If you are looking to get into kayak fishing you will most likely be doing a lot of research on the different items needed to get started. When looking online or asking around it may not take long for you to see the forums and discussions devoted to finding the best boat for fishing. Sadly no one has taken the time to clearly answer this question, until now.
Two of the most popular options you may see during your research are fishing kayaks and jon boats. While both have benefits and downsides it is important to look at what you want and need and figure out which option works best for you.
What Is A Jon Boat: A jon boat is a small, flat, shallow boat designed for hunting and fishing. The seating are one or two benches going across the width of the boat. The hull is an open design that is either flat or a V-shape, there is no bilge, and the ribs are left exposed. You have the option to cover the ribs or leave them open, but that is completely up to you. Covering the ribs allows you to float more evenly, and even attach a motor to the boat for easy movement from one location to another. The jon boat can be made out of fiberglass, wood or aluminum and varies in size from eight to 20 feet in length and 32 to 56 inches in width. Because it is easy for a layperson to build their own jon boat it is difficult to narrow down the average sizes any further, but the jon boats you buy from shops or specialist typically fall within those size restrictions. But the general rule is that the larger the body of water, waves or distance you need to travel, the larger the jon boat you need.
What Is A Jon Boat Used For: Jon boats are great to use for fishermen and hunters because they easily navigate very shallow waters better than most other types of boats. The jon boat also allows added some much needed stability when casting off, reeling in and tracking ducks. It is designed to handle these movements without having to worry about capsizing or tipping. They can also be used on lakes and small bodies of water for fishing or recreation and family fun.
Why Is It Called A Jon Boat: The history of the name is not clear, but the jon boat originated from the “Ozark johnboat” that was used in Missouri and Arkansas during the early 1900s. The history of the jon boat is quite interesting, but no one knows why it is called a jon boat.
Is It The Same As A Bass Boat: The quick answer is no. The long answer is that even though the names are sometimes mixed up, there are some very big differences between the two. While they are both small fishing boats, the hulls couldn’t be more different. A jon boat has what is known as a mono hull and is completely flat. Bass boats on the other hand has a tri-hull, or pontoon hull, that aids in stability. While there is very little difference in size between the two boats, they differ significantly in stability and weight capacity. The bass boat does have better stability so the ride can be smoother than the jon boat, but the jon boat is much more capable on rough water and keeping the inside of your boat dry.
What Is The Difference Between A Jon Boat And A Skiff: This is another situation is which the terms have become interchangeable. A skiff is simply an old fashioned term for a small, two man row boat. So jon boats can all be skiffs, but skiffs can’t all be jon boats.
What Is A Modified V Hull: If you will be using a jon boat in a body of water where there is a lot of chop or debris, the normal flat hull might not be enough to work through it. If you don’t want to sacrifice the stability of the flat hull you can add a modified V hull to your flat hull boat. This modification can help you create a smoother ride, as long as you don’t overload the front. There are V hulls on the market you can buy, or you can make your own, but just do your research or consult a professional to make sure you are using the correct weight and size.
What Is The Best Material For Jon Boats: Jon boats are available in wood, fiberglass and aluminum. While they all have benefits and downsides, it is important to consider what you are looking for and how each material fits into that.
Aluminum: Aluminum is quickly becoming the most common material for jon boats and it is easy to see why with its light weight and easy maintenance. Because the overall weight is so much lighter it allows you to store more gear and have a larger motor without going over the weight capacity. Aluminum also allows for easier transportation because it can easily be put onto a car roof and can launch much smoother than fiberglass or wood. It is also very convenient to modify with parts ready to be bought and added on to your convenience.
Fiberglass: While it weighs more than aluminum and wood, the fiberglass material definitely has benefits. The added weight of fiberglass requires a larger motor to move the boat and a trailer to transport it. But fiberglass far surpasses aluminum in salt or sea water and the actual cleaning of the boat is much easier to do because of the wide range of cleaners on the market.
Wood: Wood is the cheapest option and is the closest to the original jon boats which were made of pine. To keep the historic feel and make easy modifications wood is the way to go. Where aluminum falls short, wood is able to withstand salt water far better, but will require more frequent maintenance and upkeep. It is also the easiest material to use when building the jon boat yourself.
