Two friends fishing the lakes

Essential Boating Tools

Boating demands a certain amount of gear for safety reasons, and to be ready for emergency repairs. To ensure you’re well prepared for the season, here are some essential boating tools and gear you should own.

Towing Tools
You should always carry a towing kit for roadside repairs. It should include extra trailer light bulbs and fuses, a spare tire, jack, chocks, and tools.

Frequently check trailer tires for wear. Top up air pressure and lubricate wheel bearings on a regular basis; having a grease gun and portable air compressor makes quick work of these duties. When leaving home or the launch, fasten tie-down and winch straps to the boat and inspect them regularly for wear (carry spares too in your kit). Lastly, secure items, such as oars and gas tanks, so they don’t move during travel.

Safety Gear
An important element of boat organization is proper safety equipment placement. A fire extinguisher is useless buried beneath a pile of items; it should always be within reach. It’s the same for PFDs and other safety gear, such as flares, whistles, throw ropes, etc. Also, learn to neatly loop rope to avoid tangles. Always check state and national requirements for mandatory boating accessories based on the size of vessel or water you’re fishing.

Other Essential Supplies
Piggybacking on the above safety items, I also recommend storing the following in your boat: first-aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, spare sunglasses, various medications (to handle allergies, motion sickness, headaches, etc.), an emergency hook remover kit, a few water bottles and snacks, such as nuts and granola or energy bars. I keep these in various Ziploc-style bags stored within a sealed, plastic tote for extra water protection. Label plastic totes with permanent black marker for quick identification.

A Proper Supply Of Boat Tools
Just like safety items, you should also carry a tool kit (screwdriver, ratchet sets, pliers, etc.) for any on-the-water repairs you might need to perform. I carry a spare prop, pins, spark plugs, and oil for my main motor and the first two items in this list for my electric one.

I also have a small plastic tote for miscellaneous items that have served me well over the years. It contains electrical tape, a knife, zip ties, plastic bags, a spare flashlight and batteries, absorbent towel, and plenty of spare fuses. Jumper cables are also good to have in case you need to boost your boat’s cranking battery. In the past two years I’ve seen this happen three times, all in different boats. This happens more than many of us would like to admit, so spend the $20 and keep “jumpers” in your boat.

Have Release Tools At The Ready
When practicing catch and release, having the proper tools within reach is critical to getting fish back in the water quickly with minimal stress. Plus, the faster you can properly land and release a fish, the sooner you can catch another one! This begins by keeping your net easily accessible. Next, have a designated spot, compartment, or holder for pliers, hemostats, a hook disgorger, jaw spreaders, line cutters, scissors, and scale. Also, keep a golf or utility towel within reach to dry off hands afterwards; this prevents fingers from getting chilled in cold weather. You can buy mounts to hold these items. A friend of mind keeps all his muskie release tools in a utility belt. When he’s fishing solo he wears the belt so his tools are always within reach.

Be sure to replenish supplies throughout the season. Carrying the above tools will ensure you’re prepared for a variety of minor and more serious boating situations.

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