Pro Tips For Winterizing Your Fishing Gear

Many anglers continue fishing right through the winter. If you're not one of them, then here's what you need to know about winterizing your gear.

A sign at the lawnmower shop I frequent reads, "Man who leaves lawnmower outside all winter will not mow grass in the spring." That not so subtle hint should be a warning to fishermen, too. If you don't prepare your equipment for winter storage, you won't be a happy fisherman when the weather gets right for that first trip next spring. Make a checklist so you are sure you take care of all the important things you need to do.

Seafoam and WD-40 are two indespensible products for making sure your boat makes it through the colder months. Photo by Ronnie Garrison.

Where you store your boat for the winter is important. If you can store it inside you will be far ahead of game. If not there are many more things you must attend to for the coming harsh weather.

Your motor is the most likely problem after sitting up all winter. Gas deteriorates with time and can foul your engine. The newer blends of gas with ethanol in them are bad for outboard motors, too. If possible, buy gas with no ethanol added the last two times you fill up each season so no alcohol is left in the system. It is best to store your boat with a full tank of gas, too.

Lower your motor until it is straight up and down and store in that position so water runs out and does not collect in it. Add a gas stabilizer like Sea Foam to your last two tanks of gas so it works through the motor as you run your boat. It will clean your motor and you are ready to store after the last use.

You can also disconnect your gas line and let the motor run until all the gas in the system is burned up, but this also removes the oil. Once the motor is running stabilized gas, or after it stops if you run it dry, spray an engine fogging oil into the air intake until the motor stops running. If it is already stopped keep turning the motor over until you see the fog coming from the exhaust port.

Remove spark plugs and spray more fogging oil into the cylinders. Turn the flywheel to spread the oil inside. Have a new set of spark plugs ready for the spring, but it is best to wait to install them until you can run your motor one time to burn off the fogging oil. New plugs installed now will be fouled by that first trip.

Drain your lower unit oil and refill with new oil. If you see water in the oil or if there are metal filings in it, you will need to have it checked for new seals or repair work.

Put in a new water pump. Water pumps in outboard motors wear quickly and it is a good idea to replace them often.

Spray all linkages and connectors in your motor with a good oil spray like WD-40. Disconnect manual steering cables and make sure no water is in them, and force grease into them if they don't have a grease fitting. Grease all fittings for steering and motor mount bearings. Put a light coating of grease on the starter bendix and shaft.

Next, park your boat and raise the front. Pull the drain plug and leave it out. This lets all water drain from it and will keep water from collecting in it during the winter. Disconnect your batteries, make sure they are filled with water, clean the terminals and connectors and put a light coating of grease on them, and charge the batteries. Keep a trickle charge on them or check often to keep fully charged all winter long.

Take all equipment out of the boat and disconnect and store all electronics indoors after cleaning them. Spray all connectors with an oil spray. Clean and store life jackets where vermin won't chew on them. Check and store expendable equipment like fire extinguishers and flares, making sure they are still good. Put fishing equipment aside for later work.

Take off your prop and grease the prop shaft. Check for damage to the prop and get it serviced if necessary. Replace prop and tighten to specifications for your motor.

Check trolling motor bolts and fittings and tighten. Remove the prop and make sure no line is under it, and the seal is still good. Grease all moving parts of the mounting system and the cable.

Wash and wax your boat and trailer, including the motor cover. This removes dirt and stains that may set over the winter and be almost impossible to remove later, and then the wax protects the finish.

If you have power steering on your boat, check the fluid level. Check the fluid level in your power trim too. Disconnect the speedometer tube and blow the water out of it. Check all cleats and other fittings and tighten all bolts and screws, especially on seats. Spray all seats and other similar surfaces with a good vinyl spray to protect them.

When the boat is clean and dry, put a cover on it if it stays outside. Make sure the cover keeps rain, snow and ice out of the boat, but allows some air circulation so condensation won't build up inside. Secure and support the cover so it won't blow off and ice and snow can't collapse it.

Now, jack up your trailer and block it so the tires are off the ground, and leave it that way. Pump up tires to recommended inflation, and if you can store tires inside, do so. Repack wheel bearings and check surge brakes for wear. Check tires for uneven wear and get them balanced or aligned as needed. Cover your tires to protect them from the sun if they are outside. Grease your tongue jack and hitch connector, and spray oil spray into both male and female light connectors.

Make sure all lights are working and sealed, with no water inside. If you see water, take the cover off, dry them out and spray with an oil spray. Replace bad bulbs and cracked lenses, and secure all wires to the trailer that may have worked loose.

This is a good time to sort all your fishing tackle, making a list of what you need to replace. Sharpen hooks, replace rusty hooks, repair any damaged plugs and replace stiff spinnerbait skirts. Store plastic worms in bags that will not deteriorate. Clean tackle boxes and refill with your favorite baits.

Rods should be wiped down with an oil spray and the reel seat cleaned and oiled. Check all guides for rough spots. Visually inspect them, but a cotton Q-Tip or piece of woman's hose run through them will show tiny cracks that can cut your line.

Reels should be taken apart, cleaned and oiled, reassembled and stored. This is a good time to send a reel off to a good repair shop. Many will clean your reels for a small fee and replace damaged or worn parts for an additional fee.

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