What Is A Jon Boat? Should You Buy It?

What Is A Jon Boat? Should You Buy It?

A jon boat is a flat-bottomed boat constructed of aluminum, fiberglass, wood, or polyethelene with one, two, or three seats, usually bench type. They are appropriate for cruising, hunting, and fishing.

The nearly flat hull of a jon boat tends to ride over the waves rather than cut through them as a V-hull might; this shallow draft – only a few inches – enables the jon boat to operate in very shallow water, but limits its use to calm waters.

Normally, jon boats have a transom where an outboard motor can be mounted. Despite having many upgrade options, they are simple, affordable, and easy to maintain. Live wells/bait wells, side or center consoles, factory-installed floors and decks, electrical wiring, accessory pads/mountings, and casting and poling platforms are examples of typical options.

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What Is A Jon Boat?

Fishermen, hunters, dock owners, owners of larger boats, and people looking for a cheap recreational boat to use in shallow and calm waters are all big fans of jon boats, also known as John Boats. However, what exactly is a Jon boat and how did it get its name?

A flat-bottomed boat called a jon is typically constructed out of wood, fiberglass, or aluminum. They will have bench seats, and the number of benches may range from one to three, depending on the size of the boat. They are perfect for use in calm, shallow waters because of their flat bottom design, and many of them are equipped with outboard motors.

A jon boat’s flat bottom allows it to float on top of the water rather than cutting through it like a v-shaped hull boat would. The ribs are exposed due to their open hull and lack of a bilge, though if you’d like a more stable standing area, a deck can be installed over the ribs.

What Makes It A “Jon Boat”?

The name’s etymology is not supported by any concrete evidence. The precise origins of the name “Jon boat” have been lost to the passage of time.

There are a few theories that are more plausible than others, though.

For instance, we know that flat-bottomed boats were frequently used in the Ozarks’ lakes during the late 1800s. Their widespread use was made possible by how simple they were to operate in the shallow waters of the Missouri Valley.

These early versions of what we now know as Jon boats were made out of pine and green wood and frequently only ever used once because of how simple and inexpensive the construction was. The boat could be easily discarded after traveling downstream.

But what about the name—why is it referred to as a Jon boat?

Well, one theory that makes sense is that the vessel’s construction was made of jack pine wood. It’s possible that the name Jack eventually changed to John, then Ozark John Boat, and finally Jon without the apostrophe and without the Ozark naming.

Another hypothesis that isn’t too dissimilar from the one we’ve already discussed is that people began referring to these boats as “flat-bottom skiffs.” Again, that occurred in The Ozarks in the early 1900s.

When we think of a Jon boat today, we can imagine it being made entirely or mostly of wood, fiberglass, or aluminum.

Who Was The Jon Boat’s Inventor?

While the exact inventor of the Jon boat is unknown, Charles Barnes should be mentioned.

Barnes, who was born in 1878 in Galena, Missouri, contributed to the development of the Jon boat that we are all familiar with and adore today. He was an avid floater, river guide, and builder of Jon boats. His work has been featured in magazines like Life, National Geographic, and the Kansas City Star.

His son Bill Barnes, who still has newspaper clippings and press coverage from decades ago featuring Charles and his Jon boat adventures, is carrying on his legacy today.

Charles might have created the Jon boat in 1904, according to one of the scrapbooks’ clippings. Bill stated the following when questioned:

What Are The Uses Of Jon Boats?

They were employed for float fishing, duck hunting, and carrying timber in the early 1900s. They were popular with early tourists to The Ozarks because their flat bottoms made it easy for them to fish while standing up with less risk of the boat tipping.

The usage hasn’t changed over time, with tourists who want an easy-to-handle boat and fishermen (and women) in lakes now making up the majority of Jon boat users.

They are excellent as an all-purpose boat, to put it simply.

In fact, you can find them in marinas and docks where they allow boaters to move equipment, repair docks, inspect boats and walls, and install swim ladders. See more about What Is A Deck Boat?

A Jon Boat Weighs How Much?

Interested in knowing the weight or size of a Jon boat?

Everything depends on how long your boat is and what gear and accessories you have onboard, like an outboard motor.

Nevertheless, the following very general rules are provided:

  • 10 Foot: 130 pounds (59kg)
  • 12 Foot: 170 pounds 77kg)
  • 14 Foot: 275 pounds (125kg)
  • 16 Foot: 525 pounds (238kg)
  • 18 Foot: 880 pounds (440kg)
  • 20 Foot: 1,200 pounds (544kg)

How Long Is A Jon Boat?

If you purchase a jon boat from a manufacturer, the length will range from 8 feet to 20 feet. The length is entirely up to you if you decide to build your own Jon boat, which is something that many people do.

