It was one of those days that makes you feel glad to be alive: beautiful sunshine, a cloudless sky and a moderate breeze from tile southeast — just enough to ruffle the water. We fished two identical boats out of Naples on Florida’s southwest coast. This opportunity to profile identical boats with different engines promised to be of real interest.
The Mako 221 proved to be a stable driftfishing platform without much roll for a 22footer. Predictability — the characteristic I like best in a boat — was ill great evidence. There wasn’t a moment when the 221 didn’t do exactly what I expected. High-speed turns carve nicely without throwing you out of the cockpit, and the trim tabs make all the difference in the world. What a remarkably smooth ride when you drop that bow just a touch. In fact, tile range of tab adjustment is exceptional and not so responsive that you need to keep tapping the switch back and forth to get the running attitude you want. Rather, response is slow enough to be able to adjust efficiently. All in all, the Mako 221 offers a superbly dry, smooth ride.
As you might expect, when running a Mercury 150 OptiMax and a Merc 200 EFI Offshore side by side, the EF1 smoked on start-up, and the OptiMax didn’t. The EFI was also louder. Other differences included tile 2(X) sporting a prop with 2 inches more pitch than the t50, meaning it takes a bigger bite of the water, getting up on plane /aster and idling at a faster speed. In fact, the 200 proved to be too fast for trolling live halt.
I believe the emphasis on top speed is nothing more than a marketing gimmick for most boats, here’s why: I achieved a top speed of 44 mph on the 200 with a time to plane at a hair over two seconds. Top speed with the 150-hp engine was 40 mph, taking four seconds to plane. The 2(X) is noisier, less fuel-efficient and heavier. So for 4 mph you sacrifice a little time to plane and a lot of fuel. But here’s the interesting reality, check: You can cruise comfortably at 31 mph at 4,000 rpm with the 200 and 30.3 mph with the 150 — only 0.7 mph difference. Also, the ISO OptiMax will supply a 35- to 40-percent savings in fuel — double that at trolling speed — and uses half the oil. It seems a no-brainer that a 150, whether an OptiMax or standard engine, is the better choice for this Mako.
I believe the 221 provides as much working space as many 25-footers, thanks to the design of the transom and bow. On centerline, you can walk aft all the way to the engine since there’s no splashboard or enclosed transom. This certainly makes working a fish around the stem much easier. In addition, a sizable live well in the port aft comer keeps baits near enough at hand so you may not even need to move your feet to re-rig.
Forward, you’ll find a unique flip-up seat on centerline, bridging the gap between the two bow seats. This arrangement allows you to stand right up against the forward bulwark when chasing a fish. The seat, when folded up, rises above the branwale to just below your waist, making a great leaning post for fighting fish from the bow. I’d suggest a fastener of some sort to keel) it folded when you aren’t leaning against it. At other times, you can fold it clown to make a casting platform.
Under-gunwale rod storage comes up a tad short with space for only two rigs on each side. However, room for four in the leaning post, four ira the optional T-top and two ingunwale offers storage for a total of 14 rods, and any serious angler can certainly come up with more storage possibilities.
Generally, people like me (6 feet 4 inches and well over 200 pounds) find boats under 26 feet a mite uncomfortable due to limitations of scale. The Mako 221 was an exception. Even though the steering wheel didn’t tilt, I found the helm ergonomics very comfortable, providing plenty of room between wheel and helmsman. At the same time, there’s no sense of the leaning post taking up valuable cockpit space.
The Mako 221 also offers a surprising amount of d~’ storage space inside the console arid forward seats. A very shallow Lucite glove box on the console might handle some small flush-mounted electronics but will probably end up as a catch-all. I’d like to see a bit more toe space under the console. And for safety’s sake, I really hope Mako puts a grab rail on the helm console.
Mako’s reputation has withstood some tough times. Some years ago, Mako was considered the benchmark by which all offshore outboard fishing boats were measured. Mako can be proud that the quality of its hand-laid fiberglass construction, polyester resins and excellent gel-coats — along with an exceptional stringer system and hull-to-deck joint – has been brought back to its heyday level.