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New Season Boat Checklist

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

With the footy season behind us, and the weather on the improve, it's time to make sure your boat is up-to-speed for the start of the prime fishing months, as Alex reports. Words & images by: Alex Ciccozzi

It’s safe to say that here in South Australia we experience our fair share of blustery winter conditions, primarily due to our geographical location facing Antarctica on the southern half of the country! And while we may not necessarily be covered in blankets of snow, or trying to function in sub-zero temperatures, the conditions are still bad enough to at least shut down a fair chunk of recreational fishing activity over this period.


While the die-hard anglers will still be out there wetting a line amongst the breaks in weather, winter and early spring generally sees the majority of South Oz fishos storing the boat away in hibernation until the warmer weather inevitably rolls around again. Spring is often the season to kickstart things back into gear, with much more tolerable conditions and slightly longer daylight hours greeting anglers. Combine this with a plethora of new season fishing targets on the horizon, it’s usually enough for anglers to awaken from their slumber and pull the covers off the boat ready to do business!

The downside to any hiatus off the water however is that corrosion can quickly set in, and with the boat not seeing any regular use in the preceding months a lot of these problems only become visible once it’s time to get out fishing again. Sometimes these problems rear their head at very inconvenient times, which can seriously compromise safety when on the water, or even trailering the boat to and from your destination. It is therefore highly advisable to form your own pre-season boating checklist to ensure a stress-free, effortless and safe transition back into fishing after an extended period off the water over winter.


Let’s take a look at some of the main points to cover that should be relevant to most boaties and fishos when it comes to forming this list.


ELECTRONICS

The most obvious piece of equipment to fall under the electronics sub-heading is without doubt the boat battery. Boat batteries can quickly drain when they haven’t been used for a while, so be sure to make this one of your main priorities straight up.

A good quality trickle charger, like the new CTEK range, is the perfect way to bring any battery back to life again. A lot of these chargers are multi-staged meaning they can drain and recondition batteries and also signal if the battery is unable to be fully recharged, which may indicate the time for a replacement. You certainly don’t want to be that person holding up the boat ramp line with a flat battery on your first launch for the spring/summer, so I would highly recommend investing in one. Even if the battery only runs your electronics and not the motor this is still equally important from a safety point of view when you consider bilge pumps and navigation lights.

I like to check all of these on-board electronics once the battery is fully charged to ensure they’re all functioning correctly. A lot of nav lights these days are now full LED models, but some old school versions may need globes replaced. Bilge pumps are also susceptible to seizing up, and given that they are designed to eliminate water out of the boat you really want to make sure you can hear it whizzing away when turned on.


Switchboard panels are worth a quick inspection, as the wiring connections behind these can often degrade over time largely thanks to the saltwater environment. I had this occur only a couple of years back when I lost most of my electronics, which was a little nervy at the time, but thankfully we were fishing in daylight hours and not too far from shore to make it back without concern.

TRAILER INSPECTION

With a heavy focus placed on prepping the boat before heading into a season of fishing it’s easy to forget about one vital piece of equipment sitting directly underneath it - the trailer! Trailers probably experience some of the most corrosion damage in comparison to a boat or engine, particularly when left stationary for prolonged periods. Due to being largely out of sight and hidden beneath the boat they unfortunately tend to cop a fair amount of neglect. A thorough trailer check should be considered routine on the preseason checklist to help reduce the chance of something going wrong when dragging the boat out for its first mission of the upcoming season.


Simple boat trailer electronics are easily examined. Trailer plugs should be first up, and with a screwdriver they can be opened up and checked over for any loose or corroding connections. They can be a little fiddly if you need to replace one, but if you follow the diagrams and replicate all the colours and connections it’s hard to go wrong, or of course pay a professional to go over it all if in doubt. If all looks to be in good shape then simply put it back together and plug it into the car adapter plug to next test the trailer lights. The easiest way to do this is to grab a friend to inspect the lights while you run through all of the signals from inside the car. But if no one is around to help at the time a good idea is to set up a phone camera and record a quick video from behind the boat that can then be played back to check all is in working order.

