Are Jon Boats Good For River Fishing?

Jon boats also referred to as Johnboats, are flat-bottomed boats made from wood, polyethylene, fiberglass, or aluminum with about three seats. And the fact that their flat hulls ride over waves instead of cutting through them may leave you with questions like are Jon boats good for river fishing?

A Jon boat makes for a perfect boat to fish on rivers. The Jon boat has a shallow draft hull and a flat bottom, that allows it to seamlessly steer through very shallow water, as well as being able to endure deep waters. 

Jon boats are perfect for cruising, hunting, and fishing; plus, they were pretty popular among the Ozarks during the late nineteenth century. In this article, we’ll try and answer the question, “are Jon boats good for river fishing”? We’ll always show you what types of boats are best for river fishing.

What Are Jon Boats?

Pelican - Boat Intruder 12 - Jon Fishing Boat - 12 ft. - Great for Hunting/Fishing, Khaki/Beige

Like all flat-bottomed boats, Jon boats have a shallow draft that makes it possible for anglers to fish on shallow water bodies like rivers since they are unlikely to touch the ground. Their unique design makes them more stable on calmer water bodies, which is perfect for anglers and hunters. 

But their design makes them less stable on choppy waters like the V-shaped and rounded boats may leave new anglers wondering are Jon boats good for river fishing? After all, these boats can’t travel through water.

Jon boats are not a new invention; the Ozarks used them to traverse Missouri Valley’s shallow water in the late nineteenth century. The Ozarks were quite beneficial when it came to transporting timber, hunting ducks, and float fishing. 

Plus, all the travelers and tourists loved the idea of float fishing, as they could cast without worrying about tipping over.

Currently, these boats are available commercially, and their size ranges between 32 to 60 inches wide and 8 to 24 ft. long. But there are lots of custom-made Jon boats in the market. And the most straightforward design of Jon boats has an open hull and no bilge. 

Most of these boats have exposed ribs, but anglers prefer to cover them in order to create a flat surface.

Why Are Jon Boats Good For River Fishing?

Close up of river running through the woods

Unlike fishing in the oceans, lakes, and creeks, fishing in rivers can be a bit challenging thanks to the fast water currents. Therefore, you need the right fishing vessel, casting techniques, and tools for the job. 

And one of the best boats for fishing in rivers is the Jon boats. But before we show you why Jon boats are good for river fishing? You need to know which features to look out for when picking a suitable river for fishing.

Even though you have the best gear and vessel for river fishing, you need to select the proper river where you have a high likelihood of catching more fish. Some of the features to watch out for include:

  • Rivers with merging currents: a place where two rivers meet has a high percentage of fish food. This means that more fish will swim to that part of the river, like where the creeks or streams meet the rivers. However, this spot may have some sharp underwater features that can damage a V-shaped vessel.
  • Pick places with islands and weeds: if you want to prove why are Jon boats good for river fishing, then you should try a place with a lot of weeds. Weeds offer a lot of shelter in the river, and fish tend to hide under them. So you can increase your chances of catching something if you try such places, but you have to understand that they can be very shallow, and you will need a reliable Jon boat.
  • Look for a calm river: Despite the fact that most rivers have fast currents, there are parts of these rivers that are a bit calm. So look for a quiet fishing spot and set sail; after all, fish can easily spot and smell the bait in peaceful rivers. In rivers with fast currents, fishes will zoom past the baits without smelling them.

Are Jon Boats Good For River Fishing?

Pelican - Boat Intruder 12 - Jon Fishing Boat - 12 ft. - Great for Hunting/Fishing, Khaki/Beige

River fishing can be challenging for anglers with V-bottomed vessels. And that is because they can easily hit lots of submerged features, including the bottom of the river, making it hard for them to maneuver. But with a flat-bottomed, you will be able to navigate freely on waterways. So, if you want to know why are Jon boats good for river fishing, please read on:  

  1. It Can Access Shallow Rivers

Yes, due to their small size and shape, Jon boats can easily access lots of fishing grounds in the river. Remember, most rivers are shallow, and even if they are slow-moving, you need a flat-bottomed vessel that can easily float on the surface of the water. And what a better option than a Jon boat! Jon boats can easily glide on shallow rivers without touching the surface.

