Boat prep doesn’t require much effort if you keep up with it. Keep your tools, fluids and line in stock to save time cleaning.

Almost daily I get calls from angler friends of mine who are going stir crazy because they just want to wet a line but can’t get out there. 

Believe me when I say I get it, but as much as I want to go, there is a list of things I need to do before I drop a stack of cash on gas on an inshore or offshore trip. 

Out on the water is not the place to realize that several pre-season boat tasks were put on the back burner. Ignore those chores, and that long-awaited trip ends up being a disaster. 

One thing I know is outboards hate to sit idle over the winter months. Even when I know I am not going to fish for a month or two, I religiously hook up my engine flusher to a hose, start my outboard and let it run for 15 to 20 minutes. It’s a bit of a pain in the rear but in the long run it will prevent a ton of problems and money. 

Another engine saver is to change the oil in the foot of your outboard before you start fishing hot and heavy. Sitting idle in cold weather can break down the oil in the lower unit on your outboard.  If you are even mildly mechanically minded, you can change that oil yourself in less than 30 minutes. 

Though not absolutely necessary, I remove the engine cowling and lightly spray the engine with Corrosion X, and at the same time spray the panel where all the electrical connections are located. 

Salt air can do a number on electrical connections and Corrosion X is great stuff and can be found at most tackle shops or marinas.

Even after these few things are done, there is no point heading out if you haven’t addressed your rod, reel and tackle box. One thing I see over and over again that drives me nuts is how so many fishermen simply throw their rods and reels in a corner after their last use. 

Every time I come in, I tighten the drag down and lightly spray down both the rod and reel with fresh water and mist them with Penn Rod & Reel Cleaner. 

Once that is done, then comes the most important part. Before putting the reel away, loosen the drag almost all the way. It doesn’t matter if it is a spinning reel or an open face offshore reel. If you leave the drag tight, it wears down the two plates and instead of a silky-smooth drag it becomes jerky or, even worse, becomes frozen.

Imagine going through all the expense to go fishing and hooking into the fish of a lifetime – but that fight is over in seconds because you didn’t back off the drag the last time you put up that reel. 

Now is also the time to change out the line on your reels. I may fish more than most but on average I swap out line on my most-used reels five or six times a year. On my inshore spinning reels, I prefer 30-pound test braid, and for my conventional offshore reels I prefer 40- to 60-pound test monofilament, depending on the size of the reel. 

As for leader material, this is where I don’t skimp. More expensive than monofilament, fluorocarbon leader is worth the extra money. For my inshore spinning rods, 20-pound test fluorocarbon will handle about any fish that swims in our inshore waters. When bottom fishing offshore or cobia fishing, my leader choice is 50- to 60-pound test fluorocarbon. 

To help you face fluorocarbon sticker shock, understand that you get a lot of bang for the buck because, in most cases, all you need is a relatively short leader. One spool goes a long way. 

Lastly if you run 20 to 50 miles out regularly, and especially if you have only one engine, there’s one gadget might just save your life one day. The ocean can change faces in the blink of an eye, an engine and all your electronics can quit – leaving you feeling pretty darn lonely in that big ocean. That is where a small handheld Spot X two-way satellite messenger allows to you to text and receive texts no matter how far away from shore you are. 

An added bonus is when you text, it displays your latitude and longitude to whomever you text. Costing around $250, it is a small price to pay if it saves your life.     

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.