Mercury 150 FourStroke, 9.9 ProKicker: the perfect 1-2 combination to handle diverse fisheries of Northwest Salmon Derby Series

If you were to sum up the Northwest Salmon Derby Series in a single word, it would be "diverse." Covering more than a dozen saltwater/tidewater fisheries in western Washington, the 12-year-old series weaves its way through all four seasons, encompasses three species/subspecies of Pacific salmon, and demands that its participants be versed in a variety of fishing techniques on diverse waters.

The series is a perfect match for the Mercury 150 FourStroke and 9.9 ProKicker outboards.

When Mercury partnered with the Derby Series three years ago to present the Mercury Marine Challenge – which offers contingency prizes of up to $3,000 for high-finishing derby participants running Mercury motors – it also chipped in with the new 150 FourStroke and 9.9 ProKicker to go on the grand-prize boat, a 21-foot aluminum hardtop with an offshore bracket.

The 150 FourStroke's 3.0-liter, four-cylinder, single-overhead-cam design has been an impressive marriage of dependability and economy that has longtime salmon hunters nodding their heads in approval.

"I've run this Mercury 150 FourStroke for three years now, and it just blows me away with its power and dependability," said Tony Floor, the organizer of the Derby Series and director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association. "I can't give you an example of any other motor by any manufacturer that pushes a 21-foot salmon boat along like this 150. It's the perfect motor for our fisheries, for a number of reasons – power, dependability, economy – it has exactly what you need as a Northwest salmon angler."

Floor would know. As a lifelong salmon chaser, he brought four decades of hands-on knowledge to the mission of weaving a small string of local saltwater derbies into a 15-event Derby Series schedule that attracts upwards of 7,000 competitors each year. The Series kicks off in the San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound, and includes legendary salmon grounds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Willapa Bay, lower Columbia River, Possession Sound, Point Defiance and Midchannel Bank, to name a few.

The target species includes migratory Chinook and coho, as well as a resident strain of Chinook referred to as "blackmouth" that is unique to Puget Sound.

"We cover a whole lot of different water in this part of the country in search of the various runs of fish," Floor says. "We're inshore, we're offshore, we're running 35, 40 miles to the salmon grounds, we're dealing with current and tides and weather. For my money, a motor like Mercury's 150 FourStroke covers all the bases of our Northwest fisheries, no matter what you're asking it to do."

Dependability is key
In developing the Derby Series format, Floor's main priority was to promote and celebrate the region's yearlong salmon-fishing diversity. And that meant one thing: tackling open-water fisheries in the dead of winter, when Mother Nature churns Puget Sound into a cauldron of big, dangerous water. Take three derbies on the schedule as prime examples: the Friday Harbor Salmon Classic (early January); the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby in Port Angeles, formerly known as "The Ironman" because of its notoriously brutal weather (early February); and the Resurrection Salmon Derby in Anacortes (early December).

"The diversity in the fishery is mirrored by the diversity in the weather," Floor admits. "The December Resurrection Derby, which finishes the schedule for us this year, is notorious for winds that blow up to 50 miles an hour. It gets pretty nasty up in Resurrection Pass that time of year. Even in a monster wind, though, that derby goes forward because there's always a place to tuck away and fish in the San Juan Islands. However … you have to get back home. That's the highest priority, no matter what, and this is where the 150 FourStroke becomes your best fishing partner.

"That motor is turnkey. I swear, it's bulletproof. Sleet, sideways rain, wind, rough water, it's absolutely critical to have a motor that you know is going to do what you ask it to do in foul weather."

The 'little brother' with big muscles
At a scant 108 pounds (dryweight), the Mercury 9.9 hp ProKicker might seem like the "little brother" to the 150 FourStroke, but in the broad scope of the Pacific Northwest salmon fishery, the 9.9's engineering – with its deeper gear case, 20-percent bigger propeller, and low 2.42:1 gear ratio – supplies the kind of power, responsiveness and torque that are absolutely critical in the deep-water trolling fisheries that make up most of the Derby Series events.

"We're fishing no less than 90 feet down in these winter fisheries, and sometimes 200 feet or more," Floor points out. "You're really asking a lot of a kicker when you're downrigger trolling at 200 feet, especially in strong wind and current. It's critically important to stay on the contour when you're looking for winter Chinook, and where a lot of boats are required to run their main powerplant and their little motors struggle, the 9.9 ProKicker has the power to push and control a boat in the 21- to 24-foot class. It's quiet, it's smooth, it's powerful and it's dependable. It's a great little motor."

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