Fastest Props Ever
Who's got the fastest prop? Who makes the hottest wheels? It's a topic that receives its due during any conversation between fisherman intent on wringing the most from their performance rigs. Over the past 20 years or so, since the modern high-speed bassboat became popular,many hot bass propellers have come and gone, but some have gone the distance and remain favorites today. This article reflects on a dozen or so of the fastest and most popular wheels of yesterday and today. Perhaps you've owned one (or more) of these top-flight propellers; more than likely,you run one on your current hull. However, if your prop isn't listed among these hotrod blades, you may want to consider a change.
RACE STYLE: THE ORIGINAL BASS PROP
Back in the 1970s,the top-rated power for bassboats was Mercury's 100- cubic-inch, inline-six 150.To develop a better bassboat performance wheel, Team Black propeller engineers took the best attributes or their hottest 1960s offshore "elephant ear" over-hub race props and com bined them with the shock-absorbing cushioned hub of the stock aluminum wheels.Then they added weed-cutting "fingers" to the forward part of the hub, and voila - the Chopper was born.
The earlier Choppers (called "inline choppers,") had phenomenal performance, with a unique blade profile that featured very high positive rake, and high blade skew, as well as a large amount of trailing edge and tip cup for phenomenal holding power and bow lift, particularly at high transom settings. The original Chopper was available as a 14-inch diameter only, with pitch selection of 18 to 30 inches in 2-inch increments. The 30- inch wheel in particular was terrifically fast and ideal for boats that were light and fast, and had enough power to swing such a large wheel. Though it was replaced with the larger 14&1/2-inch diameter Chopper and just recently the redesigned Chopper II, the original was easily the fastest or the designs as long as the setup was light and fast For heavier hulls, the second-generation, often called the "V-6 Chopper" wheel, was the ticket. You can usually find used V-6 Choppers on the walls of prop shops and back rooms of older marinas. These typically won't command a long dollar; expect to pay $150 for a used and abused prop and $300 to $350 for one in mint condition. If you do find one, be sure to send it to a competent prop shop for a tune-up, and you'II have a top performer for minimal cash outlay. lnline Choppers work best on lighter, faster hulls (suchas Allison, Bullet,HydroStreamand Stroker). While the larger blade profile of the V-6 Chopper is less effective, it will still perform decently on heavier hulls.
RIDIN' THE HOSS
Hoss Propellers, a small company located in Oklahoma, has been manufacturing ultra-hot performance wheels since the 1970s. As the V-6 outboards began to dominate the bassboat and outboard racing markets, Hoss wizards Tim and Dave Bostic introduced their "elephant ear" Tri ton over-hub , three-blade race wheel. It immediately began setting speed records and capturing the fancy of performance boaters across the country. To this day it still holds the MOD-VP straightaway kilo record,set with an Allison hull back in the 1980s. The Triton is similar to a Mercury Chopper, but with a highly pronounced leading edge sweep. Since it's a custom-bui lt wheel from a cus tom shop,special pitches,diameters and reworks are available. Earlier Tri tons have very thin blades and a hence a propensity to crack; the lat est versions are much more durable. This is a true custom high-perfor mance race prop, so it's best applica tions are on ultra-high performance hulls. Hoss's claim to fame is its per formance on Allison boats,and Alli son owners report that the venerable Triton is still one of the fastest top end props available for their hulls. New Tritons run about$680.
BEST BARGIN FOR PERFORMANCE
Many,if not most,high-performance bassboat owners would agree that OMC had little to offer when itcame to lightweight,high-speed hulls inthe late 1970s to early 1990s. They were, and are,wrong.The spectacular SRXover-hub, round ear three blade, designed and perfected by longtime OMC prop guru Don Henrich, was then and is now one of the best high-performance bassboat wheels available. Originatingas a V-4 propeller ina small-hub, the 133/4 x 23-inch-pitch size was called the Silver Streak. The SRX then evolved into a V-6 wheelin three sizes: 14 x 25 inches, 14'/4 x 27 inches, and ]41/4 x 29 inches. The 25-inch model has long since been discon tinued due to questionable performance. The 27- and 29-inch models are still available from Johnson and Evinrude dealers. The retail price is one of the best bargains in performance boating (expect to pay be tween $350 and $400). With a mild rework, these are some of the hottest performing high-speed props around. MOD-VP race champions from the late 1980s have long known of this prop's prowess. It performs best on light weight,high-end hulls. While the originals were coated in black Teflon for rust and abrasion protection, today's SRXs are highly polished at the factory.