Wheel bearings are next on the list and this is where a lot of inexperienced boaties and fishos can come unstuck and be left stranded on the side of the road. Wheel bearings are crucial to maintain a safe and functioning trailer, but saltwater and dust/dirt intrusion can quickly reduce their lifespan. The quickest way to check a bearing is to jack the trailer up and attempt to rock the wheel back and forth with your hands. There should be minimal movement and any excess play may indicate a worn bearing. The wheel should also be rotated and any noisy sounds or signs of roughness should be looked out for as they too can indicate a potential worn bearing. Bearings are quite simple to replace, with some great instructional videos available on Youtube. However, if you really aren’t confident then it’s best to take it in to a qualified mechanic to sort it out. If all seems well then, a quick top up of grease is often recommended. Bearing buddies are a great simple addition for this purpose, so be sure to look into a set if you don’t currently possess them.


With the footy season behind us, and the weather on the improve, it's time to make sure your boat is up-to-speed for the start of the prime fishing months, as Alex reports. reports report repor repo rep re reporx ructural integrity is the final trailer piece to examine with any tie-downs, safety chains and winch straps checked over for signs of wear. These relatively cheap and simple items should never be overlooked as they are essentially the only thing keeping your boat on the trailer and away from the bitumen. I prefer to release a length of winch strap for a quick look before tensioning it back onto the spool which also ticks off if the winch itself is working fine.


A quick inspection under the trailer can also highlight any signs of concern around corroding cross-members or dodgy rollers, while brakes (if applicable) should also be checked with a quick road test. Some of these items may not necessarily need immediate fixing but it’s good to flag any concerns to refer to at a later date.


SAFETY GEAR

A thorough safety gear check really a no-brainer, and while most items should already be on board from your last trip you probably want to be checking that they’re all in working condition and within date. EPIRBs can easily be tested, and you may also need to check or update your online registration attached to this safety beacon. Out-of-date flares should be replaced and handed in to a police station where they will be collected and safely destroyed to help prevent any harm or injury from either unintentional or intentional misuse. Some people have a tendency to keep out of date flares on board, however an expired flare has no guarantee to fire properly or safely when needed, and it is consequently considered an unauthorised explosive.


Life jacket inspections should subsequently follow on from this, as well as checking off any other mandatory equipment listed in the regulations in respect to the size of your boat and the waters in which you intend to use it.


WHAT ABOUT ENGINES?

Motors can often need a little coercing to fire up after a lengthy period away from the water, and fuel quality can have a significant bearing on this. Fuel can break down and turn stale over time, and if you haven’t treated any remaining fuel from last season with a stabilising additive prior to winter then it’s worth safely disposing it and filling up with a fresh hit of juice plus or minus oil if indicated. This will attribute to better engine performance and long- term health of the motor. With fresh fuel on board it’s then time to whack the muffs on and fire it up to make sure things are primed and operating smoothly. Similar to avoiding a flat battery this will also help save further embarrassment at the boat ramp.

Look for a good ‘tell-tale’ stream of water which indicates that the engine pump is producing sufficient water pressure and flow for cooling purposes in outboard motors. If any concerns exist, or it’s been a while since your last engine service then I would highly recommend considering to book it in for a check-up. Boat engines don’t have to be serviced as often as a car as such, but it is wise to touch base with your mechanic for some advice around frequency. More mechanically minded fishos can certainly service their own engines and top up grease nipples etc. But once again if you’re not confident in doing so then seek the help and service of a professional. You really don’t want to be mucking around with this sort of stuff!

With the warmer weather and mouth- watering fishing targets soon arriving now is the time to get the boat sorted to ensure you’re not heading into the season underdone. That extra bit of time and effort can potentially save a lot of headaches and extra costs both in the short and long- term, but it will also maximise your safety on and off the water. Preparation truly is paramount, so form your own checklist that you can refer back to each season for a hassle-free and productive time of it. It’s time to boot those spiders out, and get into some serious fishing!


This article first appeared in Oct/Nov 2019 Issue 67 Fishing SA Magazine.

Get access to Fishing SA digital back issues for $1.99 on PocketMags. Click here to find out more.

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