One of the bigger features Mercury developed for the 2018 boating season is actually designed specifically for a few of their smaller outboards. The new 15hp and 20hp EFI Four Strokes to be exact. These outboards have not only been upgraded to an Electronic Fuel Injection system, but they are also getting a fresh new look with some pretty cool features. If you haven't seen these in person, you should probably check them out. Especially if you are considering a new 15 or 20hp outboard this season and I will tell you why.
Kicker motors, also known as spare outboards, are motors that sit next to a bigger, main outboard and can serve a couple of different purposes. They typically are seen in the 10hp or less range. The simplest use for a kicker is as back up. In events where your main outboard fails, and you don't have The Hulk to paddle you ashore, a kicker is a great thing to have. For more recreational needs, it can be used to steer sailboats. This is more often seen in southern areas, such as Florida. In northern areas, such as Michigan, Kickers are more commonly used for trolling. When you're trying to catch those salmon and trout in Lake Michigan, a kicker will come in handy. They allow you to slow down to a trolling speed.
Kickers and trolling motors may seem to be one in the same because of their very similar purpose. However, there are big differences that set them apart. There are advantages to a trolling motor; they run on battery and can provide pull from the front (with a bow motor) which can provide better control. However, that doesn't mean it is always your best option. There are advantages that come with a kicker outboard that may just give trolling motors a run for their money. A kicker outboard is not only great for trolling, but it also provides a great backup for when your main outboard is failing. If you try to use a trolling motor as a secure backup, it would require having spare batteries. Batteries put heavy weight on a boat and take up space; with a kicker motor you don't have to worry about those--you get the accountability of a back-up outboard without needing a backup battery for the backup. Kicker motors provide a way to troll, while also providing a better sense of security.
Initially, the kicker can be a little bit pricier than alternative trolling options. But after that sometimes-painful purchase, they have qualities that make them cost effective. First and foremost, using a kicker motor helps you save on gas. Trolling with a kicker offers great gas to time ratio, which helps save on the gas you would have been using with your main outboard. Along with gas, they help prevent putting unwanted hours on your main outboard. By preventing wear and tear on your main outboard, you maintain the longevity of your main outboard. In addition, a little extra bonus: if both your main and kicker outboard are compatible, you can link up gas tanks so you don't have to fill separately.
When using a kicker motor, there are a few different steering options. A lot of kicker motors will come with a tiller handle; a tiller handle is an easy way to steer especially when it comes with the motor. However, there are a few other options that allow you to move further away from your motor while on the go. The cheapest and simplest way would be using a tie bar to connect your kicker to your main outboard. Although it can be the cheapest option, it can make outboard maintenance a little more complicated. Auto-pilot is a pricier way to steer your kicker, however it offers a lot of advantages. Auto-pilots are great at keeping you on course and adjusting to different conditions. With a little wind, the auto-pilot will correct itself to keep you on track without having to fight against it yourself. Hydraulic is the fourth steering option. Hydraulic is a much easier and effective way to connect your two motors with more options.
Most outboard brands offer smaller horsepower motors that can be used as kicker motors. Mercury has a ProKicker FourStroke series that is light weight, fuel efficient, and offers great portability. The Yamaha T9.9 also gets great reviews when being used as a kicker motor. The T9.9 offers longer tiller handles for easier steering. It's a great motor for trolling with slightly bigger boats. Suzuki has a DF9.9 motor that is great as a kicker, comes with a power till and EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection).
A big part of picking out a kicker motor is preference. With the right knowledge of your options and what you want, you're well on your way to finding the kicker motor that fits your needs. Don't hesitate to stop in and let us show you what we, and our selection of motors, have to offer!