Fishing From a Jon Boat: A Complete Guide

Fishing from a jon boat is a popular way to fish because the boat is inexpensive, easy to maneuver, and can be hauled in the bed of a truck or pulled on a small trailer by any vehicle.

The boat can be stored just as easily. Here are some facts about jon boats and how you can use one to catch fish in freshwater and saltwater.

Benefits of Fishing From a Jon Boat

A jon boat is a flat-bottomed boat usually made from aluminum, sometimes fiberglass. It usually has bench seats running across the boat from side to side.

One is near the back, one in the middle, and one at the very front. Some jon boats can be more than 16 feet long and have several benches.

Sometimes people install bucket seats on the benches either permanently or with clamps. This makes sitting, riding, and fishing easier.

If you install a false bottom in the boat, you can mount chairs to that bottom, leaving the benches alone. If you have a bad back, a seat is almost a requirement.

The boats often have small channels, about an inch deep running from the front to the back. These channels do nothing for the boat’s on-water performance.

They are there to funnel water to the back, hit the rollers on a trailer, and help the boat ride over things like sunken trees and stumps.

Because the bottom is flat, the boat rides over the water surface rather than cutting through like a V or Semi-V hull boat. Because of this, jon boats do not handle waves very well. This is why most people use them on smaller rivers, small lakes, and ponds.

Size

Jon boats range from small boats that neatly fit in the back of a pickup. These are two-man boats. Longer boats can seat a lot more people and need a trailer to move them from place to place.

Longer boats also give you more room to store things.

Some jon boats come with a live well, a tank build into one of the benches. The live well has a hole in the bottom so water can flow in and out.

You can keep bait, the fish you catch or snacks and drinks in the live well. Plug the hole if you use the livewell as a snack cooler.

Motor

You can have a gasoline-powered outboard motor on the back and an electric trolling motor either on the back, the front, or the side. Where the trolling motor goes depends on how you are fishing and with whom.

Side mounts are the most difficult to control and front mounts are the easiest.

If you have foot control, you can sit anywhere in the boat and run the trolling motor. If you have to steer by hand, the motor needs to be next to you.

Bear in mind if you are running a trolling motor without an outboard to keep it charged, you may need more than one battery.

Outboard motors are usually tiller steer, which means you have to be next to the motor. Some larger jon boats may have a center console for steering or more likely a stick steer column.

Stick steer gives you more room to maneuver since you sit in the middle of the boat and you can spin around in the seat

Types of Fish You Can Catch From a Jon Boat

Jon boats make excellent fishing boats, especially for tight quarters and shallow waters. The boat can float in inches of water. If you cannot use a motor, you can paddle. Some public fishing areas prohibit or limit gasoline-powered motors.

Jon boats are a common way to fish farm ponds everywhere.

Bass Fishing From a Jon Boat

Jon boats make excellent bass fishing boats with or without modifications on still waters. You can use the trolling motor to move from place to place or paddle slowly. If you plan to fish bigger water, you will probably need to customize your boat a bit.

A common mistake bass fishermen make is they believe the lure must be constantly moving. It does not. If you have to paddle a jon boat, you will soon see that leaving your lure in the water while you paddle or adjust the trolling motor will draw strikes.

This technique is particularly powerful when fishing worms, lizards, tubes, and other soft baits. Cast your lure. Move the boat if needed while the lure sinks. You can even slowly paddle the boat to troll these lures.

Trout Fishing From a Jon Boat

You can fish for trout from a jon boat. A good jon boat will even let you stand up if you prefer to do that when fly fishing. You can anchor across from the trout honey hole to cast to it or below it to let your presentation drift across the spot.

While not ideal for fast-moving water, you can fish trout streams, if the boat will float there, and rivers. This is usually a 2-person operation. One fishes while the other mans a pair of paddles held to the boat in oarlocks.

The person on the paddles slows the boat’s progress through the river by paddling against the current, thereby giving the person with the rod time to fish.

Walleye Fishing From a Jon Boat

Fishing from a jon boat

Walleye, pike, and other colder water fish are often caught from jon boats. Just use your standard techniques for these fish, including trolling.

If you plan to do a lot of walleye fishing, look for a jon boat with a live well to keep minnows. You will need a screen over the hole in the bottom of the livewell to keep the bait from escaping.

If you want to troll, a good idea is to use rod holders mounted at different angles. You can have several lines in the water at once if the fishing regulations where you allow this. Some states limit the number of lines in the water at once.

Panfish Fishing From a Jon Boat

If there was ever a boat that screams PANFISH! it is the jon boat. You can get into tight places, shallow water, and places where these fish like to hang out.

Since fishing for panfish is a stationary activity, you can anchor – drop that anchor quietly please – over a honey hole and fish right over the side.

Since you anchor the boat, you can drop a worm on a cane pole over the side and cast a small spinnerbait on an ultralight at the same time. Rod holders are a good idea if you want to fish both ways at once.

When the bream start bedding, you can ease up to the beds and cast lures to use long poles to toss live bait over the bedding fish.

Since bream bed in shallow, sandy bottoms, a jon boat that floats high in the water is an ideal way to slip around targeting beds until you get a limit.

Crappie Fishing From a Jon Boat

Crappie is known by many names; white perch, speckled perch, perch (they are not the same as the other perch), tinmouth, lantern fish, and the Cajun term sac-au-lait (sack of milk) because of their white flesh.

Jon boats make excellent crappie fishing boats because you can rig many rod holders to use many poles at once. This does depend on your state regulations so be sure you only use what the law allows.

Jon boats troll easily because they ride so high in the water. They are also easy to maneuver so you can get into the creeks during crappie spawning season. Crappie spook easily. A gently paddled jon boat will let you sneak up on the fish.

A livewell is also a good idea here so you can keep minnows alive for fishing.

Catfish Fishing From a Jon Boat

Catfish range from a few ounces to monsters that weigh more than 100 pounds. Because cats can get so big, some people think a jon boat is too small.

Big cats, over 50 pounds, are quite rare. It is unusual to catch them over 20 pounds unless you specifically target them.

Catfishing is also a bottom-fishing activity. You can drift along in a current and let your bait bounce on the bottom or you can anchor over a honey hole and drop lines to the bottom. Jon boats are ideally suited to either method.

Catfish are also caught on bush lines, juglines, and trotlines. These are lines that are baited and left alone and checked hours or a day later. YouTuber Hook, Line & Chill does all their fishing with trotlines, jug lines, and bush lines.

They check the lines from a jon boat. This works well because the jon boat is easy to move around. Tugging on the trotline is enough to move the boat across the river.

Saltwater Fishing From a Jon Boat

Fishing from a jon boat

Jon boats are a great way to target inshore fish, especially shallow-water fish like reds. Redfish love to swim up tidal creeks and are often seeing tailing in very shallow water.

A jon boat can quietly slip in and let you catch a mess of schooling reds before they realize what is going on. If you are good, you can fish until the tide changes and the reds move.

You can motor up to the creek and then stand up to pole the jon boat in so you do not scare the feeding reds.

Safety

Safety is a legal requirement when putting a jon boat on the water. You must have the proper Coast Guard-approved equipment. Your state may have additional requirements.

Final Thoughts

“A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.” It is an old joke, but had a lot of truth behind it, except where a simple jon boat is concerned.

A jon boat does not need a motor, only paddles. When you buy the basic safety equipment, all you need thereafter are the drinks, baits, and lures you use while fishing.

Used jon boats can cost a few hundred dollars. Because they are light, you can even strap one to the top of a car. Two people can drag one a long way to get to the water.

Get a jon boat and get on the water. Catch some fish and make some memories soon.