THE MAN FROM MISSOURI
For more than two decades, John Mazar has operated one of the most success ful independent propeller shops in the country.His Mazco pro pellers are the best all-round, high performance props available. In par ticular,the RE-3 is the wheelthat put Mazco's unique stamp on the perfor mance propeller marketplace. This high-speed,medium rake,round ear wheel is an over-hub three-blade, cast finished by Mazco himself. It's not a rework of someone else's de sign.The prop works on almost every hull, from lightweight Allisons and Bullets to Gamblers, Lasers and Javelins. The custom prop is available with a 141/2-inch diameter ina variety of blade pitches from 22 inches to 32 inches in even increments (with a few odd numbers thrown in for good measure), and can be worked to any custom configuration from thick to thin blades. Cost hits about $600, but you get a bulletproof wheel that adds performance. A high-polish finish is standard. For even heavier hulls (and a lightning holeshot), Mazco added a blade and released the RE-4 a fewyears back.This four-blade prop offers nearly the same top end of the three blade RE-3, but with the additionalhandling, holeshot and load-carrying ability of a four blade design; cost is in the $700 range. Mazco's props are available for purchase direct from the factory.
MERCURY'S LATEST LIGHTNING BOLT
Chris Bush, famed MOD-VP and Formula One tunnel boat racer, re portedly had a marked influence in the design of Mercury's latest drag and top-speed wheel,the Lightning ET.This new prop has made a big name for itself in the few years since it's introduction;while touted as a drag racing prop,it's found a welcome home on the propshafts of high-performance bass- and sportboats as a top speed propeller.Sim ilar to a Chopper with unique cut-off trailing edges,the ET comes in even pitch sizes from 22 to 32 inches, with a 14'12-inch diameter. While it's an expensive wheel (street prices start at $800), it outper forms many aftermarket props and is specially "lab finished" by Mercury Racing propeller specialists for even more speed and acceleration . The ET has been a top performer on Stroker and Allison hulls in recent B&WB Magazine tests. It's sure to bea long-time favorite, especially if the price drops.
THE "NEW YAWK" MEN
The Spinelli prop shop, located in upstate Rochester, New York, has been turning out blueprinted high-speed propeller for at least the past 20 years. Their over-hub round ear wheels of their own design and casting ha\•e con istently been top performers on circle-racing outboards as well as lightweight, top-end oriented bass hulls.Spinelli's three-blade OH de ign ha been around for a very long time,and offer a balanced and blueprinted product that's finely-tuned to the owner 's particular hull design and use. The four blade model, dubbed the DR, is a medium-ra ·e custom wheel that has found favor with Bullet owners, as well as others running ultra high speed hulls. It has been used by the Bullet fac ory in B&WB testing to achieve excellent top-end and handling performance. ince these are custom wheels,they're available in just about any pitch (from 26 inch es to 32 inches) and any diameter (14- to 141 _ -inche .Co t-wise, a Spinelli three-blader will run $705,while the four-blade DR runs $8 16. The upside of these high-cost props is that they fea·ure an uncondi tional customer satisfaction guarantee .
BASSBOAT STILE: THE ORIGINAL
As mentioned,OMC's reputation for lacking high-performance props is ill-deserved. The company saw the need for a high-performance through-hub wheel with better lifting capabilities early on in the bass boat craze,and in late 1982 introduced the Raker.This highly polished three-blade round ear featured a through-hub exhaust coupled with impossibly raked blades,a combination unheard of at the time.In ad dition,the hub used large exhaust relief holes to assist in planing.Tak-en together,these features helped to make the Don Henrich-designed wheel a favorite among OMC owners. It's stillavailable from OMC deal ers in pitches ranging from 18 to 24 inches for V-4s and 22 to 28 inches for V-6s. In the early 1990s, OMC improved on the Raker by introducing the Renegade,a four-blade through/over hub exhaust wheel that offered better holeshot and handling.The Renegade has since proven to be an excellent OEM four-blade ba s wheel while the Raker has fallen from favor. Used Rakers are plentiful,and can be purchased for as little as 250,while a new Renegade goes for about $500. Renegades are avail able for both gearcase sizes as well.
