This sailfish shot gives you a great view of the right cleat to have on a fishing boat, a pull up. Pop ups became popular a few years back, but have faded somewhat as people realize that anything with a spring is prone to failure on a saltwater fishing boat. Hence, the pull up. These cleats are basically bullet proof, fail free, and serve the same purpose: they push down flat, so you get snag free gunwales. That’s great, if your boat already has ‘em. But what about those of us with regular cleats? Here’s the good news, something most folks don’t realize: retrofitting with pull ups is pretty darn easy. All you need is a few inches of clearance under the gunwale (exactly how much depends on the size of the cleat), a jig saw, and enough bravery to cut into your boat’s fiberglass.
Installing these is as simple as cutting the opening and installing a couple of bolts. You’ll also need to cut or buy backing plates (don’t trust washers alone) if the cleat doesn’t come with them. Certain models have drain tubes to carry away rainwater and spray that gets into the cleat’s assembly, but truth be told, little water can enter here and if you’re mounting onto gunwales that are open at the bottom, you don’t really need to rig these up. (It’s a different story, of course, if you’re mounting one atop a sealed compartment.)
Is it worth the bother and the expense (these cleats can cost a bunch, between $50 and $100 each)? If you’re an angler, the answer is yes. With stock fixed cleats you’re sure to snag a fishing line on them sooner or later, and that almost always results in lost fish. If you want to pull those bruisers over the gunwale, consider getting a set of pull-ups.