SPEED FLEET


One Stroker bassboat hooked to a 280 hp
pit bull Merc outboard is a force to be
reckoned with. Add another 280-powered
Stroker, mix in an assortment of
260, 300 Drag and 300 Super Mag-powered
identical hulls, and you have the makings
of a wild and wooly test session.
That's what was waiting for me when I
showed up at Valley Marine in rural Valley,
Alabama. Chub Bryant, owner of Stroker Boats,
wanted to ensure that I had enough to write
about. Not only did he bring me our subject
test rig and a backup, but he also assembled a
the 21-footer would do with different varia-
tions of Mercury power attached.


LOCAL DRAG RACER MAKES GOOD

As a test base, Valley Marine could not have
been better suited. Located right on the western
border of Georgia, this two-year-old dealership
sports a brand new showroom and mechanics
tuned in to the art of high performance.
They'd better be owner J.B. Waites
is a former championship outboard drag racer
who knows his way around the shop. Bryant
chose Waite's new dealership as home base
for our test knowing that it could provide the
amenities necessary to complete our task.
Sharp-eyed B&WB readers may remember
our Stroker test featured in the March 1998
issue; that gray rocket ran a cool 97 mph with
a 3-liter Mariner 300 Super Mag bolted to the
transom. Bryant produced two near-identical
rigs for this test, in case one engine failed.
Both were rigged with new 280 hp Mercury
2.5L EFI outboards. A demure white, black and
red rig was set up with a 15" short shaft Off-
shore version, complete with race-style trim-
only (no tilt) cylinder and 8250 rpm limited off-
shore racing ECU. This was J.B.'s personal rig,
and had been running since last summer so it
was plenty broken in.
Just in case this combo didn't produce the
right numbers, Bryant had Mark Hunter from
David Webster's Boats & Stuff of Bowling
Green, Kentucky, trailer in with a bright yellow
21-footer rigged with a 20" shaft, 280 hp 2.5L
with the stock trim cylinder and standard 7750
rpm limited ECU. Other than the shaft length,
ECU and trim cylinder, the Mercs were identical.
Travis Hayes, Mercury Racing regional
outboard service manager was on hand to
make sure the engines were stock and
they were.

RIGGING THEM RIGHT

After dry-land inspection, our first stop was a
local scrap metal yard, to use the scales. We
weighed three Strokers: the two test rigs plus
Valley Marine's parts manager Ralph Shelley's
2.5L EFI Drag equipped rig. All three weighed
within 140 pounds of each other; the lightest,
at 2870 pounds on the trailer, was Shelley's ultra-
fast rig. The heaviest was the yellow boat
from Webster's; at 3010 pounds and it was
loaded with gear.
After J.B.'s rig was wetted, the trailer was
returned to the scales; the net trailer weight
was 870 pounds. Hunter's yellow hull was
rigged with our fuel flow test equipment, and
we embarked on our series of tests. We shod
the 280 hp 2.5L FF1 with a brand-new Mercury
wheel, a 137/8" x 28" four-blade Trophy that was
hot from the factory foundry. Our acceleration
times with this prop were very good; a dead
stop to 30 mph averaged less than 7 seconds,
right in the industry range for a big rig like this.
The short-shaft equipped rig (J.B.'s), shod
with a 28" pitch Lightning FT wheel, hit 30 in a
blistering 4.38 seconds, due in large part to the
propeller selection and the reduced can-
tilever effect of the short 15" exhaust housing.

