Preparing Your Boat for the Season

By Todd Reed

Hopefully the spring fishing season has treated you well here in the great state of Iowa. I have been out many times traveling through the state with a boat in tow. No matter if you have a 12-foot jon boat, or a 21-foot fiberglass boat, the boating season is just getting started. Many anglers spend countless hours organizing lures, getting rods and reels ready, studying maps and watching fishing shows…but how many hours have you spent on your boat and trailer? These are far too often ignored in the early season and can lead to big trouble and big repair bills come summer.

Your boat is your home on the water. We must do our best to make it as safe and organized as we can to maximize our time. Safety is first, so lifejackets for everyone, a throwable flotation device, fire extinguisher, whistle or horn are all mandated by the Iowa DNR. When, and if they are ever needed they should be easily accessible and in your hands in a matter of a few seconds. A quick check of those each spring will keep you safe and looking good for any DNR inspections.
I have been in many boats over the past thirty years and all are set up a little differently, from simple compact boats like jonboats all the way to large bay runners. They all serve the same two purposes no matter how big or how small. First, boats are a vehicle to get you to the fish and back to the ramp. Secondly they are your fishing home. By fishing home, I mean they must have everything you will need for that particular trip. A cooler/live well for fish, tackle, rods/reels, food, water, bait storage, and all the accessories that we use while fishing. Organizing these items can be a task, but when you know where to find a certain bait or size of hook, then you will be able to spend your time fishing rather than fumbling around in the boat. There are many ways to organize things and every boat is different.

Most baits, hooks, bobbers will fit nicely into the standard sized 3600 tackle trays. I have found that the normal size is great for storing these items because you can get to them and see them easily. The deeper trays tend to be cumbersome and hard to see what you actually have in there. These trays fit into backpacks, duffle bags and any storage compartment on boats making them very versatile. Labeling each tray is key to your organization. A quick glance at your boxes and you can grab the correct one and get after those fish quickly. A label maker is great and lasts several years and a permanent marker does the trick too but it is… permanent. Another organization piece that is a must includes your rods. I cannot count the number of rods I have seen broken in my days on a boat, but I do know that each time one was broken it was not being protected. Many times we have rods laying around the boat that are not being used for one reason or another. In this case I always use The Rod Glove to protect them. These are sleeves that cover the rod from tip all the way down towards the reel. They only cost about $5 each but they will save you a lot of heartbreak. They work great for placing rods in vehicles, boat lockers, and just laying around the boat. Trust me, they work great and are well worth the small cost. Lastly are tools. We as anglers are oftentimes reaching for tools to help us sharpen a hook, cut line or remove a hook from a fish. There are many tools out there to help us, Rapala makes some very solid tools and a really nice magnetic holder. I have one of these in both of my boats and every time I reach for a tool, it is right where it should be. Organizing your boat will not only make your day more enjoyable, but will give you more time to fish, and isn’t that why we are out in our boats anyway?

Trailer – We cannot talk about boat preparation without mentioning the trailer. Most of us hook the trailer up to our vehicle and expect it to get us to the lake or river we intend to fish. Without a working trailer there will be no fishing. The most important thing to do on a monthly basis, if not more, is to check the bearings. Make sure they are full of grease or heavy oil as many of the newer axles/hubs rely on to keep things spinning. Tire pressure should constantly be monitored. Each and every time you hook on the boat a quick check of the tire pressure is needed.

Keep them full, but not too full. On most trailers the tires act as a shock absorber to bumps, over inflation is just as bad or worse than under inflation. Whenever possible check your lights, brake lights, turning signals and running lights should be monitored so you are well seen out on the road. Lastly, make sure your boat is securely fastened to your trailer before heading down the road. This will minimize the bouncing and unnecessary rubbing your boat may do against the trailer.

I hope these tips will have you getting from lake to river to back home again safely all throughout the summer months. Making a boat your very own is the best way to maximize your fishing time, and in turn put more fish in the boat the rest of the season. Enjoy, and as always leave the lakes and rivers a better place than when you arrived, one last thing, don’t forget to put the plug in!