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Repowering A Boat Motor

J.D. Blackburn

I’m the proud owner of a 1999 Triton Tr21. It’s an awesome boat, and I have it rigged up for serious fishing these days. It has four Lowrance HDS graphs, a MotorGuide Tour Pro trolling motor, Tracker Lithium batteries, and brand-new seats. It needs some new carpet, but that’s a project for down the road.

repowering your boat motor


The boat has served me well for over 12 years, but the original motor, a 1999 Mercury 225hp Optimax, had over 750 hours on it, and it didn’t always want to crank right away. The compression levels on the cylinders were creeping lower, too. Every year my mechanic cautioned we were into overtime on the motor. “It’s just a matter of time,” he would say.

So, in 2021, I was fortunate enough to get scheduled for a “repower” at my local dealer, Clark Marine in Franklin, Tennessee. It was time to go out with the old and in with the new. We swapped the 1999 with a new 2021 Mercury 250hp Pro XS.

And let me just say, the new motor has been absolutely amazing. It has made going to the lake so much more enjoyable. Before, I was hesitant to run long distances and move around a lot during the day because, in the back of my mind, the motor could give me trouble.

I was never a speed guy, but this new Merc just makes driving the boat fun. Now, I have definitely had to get better at driving the boat. At the top end, the boat really wants to chine walk, which I’ve had to learn to manage. That’s been enjoyable, too.

fishing boat

So far, 75.1 mph is my top speed, but I’ve not necessarily tried to max it out yet. I have a goal of hitting 78 mph with it, and I’m told that is definitely feasible. I’ve not yet had a good slick day to try hitting that top speed. 

The boat gets on plane immediately now and handles so well. 

The repowering process is relatively easy. The dealer will typically remove the old motor, the controls, and the shifter and install the new engine on the boat. It only takes a day or two at the dealer. Sometimes switching out the controls, trying to re-use the controls, or switching from, say, a Yamaha to a Mercury can extend that time. (I highly recommend a Mercury, by the way!)

There is a good market for used engines right now, so you can expect to get some value out of the old motor. My motor still ran fine and pushed that big boat, but with the low compression levels, my friend decided to have the cylinders bored out and the engine rebuilt after he bought it from me.

Ideally, the best time to repower a boat is before the old one “blows up.” Once a motor blows up, it is much more expensive to rebuild it back. Keep in mind that demand for outboards right now is high, and the wait for a new one is lengthy, nearly a calendar year. If you’re thinking about repowering, I would suggest doing so. I would also recommend using a certified Mercury Repower Center. They can typically get a motor in stock quicker than a regular dealership.

Has the new motor helped me catch more fish?

mercury boat motor


Yes, it absolutely has. In May, I started trying to catch hybrid (mix of a striped bass and a white bass) on Percy Priest, my home lake. One Saturday, a young high school angler and I got into them by accident and caught them up to seven pounds for an hour and a half straight. We caught 75 or so and had a blast. They crushed anything we could throw at them, which is more than I could say about the bass fishing at the time. In the back of my mind, I thought of some people who would really enjoy catching these fish, and I also knew they were good eating. 

What I learned the next time out was that schools of hybrid really follow the bait, which was moving around a lot. The fish weren’t in the same cove of the lake a few days later when I took my neighbors. But, I had the confidence to run around the lake looking for fish busting on the surface. I took a few hot laps around the mid-lake area until I saw surface activity. Then we started fishing and caught our limit. (It seems like that number should be higher, but I am no biologist.)

The point is, the new motor allows me the peace of mind to run around in search of fish or even make a long run to fish a different part of the lake when the fishing is slow where I am. Mercury uses the saying “Go Boldly” in its marketing, which is precisely what I am doing now.

Mossy Oak Store fishing gear

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