Both the Jon boat and the bass boat are excellent inland water fishing boats. If you are looking to take to the water for fishing expeditions then you may be in some confusion about which boat is best for the job. Although the boats may appear similar at first glance there are key differences between them that will probably make one boat the perfect choice for you and the other a bad choice.
Jon boat vs Bass boat, which is the best choice? Both a Jon boat and a Bass boat are excellent for fishing but are very different in design. A Jon boat has a shallower draft allowing for fishing in shallow waters while a bass boat has a v-hull allowing for use in rougher waters. Jons are more versatile being a great overall utility boat while Bass boats are less versatile but are better equipped for fishing.
Jon Boat vs Bass Boat
Owning a boat is a significant investment, not of money alone, but of time and heart. Finding your ideal boat can be difficult especially with so much with conflicting advice about and let’s face it, using a ‘trial and error’ approach is just out of the question due to the expenses involved.
Here we line up two of the most popular types of small fishing boat on the market – the Jon Boat and the Bass Boat. Let’s see how they measure up against each other so you can come to a solid decision about which boat is the ideal choice for getting you out on the water.
It is important to be clear about what you will require from your small boat.
Both Jon boats and bass boats offer similar advantages but have enough differences to make one ideal for specific water uses but a bad choice for others.
Both boats, when defined by length and weight, are considered small boats which are great for navigating near the shoreline or in inshore waterways, though a Jon boat will have some restrictions on its ocean-use as we outlined here.
Each boat can be easily towed with a boat trailer fitted to a standard vehicle.
These recreational boats are the ideal choice for anglers and anyone who wants a convenient way of boating without the costs of mooring or maintaining a larger vessel. The relatively simple design of both boats also affords the ability for them to be customised to your exact requirements.
If the main motor fails on either boat you can still get yourself home by using using manual propulsion, as long as you store a paddle aboard or have oars fitted to your vessel.
Key features and differences between a Jon Boat and Bass boat
Both boats have a similar design on first glance but upon closer inspection the differences become apparent.
The most important structural difference between a bass boat and a jon boat is the shape of the hull. A bass boat has a V-shaped hull which is suited to cutting through water and waves and moving at speeds even in fairly rough waters.
The v-shaped hull of a bass boat means it can be used in fairly rough waters.
However, you are restricted to the depth of waters you can navigate.
Jon boats are flat-bottomed boats which skim the surface of the water rather than cutting through like the bass boat.
The flat bottom hull design means a Jon boat offers a very stable and smooth ride, even at high speeds, on calm water.
The flat-bottomed hull of a Job boat means it can access extremely shallow waters.
It offers high speed and a smooth ride in calm waters but it is much less stable in rough water.
A bass boat also has an enclosed deck with a cockpit type design at the center where the main seats are located. Extra seating is usually available at either the bow or the stern (or both) of the boat for additional fishing points.
The closed deck will have 2 or more watertight compartments designed for holding gear and your catch.
A Jon boat has an open deck and usually offers much more seating space though it will usually have a lower maximum weight capacity.
Performance and construction
The bass boat was developed in the 1960s by a company now owned by Yamaha. It typically features a powerful outboard motor and may also be fitted with a trolling motor. The trolling motor means the boat can move quietly and slowly, making it ideal for angling.
The most popular bass boat models are made from aluminium but superior and lighter fibreglass models offer higher optimal speeds usually at a higher cost.
Jon boats also come in fiberglass with the most popular models being made from aluminum and will almost always be powered by a trolling motor or by some form of manual propulsion.
A jon boat is an excellent utility boat for calm inland water usage. It will offer improved performance in calm waters but if you use it in bad weather and choppy waves you run the risk of capsizing the boat. We have previously demonstrated how you can make a Jon boat more stable using buoyancy aids and if you plan to use a Jon boat in adverse weather opr choppy waters you may want to consider making some of those modifications.
Too much weight may also make the boat less stable and prone to taking on water if the wind picks up.
Both boats can be made from wood at home. View our instructions for making a wooden Jon boat here.
Handling and utility usage
Anglers and huntsmen ideally need a level surface from which they can cast off or shoot while standing or seated on the boat. Balance can be an issue especially with bass boats. The flat bottom of a Jon boat offers much more balance on calm water and thus a more stable surface to stand on. This is why customized Jon boats are very popular for bowfishing.
Jon boats are the workhorses of the water being in their element in very shallow waterways.
However, they can’t handle rough water well.
Most designs of both boats can be adapted with optimal swivel seating, decked areas and outboard motors. However, the Jon boat has a lower passenger/storage weight capacity than a bass boat of equivalent size although it usually has a greater seating area due to its open deck.
Jon boats offer superb navigation in shallow waters where a V-hull boat (such as a bass boat) can become severely damaged. Jon boats can access waters only 1 inch deep as long as you use a manual form of propulsion and keep your outboard motor rudder out of the water. This, along with their exceptional stability, make them very popular with duck hunters.
The V-hull of the bass boat means it can be used in a variety of weather conditions.
