Backwater SWOMP LITE GLIDER KIT for 12-16 HP Review

The final review for the Backwater Swomp Lite Glider Kit for 12-16 hp Engines.

As with past reviews, this review was broken down into a couple of sections:

  1. Packing and Unboxing
  2. Assembly
  3. Water Test
  4. Conclusion

Backwater SWOMP Lite Glider Kit – Assembly Article | Water Test Article | YouTube Videos of it ALL

Unboxing and Assembly of the Backwater Kit: 10 out of 10 = Great

Unboxing – 10 out of 10.

Great packing. One big box. Backwater had the parts in individual boxes that lined one side of the package while the other side of the box had the shaft that was spray foamed in place. All the space was used and nothing was going to move around. The cardboard was heavy-duty, stapled, and taped well. There was very little chance of the Backwater Swomp Lite Glider Kit getting damaged in shipping. So packaging wise, the Backwater kit was great, 10 out of 10.


For assembly, I would say it was 7 out of 10.

For a kit designed to fit this size engine (13hp predator), I’m surprised I had to do the work I had to do to get it to fit. When I purchase a kit, I would think that the kit would be designed for the most common engine in its class. The 13hp Predator engine is that engine. 95% of people use that for the 12 to 16hp range. With that being said, the kit should be designed to fit that engine. I shouldn’t have to modify my engine to fit the kit. Having to do that rubbed me the wrong way. So to break down the assembly, here are a few things;


  • Being required to cut the output shaft of the most popular, highest used engine did not make any sense to me. To be able to do this, you need some means of cutting a 1” solid steel rod. This would be an angle grinder with a cutting wheel or you may be able to use a sawzall. So you need special tools and some experience, or, a friend that has both to be able to cut the output shaft on your engine.

Negatives continued…

  • Another thing about cutting the output shaft on your engine is that you need to cut it at the proper length. You have a gauge that gives you the proper length, but you won’t know for sure until you assembly the coupler housing onto the engine and measure the inner shaft sticking out the end of the longtail where the prop slides on. If you didn’t cut the correct length, you have to take the coupler housing and shaft back off the engine and cut more off the output shaft of the engine. If you cut too much, you need to leave that much of a gap depending on your measurements. Some people have avoided cutting the output shaft by putting a spacer plate in between the coupler housing and engine. You would need to buy longer bolts and I do not know how it would hold up or if it’s even safe. I cut about 1.25” off the output shaft so that would mean you would need a spacer at least 1” thick and that doesn’t seem all that safe to me.
  • Point number 3 is drilling through your transom to mount the transom bracket. Since I did not want to drill through my transom because I wanted to test other mud motors without having extra holes in my already weak transom, I asked if they had a clamp-on mount. They did, and I was able to use that. But normally they highly recommend their VERSA mount which requires you to bolt through your transom. This is fine if you plan to keep the kit and use it (and you should if you paid that much money for the kit) but it is an extra step that I haven’t had to do with any other mud motor kit so far.
  • It was a little tricky getting the pin through the coupler housing to mount it onto the transom bracket. The engine is heavy, and it’s near impossible to do by yourself. You will need a lift or another person to help you lift the engine, get it into place, and then balance it while trying to get the center pivot bolt through.

Both Negative and Positive: The tolerances are very tight on this backwater kit, so it makes it difficult to get the coupler and tail shaft onto the engine PTO shaft which makes assembly and removal a little difficult and time-consuming.



  • After cutting and getting the coupler housing attached to the engine and then getting the shaft to the correct length, the assembly was pretty smooth after that.
  • The tiller handle had the throttle lever and cable already assembled on to it, along with the safety kill switch. I just had to mount the tiller handle and then hook up the safety kill switch and throttle to the engine.
  • The instructions were good for the majority of the install, but in some places, were vague like the throttle cable connection and safety kill switch. I would hope that most people could figure out the throttle cable connection, but having pictures would help some not-so-mechanically-inclined people out there. Same for the kill switch. The kill switch wording is good but pictures go a long way with the wiring. And adding little tips like using a bunch of Lock Tite to the throttle connection on your engine where you use the screw to clamp the cable down really helps when you’re out on the water and the throttle cable screw loosens up and you lose the screw or can’t use the throttle on your tiller handle and have to operate it manually on the engine. It’s the small things.
  • The prop went on easy. With it being a straight hex shaft, the prop is held on there by two nuts. One nut goes tight up against the washer that is up against the prop and the second nut tightens up against the first nut to make sure that the first nut does not vibrate loose.
  • The Surface Tracer was different but was installed just fine but the instructions could have been improved on that also.
  • The transom bracket was SOLID and HEAVY. This was one thing that would not break… ever. 17lbs and it could grip what seemed to be a 3” or 4” thick transom. This would fit on any transom whether the transom was skinny or overbuilt.

