Give your boat a little holiday love

The pre-Christmas period is a good time to give your boat attention before winter sets in.

Some of you, especially northern anglers, may have already put boats away. Others are holding out for hope that another unseasonably warm day will allow them to hit the water again.

Regardless of what climate you live in, this is a good time to do a little maintenance and spiff up your rig before next spring.

Maintenance is a must and I’ll talk about that later. But one thing that’s equally important is to look around the rig for boat items you might like to put those on your Christmas “wish list.”

Maybe it’s a fishfinder upgrade or an accessory that can help you fish more efficiently.

How about Gerald Swindle’s G-Force Handle (T-H Marine Accessories), a trolling motor handle and release system. It has a comfortable feel and the nylon jacketed steel cable will last a long time.

Maybe you need to update a culling system, add a boat alarm system or a Ram Mount on your electronics to make the unit height and angle adjustable and the graph easier to remove. Or, how about a lure organizer that fastens under a storage lid, or replace worn rod tie downs? Peruse a boating or fishing catalog and you’ll get more ideas.

I empty my boat for the winter and inspect everything. I look under the console for loose or damage wires; tighten screws and bolts, grease fittings and make any minor repairs leftover from last season.

An area that often gets overlooked is the livewells. Now’s the time to clean them, removing fish scales and debris that can clog a pump or leave stains and disgusting odors. There are some good livewell cleaners designed specifically for that.

Winterizing the outboard is a must for northern anglers, but boats that winter in warmer climates need attention, too. If your boat gets unused for more than a month or so, it’s wise to add some fuel stabilizer to protect what gas is left in the tank.

The lower unit gear case demands more attention than most boaters give it. I change my lower unit fluid after every 20 hours of use and will do that at least four times a year. It should be checked frequently for milky appearance (water in the unit) or foreign particles. If it has burnt odor, change it. (You’d be surprised how many Elite pros don’t do this and pay the price of a damaged lower unit at some point during the season.)

Batteries are equally important. The water in wet cell batteries will freeze in cold climates and they need a good charge anytime they’re left alone.

I recommend fully charging the batteries and attaching a trickle charger during the off season. If you leave batteries in the boat, unhook all of the power wires and connect the trickle charger.

If you utilize three batteries, wire them in parallel (jumper wires from positive to positive and negative to negative on all three) then connect the trickle charger to the positive and negative posts on one of the batteries. Leave it on until the boat is ready for use.

Small, 2-amp trickle chargers are inexpensive and available anywhere, yet they will help you protect your battery investment.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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