When we first took ownership of our current Sportsman Masters 207 in 2018, it came factory fitted with a lot of gear, some of which we stripped out and changed straight away and some we changed over the course of the first two years.
The engine came from the factory in the USA with a Yamaha VMAX 150. It was a good engine that never gave us any issues. Aside from the fact it had a lot of vibration at low RPM, it was a reliable engine that gave us hours of great fishing. If you wanted to get picky, its somewhat loud aesthetic didn’t complement the boat and hole-shot and top end speed weren’t anything special but weren’t in any way poor, so I just attributed this to the hull and power to rate ratio. It didn’t sound amazing, either.
We usually sell project boats after 24 months, but the Sportsman was just so good at so many different fishing styles we decided to keep it another year (or maybe more), strip it completely and refit it. Aside from the pumps, everything was taken out including the battery system and wiring. It was a big job that we’ll detail in a Rig Rundown that will hopefully resume on our YouTube channel shortly (as long as we aren’t put into another lockdown and have it cancelled for the seventh time).
The biggest change we made to the boat was a new engine. I originally had the boat delivered in 2018 and I recall the launch of the new Mercury Pro XS 150 a short time after. I thought it was the best-looking engine I’d ever seen, and the specs and features suited my style of fishing. So when it came to replace the VMAX, there was only one engine I was interested in and that was it.
The Pro XS 150 is an eight-valve single overhead cam inline four-cylinder, three-litre engine weighing 207kg, making it the lightest 150 with the largest displacement. The Pro XS features Mercury’s Transient Spark Technology, which optimises spark timing, resulting in additional torque during hole shot that translates to quicker acceleration. One class-leading feature that is very important to me is the charging output of 60amp.
We’re running a 36V Minn Kota, three Humminbird Solix, a Simrad NSS 10 and a heap of pumps and lighting so I want the maximum amount of output I can get from an engine – and this is the best in the 150 class. It also features a 2.08:1 gear ratio that delivers more torque to the prop shaft for improved acceleration. It features four extra water pickups on the nose of the gearcase torpedo. This allows you to mount the engine higher via a jack plate, or trim the engine more aggressively while running to optimise performance, another feature that suits much of the fishing I do.
The first notable difference is that there is minimal – if any – vibration at idle and low RPM, so no longer are the hatches rattling while I’m doing 4 knots through the residential canals.
There is a significant improvement in hole shot with the Pro XS. This I can only assume is attributed to a combination of higher output, the Transient Spark Technology and the 2.08:1 gear ratio. The hole shot was improved to the point that anyone who had spent time on the boat noticed instantly. You can feel the torque and it carries through to the mid-range, where it’s ultra-responsive and of great benefit on rough days in Port Phillip Bay where you’re navigating erratic chop and waves, and often on and off the throttle.
One of the best features for a bay boat that may spend one day offshore and the next in a shallow river is the extra water pickups on the nose of the gearcase torpedo. While I don’t have a jack plate fitted, it’s still a great feature for navigating very shallow waters, which I often do at various locations. The Sportsman may be 21ft but she draws only 12in of water so it’s great to have an engine that now complements this. I don’t know if the gear case was painted in grey just for aesthetic reasons, but when navigating shallow waters the ability to see the cav plate is a huge advantage, whereas in black it’s much harder to see.
I do a lot of big runs and the Pro XS series is designed for going long distances at high speed. It’s an engine that loves speed, wants to be pushed and sounds amazing for a 150 four-cylinder. Fuel consumption is also better and while it’s never a huge factor for me or this style of boat, it’s good to know I’m using less.
While it may be an overlooked feature, I love Mercury’s NMEA integration and how the engine data is displayed, it’s simple, clear and easy to see at high speeds – and it’s all customisable.
It’s still early days thanks to lockdowns taking out chunks of fishing time, but I’m loving this engine and the superior performance it offers. I have many friends and colleagues who run Pro XS engines and the feedback on both reliability and performance has always been great. If you’re in the market for a new 150, this is pretty hard to look past.
Words & Images: Kosta Linardos