Planning for the worst ensures worry-free fishing.
It’s the middle of the night, and you’re drenched from pouring rain and pounding waves. You’re happy but also exhausted from a full tide of excellent fishing. Now back at your vehicle, your focus turns to dry clothes and a warm bed. You go to unlock the door of your truck, and nothing happens. You stand in the pouring rain, pushing the button over and over with no result. It’s the worst-case scenario: your battery is dead, it’s 2 a.m., there’s no one else around, you’re cold and hungry, and you have to be at work in six hours. You manually unlock the car, crawl in soaking wet, and call a tow truck. They say someone will be there “in an hour,” which you know means at least an hour. It’s going to be a long and expensive rest of the night, all to get a jump!
If you fish at night, you should be prepared for as many different eventualities as possible. In other words, you should always be planning for the worst and hoping for the best. One “eventuality” that ultimately gets all of us is a dead battery. It’s not a matter of “if,” but rather a matter of “when.” It’s almost always a dome-light that gets left on while rushing to catch a tide, but there’s a litany of reasons it can happen. Hopefully, you have a buddy and jumper cables or are fishing somewhere other anglers or drivers are around to jump you. However, for the solitary night-shift surfcaster, this is usually not the case.
One of the very best new pieces of gear I have added to my “emergency” car kit is a miniature jump pack. These tiny battery backups are genuinely remarkable. They are about the size of a softcover novel, perhaps a bit larger if you are forced to get the larger size for a big gasoline or diesel engine. They are designed to replace those suitcase-sized jump packs that have been around for a couple of decades. You can stash them anywhere; mine fits right in the glove box. Despite their diminutive size, they can quickly jump a completely dead battery in even the largest vehicle.
They are straightforward to use. You attach the small jumper clamps to the pack using the specially designed plug and turn the pack on. Attach the clamps with the proper polarity (red to positive, black to negative) and head back to your driver’s seat. I like to turn on the key and give the fuel pump a moment to run—make sure you’re not taking extra draw by keeping your lights and any other accessories off. Then, you turn the key as usual, and the engine will fire right up. It’s as simple as that! Once you’re done, recharge the pack using a USB cord—you can even charge the pack while driving with a phone charger.
When considering these packs, I have a couple of tips. First, make sure you have the size designed for your specific engine. One of my vehicles is a six-cylinder, and when I tried to jump it using a pack designed for up to 2.5L four-cylinders, it wouldn’t even turn the engine over. So if you are one of those guys with a big 6L gasoline or 3L diesel engine, it’s best to invest in a more powerful pack. Second, once you have attached the pack, make sure you’re ready to start the engine, and when you turn the key, hold it until it fires. My packs only give me a couple of shots because I bought the cheapest ones. If you mess up the first couple of attempts (which I have by not holding it long enough), you can drain the battery pack to the point that it won’t fire the engine. Then you’re stuck again!
For this reason, I have two packs in my car. Finally, check the charge status and functionality of the packs regularly; the lithium batteries inside can be temperamental and fail. I found one of mine went bad one night. I’m still not sure exactly how, but I was lucky to have a second one. I also suggest always carrying jumper cables as a backup. Nothing beats the tried and true, as long as you can find someone to assist you without giving away your favorite spot.