling to get the position right, once I'd established exactly where I wanted the Ball & straps positioned it was all good from that point on.