What is a Tunnel Hull Jon Boat?


Tunnel hull Jon boat

Are you considering your boat options and wanting to opt for the ideal Jon boat? If you want a good-sized flat bottom boat, that is made to reach high speeds even on shallow inland waterways, then a tunnel hull Jon boat may be the best fit for you.

A tunnel hull Jon boat is a type of Jon boat designed for high speed use in shallow water. Unlike traditional Jon boats that rely on manual propulsion in very shallow waters, tunnel hull Jon boats can use a motor in shallow water. Tunnel hulls can give Jon boats an “air lift” to get the boat on plane and help it reach speeds of 50+ mph.

Tunnel hull Jon boat design

The ability to traverse shallow waters isn’t a feature that all boats possess. In order to use a boat in shallow water the boat must have a shallow draft and preferably a flat bottom.

Jon boats are shallow draft, flat bottom boats that are made for a myriad of inland shallow waterway tasks, from utility work to fishing and hunting. They are made commercially between 8 feet to 24 feet in length and 32 to 60 inches in width. Although the very shallow draft of a Jon boat allows it to be used in extremely shallow waters this comes at the cost of propulsion.

A standard Jon boat will be forced to use manual propulsion in shallow waters because the bottom of the boat will be so close to the river bed that the prop would be damaged if the motor was engaged and used.

Tunnel Jon boats are a way to overcome this problem.

A tunnel hull Jon boat gets its name from the unique tunnel-like feature that is positioned centrally at the aft on the bottom of the boat.

This unique feature means it is easier to get the boat on plane quickly so it can literally sit on top of very shallow water. This means the prop doesn’t sit too deep in the water, where it would snag on the water bed, thus allowing the use of the motor. More on this later.

If you need to know how to get a Jon boat on plane read this article. You may also want to read this article which shows you how to stop your Jon boat from porpoising when trying to get it on plane (an all too common, but easily fixed, problem).

Here are some key special features that could sell you on the idea of getting a tunnel hull Jon boat.

  1. It allows the use of a motor in shallow water.
  2. It is made for speed.
Jon boat tunnel hull
Jon boat tunnel hull

Its design allows motor use in shallow water

A tunnel hull has a slightly different bottom than a standard Jon boat or a mod-v Jon boat in that it has a tunnel-like feature added to its flat bottom at the aft (see above picture).

A tunnel hull Jon boat is designed to be powered by a motor even in shallow waters.

The tunnel hull design on this type of Jon boat causes the boat to plane much faster than a normal Jon and thus the boat can ride on the water, essentially lifting the boat and the motor further out of the water. The prop of the motor then sits under the surface of the water just low enough to create thrust but not so low that it hits the river bed.

Tunnel hull Jon boats are usually bigger sized Jons and will thus need strong motors to power them.

A motor that isn’t suitable for the size and weight of a tunnel Jon boat won’t move the boat as fast as it should and may not generate enough power to allow the boat to get on plane. Thus a tunnel Jon boat is only really effective when the appropriate HP motor is mounted on it.

The unique tunnel hull effect

What causes these boats to get on plane quickly is their tunnel hull.

A tunnel hull usually uses two planings with a center that traps air. When the air is trapped, it creates an aerodynamic lift that can be credited as a “ground lift” effect. This trapped air helps the boat get on plane fast and easily – as long as there is enough thrust being generated by the outboard motor.

The amount of lift will often depend on the weight of the boat. Jon boats weigh on average 400 – 500 pounds, making it a lightweight vessel ideal for planning.

There are some Jon boats that can weigh as little as 130 pounds though these are usually smaller boats. At the same time, there are boats that are a little on the heavy side at 1,200 pounds (21 foot aluminum Jon boat with shooting deck and additional onboard accessories).

No matter the weight though, a tunnel hull Jon boat will still be able to reach high speed on shallow waters as long as it is fitted with the right motor for the boat.

Tunnel hull Jon boat benefits

Standard Jon boats are one of the most suitable shallow water boats that are made for all types of inland waterway uses including hunting and fishing. Tunnel Jon boats can be thought of as an upgrade!

Big tunnel hull Jon boats can come with special custom details to fit the needs of the buyer though there are many out-of-the-box models available. The top-of-the-line models can fit up to 7 people with more than enough space to include gear and catch.

Below are some of the benefits of choosing a tunnel hull Jon boat over a standard Jon boat or a mod-v Jon boat.

Its tunnel hull makes for a fast smooth ride

Adding a tunnel trough to a Jon boat is more than just about being able to use a motor in shallow waters.

Tunnel hulls are features that are often found in boats used for racing, such as Formula 1 powerboats. Why? Because they are made for speed!

Adding this feature to a Jon boat makes for one smooth and fast ride.

A Jon boat is an extremely stable and smooth boat to ride in on calm waters anyway but when the boat gets on plane the ride feels almost like gliding on air. A tunnel hull Jon boat gets on plane much faster and easier than other Jon boats.

A tunnel hull Jon boat has the ability to almost glide across the water.  This type of Jon can reach high speeds while offering unprecedented comfort.

Fast navigation through shallow waters

The advantage of having a tunnel hull on a Jon boat is the almost effortless navigation through shallow waters at speed. Other Jon boat types most fully trim their motors and switch to a manual form of propulsion, such as a paddle, when in shallow water in order to protect the prop from damage. A tunnel hull Jon boat simply gets on plane and lifts the prop further up in the water.

Its features make it ideal for those who have to travel over long distances, in shallow water, to reach ideal fishing or hunting grounds.

Obviously if travelling at slow speeds you will be unable to engage the motor even on a tunnel hull Jon boat and must switch to manual propulsion. However, at speed a tunnel hull Jon boat has no equal in shallow water.

Tunnel hull Jon boat drawbacks

As you may have already worked out tunnel Jon boats tend to be more expensive than their more traditionally designed cousins.

Any additional features included on any boat will always cost more and this is even more the case when those additional features are integrated into the hull. Hence adding a tunnel trough to a Jon boat increases the cost of the boat.

For this reason it can be difficult to find a tunnel hull Jon boat smaller than 16 foot as the cost associated with the manufacturing of the hull would make the cost of the smaller boat untenable to many small boat buyers.

If you are a typical DIY buff you can always tackle the job yourself. Or if you intend to build a wooden Jon boat yourself then you can integrate that feature into the deign before you begin the build process. See our guide to building a flat bottom boat.

Tunnel hull Jon boat prices

Prices for tunnel hull Jon boats can vary depending on the construction material used and the features offered.

These boats can cost from $23,000 and up.

For a tricked-out, high performing, large tunnel hull Jon boat you can be double or even triple that price.

There is also the option of purchasing a tunnel hull Jon boat used, but that comes with its own risks. Apart from running the risk of buying a bad boat, due to missing something during the purchase phase , you’d most like not get a warranty to cover repairs should problems develop later.

Always do your due diligence when buying a boat used. Follow our Jon boat buyer’s guide to ensure you not only get a good deal but that you get a good boat!

A used tunnel hull Jon boat will usually cost you somewhere between $2,000-$15,000 depending on its age, size and its condition.

If you want a guide to purchasing a used Jon boat then check out our tips for buying a used Jon boat.

First time buying a Jon boat? Try reading our beginner’s guide to buying a Jon boat.

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