Although it can be used in inland shallow waters the hull design means you are restricted to waters that have sufficient enough depth for your boat type.
Bass boats are designed mainly for fishing and offer excellent waterproof and lockable storage for bait, tackle, rods, personal equipment and other accessories as well as room for your catch.
With Jon boats even the largest models can be purchased for well under $5000 new, with a wide variety of designs available. Jon boats can also be bought with pre-made customization mods such as a fitted bowfishing deck, oar locks and storage compartments to name just a few.
Price varies with the length of the vessel with the smallest 14’ Jon boats starting at approximately $2,000.
For savvy buyers a used Jon boats in good condition can be snapped up for as little as a few hundred bucks.
Aluminum hulls tend to be cheaper than fibreglass, though longevity is lessened and if you plan to use your Jon boat in the ocean (only under very specific conditions as we outlined here) then aluminum is a poor choice as salt water corrodes the metal.
Used models can change hands for as little as a few hundred dollars but be sure to check the boat properly to avoid buying a dud, which is all too common with first-time boat buyers. Follow our Jon boat buyers guide here – this advice applies equally as well to the purchase of a used bass boat so please read that article before parting with your money regardless of which boat you plan to buy!
Bass boats are certainly a step up in price starting at approximately $17,000 new and spiraling upward to tens of thousands of dollars depending on specification, length, size and the dealership you use.
Even when buying used these boats can be expensive.
Some of the largest high-spec fibreglass bass boats can easily hit the $70,000 mark. However, bass boats also have a fast moving used market with lots of boats on sale at any one time. Expect to pay $10,000+ for a decent used bass boat model but you will of course enjoy much more boat for your money. Just be sure to perform your buyer’s checks before you buy!!!
Depending on your budget and tolerance for personal customization work you may consider embarking on some DIY projects to upgrade your vessel of choice.
Customization is popular for owners of both jon boats and bass boats. Custom seating and carpeting are common upgrades as well as custom electronics such as sonar and GPS fish finder, such as the very popular Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder – though these days with modern technology advancing so fast this type of high-tech, low cost fishing drone offers much better tracking than a fish finder.
The simplicity of the Jon boat design and its open deck means that it offers much more room for customization than a bass boat. In fact, you can actually convert a Jon boat into a bass boat.
A Jon boat to bass boat conversion is entirely possible with the right adaptations and upgrades such as a front casting deck, enclosed storage and pedestal swivel seating. Jon boat conversions are usually successful enough to provide a cost-saving option over the purchase of a bass boat if you are willing to do the conversion work yourself.
A careful choice of motor can greatly enhance the speeds that a jon boat can achieve on the water. Bass boats usually have large powerful engines to begin with.
Jon boats with their simple design and function are relatively easy to maintain.
Depending on the customization of the boat typical maintenance tasks are usually reduced to ensuring your boat remains watertight and clean and that the aluminium is polished. Additional checking of the underside of your flat-bottomed vessel is advised so you can see the early signs of corrosion or identify any damage that has been done by rocks or other debris that often go unnoticed even in shallow waters.
Bass boats have a little more complexity to their maintenance processes, but nothing beyond standard boat care.
Tasks on your bass boat maintenance checklist should include drainage and boat plug checks, inspecting your outboard motor and its attachments and ensuring you have not entangled your vessel with fishing line or other debris.
Both boats need their fish finders or other electronic equipment checked periodically to ensure it is in good working order and nothing is hindering its ability to function correctly such as debris around the transducer that can impair or completely block signals to the sonar.
Jon Boats and bass boats certainly have similarities in their design and usage. But they have enough differences to make them completely different boat types with completely different applications.
Though bass boats excel in performance when it comes to fishing, shrewd customizations can greatly enhance the specification of a typical jon boat to make it just as a good a “fisher”.
Where a bass boat excels at fishing a Jon boat outperforms it in very shallow water and it also makes a killer overall inland utility boat.
Below are summarized some of the main pros and cons of each boat to help you see which one is the best choice for you.
Jon boat pros and cons
- Very versatile utility boat
- Can be used for a vast range of recreational purposes from fishing and hunting to camping
- Readily customizable
- Very shallow draft for accessing waters only 1 inch deep
- Very smooth ride in calm waters even at speed
- Exceptional balance on calm water
- Unsafe for use in sea (except in very calm waters and close to shore)
- Unsafe in very rough waters even on inland waterways
- Unable to handle powerful outboard engines
- Less suitable storage for catch and equipment than a bass boat
- Lower weight capacity than a bass boat
Bass boat pros and cons
- V-hull handles rough water readily
- Can handle more powerful outboards than a jon boat
- High speeds easily achieved, especially with fibreglass hull
- Designed specifically for fishing
- Great waterproof storage for gear and for a bass or panfish catch
- Higher weight capacity than a Jon
- Not as versatile as the Jon being designed specifically for fishing
- Can have issues with balance on the water depending on specific design specs
- Greater maintenance requirements
- Cannot access the same extremely shallow waters that a Jon boat can