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Your Pre-Launch Boat Ramp Checklist

Ensure smooth trailer boating adventures with this pre-launch boat ramp checklist.

How-To On the Water

Whether you’re new to trailer boating or seasoned with years of experience, running through a pre-launch boat ramp checklist is just plain smart. We all forget something now and again and there’s a reason why putting a boat in the water without the drain plug in is downright cliché — launch a boat 1,000 times and sooner or later you’ll probably do it, too. Unless, that is, you go through a comprehensive boat ramp checklist each and every time. To find out what sort of checklist the pros go through before splashing their boats into the water, we went to Jeremy Smith of Linder Media.

Let’s boil down all of the checks Jeremy made into a straightforward list:

  • Check your safety equipment to make sure it’s all present and in good working order. The exact gear you’re required to have can vary from boat to boat and place to place, but lifejackets and throwable PFDs are always part of the equation. You say you want to up your safety game? Check out 14 Safety Items You Probably Don’t Have on Your Boat (But Should Consider Adding).
  • If your boat has a “Catch-N-Release” style automatic boat latch, release the bow strap. If not, in most cases it’s safest to leave the bow attached until the boat is in the water.
  • Release the transom straps and/or tie-down(s).
  • Put in the drain plug.
  • If your rig incorporates a transom saver and/or stabilizer clips, remove them.
  • Walk around the boat and trailer and inspect them for invasive aquatic species like hydrilla or zebra mussels. See How to Help Slow the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species to learn more about this important issue.
  • Turn on the boat’s power systems and electronics and make sure you have plenty of juice.
  • Check the boat’s fuel supply to be sure it’s sufficient for the trip you have planned.
  • Prep any gear you might want to have ready like fishing rods or tow-toys, and make sure they’re all ready for action.

Be considerate of others by going through this checklist away from the ramp itself – this leaves the launch area available for others will you do your preparations. Most facilities will have staging areas off to one side or another just for this purpose. For other tips on how to be courteous at the boat ramp, read our blog about Boat Launch Etiquette.

If you follow this checklist to a tee, will there still come a day when some sort of boat-launching mishap occurs? Maybe so. Everyone makes mistakes, equipment can break and sometimes luck just isn’t on our side. But by checking off these boxes one by one before you launch your boat, the next 999 times you launch your boat will probably go off without a hitch.

Your Pre-Launch Boat Ramp Checklist
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Your Pre-Launch Boat Ramp Checklist
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