Frugal Angler

"Never allow your batteries to sit without being fully charged. No matter how tired you are, or how bad the weather, take the time to put them on a charger when you get off the water," says Elite Series pro Mark Menendez. Seigo Saito

A decent set of batteries will cost you in the neighborhood of $200. There's not much you can do about the upfront cost, but there is a lot you can do to make them last. Here are six tips for doing just that. They're based on years and years of hard, professional fishing experience.

1. Don't buy cheap batteries

This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I fish with dry Optima batteries. They're more expensive when you first purchase them, but over time you'll save money because they last so long. Check them out before you buy anything else.

If you go with wet batteries, I recommend EverStart. They're a quality product, although not as good as Optima. With proper care you should be able to get two or three seasons from them before you start having problems.

2. Always keep a wet battery wet

It's important to keep the cells in a wet battery full at all times. Allowing them to dry will ruin a battery in no time.

Never use tap water. There's something in it that messes up the plates and causes the battery to lose its charge very quickly. Spend a buck or two and buy a gallon of distilled water. It'll save you in the long run.

3. Always keep your batteries fully charged

Never allow your batteries to sit without being fully charged. No matter how tired you are, or how bad the weather, take the time to put them on a charger when you get off the water.

There's a neat little device out there that'll help you do this. It's called Stay'nCharge. Basically you hook it up to your outboard and to your truck. When you're running either motor it charges all your batteries.

In 10 minutes of running down the lake, your outboard will put an hour's worth of regular charger juice on your batteries. In 30 minutes driving home, your truck will have them fully charged. For a little over $200 it's a heck of a deal in my opinion.

4. Strap your batteries down in the boat

Letting your batteries bounce around in the back of your boat is a killer. As soon as something works loose you're done. Make sure they can't move and check them after you've run on rough water or over rough roads. You'll be sorry if you don't.

5. Keep your battery terminals clean

Dirty terminals mess up most charging systems. That means you're storing your batteries partly charged. We already know what that does. Dirty terminals also mean that you probably can't get the full benefit of what your batteries have to offer to your electronics.

Why go through all that hassle when it can be avoided by spending 15 minutes with a strip of emery cloth and a can of light, waterproof grease?

6. Store your batteries in a cool — not cold — dry place

Remove your batteries from your boat over the winter or when you're not fishing for an extended period of time. Always store them on wood, never concrete. I've heard a couple of explanations as to why concrete ruins batteries. I don't know which one is right. I do know, however, that concrete is the kiss of death to an otherwise good battery.

If you follow these tips you'll get more life from your batteries. The longer they last, the less money you spend on replacements. The money you save can be used for other worthwhile things — like going fishing more often.