Trickin' Out a Jon Boat - Part 1

Bass boats rule the warm waters of North America. Powered by 250 smokin' horses these highly evolved watercraft blister across the lakes of Southern Canada and the United States making bass tremble in their scaly skin. Anglers who troll for trout and fish the ocean also shell out thousands of dollars for boats that keep getting bigger and faster in an effort to get that "edge" on the fish.

But what about the small bodies of water? Sure boats capable of lifting passengers right out of their seats with their sheer speed work great on the massive reservoirs, lakes, and rivers around the continent, but what about the ponds and small lakes with primitive launches? Cue the small watercraft.

Dinghies, canoes, and tin boats can be found in most of the garages in this great land. Many have seen their fair share of action and their fair share of fish. However, many of these are fished exactly as when they were pulled off the Canadian Tire parking lot, with no modifications. While that works just fine and dandy there are many ways to modify small watercraft into fishing machines.

A fishing machine. This is my 10 foot jon boat before being modified. It has a 32 inch hull width and tips the scales at a measly 80 pounds.

There is no small watercraft more versatile than the jon boat. Originally made popular by duck hunters, these flat-bottomed, stable boats are perfect for casting out of and can handle up to three fishermen comfortably. They are the perfect boat for anglers targeting bass and panfish in small bodies of water, and work equally as well for fly-fishermen fishing in ponds and lakes for trout. As divergent as these two types of fishing are, they both benefit from the same type of boat modifications.

Getting Started

Step one is buying the boat. If you already have one, then feel free to skip ahead. If not, here's a quick guide to help you find the rig for your type of fishing.

If you own a truck and want a jon boat you can fit in the box, go with a 10 footer. This allows you to avoid having to buy trailer insurance, and allows you to pull a travel trailer. There are different types of racks with allow you to mount larger boats on your vehicle up to 12 footers, but a 10 foot jon boat is perfect for two anglers.

If you generally fish with more than one other person, you'll want a bigger boat. 14 footers can fish three anglers comfortably and are very spacious. However, they are a lot heavier so they can be tougher to get into primitive lakes which don't have a good launch. Speaking from experience, having to carry a big jon boat can be a massive pain in the neck AND back. Avoid if you plan on targeting areas with difficult access.

Here are some rough specs:

Length - Weight - Cost

10 foot - 80 pounds - $700 to $900 (Canadian)
12 foot - 120 pounds - $800 to $1000
14 foot - 200 pounds - $1000 to $1200

Picking a Motor

This 40 pound thrust bow mount is the perfect match to my 10 foot jon.

Jon boats and electric motors go together like catfish and stinkbait. There are a few options for rigging a motor on a jon boat, and you'll have to decide which you're going to go with.

Option 1: Two Electrics
This option includes a bow mount electric on the front of the boat, and a stern mount on the back. The bow mount is to be used while fishing, while the stern is used to get you to the spot. Using both at once can add a couple MPH to your speed. I have seen this used effectively by bass fishermen in the Lower Mainland.

Option 2: Electric and Gas Combo
This option includes a smaller gas motor (9.9 or less) and either a bow or stern mount electric motor. The kicker motor allows you some speed to move around to your fishing spots if you are fishing a larger body of water. The electric allows you to quietly move around in pursuit of fish. If you ask me the bow mount is a better deal as it allows you to fish as you power the motor with your foot.

Of course, there is the option of only going with one motor. If this is your situation, a bow or stern mount electric motor is a good choice for smaller bodies of water and types of fishing where you will be doing mostly casting. If you will be mostly trolling or have a fair bit of mileage to cover, you will be better off with a gas motor.

Here's a breakdown of the ideal motor power for each size of jon boat:

10' - 30 to 40 lb thrust
12' - 38 to 55 lb thrust
14' - 55 lb thrust

10' - 4 to 6 hp
12' - 4 to 7.5 hp
14' - 6 to 9.9 hp

That's it for part 1. In part 2 we will discuss adding a hand-made deck to your jon boat. Stay tuned!

Click here to see part 2!

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