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How do I keep my boat clean?

Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley takes a lot of pride in his bass boat so we asked him for expert tips on how to keep a boat spick-and-span.


I take a lot of pride in my boat. It's my office on the water, and I want it to look good and perform well for a long time. If you're a bass angler with a nice boat, you know they're a big investment, so it's important to take good care of them so they'll last and maintain their resale value.

I spend a lot more time in my boat than most anglers, so I've developed some ideas about caring for it. Here are three tips that help me keep my boat looking good.


You've got a welcome mat for your house or apartment, why not your boat? A towel works great. When you or your fishing buddy step in, don't step right onto the carpet. Step onto the towel and wipe your feet first. It'll help to keep the mud and grit and grime out of your boat's carpet and keep it looking clean and good for a long time.

I'll tell a little story on myself here. The folks at Mercury know what a fanatic I am about keeping my boat clean, and they gave me an actual welcome mat with "Mercury" on it. It's fantastic and absolutely perfect for the job, but I don't use it because it's too nice. I keep it stowed away so it doesn't get messed up. A towel works just fine for me!

Get the scum off

Unless you're doing all your boating in a bathtub, when you pull your rig out of the water it's got some scum buildup on the hull where the water line sits. If you do nothing about it, that scum line can become permanent.

I use microfiber towels to clean my boat's hull and remove that scum line just as soon as I pull it out of the water. You've got to catch it early, while it's still wet. When it dries out, it's much tougher to clean, and you might never get it out.

The microfiber towels are perfect because they're soft and won't scratch your hull. I'm very careful about what I use to clean my boat. You don't want to create a problem where there wasn't one.

Elbow grease

People who know me and know how much time I spend on the water are always asking me what special cleaner or spray or gloss I use to make the boat look like new even after a year on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail. The answer might surprise you.

All I use is elbow grease — that's right, just plain hard work. Unfortunately, there's no shortcut to keeping a boat looking good. You have to work at it, and I do mean "work."

When folks run into me at one of those self-service car wash places, they're probably surprised to see how hard I'm scrubbing and working on my boat. It's great aerobic exercise, and it feels pretty good to get a workout at the same time you're keeping your boat in shape.