Because of their straightforward design, jon boats are among the simplest small fishing boats to construct.

What Is A Jon Boat Should You Buy It
What Is A Jon Boat? Should You Buy It?

A Jon Boat’s Width

If you shop commercially (i.e. not custom-made Depending on the type (Jon boats), their width will range from 32 to 56 inches.

How Can A Jon Boat Be Equipped For Fishing?

Although they can be used for fishing, these boats are known as utility boats. A common sight at marinas is a jon boat, which is a great vessel for moving equipment, repairing docks, inspecting retention walls, and installing emergency swim ladders before the season begins. A jon boat could be made fishing-ready with a few straightforward modifications, like the installation of rod holders, coolers, and comfortable swivel chairs.

Pros Of A Jon Boat

The primary benefit of jon boats is their affordability, which is also one of the main factors contributing to their extreme popularity. Small jon boats are available for a few hundred dollars, not a few thousand.

  • Many can fit in a pick-up truck bed or on a roof rack, and even the larger models are light enough to be pulled by the smallest tow vehicles.
  • In some cases, all you’ll need to power them is a set of oars or a cheap battery-operated electric trolling motor. And if a gasoline outboard is required, their light weight and flat bottoms make them easy to launch with little power.

When you combine all of these costs, it’s clear that Jon boats are not only affordable to purchase but also have very low ownership costs for things like fuel and storage costs.

Jon boats are essentially maintenance-free due to their simplicity. They typically have few or no moving parts, so there aren’t any accessories to break. A jon boat can be cleaned up easily by simply blasting it with the hose and giving it a quick swipe with a scrub brush.

A jon boat is an excellent option for those who prefer to fish in shallow water because of its small size and light weight. Because jon boats have a small draft compared to many other boat designs, whether you prefer freshwater or saltwater fishing, you can gain an advantage.

Cons Of A Jon Boat

Naturally, there are some drawbacks to jon boats, just like with other boat types. The biggest one, according to many, is a lack of creature comforts. A jon boat is, keep in mind, essentially just a hull with ribs and bench seats. The exposed ribs can be tripping hazards and make it difficult to stow large items like coolers and tackle boxes neatly after a long day on the water. Many people deal with this problem by slightly customizing their jon boats, frequently over time to spread out the cost, by including things like swivel seats, fishing rod holders, cup holders, carpeting, or even decking.

The flat hull of jon boats is yet another drawback. Yes, it provides the boat with a shallow draft, increases stability, and requires little power to plane. When there are waves, a flat bottom, however, frequently results in a bumpy, wet ride.

Despite the fact that a flat bottom optimizes stability for a boat’s size and weight, a jon boat’s inherent lightness can make stability a drawback. On larger models, this is typically not a problem, but on very small jons, like those measuring 10 or 12 feet, standing up and moving from the bow to the stern can be at best challenging.

There are some additional things to think about if you plan to leave the boat in the water at a dock for an extended period of time. Consider that most jon boats do not “self bail” (shed water that falls onto the deck by draining out through gravity-fed scuppers), so leaving one in the water necessitates installing a bilge pump and/or constant tending. Additionally, the metal hull of all aluminum boats is susceptible to galvanic corrosion, which can be destroyed by using the wrong bottom paints on a Jon boat. For these reasons, you should use the proper bottom paints.

Anglers in particular should be aware of a few additional features of jon boats.

  • They are very easily blown across the water’s surface due to their light weight and flat bottom, which can be a problem if you’re trying to control your drift or keep the boat on a hotspot.
  • Don’t forget that a bare aluminum hull transmits sound through the water very effectively, and dropping something in the bottom or dragging a tacklebox over a rib can frighten nearby fish; many anglers solve this problem by decking or carpeting the bottom of the boat.

Why The Jon Boat Is So Popular

Why then has demand for Jon boats on American rivers, creeks, ponds, and lakes increased, if not remained constant?

Shallow Water Warrior

Anglers are fond of mentioning “skinny water” or the shallows, which seem to enhance their fishing experience. Hunters frequently find themselves chasing prey into shallow waters. It is in these situations where a Jon boat comes into its own

The Jon boat is comfortable in water that is only a few inches deep due to its flat-bottomed hull’s extremely shallow draft.

As an illustration, the shoreline at the water’s edge can conceal hidden hazards to watercraft present in the river or lake bottom, such as boulders, buried tree stumps, and sand banks, etc. all of which are treacherous ground for ‘Therefore, a flat bottom Jon boat is the best option for navigating these kinds of potentially dangerous environments.

Jon boats are tough enough to handle most bumps and scrapes given their sturdy construction, even if they were to come across such challenging underwater terrain.