100+ MPH SPEEDS

For the top speed runs, all the Strokers in the
lot were slipped into the lake for a late-after-
noon radar run. The two test subjects ran flaw-
lessly, and lit up the Stalker's display with
some very impressive numbers. Bryant's son
Kevin, who wears as many hats around the
Stroker shop as possible, handled the driving
chores for the two test rigs, while J.B's cus-
tomers drove their own rigs through the radar
traps. The yellow Stroker hit stride at a best
of 98.4 mph with the Trophy, while the short-
shaft rig smoked through at 101.1 with the
same wheel. Top end rpm was about 7700 on
both rigs, indicating a slightly more efficient
setup on the 280 short-shaft than the long-
shaft equipped hull. For giggles, a 30" Spinelli
wheel was bolted to Hunter's yellow boat, and
a 99.5 mph pass was the result. Our best
speeds were achieved with the propshaft at a
sky-high 11/4" above the pad, and a total of 15 1/2"
of jackplate setback from the transom surface.
From these runs, it could safely be conclud-
ed that a properly set up Stroker with a stock
280 Merc will, in the hands of an experienced
driver, easily hit high 90 to 100-plus mph
speeds in optimum conditions.
Yet don't think for a minute that you can
simply plunk down the dough for this rig and
expect to cruise at 100 mph all day. It takes
many hours of seat time and just the right con-
ditions to hit speeds this high. The average
driver will see 90 to 95 mph speeds after get-
ting used to the rig; 100 mph comes later; after
logging hours of solo seat time and experi-
menting with trim, jack and weight-placement positions.
The Detwiler Hydro-Jack with its easy-ad-
just Exact-Dial made height adjustments a
breeze, even for yours truly who jumped in
with minimal seat time and hit 95-plus mph
speeds after just a few passes. Teleflex's
SeaStar Pro hydraulic steering (standard)
kept the 280's torque minimized, and the Pro
Trim switch mounted on the steering column
allowed for minute adjustments to the en-
gine's running angle at high speeds without re-
moving my hands from the wheel.
Fuel economy was excellent; the worst
recorded was 2.4 miles per gallon, and that
was at an off-plane, lugging speed. At
midrange, the Stroker pulled an impressive 4.6
mpg at 47 mph; this was its best cruise speed,
giving a range of 156 miles from its 38-gallon
tank. Even at full throttle, 3.3 miles per gallon
is excellent considering the high-performance
nature of the 280 hp 2.5L outboard. Using the
10 percent rule, the 280 was making all of its
advertised 280 ponies and then some at full
gallop; at 94 mph, it was burning a stout 28.9
gallons per hour. If you like to cruise at high
speeds, bring extra gas money.

SWEET HANDLING

Although we didn't have much in the way of
rough water; we pounded the Stroker through
all the wakes we could find, and slalom-
coursed it along the Chattahoochee River for
miles trying to get it to misbehave. Like the '97
rig we tested, it performed flawlessly; unlike
that 300-powered hull, this one exhibited no
tendency to porpoise at lower speeds. This
was undoubtedly due to the 280's lower
weight. The Stroker's complex hull design has
remained basically unchanged since our first
test. The boat measures 20 feet from nose to
transom, but the extended rear wings give
it more than a 21-foot overall length. At 7 feet,
11 inches wide, it's a beamy boat; this no doubt
is one of the main reasons it carries weight at
high speeds so well. The combination of multi-
angle deep-V and wide running pad along with
multiple lifting strakes keeps the Stroker rid-
ing high even with a heavy load.
Perhaps most impressive was the 95 mph
wake jumping performed by Kevin Bryant. As
he and I blasted along the river, we passed
Mark Hunter cruising the other way. I braced,
expecting Bryant to slow down as we hit
Hunter's wake. Bryant stayed on the throttle,
and the Stroker amazed me; it chattered right
over the foot-high waves with no gyrations or
missteps. Another impressive trait was its
ability to come off plane without wetting the
rear deck. For such a low-slung rig, you'd think
this was impossible. After a full power-off,
however, the deck was dry.

MODERN CONSTRUCTION

Since our test in '97, Bryant has made big
changes under the Stroker skin,
eliminating all wood from the
layup. The boat uses a combination
fiberglass foam core
stringer system tied to a reinforced
glass transom. The hull
carries a five-year warranty
Our test rigs featured Stro-
ker's newest seating, a big im-
provement over the buckets in
his older models. These rotocast
plastic-based seats showcased
tight vinyl padding with no wrinkles
and a clean look. Support
was excellent at speed. Carpeting
was tucked in neatly with no exposed
edges to fray,and underneath, all the
wiring was run clean and straight to its desti-
nation. Running over chop, the hull exhibited
an unusually taut feeling, due in large part
to the all 'glass construction. Bare hull weight
is advertised at 1200 pounds, indicating a
concentrated effort to remove all excess resin,
which creates a very strong hull and deck
combination.
As all Strokers are built to order, annual
production is less than 60 boats, which allows
Bryant to keep a tight rein on quality control. It
also allows flexibility; you can have your Stro-
ker in just about any color combination you
want. The gel on our test rigs was super-bright
with razor-sharp tape lines. The combination
of custom gelcoat fade and crisp metalflake
stripes showcased the younger Bryant's awe-
some taping and spraying capabilities.
The extensive use of multiple concave sur-
faces on the deck and consoles shows that
Chub paid attention to what has worked be-
fore on other famous, lightweight high-speed
hulls. He knows that a concave surface is in-v
herently stronger and more rigid than a flat one.

