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Don’t forget to maintain your vessel

Thanks to good engineering, quality craftsmanship and attention to necessary maintenance chores, my fishing boat continues to serve well this summer even as it works through its 11th season under my command.

Quick … knock on wood!

I’m not superstitious, but I also do not take my confidence in the BassCat’s performance lightly. We anglers put a lot of faith in our boats and go to the water with faith that we’ll fish successfully and return home safely.

So it pays to keep things ship-shape.

The average fishing boat has many pieces and parts, any one of which can break even under normal use. The boat’s finish also needs periodic cleaning to keep the showroom shine that caught our attention way back when.

I spent a few hours earlier this week polishing the BassCat, a once-a-season chore. It took a lot of elbow grease, but when the job was done, the gleam was well worth the effort.

Sparkling clean now, the boat’s red and white fiberglass and the Mercury’s coal black cowling will wipe dry and spotless easier after future fishing trips.

A lot of highway miles have rolled under the boat as I drive to lakes throughout our region. The result is grit that kicks off the pavement and swirls in my tow vehicle’s slipstream before settling on the carpet of the boat’s decks.

Periodic vacuuming is more than a cosmetic fix. It helps keep road grime from grinding under my feet and damaging the carpet fibers. A lot of the grit actually is tiny bits of steel that can oxidize and stain the BassCat’s white fiberglass.

The engine, steering, batteries, pumps, electronics and accessories all require a bit of attention to safeguard against failure out on the water.

Do-it-yourself maintenance is OK for some jobs — if they are done correctly. Several weeks ago I changed a livewell pump that had seized. After fussing and sweating to reach deep into the bilge, I finally got the old pump out and the new one installed.

But during my next fishing trip, the bilge flooded. I discovered a slow leak from the new pump. Back home in the garage, I pulled the assembly and just as I suspected, I had installed the pump without the necessary O-ring. I was fortunate the leak was a trickle.

Several times every fishing season, I check to make sure the outboard’s prop shaft is clear of fishing line, which can damage the seal. I also remove the prop of the electric trolling motor and clear vegetation that wraps around the shaft.

My boat has three 12-volt batteries to power the engine, trolling motor, pumps, sonar and GPS. Each is hooked to an onboard charging system, which I plug to the garage’s power supply immediately when I return from a fishing trip.

The onboard chargers are reliable, but to make sure the batteries are in tip-top condition, I double check them with a voltage meter so I’m not caught powerless on the lake — again, knock on wood!

I also have learned the proper way to top off and bleed the hydraulic power steering system to minimize the risk of issues during high-speed runs to fishing holes.

Keeping up with boat maintenance during the fishing year brings peace of mind out on the water. I find that worry-free fishing results in better concentration, more bites and more fish.

Wollitz is a writer and angler who fishes often on the lakes and rivers of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. He also appreciates emails from readers at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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