Published Jun 30, 2022 3:04 PM
The easiest way to get into boating is with a jon boat. They’re simple, inexpensive, efficient, and easy to own. A jon boat has a square bow and stern with a flat bottom, providing tons of room on a stable platform. Most jon boats are made out of aluminum, which is more durable than fiberglass or wood. Not only are jon boats great for fishing and hunting, but they are easy to transport and store. With fewer features, jon boats don’t require extensive maintenance. You can tow a jon boat with a small car, power it with a smaller engine, customize the boat to your needs and use it in backwaters, bays, rivers, and other sheltered water. The most fool-proof way to learn the ropes of boat ownership is with one of the best jon boats on the water.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Jon Boat
With jon boats, the key consideration is convenience. Owning a jon boat is supposed to be simple. The basic features, sturdy construction, and low price are a big draw for new and experienced boaters. When choosing the best jon boat, be sure to pick a boat that fits into your life and makes it easy to get on the water.
Transport and Storage
Jon boats are lighter and smaller than other types of boats, so they are easier to transport and store. You can load the simplest jon boat into a pickup truck bed or even onto cartop roof racks.
Most jon boats require a trailer. However, most jon boats don’t require a twin-axle trailer with brakes. Not only is a smaller trailer easier to maintain, but a single-axle trailer without brakes doesn’t have to pass an annual safety inspection in many states. That’s easy rolling with less trouble.
The best jon boats are built tough as a tank. Heavy gauge aluminum and welded seams mean a jon boat can take a beating. Some jon boats are built of polyethylene plastic, which is super tough, light, and easy to repair.
The simplest jon boats are nothing more than a hull and bench seats with a tiller-drive motor. Better jon boats have a bow casting platform, comfortable seats, gear storage and a live well. The best jon boats feature a center or side console and rigging for a trolling motor.
The best thing about a jon boat is the price. These boats are not only less expensive to purchase but also cheaper to operate.
Jon boats have a flat hull, so they require a smaller engine. Not only does a smaller engine cut the purchase price, but the savings continue at the fuel dock.
Best of all, a jon boat saves time and money after every fishing trip. My fiberglass boat requires a thorough wash each trip and regular use of the best boat waxes and polishing to protect the finish. No such worries with an aluminum jon boat; I just rinse off the mud and salt and hit it with a scrub brush every few trips. You can also build your own boat any way you like.
While a jon boat doesn’t have sexy lines and sparkles like a fancy bass boat, their utilitarian design, economic efficiency, and ease of ownership endear these tough boats to angles looking to get on the water without all the hassle.
- Length: 21 feet 5 inches
- Width: 8 feet 3 inches
- Dry Weight: 1480 pounds
Why It Made The Cut
The Cadillac of jon boats with rod storage, live well, pedestal seats, and center console, the Tracker Grizzly 2072 is my pick for the best overall jon boat.
- Heavy-duty construction
- Loaded with features
- Single axle trailer
With all the features of a bass boat in a lightweight package, the Tracker’s Grizzly 2072 still retains the durability and convenience of a jon boat. The heavy-duty aluminum hull and floor are welded to sturdy ribs for a solid ride in snotty weather. Rocks, stumps, docks, and oyster tumps are no match for this jon boat. Despite the mud and slime, the Grizzly still has the amenities of a civilized bass or bay boat. A huge live well, ample rod storage, and four below-deck gearboxes make it easy to fish and hunt and still comfortable for family picnics on the sandbar. If you’re a fan of jon boats, the Tracker Grizzly 2072 is the best jon boat overall.
- Length: 18 feet
- Width: 85 inches
- Dry Weight: 970 pounds
Why It Made The Cut
A tunnel hull and jet motor carry the Crestliner 18060 Retriever to places other boats can’t go.
- Tunnel hull
- Full feature
- Cool colors
An aluminum jon boat is darn-near indestructible, perfect for exploring shallow water and heavy structure. To reach the gnarliest fishing holes where the biggest fish hide, Crestliner 18060 Retriever combines the durability of a jon boat with the shallow draft of a tunnel hull and jet motor. But this stumpknocker has a refined side with a casting deck, center console, rod, gear storage, and a live well. Crestliner offers a long list of options to customize the Retriever to your vision for the best shallow-water jon boat. My favorite feature is the cool color and camouflage options, and I can’t choose which look I like best.
- Length: 15 feet 8.5 inches
- Width: 70 inches
- Dry Weight: 275 pounds
Why It Made The Cut
Just the basics with a cherry on top, the classic Lowe 1648M is 16-feet long and only weighs 275 pounds.
- Three seats
- live well and storage compartment
- Reinforced transom and floor
The Lowe 1648M has fewer features with heavy-duty construction for angles looking to cut weight while maintaining performance. Nine stringers and a reinforced floor help the 1648 withstand the worst conditions. Two bench seats and a forward platform add to the solid feel. Of course, the best lightweight jon boat only has basic, but you can add a full array of electronics, trolling motor, and seats to improve comfort and fishability. Carry handles in the bow and stern mean this boat is ready to go anywhere. The cherry on top is a combination live well and storage compartment in the center seat. When the live well isn’t keeping your tournament stringer fresh, it provides dry storage for tackle and hunting gear. On the best jon boats, when the waves kick up, dry storage is a premium.
