JEFF KNAPP: To make most of time, keep tow vehicle organized
For many anglers, towing a boat to the lake or river is a regular part of a day on the water. Keeping your towing vehicle well organized will increase your chances of getting to and from your destination hassle-free and help ensure you have the needed equipment for your outing.
MAINTENANCE BOX: Heavy-duty utility boxes like Plano’s Storage Locker and Rubbermaid’s Roughneck Tote make ideal containers for storing items needed to keep your trailer rolling. They can be placed in the vehicle for fishing trips and removed afterward, freeing up the space.
Most trailer failures involve either the lighting system or a flat tire. As such, the basics of this collection should include spare bulbs, electrical tape, electrical connectors and a crimping tool. Connectors (butt, spade and ring) purchased from an industrial supply store tend to be of better quality than those that come in pre-made kits available at box stores. An electrical multi-tester is handy for determining the source of a lighting failure.
Flat tires are a short-term inconvenience if your are set up to deal with them. A properly inflated spare tire — mounted to the trailer frame — is, obviously, the first requirement. In the trailer kit have a jack, lug wrench and wheel chocks; I carry a heavy-duty scissors jack. It’s a good idea to include a couple rough-cut oak slabs to use as a jack platform on soft soil. A spray can of penetrating oil can help loosen stubborn lug nuts.
Other items to consider include booster cables, a 12-volt air compressor that plugs into an auxiliary outlet, extra wheel bearings (pre-packed with grease) and the tools needed to replace them, a roll of duct tape, some nylon wire ties and a spare boat plug. It’s also a good place to keep hazard lights/flares for on-the-road breakdowns.
FISHING ROD STORAGE: Tow vehicles, in my experience, have been most responsible for shortening fishing rods by six inches or so, victims of tailgates, doors and hatches. Rod storage considerations will minimize these misfortunes.
In sport utility vehicles, nylon strap-style carriers that span the width of the vehicle’s interior permit you to suspend four or five rods. The straps connect to the SUV’s clothes hooks. You can eliminate some of the sag of the straps (to get the rods to ride up higher) by using a closet rod as a splint of sorts, affixing it to the strap with nylon wire ties.
On SUVs with longer wheel bases, rods run up the center of the vehicle and still allow passenger access to the rear seat. Just be sure there are no multi-hooked lures hanging from the rods that could snag a rider.
On smaller/shorter vehicles, interior rod carriers pretty much mandate passenger travel to front seat-only.
In pickup beds, the biggest threat to rods is other gear sliding around and causing damage. The steel surface of the truck bed, as well as drop-in liners, is quite slippery. Rubber bed mats greatly reduce this. A piece of carpeting also works but tends to be a magnet for the hooks dangling from tied-on lures.
APPAREL: Pennsylvania’s open-water fishing opportunities span a wide range of weather conditions. During early and late in the year, one must deal with cold and snow; during spring and summer there’s rain and wind. Sound organization of fishing apparel makes certain you’ll have what you need to fish in relative comport.
Rain suits, gloves, fleece sweaters, hats, knit beanies and vests can be housed in a heavy-duty plastic storage box. Throw in a few chemical hand warmers and they will be there when you need them. I use a large box, one that also has room for PFDs — inflatables during the warm months, traditional vest-types for cold weather fishing. This protects them from damage while in transit.
Following a wet day on the water, rain suits and PFDs are hung up on a rack in the garage to dry and then stored afterward.
TOW VEHICLE INTERIOR: Organization of your vehicle’s passenger compartment is also a good idea. Delicate electronics can be safely stowed, navigational aids kept within arm’s reach.
One of the better truck accessory investments I’ve made is a satchel-type cab organizer that straps over a headrest. It’s been in my last three tow vehicles. The main pockets hold highway maps and atlases of Pennsylvania and several surrounding states. Truckers’ atlases contain a wealth of information. These are updated annually and are typically available at a fraction of the cost at year’s end. Look for them at truck stops along the interstates.
I don’t like to leave a high-quality sonar/GPS unit on my boat during towing, where it’s exposed to bumps and road dirt. So that unit gets tucked in a pocket. When not in use my truck’s GPS is safety stored in the satchel, as is a hand-held GPS.
Other pockets and sleeves house pens, a tire-pressure gauge, magnifying glass (for map reading) writing pads and hand wipes.
Today’s vehicles are heavy on user-friendly storage areas. Ones molded into the vehicles doors — cup holder types especially — are perfect for keeping a handy can of sun screen and insect repellent spray. They are right at your fingertips, convenient for a quick application just before hitting the water. In one such slot I keep an aerosol can of silicone, so occasionally I can give the carpeted trailer bunks a quick spray, making loading and retrieving the boat easier.
Keeping your tow vehicle well organized will allow you to make the most of your precious fishing time.