This blog is by Jody White, a full-time writer, editor and digital content manager in the tournament bass fishing industry. When he’s not traveling the country covering tournaments, he’s fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass on Lake Champlain and other fisheries near his home in Vermont. An accomplished tournament angler in his own right, White spends more than 100 days per year on the water for work and play.
Between my work covering bass tournaments and my personal time spent fishing, I generally spend almost a third of the year on the water. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Unfortunately, in 2020, I found myself faced with a difficult decision to ensure I could stay on the water as much as I’d like. I either needed to buy a new outboard or a new boat, or I needed to replace the powerhead on my 2015 Mercury® 250hp OptiMax® Pro XS® outboard.
I’d owned my 2007 Bass Cat® for a long time, and it was a great boat for me. It followed me across the country, through college and two moves for work, and I felt a lot of attachment to it. But, because I spend a lot of my time on big water up north, and love chasing smallmouths on Lake Champlain, I knew going into the decision that this wasn’t going to be my last boat. So, I wasn’t as interested in making a long-term investment in a brand-new outboard as I otherwise might be. I needed a couple more years out of the one I had.
Plus, it just wasn’t a great time to buy a new boat. I’d previously spent a lot of time and money getting my electronics rigged just right. So, I didn’t want to turn around and spend more time rigging and testing on a brand-new boat right then, even though I knew that would come eventually.
Ultimately, I decided that a new powerhead was the best choice and went with a Quicksilver dressed powerhead. It included a remanufactured Mercury powerhead “dressed” with a new fuel system and electrical components for simple install, and it came factory-tested and ready to go. Drop-in installation and great value were key to my decision, along with the fact that I wouldn’t have to change any of the electronics or controls on my boat, like the Hot Foot® or the gauges. The Quicksilver dressed powerhead also came with a year of warranty, for a little extra peace of mind on the water. And I knew it would bring my boat’s resale value back up to scratch and get me on the water again quickly.
Though I took the fall off to make the decision, things happened fast in spring of 2021. Gilles Sales & Service in East Montpelier, Vermont, handled the powerhead installation, and it was lightning fast. With snow still on the ground, I dropped the boat off on a Tuesday and I was breaking in the powerhead on Sunday after loading the boat on Saturday. I broke in the powerhead just like a new motor, running at a variety of rpm levels for 10 hours. I actually did most of the break-in on Lake Champlain while the lake was partially iced over.
A few months later, I made an additional upgrade by adding a Mercury VesselView Mobile® module. My favorite feature of the system was Fuel Tracking. I knew exactly how much gas I burned in a given day, so I could plan my trips and make sure I had enough gas to explore some of the larger waters nearby.
Owning an older boat can come with some unique challenges. As a mostly DIY boat owner, I learned how to manage them. I replaced seals in my steering, rolled with some battery issues, replaced a trailer hub and managed to troubleshoot some livewell pump issues. But those were minor inconveniences. The greatest convenience of my engine upgrade was the reliability of the driving force behind my boat. I didn’t worry about being stranded in the middle of the lake. I went where the fishing opportunities took me. I put in long hours on the water.
More than anything, the powerhead gave me a lot more confidence in my engine. I’ve used my boat as a camera boat in a pinch for work, and living up north and chasing smallmouths as much as I do requires a boat that’s capable in pretty big water, like at Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. Moreover, it requires reliability. Fishing into December in Vermont means you’re often the only one on the lake, and being 15 miles from the ramp is basically a requirement of fishing on Champlain.
That confidence led to some good finishes in local tournaments, some great fishing and a lot of new water learned. The new powerhead didn’t give me massive performance gains, but that wasn’t really the point. It gave me reliability. And that’s what matters most.
Now, a couple seasons later, I’m excited to have just picked up a brand-new bass boat powered by a new Mercury 200hp Pro XS outboard. My old Bass Cat is off to its new owner – a young angler here in Vermont who’ll likely be fishing out of it even more than I did. Yeah, the boat has some years on it, but with only 150 hours on the new powerhead, it still has a lot of fishing left to do. Which only reinforces that my decision to repower with a Quicksilver dressed powerhead was the right one for me at the time, and the right one for my old favorite boat.
Bass Cat and Hot Foot are registered trademarks of their respective owners. All other trademarks belong to Brunswick Corporation.