How Is It Different From A Fishing Kayak: Unlike jon boats, which come in only one style, kayaks come in a large varieties of styles with a lot of different choices in features and colors. There are so many kayak styles out there that you can go with a kayak specifically for fishing or look into recreational kayaks and other styles that work for you. From sit on top to sit in, inflatable to hard body and lots of length, seat, storage and tons of accessories, if you want something that will fit your needs, a kayak is out there for you.
How Do You Choose The Right Boat For You: There are several different factors you need to look at when deciding whether the jon boat or fishing kayak is right for you.
Where will you be fishing: If you will be sticking to calm waters like lakes, either option will work. But if you are looking into fishing in deeper waters, strong currents, waves or the ocean, you need to use a kayak. There are fishing kayaks that are made to be able to handle the ocean specifically as well as the stronger waters. Jon boats cannot handle strong waters or withstand a beating so you should never take them out on anything but calm waters. Jon boats are able to handle shallow waters better than most boats, especially kayaks, so if you will be fishing in ponds or other shallow bodies of water, a jon boat is the way to go.
How will you move it: Consider how far you need to travel to use your boat and what kind of vehicle you have access to. Can your vehicle handle a long kayak? What about a heavy fiberglass jon boat? Will you need to get a trailer to move your boat around or get a friends to help you? Before choosing a boat try moving it around and see if you can handle transporting it yourself or will need help. Weight, length and width can all affect your ability to move the boat and if you have difficulty with it you should consider checking out another boat. Keep in mind that there are inflatable kayaks that remove all of these issues and still function as a great fishing boat.
Where will you store it: You need to consider where you plan to put the boat when it is not in use. UV ray damage can be detrimental to the condition of the boat and shorten the lifespan considerably. To prevent this you need to store your boat out of the sun and in a place that won’t promote mold and mildew growth. If you live in an apartment with very little storage you should consider an inflatable kayak to keep the amount of space the boat takes up to a minimum. Consider your boat’s measurements and the spaces you can put them and make sure they will fit.
Do you want to customize your boat: Kayaks are designed to give you what you need so it is very unlikely that you will need to customize it to make it work. Jon boats on the other hand are designed to be very simple. This means that customization is not only welcome, but often needed to make it compatible for fishing. Adding seats, reel holders or a motor are all great ways to make a jon boat your own and fit your needs.
How much equipment do you need to bring: It is important to consider the weight capacity of your boat and the amount of equipment you will need. Aluminum jon boats can work well to handle greater weights but a jon boat doesn’t come with any real place for storage. If you need designated storage and places to set up your equipment you will either have to customize a jon boat or buy a kayak. Fishing kayaks are a great option for people who need a lot of equipment because they often come with lots of storage as well as places for navigation, reel holders and a lot of other different designated spots for the avid fisherman to keep all their things.
What kind of seats do you need: A good seat is key to being comfortable while spending hours out on the water. This is why it is important to consider what kind of seat the boat comes with and what options are out there to replace the seat. Kayaks are put into two categories when it comes to seating. They are either sit on top or sit in, which is the standard kayak cockpit design. It is difficult to improve the seat for a sit on top kayak, but the sit in kayak can be added to or replaced to make the seat more comfortable for you. Jon boats on the other hand typically come with a simple bench seat, but can be improved and replaced with a swivel chair very easily to fit your needs.
Do you want to do maintenance: It really depends on the material you choose as to how much maintenance you will need to do. Aluminum and fiberglass are much easier to maintain than wood or plastic, but it is really all up to your personal preference and if you want to take the extra time to make the necessary repairs and maintenance.
Do you have a preference in materials: Jon boats come in three types of materials, while kayaks are constantly being made of something new. If you want to stick with the classic wood, you will have to go with a jon boat, but kayaks are hot ticket items that are always being improved upon and made of the newest ideal materials.
Do you need greater stability: Stability is a big issue for fishing and you need to consider just how much stability you will need. The wider the boat, the more stability you will have so jon boats can be the better choice because of their wide design. Kayaks, while not as wide as jon boats, can be planned out for greater stability, especially when they are designed for fishing. The best way to tell exactly how much stability you need is to consider what areas you will be taking the boat and trying to rent a boat to get a “test drive” of what it will be like.
How much money do you want to spend: You will spend significantly more on a kayak than you will on a jon boat. Kayaks can be well worth the money because of their versatility compared to a jon boat, but you should consider looking at used kayaks and deals rather than breaking the bank or settling for a boat you may not want.
No matter which boat you choose, both the fishing kayak and the jon boat have great features and things unique to them. Do your research, consider your situation and go with what is best for you.