Gear Review: We Installed and Tested the Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

The Yakima TopWater rod carrier system is everything you need in a fishing rod box and more.

Yakima's new TopWater rod carrier can carry eight fully rigged fishing rods, but the appeal goes well beyond basic pole storage.

This fishing rod roof rack carrier system can carry virtually any spinning rod, baitcasting rod, or fly rod with their reels attached. Rods up to eight feet long can fit perfectly inside, and even rods that have been broken down have a secure spot to be.

It has plenty of room below the rods in the cargo box for low-profile tackle boxes, tackle bags, boots, and even lightweight stocking foot waders. I even put my SAGE Bass II packable fly rod case in there!

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Here's a review of the TopWater system: what it can carry, how to install it and how well it works. For our purposes, we've reviewed the system that mounts to the back of a recent model 1500 pickup truck, and what it takes to do so.

Though the full gamut of Yakima rack systems includes bike racks, kayak holders, and even snowboard cases, for our purposes here, we'll stick to the fishing rod carrier and the necessary accompaniments.

Installing The System

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

Installing the OverHaul HD adjustable height mounting brackets is the first step to getting the TopWater attached to your truck, which can obviously be adjusted from 19-30-inches for custom hauling and versatility.

Once you have opened the boxthe 50-pound box—you'll realize that the mounting brackets are for real. They're solid steel, 500-pound rated on-road and 300-pound off-road HD truck rack stanchions that hold the HD crossbars, which then help secure the TopWater to virtually any vehicle.

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

All this hardware comes with a complete set of tools provided by the good folks at Yakima, including multiple wrenches and multiple keys. The hardware that mounts to the rails of your truck clamps on nice and tight, and even has a provided locking system, one for each side of the truck rail.

This is in addition to the fact that the TopWater itself has its own strong lock to prevent theft.

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

I was able to readily install this entire system on my vehicle in about three-quarters of an hour, and it was only 28 degrees outside. Anyone can do this in decent weather in about a half-hour or less with the instructions provided.

The actual Topwater fishing rod box is made from a durable hard-shell plastic with a Carbonite-textured finish which features the included Yakima SKS locking system. The protective foam pads and rubber straps keep your rods suspended in place, without laying them on a solid surface.

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

The rubber retention straps that cross over the individual rod slots are what hold everything in place. The single key system is used for both locking the stanchions in place and for the rooftop fishing rod box.

In the bottom of the box are the "smart-slot" areas where the included rubber coated U-bolts attach the rod carrier to the Yakima crossbars from the inside. The entire box features small drain holes, so there's no fear of storing the inevitable wet gear that anglers always have at the end of the day.

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

Using the System

I easily placed eight fully-rigged rods into the TopWater without a hitch, and quickly realized that I had room for more. So I broke down two of my other rods, one 10-foot fly rod, one 9-foot steelhead rod, and my SAGE Bass II packable fly fishing system) to get 11 total rods in there! As you can tell, I like Cabela's rods and Shimano reels, and that Toadfish rig is to die for.

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

Yakima TopWater Rod Carrier

Craig Raleigh

I put one measly tackle bag in there, a hard-plastic tackle kit, and one small spinner bag, and there was still room under the rods for my lightweight Cabelas stocking foot waders. These, however, were my choices as Yakima does not recommend overloading the TopWater.

One of the first things that I did was to take a ride down the parkway to see if there were any issues having a fully loaded rod carrier above the cab at highway speed.

I drove 10 miles, both ways, at 70 mph and the TopWater didn't shake, vibrate, or otherwise budge.

Even fully loaded, I could get the rod carrier on and off of the crossbars to remove it, tool-free. It must be stated that loose items inside the box will obviously shift while doing so, but the rods stay tightly strapped in their "beds," even rods of varying butt widths.

Once on my tailgate and ready to put in the house, I could easily put the entire box full of gear on my shoulder and walk it into my basement. Again, this was a choice and I don't recommend throwing your brand new rod carrier around. One thing I would have liked was some kind of stout handle installed in the TopWater on the edge side with the lock for ease of carrying with gear inside. Also, the single key lock is very tight and difficult to lock, but it is also brand new and needs breaking in.

The interior rod holders have an easy access upon opening the case, whether you are putting rods in, or taking them out. The TopWater can easily be shifted over on your truck-mount crossbars to make room for the DoubleHaul rooftop flyrod carrier, or possibly the ReelDeal rooftop fishing rod mount, or maybe even a second TopWater! According to Yakima, "There's a lot of ways you can configure your Yakima products on the roof rack systems. You can mount the DoubleHaul, TopWater or ReelDeal next to one of their baskets or cargo boxes as well."

The stanchions that hold everything in place also have built in tie-down points to help secure any other loads.

The Bottom Line

There are three different Yakima systems that can be used for your pickup truck: the OverHaul HD adjustable height, the OutPost HD mid-height bed rack, and the BedRock HD low-height bed rack depending on what your needs are. (the BedRock low-profile bar strength drops down to 300-pound on-road and down to 180-pound off-road)

And all require absolutely no drilling.

These systems can carry bikes, coolers, be fitted with the BigCatch kayak saddles, and the OutPost and BedRock series can even be fitted the SkyRise HD tent! I've had the stanchions locked onto my truck for almost two months in a state where they salt the roads in the winter and neither the locks or the brackets show any sign of rust whatsoever.

I left the TopWater on so long I practically forgot about it, with at least $2,000 worth of gear inside of it. Here, another choice, and probably a bad one at that, but for someone to target it, they would have to have some heavy duty tools and plenty of time to break in.

Unfortunately, these are the things that we have to think about when we are considering buying a great system like this, but it's just the era that we live in: our expensive gear needs to be safe whether we're on the water or not.

Yakima systems can be mounted on pickup trucks, pickup trucks with caps, and SUVs. They make everything from cargo baskets to tents to gear trailers to truck bed extenders and more!

The Topwater rooftop fishing rod box lists for $549, the OverHaul HD truck mount kit lists for $700, and a pair of the HD crossbars lists for $249.

Yakima's website makes it easy to search for just the rack you are looking for, along with a load of information about their products. The TopWater rod carrier, mounting stanchions, and crossbars are about as heavy duty as you could ask for and will last you a lifetime. They are as tough as nails in cold weather and I look forward to using it in the summer.

Really, for just about any fishing trip you can dream up, it's an ideal choice for keeping your most important tools and assets safe and secure.

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