Prepare for Success

Prepare for Success
Proper off-season preparation of boats, tackle and all related gear allows anglers to take advantage of late-winter and early-spring opportunity on short notice.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is the unique and diverse information, stories, and techniques that fill the pages every month. There are some truly talented folks out there who are willing, every month, to share their own secrets of success that have been gained through years on the water. Some of the information is the result of successful trips while others, sometimes even more valuable, were learned at the cruel hand of fate or in the school of hard knocks.

One common thread in particular that binds all of these folks together is that they are all "prepared" for many different situations and that separates them from a great majority of the fishing public. When I compare myself to most of the other anglers in the magazine I am constantly reminded how talented they are at what they do. I learn new things from each of them every month and apply that knowledge to my own part of the world.

Well, in order to start the year out right, I wanted to share one of the things I feel is most important to setting your new year out on the right foot. Like the old saying goes- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Now it's no secret that some of the worst weather we will have all year on the Texas coast happens during January and February. One would be hard-pressed to find a better time to go from hero to zero, or vice versa, in any situation where inclement weather can play a major role.

Some of the heaviest stringers of the year will be caught during this two month span, and that potential is more than enough to lure diehard anglers to the water. On the other hand there will be some absolutely miserable fishless hours spent by plenty of anglers, so I think you get the picture. If you don't mind swinging for the fence, this time of the year is right up your alley. If the thought of cold days on the water with only a bite a two to show for the effort seems a bit extreme, there are other productive fishing-related things to do so don't be discouraged.

The first and most obvious option for Texas anglers during this time of the year is pursuing really big speckled trout. Our magazine is basically built on the idea of helping you find more and bigger fish. Wintertime is the pinnacle for that endeavor, talking big trout here, and it will be covered thoroughly in this issue–please excuse me if I do not repeat that story line. Getting back that preparation theme I want to talk a bit about boat, tackle and other gear to further insure success on trips you will be making in the near future.

Top of the list is running your boat and not just taking a joy ride. I recommend doing this on a calm day (even a cold one) or in protected water just in case you run into problems. Having a fishing buddy accompany in another boat is always a good precaution during shakedown cruises.

Before you head for the water, you need to check your batteries. Of course they need to be fully charged but age is a biggie here, as is the condition of the terminal wiring and all other connections. Cleaning and applying anti-corrosion to the terminals is much easier in the driveway than at the dock or on the water. Any wet cell battery approaching three years old should probably be replaced. Cranking batteries are the number one culprit when it comes to ruining a trip, especially the first time out after a lengthy bit of downtime. Low voltage causes tons of issues from not cranking the motor, tilt and trim problems, to include a host of other electrical challenges that will leave you either stranded or pulling your hair out.

Simply running your boat in the driveway with a water hose attached is a great first round of troubleshooting. A motor that cranks right up and runs well builds confidence for heading to the launch.

Another tip that can be done in the driveway is siphoning old fuel and disposing of it properly. Ethanol is not your friend–never trust old fuel, especially if it was not treated, and always use fuel conditioner with every tank of new fuel. Once the boat is properly fueled and launched, let it idle for a while tied to the dock. Listen carefully for anything that sounds out of the ordinary.

While the motor warms up, this is a great time to check your trolling motor, bilge pumps, navigation lights and live well pumps. If all checks out, you are ready for a leisurely ride and will know that the next time the tides and conditions are ripe for fishing that your boat is ready. If on the other hand you have any issues, you can get those bugs worked out before a trip is ruined. The winter is a great time to get work or routine maintenance done on your boat as many shops have a much quicker turnaround time. If you choose to do the routine stuff yourself, changing lower unit oil, replacing batteries, etc., there are no better days to take care of this task than a bad weather day that would have kept you from the water anyway. Sometimes it's all about searching for a silver lining.

Well as long as we are talking about preventative maintenance lets also talk about our fishing gear. Stripping off old line and re-spooling with new is always a good idea. Breaking down reels and giving them a thorough cleaning and lubrication will not only have you ready for the next fishing trip but will also add years to the life of the reel. Swapping hooks on hard baits is another necessary evil that goes well on a bad weather day. Many will debate the merits of treble hooks versus single hooks but nobody can deny the benefits of new, sharp hooks. Fresh line on your reels and new hooks on your arsenal of favorite plugs is great way to improve your odds when you do get that one big bite during that tough day on the water.

One last piece of gear that probably gets neglected as much or more than anything and needs to be checked carefully, is your boat trailer. Wheel bearings, trailer bunks, and the evil electronics also known as trailer lights all deserve careful inspection. My thoughts on trailer wiring and lights has always been to replace everything rather than fight an ongoing battle. You'll probably be glad you did in the long run.

While you're at it, do not forget the winch strap, bow safety chain, and tie-down straps. These are all essential for safe towing and, God forbid, very essential for keeping the boat on the trailer in the event of a tire blowout or collision.

I'm sure some of you will look at this information and never give it a second thought because you keep up with all your service and your gear is in good shape. Hopefully a few of you will take the hint and do some preventative maintenance so once those fabulously warm winter and spring days come around you will be ahead of the game and not waiting in line somewhere trying to get repairs done while everyone else is out catching fish.