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE

The Stroker's interior layout remains pretty
much as it did two years ago, with the excep-
tion of the improved seats. The foredeck fea-
tures the excellent pop-up LCD graph hous-
ing, which truly fits into the "gee-whiz"
category of standout amenities. Underneath
that little hatch was the optional Lowrance X85
LCD graph. Two big rod lockers are placed out-
board near the gunwales. They're roomy
enough, but should utilize a storage racking
system to really be user-friendly. The lockers
flank a huge center storage locker, big enough
for throwable cushions, lifejackets and tackle.
All the lids are reinforced aluminum with flush
locking hasps. The center foredeck offers a
large removable deck extension (optional) to
gain additional casting room; there's plenty of
space for two anglers without crowding.
The cockpit features dual consoles with
low-profile, sculpted Lexan windscreens that
look cool as heck but don't give much in the
way of wind protection at high speeds. On the
dash and passenger console faces, a simple
gelcoat finish has replaced the cheesy
brushed aluminum-look plastic dash plates of
our last test rig. Both rigs featured gauges set
in aluminum anodized bezels for a custom
touch. Standard instrumentation features Mercury
high-performance tach, 100-mph speedome-
ter, fuel, water pressure and trim gauges. A
voltmeter is also standard. An optional foot
throttle was set in the floor for the driver's
right foot. Even though the driver's seat is ad-
justable (with a nifty pushbutton control), the
foot throttle should be placed on an ad-
justable slide plate; I found it tough to get
comfortable due to my short legs. As I adjust-
ed the seat forward to reach the pedal, I put
myself too close to the steering wheel for
comfort. A fore-aft adjustable throttle plate
would solve this problem for like-sized
drivers.
A marine cassette stereo with four speak-
ers was a welcome option, and installation was
spot-clean. Mercury's flush side-mount con-
trol worked the big Merc's gearing, and a kill
switch was handily located on this control
housing.
Between the seats lies a small dry storage
compartment for sunglasses and other little
items. Just to the rear of that is a built-in cool-
er that's fully foam-insulated. Behind the cool-
er, the tournament-sized divided livewell is ac-
cessed through a double lid. Two large dry
storage lockers flank the livewell, and the rear
access lid covers the center-mounted 38-gal-
lon plastic fuel cell as well as the cranking
battery and trolling motor batteries. Since the
280 is a non-oil-injected outboard, there's no
oil reservoir; however, the space it usually oc-
cupies is taken up by the boat-mounted trim
pump, jackplate pump, and race-style fuel
pump with filter. Wiring in the rear compart-
ment could have been a bit tidier, as the wires
and hoses run unsupported throughout this area.

WORTH ThE GREEN?

The yellow rig, equipped with a Pinpoint high-
zoot trolling motor and Lightning Er propeller,
pegged our cash drawer at $38,263 with a cus-
tom dual-axle Boat Mate trailer. The price for
the new 28" Trophy was not available at test
time. The white rig with its 15" 2.5L EFI priced
out at $36,300; it was equipped with a Mo-
torguide 756 Brute troller. These prices came
straight from Valley Marine and David's Boats
& Stuff, so both rigs reflect actual "street"
prices.
Are they worth it? You better believe it.
These bass-battling rigs worked perfectly;
about the only downside was the aggressive
sound level of the unmuffled 2.5L outboards,
which might cause trouble on some protect-
ed waters. Other than that, the Strokers were
an absolute blast to drive.
The fisherman who owns one can rest as-
sured that his rig will be the performance king
of the lake. He'll get the maximum resale dol-
lar if and when he trades up. B&WB