As I write this, my backyard thermometer is showing 98° in the shade. The southeast breeze provides no relief as it’s just as hot as the weather in general. I have sprayed and I have fogged numerous times and the mosquitoes that have taken up residence in my yard disappear but are quickly replaced with cousins who are meaner than the ones I killed or ran off. But, pretty soon, people will be stepping lighter, their moods will be brighter and at least for a while, the humidity and heat will be only a bad memory.
Fall is definitely in the air and will bring on a lot of changes. Colorful leaves will litter lawns, the honking of geese will be heard overhead, and the woodlots will see an invasion of hunters making last minute inspections of deer stands and feeders.
In anticipation of fall fishing trips, this would be a good time to pull your waders out of the closet and give them a good cleaning and airing out. Start with a good once-over visual inspection for fabric chafing and wear damage. I also heartily recommend stepping into a swimming pool to make sure you don’t wind up with wet feet and legs on a cool fall morning. This will also be a good opportunity to check the fit. Seriously, summertime BBQs with lots of ‘tater salad, beans, and key lime pie have actually been scientifically proven capable of shrinking waders. And double-meat cheeseburgers…
Through the dog days, your boat may have also been neglected for several weeks or more. This would be a good time to change lower-unit gear oil. Before doing so, take note of any oil drips on the concrete beneath the skeg where the boat has been parked – the tell-tale sign of prop shaft seals that need replaced. I know that I used mine hard this past summer and if we change lube now it will be easier than hurrying to do it when the fish are biting.
While you’re waiting on the lower unit gear case fluid to drain, you might as well replace the spark plugs and check carefully for any corroded wiring or leaking water hoses under the cowl. You might also want to check your starting and troll motor batteries. Check the dates on the tags. A battery that is past or nearing the end of recommended service life should be replaced. At the minimum, I like to give the batteries a full charge and then check back in a few days to see that it is holding. A tired battery may spin the engine well enough for a quick start on a warm afternoon but can deliver an embarrassing and unpleasant surprise at the launch ramp on a cool morning.
When was the last time you checked your boat trailer’s wheel bearings? Even if equipped with Buddy Bearings, it pays to remove them and check the bearings and races for any signs of rust or pitting. Replace any that show wear or damage and always repack with quality marine wheel bearing grease. It goes without saying that the seals should also be replaced during this operation.
An option to replacing individual worn or pitted bearings and races, and one you might agree is very handy if you’ve ever tackled the job of rebuilding an old hub, would be to replace the whole assembly with OEM-grade parts. We run a Coastline Trailer and ready-to-install OEM replacement hubs cost $75 – the bearing and seal kit alone to rebuild a hub runs in the $25 range – and you have to worry about punching out the old races and installing the new ones correctly. You would also gain new wheel studs and lug nuts in the new hub deal. Having been around boat trailer maintenance the better part of 50 years, this would be my first choice.
Peace of mind is everything when trailering down the highway, no matter how long or short a tow you might be making to the bay. The alternative – that being a smoking hub on the side of the highway – is absolutely no fun. Just ask me.
While you’re at it you might want to check the trailer’s winch strap and make sure that it and the bow hook are in good shape. Ditto the safety chain that will hold the boat on the trailer should the strap fail for any reason.
Have you examined the line guides on your fishing rods lately? A quick and easy way to discover nicks or cracks in ceramic inserts is to twirl a cotton swab through the guide. Any sign of roughness will abrade and weaken fishing line. Check the guide wrappings for signs of looseness or rusting. Rust-colored stains under the wrappings, even if they’re still tight, is a sign that it’s time for replacement. Don’t be cheap – take it to a rod repair shop. A small investment in titanium guides would help insure that your rod(s) make it through many more seasons.
Now the fun part; when’s the last time you thoroughly cleaned your reels? If you haven’t done so recently, it’s probably a good time to spread some newspaper on your kitchen table and have at it. Tear them all the way down and arrange the components in a line in the order they were removed. Snapping a few digital images on your cell phone can also be very helpful. Trust me, unless you do this often, attention to detail during disassembly makes reassembly much easier.
Remove all bearings and clean each with a quality reel solvent and then set aside to dry. A few drops of quality bearing lube is all that is needed when the reel goes back together – my favorite is Rocket Fuel.
Wash the reel body with hot water, hot as you can stand, using a toothbrush to scrub away grease and grime that has built through normal use. I like to use Ajax dishwashing liquid; it gets the job done. Wipe the reel body with a soft cloth after washing and set aside to dry completely overnight.
Now for the smaller pieces; I use the same washing and drying technique. A small dab of reel grease should be applied to each gear during reassembly and a drop or two of reel oil on each component will put you in good shape for the fall and winter fishing seasons.
Reel manufacturer’s websites often contain schematic drawings that can be of great help during the reassembly process if your earlier precautions still have you confused. If you doubt your ability to tear your reel down and re-assemble it correctly, or simply don’t have time, take it to a shop that specializes in this type of work.
The final step is installing new line and, here again, don’t go cheap. I always tell everybody that ammo is the cheapest part of a hunt and new line is the cheapest part of a fishing trip. Whether you prefer monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided line, rest assured that the cheapest is rarely the best.
One last tip to consider in your fall preparations, especially those who like the cast and blast waterfowl thing, you need to go through all your gear and remove cartridges containing lead shot before going waterfowl hunting. Trust me when I tell you that dove or other upland shotshells have an uncanny ability to hide in bags, boxes and pockets. The last thing you want is for your friendly game warden to discover lead shells mixed with your waterfowl ammo on a duck hunt.
Years ago when I was really into duck hunting, I always kept my upland game shells in separate bags and vests than my waterfowl gear. You might want to do the same as it can save you some embarrassment and some money in the long run.
Enjoy the cooler months to come guys and girls. The fish will be fat and hungry and the crowds on the bay will be greatly reduced compared to summer. Here’s hoping you’ll be the only boat at your favorite fishing hole.
Be Safe! -Martin