With a flat-bottomed, you can easily access the upper course river features like the V-shaped valleys. On the other hand, the middle course of rivers features shallower and wider valleys while the lower course rivers feature broad, flat-bottomed valleys. Unfortunately, accessing such water bodies with other boats can end up being disastrous.

Another reason why are Jon boats good for river fishing is their small shallow drifts which are a few inches high. Therefore unlike the V-shaped vessels, they can’t touch the base of the shallow rivers or the sharp features in the rivers that can damage other boats.

Jet Jon boats, which are a type of Jon boats with a jet drive outboard, have become quite popular because they can pass through highly shallow rivers. 

They are perfect for fishing in rocky rivers or the ones with underwater obstructions that can damage other boats.

  1. Rivers Don’t Have Waves

Unlike oceans, rivers have no tide, with some lakes having small waves that can cause damages. And that is because the moon’s gravitational pull acts evenly on waterways. Therefore, the best vessels for fishing on rivers are flat bottomed boats like the Jon boats.

And that is because there are no tides; consequently, they will be more stable and move faster than those with V-shaped bottoms, designed to cut through the strong waves.

  1. Most Rivers Don’t Have A Vast Boat Docking Site

Since the best fishing sites are far away from the crowds and where two currents meet, and then you have a low likelihood of finding a considerable docking site where you can launch a massive vessel. 

But with a Jon boat, this won’t be an issue as you can set sail from any point along the river, thanks to its small size and the fact that it’s portable.

  1. It Is Low Maintenance

If you are still wondering why Jon boats are good for river fishing, then you haven’t met a low-maintenance vessel that can support up to 3 anglers. Jon boats’ unique shape and design make it very hard for them to be damaged by underwater features that can damage other boats; plus, they don’t use fuel. 

Therefore, you will never have to worry about taking it to the garage for repairs regularly. In fact, the only other cheaper vessel for river fishing is a Kayak, but with its shape and design, fishing can be a bit tricky.

  1. It Can Access The Heavily Weeded Part Of The Rivers

As aforementioned, fishes love the heavily weeded parts of the river, where they can get the needed shade. Therefore, you have to try fishing these spots if you plan to catch some fish; unfortunately, maneuvering in these spots can be challenging for big boats with a massive motor. 

On the other hand, the shape of Jon boats makes it easy for them to pass through these spots. All you need is a small motor and maybe your paddle.

The fact that it’s flat bottomed means that its prop won’t be directly exposed to the weeds. And that is because its body will push the weeds aside.    

  1. Jon Boats Are More Stable

Another answer to the question “are Jon boats good for river fishing?” is that they are more stable than most flat-bottomed vessels. The fact that they are flat bottomed means that they are more stable on water than even kayaks. 

So you can cast your line while standing without worrying about the boat tipping over, which is common in other watercraft with V-shaped bottoms. And being spacious, you can even swim with pals and carry all the necessary gear without compromising on space and comfort.

What Types of Boats Are Good for River Fishing?

River fishing is an excellent recreational activity that has been evolving for centuries. And currently, you have several types of vessels that can handle river fishing. 

So before purchasing any vessel for river fishing, you need to check the features, materials used, and capacity of the vessel. So if you are still not convinced that Jon boats are good for river fishing, then here are some other popular types of boats for river fishing:

  1. Dinghies
BRIS 10.8 ft Inflatable Boat Inflatable Rafting Fishing Dinghy Tender Pontoon Boat

Dinghies are small-sized boats that are usually towed or carried by massive vessels. They are inflatable rubber boats with rowlocks and thwarts that serve as oars and seats, with some having an outboard engine. 

These boats are designed for sailing, and most anglers with huge ships use them to access the shallow parts of the rivers, where their vessels can’t access.

So, Yes, Jon boats are good for river fishing, but most anglers with huge boats can also benefit from Dinghies. There are different types of dinghies with huge carrying capacities and greater buoyancy than some boats. Some of these dinghies include:

  • Whaleboats: despite being more tippy than some boats, they do sail faster because of their fine lines.
  • Dories: these are sharp-ended vessels originally made from wood but currently produced in aluminum and fiberglass.
  1. Inflatable Boats

Intex 68325EP Excursion Inflatable 5 Person Heavy Duty Fishing Boat Raft Set with 2 Aluminum Oars & High Output Air-Pump for Lakes & Mild Rivers, Gray

If getting wet is not an issue for you, then you can have fun with an inflatable boat and catch lots of fish on a shallow river. Inflatable fishes are lightweight vessels whose sides and bows are made using flexible tubes that are normally filled with pressurized gas. 

