Tools You Must Have in Your Boat

Every time we step into our boat we assume that all the equipment will work. Most of the time it does. Frustration hits when we dream of casting a line and something fails to operate.

There are certain tools that are a must-have in a boat. Some of them include, an assortment of screwdrivers and sockets, a knife, an electrical kit, voltage tester, electrical tape, zip ties, and a prop wrench. 

In this article, I will discuss in detail the tools that are a necessity and also the ones that we tend to forget about until we need them.

It’s Going to Happen – Be Ready

Mechanical things break. Period. It reminds me of a saying I hear concrete contractors talk about, “There are only two types of concrete. Concrete that is cracked and concrete that will crack.”

That same adage can apply to anything mechanical.

I used to hope that things would work. After many, many years of traveling and spending thousands of hours on the water, I understand that not only a breakdown is always a possibility – it will happen.

The best we can do is prepare the materials and tools needed to get things back to normal and return at the end of the day to the boat ramp safely.

The Standard Items

It’s best to have a variety of screwdrivers, sockets, a pair of scissors, etc. Your list should include the same type of items you would carry in your car in case of an emergency. 

These must-haves also include the proper prop wrench for your motor plus a spare prop for both the outboard and the trolling motor. 

Items I Use all the Time


The first item that needs to be in your boat toolbox is some sort of knife. This is something that I use way more than I ever thought. The uses are many and varied. I prefer to keep a typical utility knife because extra blades can be stored in the handle and the blade is retractable. 

I find it almost impossible to comprehend all the ways you may use a knife, but it is an item that you will be glad is tucked away in your tool kit when needed.

Canoe Paddle

While a person may not think they need a canoe paddle in a boat that has both an outboard and a trolling motor, I find that I have used them in some extreme circumstances where there was no other option.

Yes, they are a great alternative to moving the boat if other motors fail, but I have used them the most when needing to keep the boat from pounding into a riprap shoreline.

There are times when boat wakes and/or wind can push you dangerously close to big rocks or chunks of concrete. This can happen very fast. 

Depending on the shoreline composition, the water may be too shallow to use either of the other motors or doing so would damage them to the point of major repair.

A sturdy canoe paddle not only can stop you from blowing into the rocks, but you can also push off of them and then use the paddles to get to deeper water.

I know, it seems impossible that this scenario could happen that fast, but bass anglers like to fish around riprap because it holds lots of fish. 

Voltage Tester

This little tool has saved me so much time, effort, and frustration. Keeping a voltage tester in with your tool kit is something that you will use. A lot. 

Everyone hates dealing with electrical issues on a boat, or even worse, on the trailer. 

These problems creep up more often than we would care for and a voltage tester can eliminate a range of trouble spots and get you to the heart of the problem quickly.

For example, I put my boat in the water to go fishing after a long winter. The big motor started. All the graphs worked. Life is good.

Then I tried to use the trolling motor. Nothing.

A minute or two with the voltage tester and I determined the problem was not the batteries, the cables running to the front of the boat or the trolling motor plug. All of these had power. 

The problem was in the motor itself. The warranty was still valid and it found its way to the service center.

I was disappointed I couldn’t go fishing, but the voltage tester helped me isolate the problem.

I suggest buying a model that also has an Ohms tester on it. This allows you to check continuity through switches and wires to find possible disconnects and breaks. If you are not sure how to use the Ohms function, spend a few minutes on YouTube and you’ll find a good instructional video.

Electrical Kit

Buy an inexpensive electrical kit that comes with a multi-tool and various connectors. It’s a little tough to run by the hardware store while stranded in the middle of a lake. A range of connectors will save lots of frustration when you actually have what you need in your tool kit.  Make sure this kit includes a variety of fuses as well.

Emery Cloth

This sandpaper-like fabric is a miracle worker when attempting to clean corroded connections. Electrical issues are often caused by the lack of a quality connection – including grounding issues. 

A small roll of emery cloth is very inexpensive and will last many years. It even can be rolled into small cylindrical-like pieces to clean out corrosion in the inside of terminal plugs and connectors. 

Spools of Wire

I also suggest buying a couple of small spools of wire. It doesn’t have to be a really heavy gauge wire, but it should be large enough to handle most of the electrical needs on your boat or trailer. 

I like to buy a spool because there have been times when I needed to use it like baling wire. You can lash down loose parts or tie up something temporarily until you can make a more permanent repair.

Tow Strap

This last item is hopefully one that you will never use, but I have needed it more often than I care to think about.

A quality tow strap not only allows for another boat to pull you back to safety, but you can also help someone else in their time of need.

Good marine dealers will carry tow straps that are designed for boats. The strap will incorporate quality hooks and also be long enough for the boat in tow to stay a safe distance behind the rig doing the pulling.

I can honestly say that I have been surprised by the number of boats I have run across that did not have a tow strap with them. 

Final Thoughts

I hope that you never need any of the items mentioned above. If you do, having taken the effort to prepare ahead of time will help make a frustrating and potentially unsafe situation uneventful.

It is also kind to help out another boater in distress. There might be a time in the future when you need the assistance of another angler.

Be safe, tight lines, and be sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you might just change their life.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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