Ah, Spring. Though the season looms only a month away, people are already preparing for the upcoming fishing season when gamefish move shallow on their annual spawning runs. Crappie, bass, catfish and other species, drawn to the shore like moths to a flame, will provide a trove of fishing action for those anglers prepared to meet them.

But every year, without fail, hundreds of folks remain stranded on the ramp because their boats will not start. While others roam the lake enjoying the art of piscatorial endeavors, those people remain stuck, their trip ruined, just because they failed to do a tiny bit of upkeep on their expensive crafts. Most are stranded because of their failure to do some simple preparations.

While my friends and I visit a lot of ramps during the year, we seldom spend more than a few minutes going through the entire launching process. We are usually prepared, but almost without fail, we see the results of those who were too busy to do what needed to be done before venturing out.

The number one mistake I see folks making remains battery failure due to neglected maintenance. Their engines will not start without the proper battery voltage or are completely run down. Batteries will usually discharge over a period of time and if they are not properly maintained and charged, will quickly fail. Smart boaters keep their batteries at full charge all year, tending to them at least monthly, and, if necessary, replace old and tired ones every other year or so.

Outboard engines require a change of water pump about every other year. The rubber splines on the impellor get worn out from use or sitting without use and fail or crack, creating a very expensive repair when the engine overheats or burns up. A replacement pump is cheap, usually under $30 for the part, plus labor, but can save thousands of dollars in repair work. Most marine shops offer package deals to change them out, including a lower-unit oil change as a bonus.

Law enforcement personnel love to write tickets for improper trailer lighting. Enough said on that subject.

Safety gear, including coast guard approved floatation devices and fire extinguishers also can go bad over time. Check them at least every year and have all approved safety gear on board.

There you have it--some simple suggestions to make sure your outdoors time will be spent on the lake and not on the ramp cursing that "hole in the water" in which you throw "buckets of money into.'

Looking for local boat repair? For older engines, contact Darrell Ringleman's Mobile Marine Repair at (661) 444-8956. For newer engines and weekly specials on upkeep, summerization and maintenance, try "Spillers Performance and Marine" at (661) 395-1515. And of course, Galey's Marine Supply, the grand daddy of all, will take care of any problems you might face with your inboard or outboard engines. All three of these businesses have kept my big Mercury engine primed and running for nearly eight years.

'Let's Go Bass Fishing' class

There's still time for baby boomers to register for the "Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning" beginner bass fishing class at Bakersfield College on March 5. Contact Miriam Valenzuela before 11 a.m. at (661) 395-4431 to register or e-mail her at mvalenzu@bakersfieldcollege.edu. I've managed to get several very successful tournament bass fishing anglers on board to help teach this very informative class designed to help anglers find and catch the No. 1 game fish in America.

The very informative three-hour class is designed as a basic bass fishing clinic for baby boomer bass fishermen who want to learn to catch bass whenever they are on the water by themselves or with family or grandkids.

TBWA banquet

Only a few tickets remain for the "Tulare Basin Wetlands Association" banquet. Promoters are cordially inviting all outdoor-oriented people to their 17th annual fundraiser. Held at the Bakersfield Elk's Lodge on March 8, the event begins at 6 p.m. for hosted cocktails. Look for lots of outdoor gear and guns to be given away through raffles and auctions. The group stands tall in the Kern, Kings and Tulare counties furthering wetlands conservation and habitat enhancement to keep our waterfowl populations strong. Contact Jim at (661) 327-1486 or Dennis at (661) 444-0407.

FRA trout derby

Don't forget to attend the 2nd annual Firefighters Relief Association trout derby at the River Walk Park tomorrow morning from 6 a.m. until noon. Lots of prizes, money awards, food and drink, plus a derby-long raffle highlight the fun day of fishing. The lake will be planted heavily prior to the event with loads of fighting rainbow trout, some in the trophy range. Adults are $20, kids $10 and children under 5 and under are free.