These boats are about 9.8 ft long and have a flexible hull. Their floors have about five rigid aluminum or plywood sheets that are normally fixed between their tubes.

Some inflatable boats come with a transom that allows you to propel them using an engine. Inflatable boats are perfect for handling rough waters and can transport anglers to some of the best fishing spots. These boats’ only advantage over Jon boats is that they are lightweight, therefore, easy to transport. 

So if you still doubt the fact that Jon boats are good for river fishing, then you should try an inflatable boat.

  1. Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are flattish vessels with floats that help them remain buoyant. These vessels have more than enough buoyancy to accommodate a vast deck with sun pads, a stand-up bar, and a considerable lounge region. 

Pontoons are unique vessels that are used for fun on rivers and lakes. They are used for fishing, waterskiing, and waterboarding.

But because they are lightweight, pontoons have a high risk of capsizing. Fortunately, they are still the best vessels for huge game fishing in rivers.

  1. Bass Boats
Man in a bass boat on a river

Bass boats are small vessels designed and equipped for fishing bass and other species like panfish on rivers, streams, and lakes. Most modern bass boats have swivel seats that allow anglers to cast in a wide range of positions. 

They also have storage space for your fishing tackle and gear like lures and rods. These boats can be propelled by either a trolling motor or outboard motors.

Bass boats are made using either fiberglass or aluminum, with the aluminum options being lighter and cheaper than the fiberglass ones. 

But fiberglass bass boats can house huge outboard motors and have better handling and more space. Currently, the main developer of these boats is the Skeeter Fishing boat firm that Yamaha owns.

  1. Airboats
Image of an air boat

Airboats, also referred to as fan boats or swamp boats are flat-bottomed vessels that are propelled by aircraft-kind propellers powered by automotive or aircraft engines. These vessels are perfect for ecotourism, hunting, bow-fishing, and fishing on rivers. 

And being flat-bottomed like Jon boats, these vessels can easily pass through small shallow rivers.

They don’t have any operating part below their waterline, so they can easily navigate shallow marshes, swamps, rivers, and frozen lakes. 

But unlike most boats, they have no brakes and can’t travel in reverse. And compared to Jon boats, they are too noisy and can scare away the fish.

  1. Kayaks

Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle, Tan, 120""" (90508)

Kayaks are small narrow vessels that are usually propelled using double-bladed paddles. Currently, there are two types of kayaks: sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks. Kayaks are perfect fishing vessels and have space for one person in most cases. But they can carry a maximum of two individuals as they are pretty small in size.  

Some kayaks have a covered deck and a cockpit with spraydecks that prevents the entry of water into the vessel. Some modern kayaks have replaced paddles with foot-powered propellers, while small electric motors propel others. 

Kayaks are perfect river fishing vessels that can easily navigate shallow waters to the best fishing spots. Plus, they have more than enough space for carrying your fishing gear.


Are Jon Boats Good For River Fishing?

Yes, as a flat-bottomed vessel, Jon boats can easily navigate shallow water while providing enough space for lounging and fishing on its deck. Jon boats have a shallow drift that allows them more than enough space to float on the rivers without touching all the sharp submerged river features.

Can A Jon Boat Handle Rough Waters?

The only type of Jon boat that can easily handle rough rivers under certain conditions is the mod-V Jon boat. This modified Jon boat is designed to tackle rough waters but at an extremely slow speed. Unfortunately, they can’t handle places where the waves are more than 5ft. high.

Do Jon Boats Sink?

These boats are known all over the world for their stability, which makes Jon boats good for river fishing. But this can become an issue in challenging weather conditions or lakes with huge waves. When used in rough conditions, they can lose their stability and sink or topple over.


Are Jon boats good for river fishing? Well, the answer to this question is yes. Under normal river conditions with little-to-no tides and excellent weather conditions, Jon boats can surprise you.

Jon boat can navigate the shallow rivers without ever hitting the bottom of the river or any submerged object. The fact that they have no gear protruding from their base makes them perfect for fishing in the narrow rivers filled with weeds.

Cory is a content writer-editor and founder of Tackle Box Talk. Favorite Quote: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

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