Move out day. What visual does that conjure up for you? Do you picture a pile of cardboard boxes and furniture stuffed in a truck as you change homes? Maybe you picture a single box full of pens, note pads and assorted cubicle goodies as you move out of your job space? I picture a huge pile of rods and reels, Plano boxes, ropes, PFDs, tools, spares and the rest of the stuff that normally resides in my 21-foot Ranger bass boat. You see, for me, move out day means emptying the boat for the season and that typically happens in late October around here.

Since I fish for a living, my boat is sort of my office. As such, it is full of everything I may need to catch any fish I may encounter in my travels, along with all the rest of the stuff that keeps me efficient on the water. I also sell my boats late every fall, which means nothing stays in it. While it’s a lot more work than you might think to get a new boat every spring, set it up to my liking and pack it full of gear, just to use it for a season and then unpack the whole shebang and start over, it’s part of how I make my living. And to be clear, I’m not complaining about it! Besides, after 15 years of that process, I’ve learned that move out day and the two weeks afterwards is the right time to evaluate, clean, repair and replace any and all items that may need it. If you really want to see what you have and in what condition it’s in, pile all of it on your garage floor; you’ll find it’s very enlightening. In fact, even if I quit fishing for a living, I’d still go through the same process – it’s become that important to my angling success.

The move out process starts with the boat itself. No, not the act of actually moving stuff out, rather the evaluation process. Since I’ll be going through every compartment, it is a chance to see how my initial organization was versus what sort of entropy has taken place. In short, if tackle has migrated to new spots in the boat over the season, it must have done so for a reason, so perhaps it should be put there at the start of the next season.

Next, I download all waypoints, routes, trails and settings off the Lowrance sonar/GPS units before wiping their memory clean for the new owner. This is prime time to clean up duplicate or temporary waypoints and store the new ones, along with the settings, in my permanent archive. Here again, I’d do this yearly while it’s all fresh in my mind regardless of my boat swapping. Managing data is an integral part of serious angling these days and my archive is extremely valuable to me. Hence, I protect it.

Now for the more obvious move out day items like tackle and gear. I always work with the rods and reels first because they are fragile and need to be stowed in my ceiling rack for winter. Before stowing, I closely inspect each for damage to the guides, handle, reel seat and blank. Each reel is removed as part of that and then the rod is thoroughly cleaned. A Magic Eraser and a few cotton swabs work great for this task. The reels get the same basic treatment; inspect, thoroughly clean the exterior and spools (I don’t fully disassemble and service except as needed by performance feel) and then release pressure off the drag before putting it back on the rod for their winter’s nap. At this time, I start a spreadsheet for what line they will need before going back in use, along with a list of rods or reels that may need to be replaced.

You may think I’m crazy, but I go through every single compartment of every box, pulling out every lure and inspecting it. Hooks are replaced as needed and here again, my lure spreadsheet is updated for needed items. Each box itself is looked at closely for cracks or failing hinges before reorganizing the lures back inside. Terminal boxes get the same treatment, as does my leader kit (I carry small spools of Trilene fluorocarbon and mono ranging from 4# to 20# to use as leaders) and fishing tool kit (pliers, forceps, nippers, split ring pliers, etc).

Dock ropes, bumpers and the boat tool kit (prop wrench and hub kit, spare trolling motor prop and shear pin, basic tool set, electrical tape, etc) all get inspected too. Anything missing or damaged is replaced. I had a rotted dock line break once and cost me gelcoat damage; never again because I check them yearly. PFD’s and throwables are very thoroughly inspected for failing seams. I use inflatable PFDs sometimes and they are checked to ensure the charging canister is full. These last couple of items may save you from a ticket should ‘The Man’ want to give you a boat safety inspection next spring.

I’m not suggesting that every weekend angler needs to be this thorough, but I do respectfully suggest you spend some time with your tackle before stashing it for winter. It’ll give you time to repair and replace as needed and get you ready to hit the water when spring rolls around. The peace of mind is worth it and besides, maybe you’ll come up with a few needed items for your Christmas wish list!