(Note: This blog is by Kevin Falvey, the editor-in-chief of Boating Magazine. He recently repowered his boat with a new Mercury outboard and select SmartCraft digital technologies. You can follow along with the project in a multiple-part series that Falvey ...
Livermore, California, dealership’s Mercury repowers help boats reach their full potential
People visit marine retailers for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes you just need an oil filter and a new trailer hub bearing. Other times, you’re considering a new engine that will power your days off for the next decade or so. When it’s the latter, or anything else that’s critical, you’d best avoid the inexperienced and questionably skilled.
To put another way, you need to seek out a dealer like Boatmasters in Livermore, California.
President Mike Schmitt has had his head buried in bilges and powerheads since the 1980s, and he’s operated Boatmasters for more than three decades. Aside from being the only Bass Cat® dealer in the state and one of the largest in the world, Boatmasters is known for its expertise in repowering all manner of boats and carries the coveted designation of Mercury Repower Center. Schmitt said his shop performs more than 30 repowers per year in everything from runabouts to offshore center-consoles.
His most common repower customer, however, is looking for new outboard power on a high-end bass boat, and many of them are driving away with a new Mercury 4.6L V8 250hp Pro XS® engine on the transom.
“Mercury matched the direct-injected two-cycle weight and fuel economy with the new V8, and then of course you don’t have to add two-stroke oil to it,” said Schmitt, referring to the four-stroke design of the popular Pro XS outboard. “It has more torque and winds up smoother and faster, so paired with today’s bass boats it’s truly an amazing match. The lift is better, the performance is better and the sound is really cool. It sounds like a Lamborghini or McLaren sports car when it starts up.”
While many repower customers across the spectrum opt to do a good bit of rerigging and upgrading of electronics when getting a new engine installed, Schmitt said his customers really appreciate the ability to just install newer Mercury outboards while having to change little else, if they so choose. The fact that current Mercury FourStroke and Pro XS engines are compatible with virtually all Mercury OptiMax® rigging components means that it’s not necessary to buy a lot of other components when upgrading. In many cases, the customer can be back on the water in a day or two.
“One great thing that Mercury did with this engine is that you can order it various ways, so you can actually pick the exact model you need,” Schmitt said. “For example, when it comes to repowering a 2016 bass boat, all you might need to make a new engine work is a $50 rigging kit. Even if we’re doing it on an older boat, like a 2010 model year, you still only need that $50 rigging kit and a $90 adapter harness. The steering does not need to be changed. The control cables still work. Even the key switch works without needing to spend any money on labor or buy any extra parts. I feel this was a really smart decision for Mercury to make the swap this affordable because that just opens the door to more of their customer base to be able to repower.
“Not to mention, when you add in the three-year limited factory warranty that comes with each new engine sold, it’s kind of a no-brainer when they are looking at a major repair needed on their old engine. It really sells itself.”
Schmitt’s repower customers enthusiastically agree.
Mac McCullough, 2018 Bass Cat Lynx
Mac McCullough was discharged from the United States Army in 1987. He was a member of the legendary 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, when he participated in the 1983 invasion of Grenada, helping bring democratic government back to the Caribbean island nation. He later served in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Most of what I did was jump out of airplanes in foreign countries and do things that I can’t talk about,” he said matter-of-factly.
McCullough’s service came at a price, however. He was medically discharged from the Army and is classified as a disabled vet even today.
But before he left Georgia for his home in California, McCullough bought a Skeeter Starfire bass boat with a Mercury XR2 on the transom. He’s been a Mercury man ever since, with Mike Schmitt at Boatmasters taking care of McCullough’s boats almost exclusively for more than 30 years.
McCullough fishes about 10 tournaments per year, despite working 12-hour days as an executive in a high-end packaging company based in Modesto, California.
As a member of the Mercury Pro Team, he bought his 2018 Bass Cat Lynx new with a Mercury 250hp OptiMax Pro XS, but he had little chance to use it as an accident put him in and out of the hospital over the course of 18 months. In the meantime, Mercury launched the new V8 Pro XS four-stroke outboard lineup, and McCullough couldn’t stop thinking about it. Despite the fact that his OptiMax was running great and still had relatively few hours, he sold it and pulled the trigger on a new V8 250hp Pro XS in the latter half of 2020. Though he’s owned more boats than he cares to mention over the past three decades, McCullough said this was his very first repower experience.
The verdict? In his opinion, his rig went from merely great to truly phenomenal.
“I was blown away,” he said. “It’s really night and day. I’ve been running Mercury engines since the ’80s, and this is a game changer. I reduced my hole shot by two seconds, and I can prove this because I have a Facebook page and YouTube channel where this is demonstrated. But the biggest difference I have found is the midrange responsiveness will almost pin you back into the seat. It’s instantaneous, and it’s a huge difference.
“It’s like a little sportscar now. It’s really, really fun to drive.”
While the performance of the Pro XS outboard is very attractive to a tournament bass angler, McCullough’s 70-plus hours on the engine thus far have also made him appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of his new engine.
“The sound is very, very quiet, and the fuel economy is outstanding,” he said. “I just put 20 gallons in this thing, and I can practice about three days before I need to refill. So, yeah, it saves me a significant amount of money in fuel. And of course, I don't have to add oil, so that's another savings.
“If someone is thinking about repowering, I would tell them that they should wax and shine their existing engine and get it serviced, and then put it on the market as soon as possible so they can start enjoying the performance of that new engine.”
Tony Franceschi, 2017 Bass Cat New Eyra
After a career spent working in the beverage industry, Tony Franceschi was ready for a change of pace. A much faster pace, that is, as he’s spending his retirement blazing across lakes all over California and other parts of the West at 15 to 20 bass tournaments per year.
A year ago he was running his 2017 Bass Cat New Eyra with a 250hp OptiMax Pro XS engine of the same vintage. With just 200 hours on the engine, you could say the rig was still squarely in the prime of its life.
“It wasn’t failing at all,” Franceschi said. “It was a great engine. It ran really solid, and I only had a couple hundred hours on it. But when Mercury released that new engine and I heard about all the new technology and the advantages that come with it from being a four-stroke, it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
Like McCullough, Franceschi opted for a V8 250hp Pro XS outboard from Boatmasters and hasn’t looked back since.
“I knew the low-end power would get me a better hole shot with the width of the boat that I have, and that was a big benefit for me,” he said. “Now I get up on pad a lot quicker, and the midrange power is exceptional as well. When I first ran it, if there would have been a camera on me, I’m sure it would have caught the surprise on my face.
“The top end on the two-stroke (OptiMax) was great, but this four-stroke is just as good for me, so that’s a win also.”
Franceschi said that anyone who’s skeptical about the difference the new Mercury V8 engine can have on their boat needs to go for a ride to see for themselves.
“There are a lot of them out there now,” he said. “You need to get somebody who’s got one to take you for a ride. Better yet, see if you can get behind the wheel – if you know the person well enough. Just try it out, and I think that will put your mind at ease. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting with new technology, but this technology is pretty incredible.”
Franceschi went to Boatmasters for his repower because of his experience with the dealership’s exceptional customer service and the staff’s genuine interest in helping and listening to every single person who comes onto the lot.
“They just care about their customers and want everyone to leave happy,” he said. “They’ll bend over backward to make everyone walk out the door happy, which is pretty special.”
For more information on how a Mercury repower can take your boat to the next level, or to find a Mercury Repower Center in your area, click here.