by Ron Presley
Cold weather storage is important. Everything from your gasoline seasonal equipment checks are important.
Well Equipped Shed- A shed or garage stocked with boat cleaning and protecting products is useful all year, not just in the winter
“I usually try to get my boat winterized before our upcoming deer season,” reported American Ethanol Prostaffer, Kevin Jones. “That’s normally around November and after the last Crappie Masters tournament. That is the end of my fishing season. I pull all my baits, poles and other tackle out of the boat and start getting it ready for a good cleaning.”
The actual time frame may vary, but Jones is not alone in this annual ritual. It comes earlier for some than others, but crappie anglers all over the country will prepare for some planned downtime before the next season starts. Jones and his partner, Billy Don Surface, fish all over the country following the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters All American Tournament Trail. “Once the tournament trail starts we need the boat and motor to perform,” declared Jones. “That performance depends on what we do when we put it up for the winter.”
Jones and a lot of other anglers on the tournament trail have joined the NASCAR crowd and others as fans of ethanol gas for their boats. “Do your research,” suggested Brian Sowers, voice of Crappie Masters. “When it comes to marine manufacturing, boat motors are approved for E-10 gasoline. Oklahoma State University did an independent study on ethanol and boat motors. The results showed that E-10 does not harm fuel lines, carburetors, hoses and things like that.”
“Ethanol is a very stable fuel,” continued Sowers. “It is very clean and efficient burning fuel. In the studies that I have read and all the information I have received, it is not necessarily the ethanol that is causing the problems. It is the different formulations of gasoline we have out there right now. Over the past decade, the blends, the chemicals and additives in the gasoline alone have been the problem.”
Jones agrees. “When I store my boat I always top off my gas and oil and add a stabilizer to the gas,” explained Jones. “A lot of people think that ethanol is what’s causing the problems in motors and small engines today. It’s not the ethanol; it’s actually the gasoline that goes bad. Most gas only has a 21-day shelf life. A lot of the high octane fuels have a stabilizer already added, but for the few dollars stabilizer cost I’ll stick with the cheap gas and add the stabilizer. I haven’t had any problems at all.”
After toping off the gas tank Jones turns to the boat itself. “I start by giving the boat a good soap and water cleaning, “instructed Jones. “Once the boat is clean I apply a good coat of wax to bring back the showroom shine and to protect surface areas.” Experts agree, it is a good idea to put the wax on everything, including chrome and other metal accessories.
Jones also likes to give some special attention to the engine exterior. “I like to apply baby oil to my motor,” explained Jones. “I find it keeps the lower unit from getting that chalky look.”
To many anglers removed the tarp for the season’s first trip only to find the batteries dead. Proper maintenance when you put them to bed will pay off when the next season starts. Trolling motor performance and cranking power depend on a good battery.
Before storing the boat check the water level in the batteries and fill with distilled water if needed. Check the power cables for rust and corrosion and clean if warranted. For extra protection add some lithium grease to the battery post after you’ve tightened everything down. Just remember, the lithium grease is intended to prevent corrosion, not to make a better connection.
Jones likes to go a step further when it comes to batteries. “First I make sure the batteries are fully charged,” said Jones. “Then I hook them up to a battery maintainer for the winter months.”
Another important step in storing the boat is finding and repairing minor electronic issues. Finding something now will extend the life of the equipment and get you started off right when the fishing season begins again.
Battery Compartment- Check the water level and all connections and use a battery maintainer during the winter months. You will be guaranteed power your next time out.
Start with the screens on your electronics. They are likely to be full of water spots, fingerprints and maybe even fish slime. In a YouTube Video, Dr. Jason Halfen suggests using a cleaning solution of 1 part of vinegar to 4 parts of warm water to clean the screens. Spray the solution directly on the screen and dry with a microfiber rag to restore your screen to new like condition.
He also suggests disconnecting the cords from the back of your fish finder and look for corrosion or pin damage. Replace the damaged cables as needed. Reconnect the cables after applying a small amount of dielectric grease, making sure that each connecter fits back snuggly.
Halfen reminds anglers to also inspect each of the transducers. Run your hand along the transducer body feeling for physical damage and visually inspect where the cable is connected to the transducer. Finally readjust the angle of your transducer for optimal performance. It could have been moved since your last adjustment.
Trolling motor inspection begins with the prop. Look for physical damage like nicks or cracks that can hinder performance. Remove the prop and look for fishing line or other obstructions around the shaft. Remove any foreign material and replace the prop being sure the shear pin is not damaged. Finally, spray the trolling motor with a furniture polish, such as Pledge. The polish forces water out of tight places and serves to protect the motor and lubricate the shaft, making it slide easier.
Minn Kota recommends removing the prop after every use to check for weeds or fishing line that may be caught behind it. Those obstructions can result in damage to the seals and allow water into the motor and much larger problems. Foreign objects are not always visible, so the prop must be removed for proper inspection.
The final step before strapping on the tarp is aimed at winter nuisances that might be looking for a place to live during the colder months. “After giving the carpets a good cleaning I scatter some moth balls in the boat before adding the tarp,” explained Jones. “The mothballs will keep mice out of the boat where they build nests and chew on things. Mice can play havoc with your wiring and be a source of trouble for your electronics.”
Keep in mind that shrink wrapping is a excellent alternative to storing the boat under a tarp. This method gives a nearly critter free seal and should be considered for boats that will be stored outside. Check out local dealers for someone that provides the service.
In addition to deer hunting the winter months finds Jones still thinking about crappie fishing. “I use the winter months to organize my tackle, clean and repair my rods and add fresh line to my reels,” said Jones. “When the time comes I remove the tarp and put all my equipment back in the boat. I give the batteries a good charge, check the tire pressure, and Florida here we come. By keeping batteries taken care of and stabilizer in the fuel my boat and motor are sure to perform when we begin another great season of Crappie Masters competition.
After checking under the prop for fishing line or other debris, spray the trolling motor down with a furniture polish for further protection. It acts as a water dispersant.
Kevin Jones is sponsored by American ethanol, Missouri Corn Growers, Muddy Water Baits, B’n’M Poles, Brahlers Tire, Phoenix Boats, Mercury Marine, Engel Coolers, Porcine Fish Attractors, and Vicious line.
Dr. Jason Halfen is an avid crappie angler. He owns and operates The Technological Angler (www.thetechnologicalangler.com) with a primary mission to help anglers learn to use their on-board technology to its fullest potential.