When you are going on a fishing trip, how much thought and planning do you give it before actually hitting the road? Even if it's a day trip, and not overnight, what all is involved? For me, planning even a day trip includes what would seem to be a lot of trouble but is actually just a checklist of preventative maintenance and other things that will save you grief later on. The more times that you check these things the faster you will learn to get them done.
So the day before our trip we do the following.
1. We gather our tackle and that includes checking hooks on lures, making sure our reels are working smoothly and properly lubricated, testing the drag to insure it is smooth and not jerky, making sure the zippers on our wading boots work and that our belts are good to go. We check our rods and make sure those pliers and stringers that go with our wading gear are in good workable condition. We also check our first aid box and make sure everything is there and that nothing has expired.
2. We check the boat trailer tires, winch strap and lights to make sure all is well and I always make sure the license plate is still where it is supposed to be. We also check to make sure that the safety chain is attached to the bow hook of the boat where the winch strap connects. We grease the hubs and note the condition of the lug nuts. Check to make sure that the safety chains are crossed when you hookup to the tow vehicle and while you're down double-check that the hitch is properly connected to the ball on your trailer hitch. I always put a lock on my hitch to prevent it from coming open; either by accident or from someone at the ramp doing it for me.
3. We make sure the boat is fueled and that all electronics are working properly. Power trim and tilt and jack plate working okay? Yup - we check that too as well as making sure the outboard will start and that the batteries are fully charged. We check the running lights and we make sure that all hatch and hull plugs are accounted for. We also check to be sure the kill-switch lanyard is on board; sure is hard to start the outboard without one but then I won't run a boat if that lanyard isn't connected to my wrist. We make sure that the throttle is pushed forward out of neutral so the prop doesn't spin in the wind all the way to the launch ramp. I check the bow rope and the anchor rope for any abrasions or cuts and make sure the chain and clevis are in good condition. We grease the fittings on the outboard, make sure that the hydraulic steering is free and easy, check the prop nut and then store the grease gun in the truck tool box for giving the hubs another shot of grease before we head home after the trip. We make sure that we have the correct number of life jackets onboard, a throw cushion, and we check the fire extinguisher to be sure it is still charged. The whistle, flares and other safety items are checked and don't forget that those flares have an expiration date on them. We top off the oil reservoir and check the bilge pump before closing the last hatch.
4. The next thing that we do is check the fluids in the truck and the air pressure in the tires and we're ready to pack things up.
How many people are going on this fishing trip? What and how much will they drink and what about food? We usually take a case of bottled water with us; that's 32 16-ounce bottles which is more than enough and there is usually some cold beer in the cooler for the boat ride back. If we're going to eat lunch when we get back to the dock we don't take much in the way of food but if I've had the time to go by and pick some up we'll have a bag of Prasek's jerky in the cooler to tide us over until we hit a cafe.
"You do this every time you go on a fishing trip?" You betcha we do buckaroo, if we're trailering the boat to go fishing.
Too many times I've seen boats at the ramp that wouldn't start due to a dead battery or the jack plate won't work or the power trim and tilt isn't working or…the outboard won't start for whatever reason. On more than one occasion I've seen winches locked up tight and the owner had to cut the strap to unload the boat. (I don't know how he secured it later when he pulled the boat out of the water.)
How many people get a ticket every year from the Game Warden or from the USCG because they don't have the correct safety equipment onboard? "Well it was there two weeks ago when I last used my boat." That won't really help you, trust me, I've been there. Oh and how many of you keep a pair of jumper cables in the boat? The day will come when you will come across someone who will need them. That someone might even be you. Sure beats towing or being towed and jumper cables are not that expensive.
I used to leave the kill-switch lanyard on the kill-switch when trailering. No problem right? Well after arriving in Port O'Connor one morning before daylight imagine my dismay when it wasn't there. It was simply gone and either someone took it or it blew out of the boat. In any case I was loaned one by a friend who happened along at the right time or I would have had to wait until well after daylight to buy a replacement. Now we remove our lanyard before we trailer and stow it in a dry box where there are a couple of spares to keep it company. There is also a spare key for the outboard in that box. I got to Bird Island Basin on PINS one morning to discover I had left the boat key at home in El Campo. We didn't get to do any fishing that morning but breakfast at Denny's was pretty good although the company at the table was a little on the grouchy side.
I see trailers on the side of the highway quite often because a bearing has gone out. I have pulled in a lot of boats because of various problems, one of which is a lack of gasoline to keep the motor running and I've seen boats unloaded into the harbor that are missing a plug or two. I remember one morning two men unloaded their boat, one handling the truck and the other in the boat. He started the motor, backed the boat off of the trailer, pushed the throttle forward and ran into the dock because the steering rod was frozen due to it having not been greased in quite some time. All of which could have been avoided if the captain would have checked the boat before the trip.
What we do before a trip to the bay may seem to be overkill but as I said, it's just not that hard to do. With the cost of gasoline these days, a little preventative maintenance, common sense and knowing your equipment can keep you fishing all day instead of sitting on the side of the road or ICW, at the ramp or at a boat shop. What's your time worth?
Oh and that before trip preparation might also save someone's life.