Ultimate Small Utility Boat

Of course, people who use a Jon boat are not just hunters and fishermen. Because of their adaptability, these all-purpose boats are well known.

They can also be very customized, which makes them a formidable and serious contender to perform tasks requiring water that larger vessels simply cannot.

Jon boats have been used for fishing, hunting, recreational vacationers, water sports, and even Jon boat racing because of their unmatched strength, incredible lightness, and rock-solid durability.

They are frequently used to ferry people and goods across waterways, earning them the nickname “the workhorse of the waters.”

The Jon boat is arguably the ideal American small utility boat because it can be altered in an infinite number of ways.

A Great Platform For Water-based Hunting

Hunter types are made of the same stuff as fishermen; either they’re talking about the sport or they’re in the reeds, jostling the branches of low-hanging trees and acting all commando in the shallow waters in an effort to gain that extra inch to get nearer to their prey.

Once more, a Jon boat may prove to be crucial. For all the reasons outlined above, a Jon boat is far superior to other boat types for water-based hunters. So it should come as no surprise that their beloved Jon boat is the vessel of choice for housing these wilderness adventurers.

A Jon boat is the ideal water-based platform to offer everything the intrepid hunter requires. A Jon boat can provide stealth, silence, and agility when necessary, allowing one to approach prey that are concealed among shoreline habitat or swamp root systems.

Getting as close to one’s prey as possible is undoubtedly advantageous to a hunter, and a Jon boat provides that opportunity.

It’s possible to need a lot of equipment and additional four-legged companions when hunting. Therefore, as described here, be sure to be aware of your boat’s weight capacity.

Fantastic For Freshwater Fishing In Shallow Waters

Because a Jon boat is an excellent tool for participating in one of the most popular sports and pastimes in the world, fishing, it is often said that it was a fisherman who invented the Jon boat, despite the fact that many would disagree.

Given the wide variety of accessories that fishermen use to customize their vessel, it is likely that no two fishing Jon boats are constructed in the same way. When a Jon boat is transformed into a personal fishing vessel, it is made to meet the needs of the user and to complement a particular fishing technique.

A Jon boat is without a doubt the true fisherman’s friend, whether you’re fishing for bass in shallow water or in open waters.

The sturdy, inexpensive jon boats are ideal for fishing in confined areas.

Why not join a local boat club where they have the facilities to offer some tuition and boat hire for some basic instruction on how to handle a Jon boat and to learn a little more about boating in general. It’s a fantastic way to get your boating career started and introduces you to like-minded fishermen and boating enthusiasts.

Why Buy A Jon Boat?

Prices for these boats range widely. In almost any price range, there are affordable jon boats available. These are a great way to try out boating and fishing without breaking the bank. If you choose a jon boat, you will discover that it is one of the best ways to begin boating and fishing. Jon boats are a great way to spend a fun day on the water because of their flat, stable bottom.

Which Kind Of Jon Boat Should You Buy?

Despite the fact that Jon boats are known for having flat bottoms, there are some variations on the style. Both modified v-shaped hulls and tunnel hulls are used in some.

What should you purchase, then?

If necessary, you can pull the outboard motor up on jon boats with tunnel hulls. This is caused by the confined space that rises from the hull’s base.

This image demonstrates how simple it is to lift the outboard motor and maneuver it around obstructions.

Having this capability gives you much more control over the motor, allowing you to lift it up and clear common obstacles like rocks and logs.

Advice From Experts

Consider the various hull types used in a jon boat, according to experts. Tunnel hulls are available on some boats. Despite the fact that jon boats are known for having flat bottoms, some of the most well-liked designs have tunnel hulls. If necessary, an outboard engine can be pulled up using the tunnel hull, a small area that curves up from the base of the hull. Accidents, like running over a log, can harm outboard engines and necessitate the repair and rebalancing of the propeller. This could be avoided.

On rougher waters, modified V-hull jon boats are effective. A modified V-hull might be your best bet if you want to use your jon boat on rivers or lakes where there might be more chop to contend with. Instead of the conventional flat bottom of a jon boat, this design features a V area in the front of the hull. Realistically, a jon boat might not be the best choice if you intend to go boating on waters with moderate wave action. If you want more cutting action through deeper waters, you might want to consider a boat with a V-hull.


As you might have guessed, I love pontoon boats, which is why I started this website. Nevertheless, as time went on, I began to write articles about a variety of boats I own and use, with Jon boats being a particular interest.

With any luck, you now have a solid understanding of what a Jon boat is and why it has that name.

If you’re looking for Jon boat accessories, information, or additional hints and tips, please browse the rest of the website.

I appreciate you reading.