How To Set Up A Jon Boat For Bass Fishing In 8 Steps

How to Set Up a Jon Boat for Fishing

When it comes to bass fishing the only boat that is better than a Jon boat is a bass boat. But a Jon boat has its own unique advantages when it has the correct set up. In this article we will show you how to set up your Jon boat to give you the best chance for success when bass fishing.

How To Set Up A Jon Boat For Bass Fishing

Start by attaching either permanent or removable rod holders to the side of the Jon boat.

You can add a casting deck with enclosed storage or simply stow storage units for gear and livewells for your catch. Bass fishing is done in reduced light so attach nav lights to the boat.

Ensure you have some form of manual propulsion for stealth, such as a paddle. Optional upgrades include pedestal seating and remote steering.

Why Jon boats are great for bass fishing

A Jon boat is perfect for bass fishing and is a much cheaper, alternative to a bass boat. What’s more a Jon boat has a few advantages over its much more expensive counterpart.

A Jon boat has a completely flat bottom which allows it to gain access to extremely shallow waters. The flat bottom and low freeboard on a Jon boat give it a very shallow draft. Waters that are only a few inches deep can easily be navigated with a Jon boat and a paddle or pole.

A bass boat on the other hand has a deeper draft and a more “v” shape to its bottom so it can’t access those extremely shallow waters that a Jon boat can.

A Jon boat is much, much lighter than a bass boat though both boats can be loaded and unloaded easily by one person.

The biggest difference between a bass boat and a Jon boat is the price.

 You can pick up an awesome Jon boat for a fraction of the cost of a bass boat. You can even convert a Jon boat to a full-on bass boat much cheaper than it costs to buy a bass boat new (more on that later).

So how do you set up a Jon boat for bass fishing?

The Basic 8 Step Jon Boat Bass Fishing Setup

Setting up your Jon boat for bass fishing does not require much more effort than it would to set it up for fishing any type of catch.

However, you will definitely want to include lights on your boat as fishing for bass is most successfully done in low light conditions.

Below are the main things you will need to add to your Jon boat to get it ready for a successful bass fishing trip.

1. Attach rod holders to the hull

Installing rod holders to your Jon boat is an obvious step in the setup process.

Many Jon boat owners will permanently affix rod holders to the interior sides of their boat but these days this is totally unnecessary, unless of course you want to do that.

There are rod holders that clamp onto the side of your boat so they can be easily removed and reattached when needed. Likewise you can also get rod holders that are attached via Velcro and I prefer these because they can be attached and unattached easily within seconds.

Don’t forget to carry a good quality net for netting the fish.

2. Include storage on the deck of the boat

You can create your own built-in storage units on your Jon, as we demonstrated how to do here, for gear, bait and catch or you can simply carry livewells and/or buckets.

If you decide to add a casting deck then you will need to ensure you incorporate storage into the design. Just follow our instructions on that (link given below) and you’ll be fine.

3. Navigation & search lights are essential

Bass are not exactly nocturnal fish but they sure aren’t big fans of the midday sun. During the hours when the light is brightest and the sun is hottest it can be difficult to locate bass as they head for shelter.

For this reason most bass fishing is done during the very early morning hours and late evening hours when the light is only coming up or fading.

Be aware that if your Jon boat is fitted with an outboard motor then you are legally required to fit it with navigation lights – unless you are boating on your own private waters.

You will also want to add some type of deck light or handheld search light not only to spot fish in the distance but to also see where you are going on the water.

We have a full guide on buying Jon boat lights if you want more details on this.

4. Adding an optional casting deck to the boat can make casting off & storage easier

Adding a casting deck to your Jon boat is purely optional but it does make storage more organized and allows for easier movement on the boat when fishing.

Although adding a casting deck to a small boat will often make it tippy this is not a problem with a Jon boat due to its flat bottom and superior stability. Be aware that adding a casting deck to your Jon boat will reduce the amount of passengers it can carry though.

Adding a casting deck is relatively easy. If you are interested in this conversion simply follow our instructions here.

5. Installing swivel seating can help when casting off & give a better view when fishing

Although you can just as easily fish for bass from the standard bench seating in a Jon boat why not consider an upgrade?

I would suggest you add two different types of seats.

The first is a low back seat that can be attached directly onto the bench. It can also be attached to the bench via a small pedestal so it can swivel.

This offers a lot more comfort and allows for freer movement when working the tiller.

The second upgrade I would suggest you consider is adding one or two high swivel pedestal seats – just like those on a bass boat.

High pedestal seats will give you better vantage and the ability to cast off while remaining seated.

If you choose to convert your Jon boat to a bass boat then pedestal seats are must-have items.

Bass boat seating on a Jon boat
Bass boat pedestal seating on a Jon boat

6. A fish finder is optional but can increase your catch

Fish finders are now relatively cheap and very easy to install on a Jon boat.

As bass tend to feed in the shallows a fish finder is not totally necessary for bass fishing but they are handy and for the low price I think they are wroth it.

Apart from that, you may not always be fishing for bass or other shallow water fish!

7. Upgrade your outboard motor

You will need both an outboard motor of appropriate size and at least one form of manual propulsion.

Adding a tiller propelled trolling motor will give you more than enough power and control to reach fishing grounds quickly.

It will also give you the ability to move from one fishing spot to another over large distances.

However, only using an outboard motor will be detrimental to your catch count. When approaching bass fish you need a bit of stealth.

Bass swim in the shallows when hunting for food and are easily alerted to motorized boats. So. you should carry some form of manual propulsion for approaching the fish quietly.

A paddle works fine in most waters but when you are moving through very shallow areas you may want to use a pole so you can punt the boat forward.

8. Consider adding remote steering

Some Jon boat owners will add a remote steering mechanism to their outboard motor so they can seat more centrally in the boat.

Of course this is not at all a necessity but it is something you can do yourself at home when you have a spare day to hand.

If you would like to add remote steering to your Jon boat and trolling motor we showed how to do that here.

If You’d Prefer A Full Blown A Jon Boat To A Bass Boat – Read This

If you want to go all the way with your setup and create a kick-ass bass boat consider a full Jon boat to bass boat conversion. There are many benefits to doing this.

Benefits of converting a Jon boat to a bass boat include:

  • A Jon boat has a shallower draft so can access shallower areas than a bass boat.
  • A Jon boat is more stable in calm water than a bass boat.
  • A Jon boat is much, much cheaper to buy than a bass boat.
  • Even a full conversion from Jon boat to bass boat will work out thousands of dollars cheaper than buying a bass boat new.
  • A Jon boat converted to a bass boat has all the same functionality as a store-bought bass boat.

We have detailed instructions that show you how to convert a Jon boat to a bass boat and if you want to go the whole hog and create a bass boat for a fraction of the cost of a new one you should read that article.

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