Moving out of unboxing and assembly we get into trailering:

When trailer the first thing to touch on is that the engine and kit set up is pretty balanced if not more engine heavy, so it is very light on the tiller handle. The tail wanted to rise up and the tiller handle wanted to fall down. I trailer all mud motors with the prop inside the boat with the tiller handle sticking out the back with an orange/red flag on the tip of the handle. This Backwater kit makes it difficult because it adds stress to the strap because the tail is always trying to lift up. I’ve had the tail loosen the strap before where I had to pull over and tighten the strap again because it bounces so much. Just something I’m not used too and haven’t had good luck with when trailering. So securing the tail in a better-improvised way would be best.

This kit also has a lock position so it will stay center in the boat. This is a good safety feature and if you don’t like it, you can take out the pin. It is annoying to have the side safety pins but just another thing to get used too when swinging the tail into the boat when trailering.

Another thing is the skeg bounces on the edge of the seat. The other mud motor kits would sit on top of a seat or sit on the floor so with this one I have to build a rub stop to fit onto the skeg so that it doesn’t damage the edge of the seat.

trailering the backwater kit on 1436 boat

The First Water Test with the Backwater SWOMP Lite Kit

Here’s a quick summary;

  • I like the kill switch. Having the button to turn off the engine is a great feature. I like it.
  • The first pass I did I had a few issues.
    • Only got 15 mph.
    • LOTS of vibration in the handle
    • The static throttle lever was not working for me. It worked but was very uncomfortable
    • I was still trying to get use to the engine falling forward into the boat
    • and the prop was diving a little deeper than needed
  • I address the prop diving too deep by adding one shim to the Surface Tracer plate. That made the prop ride right below or at the surface of the water.
  • The 8×4 prop was governing out so that means I thought I could move up to a bigger prop. I was idling around 4mph @ 1200 RPMs, getting to 15mph @ 3800-3900 RPMs.

Backwater Inc Customer Service: Very Good

I got back in, sent an email with all the issues I was experiencing, and scheduled a phone call with Jake at Backwater.

I talked to him, discussed the issues I was having and these were the main points that were covered;

  1. He’s going to send out the 9×4 and 9×5 props to see if I could get some better speeds. He said the speeds I was getting are good speeds and are normal. With getting new props, this would also allow me to check and see if the vibration goes away which could be due to an improperly balanced prop getting two birds with one stone. If the vibration does not change, he said that the vibration would be caused by the engine at that point.
  2. He was also going to send me a new tiller handle with the paddle lever throttle instead of the static throttle lever.
  3. He also said that the engine is meant to go forward because that will act as the neutral if you wanted to keep the engine running. You can put the handle down, the prop will continue to run while pointed up, and when you are ready to run again, you pick up the tiller handle and put it in the water to run. He said you could make a shim if you wanted too and that way the tail would stay in the water.

So the customer service I experienced from Jake was very good. He was helpful and guided me through my questions.

Second Water Test with the Backwater SWOMP Lite Kit

I got the stuff in the mail and went out a second time to go test and put some hours on the kit

  • The paddle throttle lever was much better than the static throttle lever. It made it much easier to control the throttle lever and made handling and maneuvering the tiller much easier for me.
  • I was still getting a lot of vibration where my hand would be numb after 10 minutes of riding around and I was never able to fix that. This engine ran fine on other longtail mud motors. Some people in the comments section say that it is because the kit is put together with tight tolerances and is solid and does not allow for play and allows the vibration to travel to the tiller handle when compared to a “lower quality” kit where the tolerances are not as tight and the vibration is dampened before it gets to the tiller handle. Either way, I can not drive this kit for more than 10 minutes.
  • I tested the 9×5 prop first. I reached 3400 to 3500 RPMs, only got 15mph which was the speed I was getting with the 8×4. It handled the same as the 8×4 prop, just lower RPMs. So I gave the 9×4 prop a try.
  • The 9×4 prop gave me a little faster speed at 16mph, but I was still in that 3400 to 3500 RPM range. So the fastest I achieved with this kit was 16 mph.
  • I put a couple more hours on it at the expense of numbing my hand, taking a break to fish, running for 10 minutes again, and repeating.
  • I was able to run it through some grass. The Backwater kit handled it as expected. After watching Carson Keitt run his kit, I knew this Backwater kit would handle mud and grass. The tracer plate does catch some vegetation but nothing to worry about or at least with the stuff I went through. I didn’t run it slow at all so I do not know how this kit performs when you get stuck and you need to dig and grab. Most of the time I fly over grass with the Wetlander I have on the bottom of the boat. I’m almost never in a situation where I’m in thick mud or cutting new paths in 6 to 8-foot high marsh grass. I’m normally following the trails, in inches of water, and staying on plane or just running through tussocks that have 6 to 8 feet of water under them. So you shouldn’t have any issue with using it as a mud motor.

