December 18, 2014
In the world of professional bass fishing, there are days that a bass pro will throw caution to the wind and play a hunch. All in an effort to move into the money, grab a final coveted spot in a crowded championship field or to even win the biggest tournament of their life.
But as surely as there are days when a pro will go for broke on when, where and how to fish, there are also things that an angler will never compromise on during their career.
Things like the equipment he or she uses – rods, reels, line, hooks, lures and electronics. And most especially the outboard motor on the back of a rig that is getting an angler from point-A to point-B and back again during the course of a day.
That might help explain the strange looks that Brandon Card, the 2012 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, got when he signed on with Suzuki Marine to power his rig with their freshwater outboard motors.
Mind you, the strange looks were not because Suzuki has a poor reputation in the outboard business. In fact, just the opposite exists in terms of the company's reputation since the motors are considered the standard bearer by many in the saltwater outboard world.
It's just that in a freshwater landscape dominated by other motor companies, Card's decision to become one of the first major pros to go with a Suzuki outboard was considered by some to a bit of a gamble.
But not necessarily in Card's mind.
"I think Suzuki has already established themselves in the saltwater industry as one of the predominant motors in the salt, if not the predominant one," said Card, noting that things like fuel efficiency and durability have helped the company achieve that status.
"A lot of saltwater guys will put 3,000 hours on a Suzuki engine over the course of a year," added the Tennessee pro. "As bass fishermen, we're nowhere close to that (in a year). So that durability is definitely one of the big reasons that their motors caught my eye."
That catching of his eye took place as Card visited the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., boat show in 2012.
"Things were (already) going pretty well for me that year and I was wanting to do bigger things with all of my sponsors," said Card, who has nine Top-10 finishes in 42 career B.A.S.S. events.
"I was hoping to get a better (motor) deal but things were dragging along," he added. "I happened to be at the Fort Lauderdale show to meet another sponsor. I walked by their booth (Suzuki's) and their engine caught my eye."
Since Card's dad had previously run a Suzuki engine, a familiar chord was struck and he went into the booth to check the motors out.
The rest is history, as they say.
"We started talking and hit it off and it turns out that they wanted to make more of an impact on the freshwater side and wanted to get into the bass fishing market," said Card. "Things worked out between my first and second year and we worked out a sponsorship (deal)."
Having been powered by one of the other outboard brands previously, Card was taking a chance with his rig … at least in the minds of other bass pros out on tour.
"I was taking a bit of a gamble going to a Suzuki since they were not as well known in the market," said the Caryville, Tenn., pro. "But you've got to sometimes step out of your comfort zone and give it a try."
Not long afterward, Card's Triton bass rig was set up with a four-stroke Suzuki 250SS engine. With a 4.0-liter block, a sleek gear case, two-stage gear reduction and a matte black finish, all the B.A.S.S. pro could do was smile when he got the rig on the water.
That smile turned to a chuckle when he started the motor up, which was so unbelievably quiet that Card said it was almost laughable.
"I was blown away when I took it out on my boat for the first time," he said. "The engine is so quiet, fuel efficient and fast, all the things you could ever want in an outboard motor. I was sitting there scratching my head wondering why there aren't more of them out there."
Card says he thinks he knows the reason why.
"As bass fishermen, we're all about brands," he said. "There may be a lure out there that has a certain action and costs a certain price. A knock off version might have the same action and cost 1/3 as much. But many anglers will use the one that has the brand name and costs more even though the other one might catch as many fish. It's the same with our trucks and cars; it's hard to get us out of our comfort zone to try them all."
After a couple of seasons of running a Suzuki outboard, Card is glad that he stepped out of his comfort zone.
"The fuel efficiency (on a Suzuki) is better than any other engine I've ever owned," he said.
How much money did he save? Card said that his ballpark estimate was somewhere between $500 and $1,000 on fuel savings, but he admits that number might need an asterisk beside it.
"That might not sound like much in fuel savings, but you've got to remember that we run our engines wide open all of the time and all engines drink a lot of fuel when they are wide open. The Suzuki outboards are really efficient when you back the throttle off to cruising speed. Of course, as professional fishermen, we don't really run at cruising speeds, so at that lower speed, the savings are more substantial."
How much so?
"On days when I'm out guiding or going fishing for fun and not running at 75 (miles per hour), I spend next to nothing on fuel on those days," said Card. "On just regular fishing trips, I don't have to fill up again until about every fourth trip, which is just awesome."
Another area that has impressed Card greatly is the amount of oil he has had to use with his Suzuki.
"My first year on tour, I spent probably $700 to $800 on oil," he said. "With the Suzuki, I only had to have the oil changed a couple of times. I might have used five gallons of oil that first year and spent, maybe, around $150 bucks versus $800."
Card admits that as for the motor's speed and ability to make a quick hole shot, there are other motors out there that are as good.
"I'm not one to lie and I won't say that it's faster than my previous motor," said Card. "But it's just as fast. I did a lot of little test runs with my Suzuki this past year and we got my boat up to a six-second hole shot, which is pretty dang quick.”
While all of the above are great selling points in Card's mind, the biggest one of all is the fact that his motor has to work on tour.
"I tell guys that I'm the only professional bass pro out there that runs a Suzuki outboard so far," he said. "And I don't have a service crew like the other guys do at each event. When a guy running one of their motors breaks down, they go to the service trailer and get it worked on. I don't have that but then again, I've never broken down in a tournament and had it cost me in an event."
And don't think that's because Card is afraid to put his Suzuki outboard in difficult conditions or circumstances.
"You have to trust the equipment that you run," he said. "You don't want to be second guessing your engine as a pro if you've got to move spots and the next spot is 50 miles away. You don't want to be thinking all the way as you go there about whether or not you might get back."
In other words, Card doesn't baby his equipment, not with tournament titles, championship spots and cold hard cash riding on the line.
"I torture test my engines out here," he said. "With no service crew, I'm continuing to use it and push it. That should tell you that I'm not worrying about my motor a whole lot when I'm out there."
Which is exactly why he thinks a Suzuki outboard is a great investment, not just for other pros, but also for weekend warriors looking for a new way to power their rig in 2015. He happily recommends the Suzuki 115SS, the DF150SS and the 250SS four-stroke motors to bass anglers in the market for an outboard.
With competitive pricing and a three-year limited warranty (currently, Suzuki is offering an additional three years of product protection – for six full years of motor protection – under the "Gimme Six" promotion), it's no wonder that Card recommends that anglers consider powering their new rig with a Suzuki or repowering an older rig with the outboard brand.
"I've never had a regret going with Suzuki," said Card. "I've been really happy and I can't complain; it's been a great motor for me."
An then he added the exclamation point to his feelings about running a Suzuki outboard in the freshwater world of professional bass fishing.
"If I ever thought I might be sacrificing performance, that didn't happen," said Card. "I'm probably more impressed by Suzuki than any other brand I've ever gone with.
"Hopefully, I'll be using a Suzuki for my whole career," he added.
Which might be a professional bass angler's biggest endorsement of all.