By: Captain Bill Jennings
If you fish, you can appreciate the benefits of being able to access shallow depths without fear of running aground or prop damage. For just a little more money than an equivalent outboard, you can buy a jet. Many outboard manufacturers offer jet drives that fit on standard motors, and their authorized dealer networks makes service easy to find. But because jets suck, you can spend considerable time clearing the intake and they still operate below the bottom of your boat hull. In super swampy areas you may find air boats to be the best solution for speed and reliability, but they too have some negatives such as being tricky to handle and expensive to buy.
Then bingo. On a recent trip to Lake Okeechobee, Florida, I literally stumbled upon a highly specialized propulsion system for boating in extremely shallow water. This system is simple to service yourself and can be purchased for a very reasonable price. The name is Mud Buddy. In business for 26 years, Mud Buddy is seemingly the world's largest mud motor company and offers a complete selection of long-tail and short-tail surface drive mud motors. Billed as the “king of backwater," their unique drive units allow you to operate in marshes, heavy vegetation and of course, open water. They build four series of outboard motors, 'Hyper Drive' (Reverse & Sport), 'Sport' and 'Longtail.' Available power runs from 23 hp to 44 hp, and they are designed for aluminum boats between 14 and 20 feet. Their inexpensive 2 and 3 bladed props are stainless.
Most unusual for outboard motors, Mud Buddy Motors use air cooled motors by Kohler and Briggs & Stratton. Not only does this eliminate water pick-up problems, but the engines are easy to repair and have a decent three year warranty. Prices range from $2,250 to $11,000 USD. A Mud Buddy motor on an aluminum boat can do the unimaginable. As someone who's been on a longtail boating adventure, in Thailand of all places, the ingenuity of these engines seems to give them broad applications. Imagine running all day in water that is shallower than the draft on your flat bottom boat. Something to know about if you fish in shallow water.