Can a cooler have too many beers?

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I was walking the docks last month at the Sea Isle Marina during the Miami International Boat Show, looking for interesting boats that might make a good story. It was the end of two long days, and I was moving at a measured pace, trying to really eyeball the boats rather than just rush past at the usual show speed, which is OK for looking but not particularly conducive to actually seeing.

I wound up staring at this big center console for a few moments longer than I expected until I realized what had caught my eye — it was the rod holders. Lots of them. Holes everywhere — up one gunwale, around the bow and down the next, off the top, behind the helm seat. Can’t remember exactly where they all were. I made a couple of attempts to count them, but I doubted my accuracy. A dealer returning from a sea trial knew the exact number.

The 42-foot Hydra-Sports had 46 rod holders — I had miscounted on the low side. Turns out 46 is pretty much standard issue, rather than the high-water mark.

“I had a customer come in and he wanted a rod holder every, what was it, 8 inches?” the salesman recalled. “Why I don’t know, but that’s what he wanted.” The count on that 42-footer turned out to be 76. “It was nuts,” he told me. “I was like, ‘Dude, you’re putting holes everywhere.’ But that’s what he wanted.”

Anyway, it got me thinking: How many rod holders are enough? My 17-foot Boston Whaler has a grand total of four, which I had carefully fastened in a neat row to the aft end of my 40-plus-year-old mahogany pilot seat. I thought I was styling — but 76 rod holders?

Somebody clearly was out of step — and it was probably me.

I fished the next day off Miami with Soundings Trade Only ad manager Dean Waite aboard his friend Mario’s 34-foot SeaVee. Mario runs a nice, clean, Spartan center console and is the kind of guy who values function over form. He understands the difference between a quality fishfinder or a properly designed live well full of healthy bait and those bells and whistles that merely add cost to a boat but don’t contribute to putting fish on board.

The SeaVee came with plenty of rod holders as standard equipment, but it still fell maybe 30 or so short of 76, the Holy Grail. Why so many? Mario had a good answer. He says the number of rods being fished doesn’t drive the plethora of holders. It’s the desire of tournament fishermen who, in the heat of battle, want to have a place to quickly stick a rod without wasting valuable seconds scurrying around the boat to reach a holder.

“The answer is very clear,” says Waite, whose 29-foot SeaVee sports 36 rod holders. “Too many are not enough.”

I gave a shout yesterday to Doug Olander, editor in chief of Sport Fishing Magazine. A bright guy who knows his way around fish boats, Doug surely would have the answer. It’s not the number of rod holders that count, he started to tell me, before adding, “Well, actually, maybe it is.”

Doug decided to post the question on Sport Fishing’s Facebook page and let the great unwashed have a go at it. As of about 9 this morning, 53 fans had weighed in. The overwhelming answer to the question “Can a boat have too many rod holders?” was “Nooooooooo.”

As one respondent asked, rhetorically: “Can a cooler have too many beers?”

Case closed.

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