For many years professional bass anglers relied on carbureted two-stroke outboards mainly because of their power-to-weight ratio, fewer moving parts, and impressive torque at low RPMs. They were simple powerhouses that anglers preferred over the up and coming computerized four-strokes just hitting stride. While many top pros and weekend speedsters still prefer to race around with a two-stroke on the transom, when compared to modern four-strokes the differences in performance, emission and weight are ever so slight due to rapidly increasing technologies adopted by leading outboard manufacturers. With that being said, don’t think the two-stroke is a dying breed.
If you’re not a gearhead, you should know these motors are named according to the number of strokes the pistons make to complete a power cycle. Two- and four-stroke outboards utilize many of the same principles, yet they feature very different engineering and mechanics, which result in advantages, disadvantages and limitations. There’s really no right or wrong, rather an engine choice that balances your honest desires and needs for your particular fishing style and type of boat.
The two-stroke vs. four-stroke argument will continue on forever, with proponents of two-strokes claiming multiple benefits including quicker hole shot, easy servicing, lightweight attributes and increased top-end speed, all at a cheaper price point. Two strokes grew in popularity because at the time, four-strokes didn’t have the technology to generate as much power within a similar sized package. Today, however, the modern four-stroke packs a serious punch while also providing improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, smoother idle and greater reliability, without sacrificing unnecessary weight or performance.
Engine manufacturers are also now required to meet stringent EPA emissions standards and carbureted two-strokes are disappearing because they don’t comply with the newest regulations. However, two-stroke outboard technology is alive and well, and manufacturers are fighting back with DFI two-stroke outboards. While direct fuel injection results in reduced exhaust emissions and quieter operation, it also improves fuel economy, particularly at low speeds where two-strokes were the most inefficient in years past.
Available in 115 to 250 HP, Mercury’s two-stroke Pro XS continues to dominate the bass trail and is factory tuned for ultimate performance. Notable design features include carbon fiber reeds that increase power and torque for greater acceleration and top speed, with custom exhaust tuners and high-performance cylinder heads further maximizing power and overall performance.
While top pros like Kevin VanDam rely on the Pro XS, four-strokes have a following, too. Yamaha’s V MAX SHO is a powerful four-stroke that weighs in at 505-pounds, the same exact dry weight as Mercury’s OptiMax Pro XS two-stroke. Anglers once sacrificed fuel economy and efficiency for power and performance, but the newest four-strokes from Yamaha level the playing field. With a big bore design and variable camshaft timing, the V6 SHO provides a noticeable increase in both low and midrange throttle response, while also offering the ease of maintenance and reliability Yamaha owners have come to enjoy. The newest four-strokes from Yamaha combine the quiet efficiency and clean operation users are familiar with, while also offering tremendous hole shot, unrivaled mid-range punch and excellent top speed not common to four-strokes of years past.
Continuing with their two-stroke trend, the newly reinvented Evinrude E-TEC G2 H.O. is perhaps the most intelligent and advanced two-stroke ever produced. While two-strokes once were preferred because they were simple, the engines are now much more sophisticated and designed to maximize combustion through direct, in-cylinder fuel injection that results in enhanced power output through more precise fuel delivery. This more accurate fuel delivery system also produces less emissions than traditional two-strokes. The new E-TECs also feature an automatic trim system, digital gauge integration, no scheduled maintenance for 500 hours, and no break-in period.
Modern two-strokes have resolved many of the associated disadvantages they were once known for, like poor fuel performance, yet the newest four-strokes aren’t to be ignored. You’re in good shape either way because across the board the newest outboards provide greatly improved fuel economy, better response at all throttle ranges and improved reliability over outboards from ages past. All that’s left for you to do is find the fish.