The hook-up all fishing enthusiasts are always thinking about is “the big one.” That huge trophy catch we can brag about to all of our friends or for that matter, anyone who will listen. The seldom talked about truth is that the most important hook-up in fishing is the one between your boat trailer and your vehicle. You can’t get to “the big one” without it. Here are a few things I’ve learned through personal experience with boat trailers and trailering that may save you some time and headaches.
- The first and most important lesson: start a week before. Don’t try hooking up your trailer and checking lights for the first time as you’re about to pull out of the driveway at 4:00 a.m. for your trip. Test everything out in advance so you have enough time to take care of any unexpected issues.
- Secure the hook up. Just as important as getting a good hook set on a fish is getting your trailer hooked up to your vehicle. You don’t want fish getting off your line and you certainly don’t want the trailer getting loose either. Always remember that after the coupler is on the ball, you must close the clamp and secure it with the hitch pin or hitch coupler lock. This minimizes the chance of the clamp opening up. Next, run the safety chains under the tongue so they cross one another and attach them to your vehicle. I have seen a coupler come loose and the chains saved the day! Then, check to make sure the hitch and trailer are attached securely. Lastly, plug in the electrical connection for the trailer lights. Always be sure to follow all manufacturers’ instructions.
- Test your lights. If they aren’t working, look for simple fixes first, like replacing the bulbs. There’s a lot of shaking going on back there and filaments tend to break. If the filament of the bulb is okay, then check the socket. Often water or moisture gets in and creates corrosion that interrupts a good connection. If this is the case, you may need to replace the socket. Consider putting some dialectic grease in the socket if you know how to apply it properly. It helps stop corrosion and allows the electrical current to flow. If these fixes don’t work, you might have to consider having the trailer rewired. Aren’t you glad you started a week before your trip?
- Grease the bearings. Bearings help keep the trailer rolling. You don’t want to be sitting at the side of the road with a burned out bearing – it’s a real buzz kill. Trailers go in and out of the water often, so greasing the bearings regularly helps keep water from getting in. Also make sure you have dust caps. Even with enough grease, if there’s no cap and you’re on a dirt road for any length of time, dust will get in and chew up the bearing. I also highly recommend getting bearing protectors for your wheels. They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to install. The advantage is that they have a grease nipple making it so much easier to get grease into the hub.
- Secure loose items. Make sure all compartments are closed and/or locked and that your load is distributed properly across the trailer. Everything on your trailer, including boat covers, should be properly tied down. If your boat cover comes loose it will start flapping in the wind and it could eventually tear.
- Don’t forget the paperwork. 4:00 a.m. is not a good time to start looking for paperwork… trust me on this one. Your family won’t be thrilled about you noisily rummaging around the house in frustration at that hour. You’ll want to have your vehicle ownership and permits, including your trailer permit, with you. Also make sure your trailer plate, if required where you live, is properly attached. You could face charges from law enforcement if you’re found on the road without them.
- Get help when you need it. Unless you can confidently hitch your utility trailer to your vehicle, you should seek professional assistance and advice. Also get information from your provincial transportation authority to clarify any specifications you’re unsure of.
Investing some time before a fishing trip could save you a lot of headaches and it could be the difference between a great day on the water and never getting to wet a line.
Wishing you big fish!