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Having the right tools at the ready in the truck can save a fisherman from a case of ramp rage when putting the boat in or taking it out.

“Junior” is a portly Alabama farm boy with passions for crappie fishing and mini powdered sugar donuts. He has a spontaneous, contagious laugh that tends to be louder in direct proportion to the severity of blunders, mishaps and snafus.

Several years ago he thought it was hilarious when a passing boat wake turned my straight backed fishing seat into a “recliner.” Repair included a 1/8-inch steel plate over the plywood in the seat’s back above the joint where the seat folds flat.

This seat is now reserved for super-sized clients like Junior. I would never be so bold as to ask ol’ Junior’s weight. But catching his weight in two-pound crappies would put us at least a couple hundred fish beyond a two-man limit.

Crappies seldom reach an honest two pounds here in Wisconsin. Junior never hesitates to mention he catches occasional fish tipping the scales at over three pounds on Lake Guntersville, his home lake.

A crappie trip over on the Mississippi several weeks ago was the maiden voyage for this big man’s custom crafted boiler plate seat. The seat held up just fine. But a quarter-ton of good ol’ boy on the seat’s pedestal pile-driving it into the mounting base with passage of every wave proved a true pickle to remove to accommodate a fly fisher a couple days later.

Removing a boat seat pedestal requires pushing in on a retention button close to the base and then wriggling the post out while lifting. Spraying the plastic insert with Armor All can make removal a little easier in future tussles.

Not so this time!

I had to depress the release button using an ATV oil filter wrench while beating the post from different angles with a rubber mallet. Getting traction with the oil filter wrench required placing a wooden shim between the post and wrench. After almost an hour of prayer and profanity, it was finally time to move on to other tasks.

Armor All or Pledge spray wax is also an effective lubricant for the shaft of my MinnKota Ulterra trolling motor. The WORST thing you can do is lubricate a trolling motor shaft with oil or WD-40.

Don’t ask me how I know.

Bait burrito

It doesn’t take long to cook nightcrawlers on a sunny day. Dead crawlers don’t work as well as lively bait.

A pencil eraser-sized pinch of dew-worm is an effective panfish bait. But put the unused portion of crawler down for just a minute to cast out the bait and this annelid will live up to its namesake and slither away.

Soaking a fishing towel or dishrag with water, throwing a couple crawlers in the middle and wrapping the cloth’s corners in like a burrito will keep bait alive and handy until you need another pinch.

Putting the worm container back in a cooler will ensure you’ll have lively bait ready to replenish the “burrito” supply. A bonus: Bait will become free of bedding or dirt after just a couple minute’s wriggling in the wet cloth.

Boat ramp salvation

Experience teaches the wisdom of being prepared for any task that may keep you from fishing. Having a tool kit, spare prop for both the outboard and trolling motor, magnesium fire starter, emergency food like MREs, water—and toilet paper—readily available are just as important as appropriate person flotation devices for all souls on board, a throwable PFD, fire extinguisher and signaling device like a whistle.

The boat I guide out of also has pairs of pliers within reach, jaw spreaders, side cutters, readily available sharp knives, a boat hook and rope throw bag.

Preparation is even more critical at anglers’ greatest source of aggravation: the boat ramp.

The truck which pulls my office also has a tool box. This includes a jack for changing trailer tires, electrician’s tape for busted taillights and other mishaps, a come-along and a serious magnet with 20 feet of stout cord.

Keys lost in the water at the boat ramp are a source of grief for all concerned at least once per year. A magnet is the best tool for getting on with your day.

Most boat ramps are concrete slabs. All slabs come to an end. All slabs have side edges. Backing a boat trailer can put your boat trailer on its axle when the tire drops off the edge at either vector.

The need to call a wrecker to mitigate this predicament can be a serious source of ramp rage. A come-along and the boat’s bow eye can save the day.

Position the bow of the boat directly over the trailer axle. Put one hook of the come-along through boat’s bow eye. Wrap the cable around the axle and ratchet the trailer up enough to free it from the concrete.

The boat provides adequate flotation to enable the towing vehicle to ease the trailer tires back up on the ramp.

Although this hack was learned from experience, lending my come-along does not come with a hands-on demonstration. Water temperatures are dropping steadily. Very soon water temperatures will become painfully uncomfortable.

Don’t ask me how I know.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at