Jake Powell has always been a diehard hunter and angler. From as early as he can remember, waterfowl hunting has been a lifelong passion. By turning loose his metal fabrication skills in order to build the figurative better mousetrap, Powell found a way to channel his passion into a career. It all began with some arduous days in the duck slough, struggling with getting boats in and out of shallow mud.
“I've had a lot of big mud boats, 15-18 foot flat-bottom-type hulls with highly modified big block surface drive mud motors," Powell said. "I went through a few of those. We would end up putting ATV winches on the front of the big mud boats to sometimes just get them on and off the trailer, through a ditch or wherever these bad spots happened to be. Regular boat landings sometimes just weren't an option. When hunting with friends we’d take digger-type anchors and drag them out in the slough connected to the winch cable and have a guy stand on them and winch our boats out from being stuck or simply just trying to get to the water. It just got to a point where I needed something small and light weight motor and boat wise, so each guy could have his own 'mini mud boat.' So I made the first PPF (Powell Performance Fabrication) Mud Motor prototype, one to keep and one to sell to pay for the parts on my personal one. But there was so much interest that I sold them both soon after I posted the first one on Craigslist.”
Powell started making more and the demand kept pace with production. For two years, Powell sold his creations on Craigslist. With steady work in his shop near Hook Lake, north of Hutchinson, he decided to switch things up and tinker with something lighter. He knew he had a hit.
“The current version, the lightweight ‘PPF Wood Duck 6.5hp’ model, is what I’m still selling today, nearly 8 years later," he said. "It’s been a full-time gig ever since. I’ve done a few fabrication odds and ends, but now I kind of get to pick my battles.”
Powell gave up his big mud boats, opting to move around in a bunch of smaller boats complete with his signature mud motors. All that remains for big boats is an 18-foot Lund, ready to deploy on diving duck water where a mud motor isn’t a necessity.
Shallow drafting and long shafted mud motors are nothing new to the sport of waterfowling. PPF Mud Motors entered a crowded market. Hunters have long appreciated the ability to get to hard-to-reach places with mud motors. Their obvious advantage is the unparalleled access they offer.
“You can get into places that would otherwise be off-limits for a big boat and trailer with a normal outboard motor,” Powell said. “Outboard motors are water cooled so if you get into the mud/sand and plug your water intake or cooling system, the motor will eventually overheat and if you don't catch it you will be paying your mechanic to re-build your engine."
The weight savings is where Powell has an edge over his heavier and bulkier competitors.
“I designed these motors to be simple, light weight and have maximum portability,” Powell explained. “You can take the whole motor off the transom with a quick pull of a hitch pin and easily throw it in your truck, haul it to the garage, or even just walk it to the water's edge.”
The engine itself is the bulk of the weight, but Powell allows his customers to put whatever engine they want on their mud motor. He sells primarily the Briggs and Stratton Predator and some Honda GX200s. He offers a few options with all the engines producing 8-9.5 feet/pounds of torque. For hunters with an engine in hand, Powell does offer just the frame kit.
Each motor takes Powell 4-5 hours of custom work to build with CNC-made parts and precision welds. The result is a machine that can take you into the gnarliest places.
“A PPF Mud Motor can go through mud, sand, rocks, weeds, logs," Powell said. "They are pretty bulletproof. You can get into the coolest places. I got permission to hunt a flooded field over a dike that would have just been unreachable without a PPF mud motor. There are endless possibilities. You can go through a lot of shallow water that you just couldn’t with anything else. It’s just nice to know you can get in and out and be able to take it on and off with ease. You have some piece of mind and you have some options. The Wood Duck takes up very little space, so if you head out of town on a field hunting trip it's easy to toss the motor in the trailer with a little boat and then your back-up plan is covered.”
Now a proud father of an 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, Powell doesn’t hunt the full 60-day Minnesota duck season like he used to, but gets in his fair share of hunts with friends and family.
Powell’s motors have caught the eye of hunters, guides, and backwater river rats across the country. Business remains brisk, with just enough freedom and flexibility to let Powell take some time to put his products to the test.
“Now if I get stuck, it’s operator error and not the equipment,” he said with a laugh.