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Loading And Unloading Your Boat

By Bob Jensen - July 1, 2011

How you load and unload your boat at the boat ramp may not have an impact on how many fish you catch, but getting it in the water can set the tone for the day, for you and for any other angler that's waiting to put their boat in the water. Unloading your boat should be a quick and easy process, but often times it isn't. Following are some things you can do to get your boat off and on the trailer quickly and safely. By doing these things you'll be fishing quicker, and you won't be tying up the ramp and preventing others from going fishing sooner. Here we go.

When you arrive at the boat ramp, pull into either the parking lot or the rigging lane. Do not go directly to the ramp.

All preparations for launching should be done in the parking lot or rigging area. Transfer gear from the truck to the boat now. Don't do that while you're blocking the ramp. Remove any boat covers, tie-downs, or transom savers. Put the key in the ignition. Make sure the plug is in the boat.

If your trailer is a bunk style trailer, and if you're comfortable doing so, you can unhook the winch strap from the boat now. I run a bunk RangerTrail trailer. It's an outstanding trailer that provides great support for my boat. Lots of anglers who use this style trailer unhook the strap in the rigging area unless the ramp is very steep.

Some anglers have roller trailers. The winch strap on roller trailers should not be unhooked until the boat is in the water. The boat will roll off onto the concrete ramp if you do. Not good!

When everything is ready, we approach the ramp. One angler is in the boat, the other backs the rig into the water. When the boat is in the water, if the winch strap hasn't been unhooked, now is the time to do so. Back the trailer into the water until it rolls off or floats off. The angler in the boat idles away from the dock while the truck driver parks the truck. Don't tie up to the dock, that just blocks it for the next person. When your partner gets to the dock, you pull up, he or she hops in, and off you go. Easy deal.

Some will say that their partner isn't comfortable driving a boat or driving a truck with a trailer on the back. They need to get comfortable with doing both. That's part of the responsibility of fishing from a boat.

When it's time to go home, we just reverse the process. We pull into the dock, the truck driver gets out and goes to get the truck. If the ramp is busy, again, idle away from the dock. Don't tie the dock area up. When the trailer is in the water, either drive or winch the boat onto the trailer, hook the winch strap, and pull out. Go to the parking area or somewhere away from the ramp to prepare the boat for the trip home. It shouldn't take more than a minute or two to get your boat out of the water and out of the way.

I've seen many, many, many interesting and sometimes uncomfortable situations at the boat ramp. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you won't be part of one of those interesting or uncomfortable situations, and you'll enjoy your time on the water even more.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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