The humble Jon boat has been used on American waterways for hundreds of years. It is an amazingly versatile vessel with an extremely shallow draft. From the flat bottom Jon boat to the mod-v Jon boat there is no inland body of water that these boats cannot access. But what is a river Jon boat and how is it used?
A river Jon boat is a versatile flat-bottomed vessel that has a very shallow draft. It can be used to access areas with only 2″ of water. A river Jon boat can be manually propelled by paddle, oars or pole but is also usually fitted with a trolling motor that can be trimmed up in extremely shallow water. River Jon boats are popular for fishing, hunting, transportation and general utility work on, not just rivers, but most types of inland waterways.
- The River Jon boat
- Basic hull design
- Why the river Jon boat is so popular
The River Jon boat
A river Jon boat is the same as any other Jon boat.
Jon boats come in two basic types:
- The flat bottom Jon boat.
- The mod-v Jon boat.
Both these types of Jon boats are used on rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes and sometimes they are even used in the ocean.
Jon boats are extremely versatile watercraft that have a myriad of different uses from fishing to hunting and transportation to utility work. They are excellent shallow water river boats.
A river Jon boat can be used on any inland body of water, it is not restricted to river use only.
A river Jon boat is a fairly basic utility boat that is popular because it is versatile, cheap to buy and extremely easy to maintain. A river Jon boat is a tough little vessel that can be used to navigate very shallow waterways.
A Jon boat is a very adaptable, shallow draft boat that is extremely versatile with a vast range of uses. They are typically small, inexpensive and lightweight boats usually manned by one or two people and are more often than not the perfect choice for river use especially in rivers with very shallow waters.
Jon boats can be easily set up for fishing or hunting, with the aid of some accessories, and for general transportation.
Although Jon boat can be made from a variety of construction materials from wood, to marine plywood and fiberglass, most river Jon boats are made from aluminium. This is why river Jon boats are not suited to saltwater use unless they have been heavily treated with protective products.
These boats are very light and can weigh as little as 100 lbs. This makes a river Jon easy to transport.
Various sizes of river Jon boat are available that range in length from 8 – 21 feet. The boat length will determine the type of rivers that the Jon can be used in. The width of a river Jon will usually fall between 48 – 75 inches. However double wide Jon boats are available though this type will be seen less often on rivers and more often in open lakes that experience a lot of chop.
The wider the Jon boat is, the more stable it is. However, you don’t need to buy a wider boat for more stability as there are simple steps you can take to make any Jon boat more stable.
Basic hull design
Both mod-v and flat-bottomed river Jon boats are actually flat-bottomed vessels. The term “flat bottom Jon boat” is only used to distinguish it from the mod-v Jon boat which has a slightly different hull design.
A flat bottom Jon boat is the original type. It has a square bow and flat bottom. These type of Jon boats are seen in rivers the most.
The mod-v Jon boat has a more pointed bow and part of its bottom is curved with a slight “v” shape to allow the front of the boat to better slice through choppy water.
The flat bottom hull design of a river Jon boat allows the vessel to be used in extremely shallow waters. With its flat bottom and low freeboard a Jon can easily move in waters that are only a few inches deep.
The flat bottom not only helps to create the shallow draft on the boat but it also allows it to slide easily over obstacles on the river bottom. (If you need a more thorough explanation of shallow draft read our article shallow draft vs deep draft).
The downside to the flat bottom and shallow draft of a river Jon boat is that it doesn’t fare so well in choppy waters or in the open sea.
But, as most rivers are relatively calm, being protected from strong winds, a Jon boat is the perfect river boat. The only rivers a Jon boat is not well suited to are those with whitewater and rapids like those used for river rafting or drift boat river running.
The flat floor on the deck creates an unobstructed area for the crew to move around on and for the storage of gear. The superior stability of this boat on calm water means standing and walking on the boat is almost as stable as doing it on solid ground.
Pros of using a river Jon boat
- Excellent for accessing shallow water areas.
- Excellent for boating camping, fishing and hunting.
- Incredibly stable in calm water.
- Very comfortable to ride in even at speed because its easy to get on plane.
- Lightweight and easy to handle in and out of the water.
- Open deck with a lot of space.
- Cheap to buy and maintain.
- Cheap to run.
- Can be easily customized to suit your needs.
- Extremely durable watercraft.
Cons of using a river Jon boat
- The bench seats can be uncomfortable on long excursions.
- Unstable and uncomfortable in choppy water.
As you can see, when it comes to river use there are a lot more benefits to a Jon boat than drawbacks.
Why the river Jon boat is so popular
So why has the Jon boat remained so popular for river use?
A small river Jon boat is a titan in shallow water
Both anglers and hunters love to boat in the shallow areas of rivers. Whether you are hunting bass feeding in early or late light or seeking a more airborne type of prey, a river Jon boat can access the type of shallows these animals lurk in – the type of waters that most other boats can’t get near.
With its shallow draft and ability to be propelled manually by paddle, pole or even oars, a river Jon boat can navigate areas with just inches of water. Simply trim the motor up so the pop is out of the water and away you go.
What about hitting obstacles on the river bottom when you are boating so shallow?
Well, even if the boat encounters obstacles at the river bottom it won;t impede its progress. The boat will simply slide over them leaving no, or very little, sign that the bottom of the boat encountered anything at all.
A river Jon boat is excellent for the hunter
A river Jon boat is another weapon in the hunter’s arsenal, and a powerful one it is.
To a water-based hunter a river Jon boat has many advantages over other types of river boats for all the reasons listed above. Prey that hide along the riverbanks are easily accessible on a river Jon boat because it offers stealth when required. But the boat can also be “beached” at the bank without worry about causing any damage to its bottom.
Hunting also requires a lot of gear, is usually in done in pairs or groups and sometimes there will be dogs onboard as well. That requires lot of space and a boat that can handle the load, both of which a Jon boat offers. To see the type of weight capacity of these boats read this.
A river Jon boat is an excellent freshwater fishing vessel
Freshwater fish and Jon boats go hand in hand.
A river Jon boat can easily be set up for fishing any type of freshwater fish.
Whether it’s shallow water bass fishing or angling in deeper river waters, a Jon boat can handle it.
The river Jon boat is the ultimate small working vessel
Of course, it isn’t just anglers and waterfowlers that can benefit from using a river Jon boat. River Jons are utility vessels that can be used for just about any water-based river activity you can think of.
These boats are very customizable and as such they can become the only choice for any water-based job, especially those that larger vessels, or boats with deeper drafts, simply cannot do.
With their incredible durability, lightweight hull and superior stability, in addition to their strength and versatility Jon boats are the most popular river boats in America for a reason!