Recently, a group of us traveled around 2,000 miles with one thing on our mind, GIANT redfish. The trip from Swansboro, NC to Delacroix, LA is 961 miles each way and there was plenty of time in the car to daydream about winning the lottery, play the alphabet game or in this case, come up with a blog post about what all is involved with gathering 10 friends and making the 20 hour drive for an epic road trip down south.
When it comes to road trips, I like to break things down into three categories and then fine tune from there; vehicle, boat/trailer and gear. Each element can be expanded on into smaller details to prepare for a trip and that is exactly where this is heading.
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a 1986 Subaru or a brand spanking new dually pick up with all the bells and whistles, accidents happen. It’s best to prepare for something should things turn south.
When getting ready for a long trip, first thing I like to tackle is getting the truck ready for the drive, mechanically speaking. Change the oil, check all the filters, wiper blades, turn signals, etc. You can never be too ready for anything to happen.
I like to give my truck an extensive detail as well. Go ahead and clean out all the french fries and crumpled up receipts so that you can drop some more on the way.
Make sure your navigator knows exactly what cup holder is his just in case you blindly grab for a drink and it’s something disgusting like unsweet tea or red Gatorade. One of the absolute most important things that should be in the vehicle: SNACKS! This is a crucial element that should be talked about in detail with the navigator/DJ, official snack grabber in the back, as well as any free loaders who decide to tag along. A small cooler with the nectar of the Gods, Mtn. Dew of course, maybe a few Redbulls, wasabi almonds and Reese’s Cups are a few of my favorites. There is another post coming shortly diving into more detail on the snack train, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Not only does your towing vehicle need to be in top operating condition, make sure your boat or skiff is as well. Whether it be a drift boat, raft, deep sea vessel or flats skiff, go over everything and make sure she’s ready.
I like to check all the hubs and bearings on the trailer and apply fresh grease. If things are looking a bit corroded due to salt water, maybe it’s time to change some parts out. Check all the trailer turn signals and running lights so that all bulbs are working and even give the trailer jack a fresh squirt of grease as well. Once you feel good that the trailer is rolling smoothly, turn your attention to the boat. Maybe it’s time for an oil change on the motor or a new fuel/water separator, these are things that need to be checked depending on where your trip is taking you.
For us and this trip to Louisiana, we knew that we would be far away from land in the open water of the gulf, so I changed all the fluids in the motor, all new filters and checked all my fuses to make sure the skiff was in top notch condition.
One thing I’ll add to that, I carry a small tool box on the skiff for emergency use. In that toolbox I carry spare tools, fuses, washers, cotter pins and even a spare prop should I spin one that far off shore. I would rather have parts and not need them than run into a situation where I regretted not carrying them along. If you use a trolling motor and/or power pole, check the batteries on your remotes.
Go through your safety equipment and check for necessary items such as a fire extinguisher, safety whistle or air horn, flares or other required visual aids and even first aid equipment.
Here we go…. Grab everything you own and load it up. I’m kidding, kind of, maybe, not really.
When we first started this trip to Louisiana, I think we took 18 fly rods for three people and ended up using two of them. We tied enough flies for an army and had gear to host a clinic for fifty.
Think about what you’ll need and take that and one more. Grab a backup rod or two, maybe a spare fly line and enough leader and tippet material for your trip, don’t over think it but be prepared.
Now I know all of us are purists here, but yes there was a spinning rod on the boat just in case the wind kicked up and we had to resort to using the tools of the devil.
I like to have two dry bags in storage on the boat, one for a dry towel, rain gear storage and maybe a pair of socks and shirt should I get soaked and then another dry bag to hold the dry food for the trip. I’ve learned the hard way of reaching in a compartment and pulling out soggy chips or water-logged cookies, it’s not my favorite I promise. Also, just to clarify, these dry bags are separate from my normal boat bag that holds my phone, wallet and keys.
Know where your gear goes in the boat, that way you’re not opening and closing hatches every two seconds trying to find something or scrambling in a moment of need.
I keep my camera equipment in a Pelican case near me at all times for when that shot comes up, and my phone near me so I can skip that Miley Cyrus song that randomly comes on shuffle over the speakers. A boat is a judgement free zone, don’t forget that.
So now that we’ve nailed down EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of a road trip, you’re ready to hit the open road and do some fishing, right? Possibly, but there is way more that goes into a road trip. Endless nights studying Google Maps, satellite images, phone calls for intel, booking lodging, fishing licenses, getting a quick 15 minute tanning session in… wait… anyways, there’s a lot that goes into taking a trip.
Wherever you go, whatever it is that you do, just have fun doing it. Make some memories, share some laughs and lastly…. Bring way more Swiss Rolls than you think you need.
Capt Perry McDougald is not only an essential Mauser Fly Fishing team member, but he also owns and operates McFly Fishing, a shallow water sight-fishing guide service on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.