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Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Preparing Your Boat for Cold Weather

Tracker Power Pro testing boat battery


For most of the country, shorter days and crisper winds means that winter is on the way with colder temperatures.


In the North, water will soon turn to ice. And with a few exceptions, most anglers—including the bravest of souls—will bow to the whims of Mother Nature and tuck their boats away for the winter.


Farther South, there may not be all the ice but there can be cold winter rains that make fishing less enjoyable. And, the fish themselves become less receptive to your favorite crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms.


Maybe that’s why a cup of hot coffee and a visit with The Bass Pros or The Next Bite on a cold Saturday morning in December or January sounds really good.


If you’re going to put your boat away for a few months—and there’s a chance of freezing temperatures—you should act now to safeguard your boat, motor and trailer. What steps should you take to protect your investment during those cold winter months?


Here are some tips from two of Tracker Boating Center’s finest:


Derek Dunn, Service Manager for the Tracker Boating Center in Brainerd, Minnesota, says if you’re among the last to winterize your boat, the easiest way to get it done fast is to bring it into your nearest Tracker Boating Center.


The winterization process involves:

• Completely draining and refilling the lower unit

• Removing the prop and taking out any fishing line that may be wrapped around the prop seals

• Adding stabilizer to the unused fuel in the tank

• Fully charging the batteries and disconnecting the battery cables

• Changing the oil and filter so the boat is ready to go in the spring

• Fogging the engine cylinders to prevent rust


Dunn recommends storing your boat inside. And, if you have the luxury of keeping it in a heated garage, that’s even better. But if you have to store your boat outside, Dunn strongly suggests wrapping it to keep it dry and reduce the chances of mice, squirrels or other critters making a cozy home over the winter months.


If you live in an in-between state, like Missouri or Maryland, where it freezes occasionally, or if you live near a major river, such as the Mississippi River, where you can fish year-round (even in southeastern Minnesota), you can keep your boat on the water, but you should still take some steps to keep it running smoothly.


Tracker Power Pros performing boat inspectionsMike Sneed, Service Manager at the TRACKER BOAT CENTER® in Springfield, Missouri, says it’s still critical to maintain your boat. You should consider taking advantage of the TRACKER BOAT CENTER 34-point inspection. Sneed says changing the oil and fuel filter in fourstroke engines is advisable at least once a year. It’s also important to inspect fuel lines and the water pump.


If there is a chance of freezing temperatures, it’s critical to thwart your engine’s biggest enemy—water.


Water in any part of your boat’s system—the lower unit, livewell or bilge area—could cause major problems. That’s why it’s so important to empty your boat of any water. Tilt the motor so that it’s all the way down (let gravity do its job). Doing this allows water to drain, which will help prevent any damage from ice. Also, don’t forget to pull the drain plug when storing it at home.


Another important thing to note is that batteries can freeze in cold weather, so make sure you keep them fully charged.


One more tip: Bring some sand or kitty litter with you to the landing and sprinkle it before you put your boat into the water. Water can turn into ice on concrete ramps. The sand or kitty litter will give you some traction so you don’t slip and turn your day into a nightmare.


When you’re preparing your boat for the winter, don’t overlook the trailer, Sneed says. If you’ve been putting a lot of miles on it, a complete trailer inspection is called for. Be sure to pay extra attention to the hubs, wheel bearings and seals. It’s also a good practice to check your lights, and inspect brakes and tires for wear. 


If you follow these steps to winterize your boat, motor and trailer, you’ll be ready to hit the water as soon as spring rolls around.


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