Final Conclusion on the Backwater SWOMP LITE GLIDER KIT for 12-16 HP

The Backwater swomp lite kit is a sturdy, solid built frame that is designed for gobbling up grass and chugging through mud, while also appearing to take abuse well.

It favors those who are not gear-heads, wrench-turners, or tinkerers, with having little to modify and few prop sizes to choose from. Speed is NOT a priority with this kit so do not set your expectations high in that category. If you want American Made and don’t mind paying the price tag for it, then this kit IS a solid consideration.

With previously testing other longtail mud motor kits, the Backwater has its advantages and disadvantages. It takes the coupler housing design from a Thai longtail and mixes it with the original American style longtail deriving from the GoDevil design with the shorter shaft and “cavitation plate”. Then once you get above the 16hp or 24hp kit, there is additional bracing of the shaft that makes it look more like the standard American style longtail.

If I am able to test any other American style longtails, I would like too, but as of right now it looks like the top two, highest performing single cylinder longtail mud motor KITS is between the Swamp Runner and the Backwater kit. And again I want to stress KIT (as in purchasing and assembling it yourself and not buying a motor already assembled with a mud motor where you have to pay the freight).

So stay tuned and keep an eye out for the videos that are posted on JTgatoring. There are plenty of other topics that still need to be covered with jon boats, mud motors, and the GREAT outdoor lifestyle. So consider subscribing, enjoy some of the other videos and articles here, and I’ll see you next time on JTgatoring!

FAQ about the Backwater Kit on YouTube Videos, and other social media posts;

So do you recommend a Backwater kit?

Yes and no. NO, if you have a single-cylinder engine (it vibrates too much). YES, if you have a v-twin engine and your boat bottom width is wider than 48-inches. If you have a v-twin engine and your boat bottom is 48-inches or less, I would save some money and get a Swamp Runner kit. You’ll get faster speeds, have some extra money in your pocket to upgrade your engine, and get access to an assortment of affordable props to find the best size for your boat setup.

When would you recommend a Backwater kit?

I would recommend a Backwater kit to someone for multiple reasons:

  1. Someone that wants to buy American made.
  2. Someone not worried about speed and is going to be using their setup in heavy timber where an 85″ longtail shaft can be cumbersome.
  3. Someone that lives in thick, heavy vegetation. This Backwater kit loves to eat up grass and did not have any issue with it. And I’m not talking about lily pads or hydrilla, any or most mud motors shouldn’t have any issue with handling that stuff. I’m talking about sawgrass and tall weeds. The kind of grass that’s so fibrous you can make rope out of it. These plants have a root base like a tangled, gallon jug-size ball of fishing line and a longleaf that will wrap and collect at the prop at the end of the shaft. Some mud motors will die in this stuff, some will make it work and struggle through it, and then you have the Backwater kit that eats through it and keeps asking for more. So if you don’t have much open water to travel through in a timely manner, and you spend more time in the backwoods then open water, then this kit will be a good choice.

Backwater or Swamp Runner Mud Motor?

With having a vibration issue with the Backwater kit and the Backwater kit getting slower speed, I would recommend the Swamp Runner kit over the Backwater kit for the 1436 jon boat and 13hp engine setup.

If I’m running a rocky river bottom, is a Backwater SWOMP Lite Glider Kit a good idea?

The Backwater kit is a solid built kit. For rocky environments, it should hold up. Having a stainless steel prop means the prop will last, but the drivetrain of the kit does not seem to have a weak point. Hopefully, the engine will just stall out when you hit something hard, but there is always the possibility of something failing inside the engine that puts you stranded in the water.

What speed do Backwaters get?

The Backwater SWOMP Lite Glider Kit for 12-16 HP engines is the kit I have. I got 15mph with an 8×4 prop and 16mph with a 9×4 prop. This is on a lightweight 1436 riveted jon boat with a stock 13hp predator engine.

Why is my Backwater kit slow?

The Backwater SWOMP Lite Glider Kit for 12-16 HP got me 15mph with an 8×4 prop and 16mph with a 9×4 prop. This is on a lightweight 1436 riveted jon boat with a stock 13hp predator engine. I used the same engine on a Swamp Runner mud motor kit and got a 23mph top speed. The shaft angle on the American style Backwater kit is more severe than the Thai style Swamp Runner kit. The Backwater kit has a shaft length of 55″ or 65″ while the Swamp Runner has a shaft length of 85″ or 100″. Prop design, hull design, and load also play into this equation.

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