When it comes to choosing a small outboard engine for a saltwater fishing skiff, just as when choosing any size outboard, in truth your options are fairly limited. Let’s say you’re looking for a 25-horse powerplant, a very common size that fills a number of needs; there are only a handful of companies making them: Evinrude, Honda, Mercury, Suzuki, Tohatsu and Yamaha. Most are four-strokes, with the exceptions being the Evinrude 25 E-TEC and the Tohatsu TLDI jet outboard, all are available with tiller steering or optional controls, and all fall into approximately the same weight range (126 to 160 pounds, depending on shaft length and rigging). All of these engines also share a reputation for reliability, and costs are fairly similar as well although this will vary from dealership to dealership, area to area, and even by individual sale to sale depending on a number of factors. So, how do you know which to choose?
Regardless of brand loyalty, there are a number of factors to take into account. Weight variations may help you make your decision especially if you might use the engine on more than one boat, and will need to move it from transom to transom now and again, but these are all close enough that it’s not likely to be a deciding factor. The integration of battery-less EFI, however, is a big feature to those who don’t have electric start and a battery in the boat. We first told you about this feature in our review of the Yamaha F25, and it makes for one-tug starting, better fuel economy, smoother running, and since the fuel systems is pressurized and not exposed to the air, far fewer ethanol problems. Since then there’s been time to test the Suzuki DF25A over the long term (three years and running) and this was actually the very first outboard to feature battery-less EFI. To get the complete scoop on this outboard after long-term testing, you can check out this short video:
Another major consideration, although it has nothing to do with the engine itself, is where you live and what dealerships are close by. Buying from a dealer who is trustworthy and easily accessible is important to take into account, because no matter what outboard you buy sooner or later you’ll need service. You also want to know it’s a reputable shop which will help with things like warranty claims. But purchase an outboard over the internet or from a big-box store – which happens more and more these days – and you can’t always count on having the best experience when you’re in need of help.
Finally, before choosing a specific dealer or brand you’ll want to know that the engine fits your particular rig and you personally. This counts mostly for those opting for a tiller-steer rig. Small things like the length of the tiller arm and location of the shifter and tensioner can make it easier or harder to use one specific engine on your boat, depending on things like the distance between the seat and the transom. There’s only one way to test this for sure, and that’s to bring your boat to the dealer’s shop, sit the outboard in place, get in your seat, and test out how it feels.
Yes, of course you’ll also be eyeballing the price tag. But all of these engines are competitive in that regard and as we mentioned earlier, shopping for a deal can have variable results depending on where you live and what’s on offer nearby. Take these other considerations into account, however, and you should be happily running that saltwater fishing skiff for years and years to come.