- Length: 10 feet
- Width: 56 inches
- Dry Weight: 87 pounds
Why It Made The Cut
Utility and performance, the Lund 1040 is a jon boat you can throw in the back of the truck or on the cartop and take anywhere.
- Only 87 pounds
- Max Horsepower: 5
- Three bench seats
A little boat with big boat performance, it’s hard to believe the Lund 1040 is only 10 feet long and 87 pounds. That’s smaller and lighter than some fishing kayaks. However, the performance of a sturdy, rigid aluminum hull and three bench seats gives the 1040 the capacity and versatility to win the award for best 10-foot jon boat. Pair the 1040 with a five-horsepower gas or electric outboard or a tiller-drive trolling motor, and you’re off to the races. Then, switch to push pole or rowing with oars to silently navigate shallow water. The 1040 has room for two angles and a ton of fishing gear or a hunter, his dog, and decoy spread. At the end of the day, transport the 1040 in a truck bed or cartop and store the boat in the garage. In recent years, jon boats have gotten fancy, but the Lund 1040 takes the boat back to its roots.
- Length: 11 feet 3 inches
- Width: 62 inches
- Dry Weight: 238 pound
Why It Made The Cut
Good things come in small packages. The Sun Dolphin Pro 120 packs a live well, pedestal seats, gear storage, and fuel tank storage into a 12-foot jon boat.
- Reinforced hull
- Prewired for trolling motor
- Below deck storage for tackle and one of the best boat coolers
I have a buddy who posts photos on social media of big bass he catches in his neighborhood pond. The key to his success is a small, plastic jon boat with an electric trolling motor. As our pick for the best jon boat for the money, the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 is ready to access areas off-limits to bigger boats with the same comfort and convenience of a full-size jon boat. Somehow, Sun Dolphin packed a ton of features into the Pro 120 and still keeps the boat small enough to carry in a pickup truck bed. In addition to two comfortable pedestal seats, the Pro 120 has three drainable below-deck storage boxes in the bow. In the stern, there is space to store a battery and a fuel tank. The boat is pre-rigged to run a tiller-controlled trolling motor. Sun Dolphin Pro 120 goes to extra lengths to maintain performance in a plastic jon boat. The deck is made of ¾-inch pressure-treated plywood covered in all-weather carpet. To further increase stiffness, the hull is reinforced with aluminum stringers. Fish with confidence, the little boat sits on a tri-hull with three pontoons to improve stability. Anglers looking to sneak into hidden and hard-to-reach fishing spots get the convenience of a jon boat at the price of a fishing kayak.
Q: How stable are jon boats?
A flat hull is one of the defining features of a jon boat. A flat hull reduces draft and increases stability. Jon boats are one of the most stable boats on the water. Lean from side to side or move from bow to stern, and the jon boat stays planted. The disadvantage to a shallow draft comes in rough water performance. Wind will blow a jon boat across the water, and the flat hull slams through waves. But, for anglers looking for a stable fishing platform, you can’t beat a jon boat.
Q: Do you have to register a jon boat?
Controlled by the state’s wildlife department or department of motor vehicles. The process involves filling out paperwork and paying a fee. You will receive a sticker and numbers that are affixed to the boat. Even if the boat is propelled with an electric trolling motor, it probably needs to be registered. Make a note that safety equipment is also different for motor boats and human-propelled boats. Adding a motor requires navigation lights, life vests, throwables, and other gear. Check with the US Coast Guard about the necessary safety gear for your boat.
Q: How much does jon boats cost?
Jon boat prices vary widely and can cost around $1,000 to $20,000.
Jon boats have come a long way from their simple, utilitarian roots. Today, jon boats feature all the comfort and convenience of a bay boat or bass boat at half the cost. A great example of the best jon boat overall is the Tracker Grizzly 2072. Measuring almost 21-feet long and over eight feet wide, this is the mac daddy jon boat. Still, the welded aluminum hull keeps weight down and reduces the boat’s draft. Including all the good parts of a bigger boat in an easy-to-operate jon boat is why the Tracker Grizzly 2072 is my pick for the best jon boat overall.
Spend some time on a jon boat, and it doesn’t take long to notice the positive and negative qualities. Jon boats are fun to operate, cheap to own, and almost impossible to damage. But, the flat-bottom, square-bow boats can also be a rough ride in rough weather. The best jon boats are designed to slide over calm water. Storage is another issue. I chose jon boats with below-deck storage for tackle and gear. Just because I’m fishing or hunting from a jon boat doesn’t mean I don’t need the best amenities: modern jon boats include cold storage and live well. Jon boats with bench seats are notorious for being uncomfortable; I looked for the best jon boats with great seating options. Mostly, a jon boat is versatile. Whether you are hunting, fishing or enjoying family time, bouncing around in one the best jon boats is fun for everyone.