Why not a Jon Boat?

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Kerry makes me feel inadequate and I have a lot of boats. Two tubes, Scadden Assault, 12' Saturn raft, 14' cataraft and 14' Livingston for the salt. I think this covers most of what I need. I use the 12' Saturn raft in place of a pram/jon boat like craft. Jesse, I like your thoughts on the features that a jon boat should have though. Good luck finding one for a good day long test.


Active Member
Have you looked at a porta bote? The make a 12 and 14 footer. http://www.porta-bote.com/dimension.php
I have had the 10 foot model for 7 years now, and am very pleased.
Slippery/easy to drag through the woods or up a steep launch. Folds flat for easy storage or transport on a roof rack, leave truck bed free for other gear.
Really stable. I am 6ft 195lbs with pretty poor balance and am comfortable standing and casting from the 10 footer in waves.
Breaks down into pieces, each of which is light. Easy to throw hull alon on top of vehicle.
Lots of mounting points for accessories.
Plastic much more quiet than aluminum and not as cold to the touch.
The freeboard is a little low. Just gotta be aware of conditions. Bigger lengths likely float a little higher when loaded.
Setup takes a few minutes. Have to wrestle with stiff hull when it's cold. Have to keep a box of bolts, washers, and wingnuts to secure the transom. You can always leave it set up if you have room.
The "keel" that covers the seam along the bottom of the boat started to wear out after a season or two. I made another one out of slotted pvc pipe and used a mallet to slide it over the original. Works fine.

They come up on Craigslist pretty often, but mostly in 10ft lengths.

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
A half dozen years ago I got a screaming deal on an elderly used 10 foot jon boat. But after a couple seasons, it's shortcomings began to outweigh it's advantages and I ended up selling it.

Why? Although the boat was light enough for me to load and unload from my pickup alone, the rowing position was so high that the oars rubbed across the top of my thighs on the backstrokes. The freeboard was a scant 7-8 inches with just me aboard, less than 6 inches with an adult passenger. On choppy water, the occasional whitecap would break across the gunwales, pooling in the bottom of the boat. Even with Astroturf carpet, dropping a reel or a fly box would produce a resounding 'BONG!' that could be heard across the lake (and probably beneath it as well).

Like others here, I've got my share of float tubes (4), pontoons (2 frames and 3 tube sets), plus a WaterMaster. But there are certain lakes and conditions where a hard-hulled boat makes sense. For me it probably won't be another jon boat though. If cost were no object and I really needed a boat, I'd take a hard look at the Koffler Rocky Mountain Trout boat or the Endure 12' Hybrid.

It's a lot easier to just plan on running an electric or little 2-6 hp gas motor on a jon.

I had a 1436 with an 18 hp 'Rude and it would do 32 mph with just me in it. (12-13 mph (iirc) with the 8 hp Merc) If you can find one that is 48 across the bottom...the extra width makes all the difference in the world.
I've rowed both prams and jon boats. Never found a difference in rowing performance. I use a 14 footer a lot. The boat gets filled with the beer cooler, my wife, and two dogs, one about 60 pounds and the other 125. Still not a problem rowing and not a problem with freeboard even when the big dog wants to see what you've caught and leans hard on the gunwale.
I can relate to your search for the right boat. I used tubes for years, and still have one but have used it only once in the last 10 years. I also used an inflatible for years. Then I started building wooden boats as a hobby and have built couple of double ended rowboats, three 9-10' prams, a rowing "canoe" and a 12' round bottom pram. I also restored a 1955 18' George Calkins cabin cruiser, and put a 35 horse Honda on it. Most of them turned out ok and I still have most of them, but find that I use the 12' round bottom pram 90 % of the time. The reason is that it is a generalist, and does what I need it to do well enough: it is a semi-planing design and rows well enough but is also fast enough with an 3 1/2 HP 4-stroke; it is big enough for 2-3 people, but light enough to handle easily (I don't car top it anymore though); it is seaworthy enough for the water I fish, but stable enough to stand up in the fly cast. I mainly use it in lakes, but have floated quite a few rivers in it, and once fished it out of Neah Bay (where it felt very, very small). I don't know of any production boats that are similar to mine but if you do woodworking at all there are plans and maybe kits for boats that might suit your needs if you don't find what you want ready made.
I'm not into marathons, but if you got over this way I could meet you on a lake.

Vladimir Steblina

Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working
Vlad why does the wind effect a jon any more than a equal length pram?


The jon boats are much heavier than a pram so in the wind you get that inertia effect. A jon boat pushed by the wind tends to stay in motion!! So it is much harder to turn, etc with oars in the wind. I suppose if you have an electric motor this is not an issue.

You really notice the difference in gusty situations.

IF I lived on a lake I would consider jon boat. IF I mostly fished lakes with launch ramps of some sort, I would consider a jon boat on a trailer. Of course, I would also need a covered parking for the trailer so I did not have to break down and move gobs of stuff everytime.

In the long run, it really depends on the type of fishing you do most often and where and how you store you boat.

I do know a guy with four different types of boats and it does work for him. He fishes with everything, but a float tube. Never seen him in one of those.

this guy has some good comments. I have a tiny electric motor and it moves my pram faster than it needs at SLOWEST speed.

"Two advantages of a good pram over a jon boat: First, many prams are designed for rowing and jon boats usually aren't. Even if you don't row, prams move very nicely with a small electric motor. Second, they are likely to be more seaworthy, as most job boats are flat bottomed and low sided with little flare. These may or may not be problems, depending on where and when one fishes. "

Dale Dennis

Formally Double-D
Nice Dragons Jeff….Personally I would not own and Jon boat, Jon boats typically have a flat bow (not the compound V as shown in Jeffs BC photos) and will have an annoying slap..slap..slap in addition they are narrow and tippy if your set on a Jon boat get the widest you can find. On two different occasions over the years I have pulled fisherman from the water when their Jon boat flipped over because of a wrong move.
The jons I am looking at have a 36" wide bottom and a beam of 56" There is a model that is 48" bottom width and over 70" beam (14' long)
But when I looked at it it looked huge!!I just can't imagine the 36" model being unstable but I am not going any further with my research until I have a chance to get one or two on the water in real fishing conditions.
Thanks for the responses.