In conversation with boat and trailer mechanics all over the country, the main concern for many is that a large percentage of boaters don’t properly prepare their boats and their trailers for upcoming fishing seasons. Allow me to give you a “written” tour of how I prepare my boat and trailer to make my boating season less worrisome.
As I have mentioned before, my father kept the same fishing lines on his reels for decades. When the line simply gave up the ghost, he reluctantly removed and replaced it. With boats, motors, and trailers, this practice is precisely the wrong approach. Whether from my father’s example or from just learning from the school of hard knocks, I refuse to begin my boating season unprepared.
The first thing I do each year is to take my boat to a marine mechanic and have him/her drain and replace the lower unit oil. This procedure is simple and quite easy unless water is found mixed with the gear lube in the lower unit. If water is present, seals and perhaps other issues may need to be addressed.
While in the area of the lower unit, the mechanic “should” remove the propeller, check for fishing line wrapped around the prop shaft, and then put grease on the shaft and replace the propeller after checking for cracks and dings.
The next thing I have my mechanic do is to start the motor, load test the batteries, and connect a diagnostic computer to check for “faults”. If you have an older motor, have the mechanic start the motor and make sure it shifts and idles well, and be certain the water pump is working properly.
The next thing is to check the trailer for correct wiring, tire condition, and finally wheel bearing and brakes. If your mechanic cannot deal with the trailer, take it to a tire and trailer specialist. I have two in Provo/Orem that have been instrumental in seeing that my trailer functions well — Big O Tires in Provo and Advantage Trailer Parts in Orem.
Why is being prepared so important? Over the years, I have seen some fairly serious problems while traveling to and from remote reservoirs and lakes around the West. I cannot tell you the number of times I have stopped to assist a boater whose trailer was actually missing a wheel due to a bearing failure. In fact, businesses have popped up on the way to Bullfrog on Lake Powell just to deal with trailer problems. Many of these concerns could be addressed BEFORE getting on the road for a getaway.
More dangerous situations surround not checking propellers for cracks and dings. While on the Columbia River years ago, one of the boats in a bass tournament I fished literally lost one blade of a three-blade prop while traveling at 60 miles per hour. Both anglers were thrown from their boat and seriously injured.
The real problem with not being prepared for the fishing season is the waste of precious time with family and friends dealing with issues like boats not able to start, shift, or function properly. Dead batteries or electrical issues are quite easy to deal with at home, but when they happen at a remote lake or reservoir, they become game changers. Finding help for blown tires or replacing wheel bearings while in rural Utah can stop a vacation in its tracks.
Even with all the preparation for the season, there is always the chance that road conditions, debris, or traffic issues may still cause difficulties. Just two weeks ago, after fishing a tournament on Sand Hollow, we drove home in a massive blizzard. Several inches of snow and ice took out part of my trailer wiring which had to be repaired before my next adventure.
Preparing your boat and trailer for fishing season is not only a great idea, it is a must if you want to maximize your time on the water. Be prepared.