Get your boat ready
Part of the What's Biting Series
Part of the What's Biting Series
BY DAVID RAINER With the unusually warm weather for February, many anglers can't wait to get on the water. However, after a winter with little fishing activity, it's best to make sure your boat and equipment are in order first to prevent any on-water problems.
Unless you have a 25-horsepower outboard with a pull starter, my advice is to make sure your starting battery is in good shape and is fully charged. Some boats are equipped with on-board chargers, which make it easy to just plug it in when you get home. It meters the charge to keep your battery in good shape. If you have any other kind of charger, it's best to do a trickle charge during times of inactivity. If that's not available, go ahead and fully charge the battery.
But before you leave the house, crank the motor over a few times to make sure the starter motor is getting enough juice. Of course, if you have a trolling motor, make sure the deep-cycle batteries are fully charged. There's been more than one occasion where I've had to depend on my trolling motor to get me back to the shoreline or boat ramp. While you're going through your checklist, go ahead and check the switches on your console. It's easy for the switches to corrode and become inoperable. Replace those that you can't thoroughly clean.
Hopefully, all you boaters and anglers out there opt to fill your boats with what we on the Gulf Coast call “boat gas.” That is pure gas without any ethanol. Ethanol can wreak havoc on the fuel system of boats and small equipment. You can treat the gas with ethanol with a stabilizer additive that keeps the ethanol in check and doesn't allow it to separate. And I always add twice the recommended dosage of the stabilizer. Still, that doesn't guarantee the ethanol won't have a detrimental effect on your fuel system. Again, do yourself and your boat a favor and buy ethanol-free gas. It costs more, but it's worth it in the long run.
I've always had a water separator filter on the boats I've run. Inevitably, water will get into your fuel system due to condensation and other factors. A separator filter takes out the water before it can get to your engine. I also check the water flow of the cooling system before the first trip of the year. I clip a water collar on the intake on the foot of the outboard and turn on the water. I start the engine and make sure there is a good stream of water coming out of the hose on the back of the motor. If you're not getting a good flow, check for dirt dauber activity at the hose. If it's clear, the next culprit will be the impeller, which draws water into the foot and distributes through the water jackets to keep the outboard from overheating.
The last thing you want when you're running to your favorite fishing spot is to have the outboard overheat. After I pull the water collar off the foot, I inspect the propeller for serious dings and chips as well as the condition of the hub. Stainless propellers can be dented to the point of affecting the propulsion and can eventually cause output drive problems. Send those to the repair shop right away. The hub is what connects the drive shaft and the propeller. It has a rubber insert that works as a shock absorber between the drive shaft and propeller. If you've ever “spun a hub,” you know that sometimes all functionality of the propeller is lost and you are calling for a tow. Give your boat a good once-over to make sure that first trip of the year is filled with fond memories.