Boat Prep 101

With another open-water fishing season approaching, it’s time to think about getting the boat out of storage and begin the process of prepping it for another year.

For many anglers, there always seem to be a couple of items that could have been tended to at the end of last season, but were put off until the spring. After a full season on the water, there are going to be some loose wires and boat seats, a pump that doesn’t work correctly, or screws that need to be tightened.

And everyone should go through a simple spring checklist before he drops his boat in the water for the first time. By giving the entire rig a “once-over” while it’s still in the shed, you’ll not only have a safe fishing season, but also a much more productive one as well.

Boat inside and out

Before you tackle anything else, start by charging your batteries, and even more important, make sure they hold a charge. They are the heart of your boat and motor and nothing is more frustrating than not realizing you have bad batteries until you get to the access.

Prior to plugging in your charger, check the terminals for corrosion, clean them with a steel brush, and make sure the connection is tight. You’ll also want to inspect all wires leading to your batteries for cuts or abrasions that might have occurred during the previous year.

Once your power source checks out, it’s time to work your way through the entire electrical system. Check as many wires and connections as you can to various gauges, trolling motors, panel switches, and pumps.

Test your gauges and switches for proper operation, run your trolling motors, bilge and livewell pumps, and check all interior and navigation lights. Everything electronic, including your locators, should be in proper running order before you head to the lake for the first time.

Take the time to tighten any screws on the boat’s interior that have popped loose. They will only wear more over time if neglected. Clean you storage and bilge compartments and make sure you have an up-to-date and functional fire extinguisher on board; the extinguisher needs be the correct class for the type of boat you‘re running.

On the exterior, make sure there are no cracks or blisters in the hull or other joints. This could pose a major problem later in the year if not tended to now.

Check the drains to make sure they are clear of obstructions and make sure your boat’s registration is current and fixed on the boat. A general cleaning of the exterior with a mild soap and coat of marine wax wraps up the boat portion of your checklist. 

Motor inspection

Belts, hoses, and cables do become brittle and worn after years of use so inspect all of them leading to, or within your motor system. Pay particular attention to your fuel line hose to make sure there are no cracks, the fittings are clamped securely, and your primer bulb is still functional.

If any of your belts, hoses, clamps, or cables appear to be worn in the slightest, replace them now. You’ll also want to take a look at your exhaust and ventilation areas to make sure they are functioning properly.

Inspect the propeller for pitting, dings, or cracks and address them as needed. Remove the propeller to make sure there isn’t any fishing line or debris wrapped in it and secure it properly upon completion.

Remove the spark plugs and look for the proper gap. Replace if needed (should almost be done annually) and check the plug wires for wear. Go over your fluids such as engine oil, power steering, power trim, lower unit, or other fluids and coolants and replace accordingly if that wasn’t done prior to winterizing.

Lubricate or spray any moveable parts and hook your motor up to a water source and run it. Make sure the motor is running smoothly long before you plan on fishing. This will also allow you enough time to get it into a certified marine mechanic if there is a major issue to deal with.

Don’t forget the trailer

Trailer inspection should start by testing all running lights and electrical connections in order to guarantee they work. Don’t neglect your bearings by not taking the time to grease them and check the condition and pressure on your tires.

Rollers and pads also need to be looked at, lubricate your tongue jack and wheel, check safety chains, clean and lubricate your winch and make sure your tow strap isn’t frayed or torn. By neglecting any of these items on your checklist, you’ll likely find yourself on the side of the road at some point during the season. 

Other items worth noting 

Boat, motor, trailer… Check. Now it’s time to look at a few other safety issues that are always worth noting at the start of any fishing season.

The most obvious is to make sure your lifejackets are in good condition and properly fit the people you have in your boat. It might be time to update your throw cushion as well.

Go through your first aid supplies and replace what needs to be. You’ll also want to review the tools you keep on board, clean them if necessary, and make sure you always have a few spare parts such bulbs and fuses on hand.

We always have a little downtime between the end of the ice-fishing season and open water. That time is now, and it’s the perfect opportunity to go through your spring boat preparation checklist so once open water arrives, you can fish instead of working on your boat.

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