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Proper Care For Outboards
Today’s outboard engines need regular maintenance checks to ensure that you and your fishing team don’t get stranded out on the water with a winning fish!
During the 2006 tournament fishing season, our team ran our Mercury powered Triton boat over 2,100 miles and never broke down. In one event we ran 150 miles one way and at one point the Lowrance GPS showed that we were running 76 miles per hour! My son Terry David and I fished five events, putting an average of four hundred miles on our boat and motor during each event.
I have always felt that no matter if I'm fishing in a Southern Kingfish Association kingfish tournament, or an O'Boy Oberto Redfish Cup tournament, our Mercury outboards and Triton boats are the key to any success that T.D. and I might enjoy. Obviously the rest of the tournament teams are also trying to go faster and catch more fish as well!
Today's Southern Kingfish Association tournament boats are running up to four 300hp outboards on their kingfish boats. This has definitely become a factor in getting to a major kingfish bite in a hurry and getting back to the SKA tournament scales in time with their winning catch.
Amazingly these big fast kingfish boats are running over 70 miles per hour in the ocean and oftentimes, running well over a hundred miles to reach a school of "Giant" tournament-winning king mackerel.
I can remember during the early 1980s when most kingfish boats had a single 150hp outboard and a 50-gallon fuel tank! Now some kingfish boats are running over a thousand horsepower and have 500-gallon fuel cells!
To keep all of those horses running properly, fishermen will need to perform daily and annual maintenance on their outboard engines.
"Many outboard motor problems can be avoided by performing regular and annual maintenance," Mercury and Yamaha factory trained mechanic Ken Supernor said. "Fishermen, especially fishing guides, experience less outboard motor problems because they are checking their outboards often on a weekly basis. However many problems that come to my shop occur when boaters don't run their motors for extended periods of time."
"Many of today's outboard engines have a quick disconnect where a freshwater hose can be connected to the outboard engine, allowing the power head to be flushed out of any debris including mud, small shells and grass. Also, the freshwater flushes out any remaining saltwater that might still be in the power head. It's also very important to check the water inlets at the bottom of the outboard's lower, making sure that they are open and not blocked with mud, shells or grass. Finally check the water outlet that is located at the rear of the power head and just under the cowling to make sure that it is shooting out a steady stream of water. If it's clogged, take a small section of kingfish wire and clean out the debris. It's also an excellent idea to check this water outlet for any clogging when you are on the water."
In some cases when the water outlet clogs, the overheating alarm will sound, putting your outboard into the guardian mode. Shut off the outboard immediately and allow the outboard to cool off for five minutes. Restart the outboard and clean out the water outlet with a small section of kingfish wire, making sure that a steady stream of water is now coming from the power head.
The overheating alarm will also come on when mud, grass or even a plastic bag, blocks the lower unit water intakes from supplying the water pump and eventually the power head with fresh, cool water. When this happens, shut off the outboard engine and trim the lower unit out of the water. Clean the debris from the water intake, allow the outboard to cool for five minutes and then restart your outboard.
"The outboard's water pump needs to be checked at least on a annual basis," Supernor said. "Many tournament fishermen have their lower unit oil changed after each event and check the water pump at the same time. Damage to the water pump can occur when small shells and mud are pumped through the water pump on a regular basis."
This sounds like a problem for shallow water fishing boats when they navigate mud flats on a regular basis. However, kingfish boats also come in contact with mud bottoms when they moor their boats in shallow marinas that are overdue for dredging. I have also run my kingfish boat at times, just off from the intra coastal waterway channel and picked up mud and shells with my lower unit.
"While changing the lower unit lubricant, I also check the lower unit lubricant for any metal fragments, which indicates that there is unusual wear going on with the lower unit gears."
"I also recommend removing the propeller and checking for any fishing line, or wire that has become tangled on the shaft. Both fishing line and wire will wear into the lower unit's seal, eventually causing the seal to leak. Left unnoticed, the lack of lubricant will damage the lower unit gears. While the propeller is removed, clean the lower unit shaft of any old grease and apply fresh grease onto the shaft. Also check the propeller bushing for any wear and the blades of the prop for any unnoticed damage as well."
A frequent problem occurs with outboard engines that are allowed to sit for lengthy periods of time occurs when the boater finally puts his boat in the water. The steering locks up!
"Actually there are two problems that can occur when your boat is allowed to sit for a long period of time without use," Supernor said. "For starters, the grease on the steering rods can dry out, resulting in your boat's steering to lock up. This is normally experienced when the fisherman launches his boat, cranks up the outboard and attempts to steer his fishing boat to his favorite fishing hole."
"First, pump fresh grease into the steering fittings. Then place a block of wood against the end of the steering rod and tap the block of wood with a rubber mallet until the steering rod frees."
The second problem that often occurs after letting your outboard sit for a lengthy period of time is that the battery, or batteries, go dead. This age-old problem can be avoided by charging the battery the day before your fishing trip. It's also a good idea to disconnect the battery cables when you are not using your boat for long periods of time.
Outboard motor power heads do come in contact with both fresh and saltwater when the cowling is not properly sealed, or when a water hose begins to leak or simply busts on the power head itself.
With this in mind, it's an excellent idea to remove the outboard engines cowling cover after every fishing trip to make sure that the power head is dry and water is not leaking onto it. Water intrusion of any kind can short out electrical components and in some cases, ruin the entire power head when water is allowed to get into the super charger and eventually into the cylinders.
If you do notice water on the power head, soak a clean towel with freshwater and wash down the power head by hand. Once the power head has been cleaned and allowed to dry, spray down the power head with a lubricant. Finally, make sure the leak is permanently fixed!
"Boaters should have their outboard motors serviced at least annually," Supernor said. "Here the service center will change the lower unit lubricant, check the water pump, check the drive shaft and propeller for fishing line, clean and grease the drive shaft, check the spark plugs, grease the steering system, check the spark plugs and replace them if needed.
If your outboard motor is going to be setting up for a long period of time, the spark plugs should be removed and oil squirted into the cylinders so the pistons and rings do not freeze up.
Finally, it's a terrific idea to put your outboard mechanic's telephone number into your cell phone in case you have outboard motor problems out on the water!