A YAMMIE WHAMMY
Yamaha introduced its Pro Series three-blade, thru-hub wheels to the delight of Yammie-powe red bassboaters looking for a wheel to call their own. The Pro Series wheels feature excellent acceleration thanks to oversized,squared-off exhaust relief holes.Top speed and bow lift are also excellent due to highly raked and cupped blades. Pitches range from 23 to 27 inches in odd sizes; the 27 inch was for high-performance hulls with enough ponies to spin it. Still available as new from Yamaha dealers, the Pro Series wheels are also plentiful in the used market. Expect to pay in the $350 range for a good used one.While the Pro Se ries features nice, thick blades for impact resistance, the alloy used tends to rust easily.
MERCURY'S ONE-TWO PUNCH
Not to be outdone, Mercury's vaunted propeller engineers came up with the Trophy, a four blade through/over exhaust design,which fea tures excellent holeshot and a tenacious ability to hold a heavy bow up at speed. Its four blades handle the rough water better than most oth er wheels and it will stand up to stumps extremely well. Recently,Mer cury introduced a 28-inch-pitch Trophy,which tested extremely well in recent B&WB trials .The Trophy is available in many pitch and diame ters, with two hub sizes for small and large V-6 gearcases .Expect to spend between $400 and $500 for a Trophy at Mercury dealers and keep in mind that used models are somewhat scarce due to the wheel 's con tinued popularity.
The Tempest, a high-performance three-blade throu h-hub wheel, i known throughout bassboat circles as very fa t. with excellen bow lift ing properties, thick and tough blades, and a great hole hot due o if PVS plug system. This unique and inexpensive system allows the u er to tune the holeshol by installing plugs in the drilled exhaust vents at the base of the hub.Tempest wheels are available in the large V-6 hub size in odd-increment pitches up to 27 inches.At many Mercury dealers, a Tempest will sell for about $400
MAZCO MAN STRIKES AGAIN
A few years back, Mazco Props quietly introduced their HP-4, designed for bass rigs and heav ier sport boats. Its four blades are highly raked and cupped, and the I4-inch diameter is pretty steep for a four-blade wheel. However, that gives it perhaps the best lifting characteristics of any four-blade on the market, especially at elevated transom heights.
In test after test, the HP-4 consistently provides the best top speed on many rigs, but its best attribute seems to be its reliability and all-round consis- tency. Its thick blades provide impact protection and cost is a reasonable $600. The HP-4 is available in every pitch increment from 23 inches to 30 inches.
EAGLE FLIES AGAIN
The original Predator Eagle was an extremely fast bassboat wheel that was available through most of the mid-1990s, but as the company lost money, the props became unavailable. Repeated warranty problems drove it out of business a few years back. Despite the problems, the prop's unique "J-cup" design, a very pronounced and sharp trailing edge cup, gave it tenacious holding power at top speed and in turns.
Four blade provided great handling in rough water, and the through over hub exhaust gave it great holeshot. The Eagle's downfallwas weld ed-on blades, which tended to crack and rust easily. If you can find one in good shape,you'II pay upwards of $350 for a used Eagle. The prop was available in even pitch sizes from 22 inches to 28 inches. Recently, the company's assets were purchased by Holeshot Propellers,so the Eagle "flies again, ' but with an improved form.
There are plenty of other excellent wheels out there,old and new. However, if every wheel were considered for this ar ticle, an entire issue would have to be devoted to the subject. Special mention should go to Turbo (Precision Propeller) wheels, for its through-hub three blades that started life in the 1980s and can still pull some of the be t speeds around from most hulls.
The same goes fo r Performance Propellers a little shop in eastern Tennessee that produces some of the best-worked Choppers on the market today (see page 40 for a pro file) as well as PowerTech props from Louisiana, which are very consistent performers. Finally,DAH Pro-Pellers in Burlington, Wiscon sin,is perhaps the best Raker,Renegade, Trophy and Tempest tuner in the country.