Sangchris Lake 0005

If one asks a dozen anglers what they want in a boat, you will get a dozen answers.  It all depends upon the species sought, how one wants to fish, and where he does his fishing.  With the upcoming season, many of us will be looking for a new boat.

If fishing large lakes or reservoirs, then of course the large fast traveling bass boat may be the ticket.  However, bass seem to have separate home ranges dependant upon depths which change seasonally.  Some fish live deep, while others will always be in the shallows for part of it.  They might be up tight to the bank when feeding and pull out to mid range in a cove as conditions change.  This is where air and water temperatures come into effect.

You can catch fish with small home ranges from small boats.  Small boats also come in handy to get into ponds and lakes that are not easily accessible.  Once in the water, there is little need to move around at a high rate of speed.

In southern Illinois, there are a number of lakes that have horsepower limits for boat motors.  A large boat is more of a handicap when using these small motors.

The small Jon boat is the boat of choice for many southern Illinois anglers.  Coupled with a 9.9 horsepower motor, the Jon boat works on virtually any body of water within the state.

This is not to say that the Jon boat is perfect.  It can be dangerous if not respected. Although they have a flat bottom and are quite stable, a Jon boat that is overloaded can lead to problems.

The Jon boat has little distance between the top of the side to the water level.  They often are quite narrow across the beam.  One that is overloaded can shift and take on water very easily.  It is important to remain seated while fishing so as not to jeopardize the stability of the boat.

All boats manufactured since 1972 have a maximum capacity plate some where on them.  It is important in using a small boat to not exceed the load limit of the boat.  The plate will say that the limit is a certain number of persons or pounds.  It is important to remember that the number of pounds includes, the people, motor and fishing gear.

If two 200-pound anglers get in the boat and have a 70-pound motor, they are up to 475 pounds load.  If the load limit of the boat is 500 pounds, that leaves 25 pounds for anchor, safety equipment, tackle, cooler, etc.

Jon boats are popular with catfishermen on small and large bodies of water.  Some catfishermen will like to use two anchors.  From a small Jon boat, that is not a good idea.  If fishing in a river with fast current, one should anchor only from the bow.  To do so from the stern can cause water to drive the transom down toward the waterline and could plunge the stern under.

If anchoring with both a bow and stern line and with the boat across current, it is possible that the bow anchor may fail and the boat has only the stern line to hold.  If one is in this position, it is better to cut loose the stern line rather than try to pull in that anchor.  The act of pulling the line can force the transom down into the water.

If one is planning to fish a large body of water with a small boat, it is a good idea to check a map of the area for roads that will place you close to the area you want to fish.  Many wildlife management areas have service roads that dead end at the shore.  Small boats will slip into the water from such areas where a larger or heavier boat could not.

Jon boats are also good for moving between slips and docks where larger boats would find the going difficult.  The small boat can just get into and out of small places where the regular angler will not take the time to work.

Often maps will show a creek that empties into a good bass lake.  Several miles upstream, there may be a gravel road crossing that creek.  A small boat put in from the road, allows the angler to work that creek (both sides) down to the larger body of water and back.  This can present a fun morning of fishing action that most anglers might overlook.

Small creeks tend to be shallow and the people with the big expensive boats do not want to jeopardize the finish of them.  The person with a shallow draft aluminum Jon boat can work the water and take large bass that may be hiding there.

Another advantage of the small boat is the cost.  New such boats are not overly expensive, but there is a healthy market of used Jon boats out there.  Many anglers begin with small boats and then trade up as they become able.  Often the small boat is still in very good shape, it is just that the angler thinks he “needs” that larger boat.

The best time to buy a used boat is during the early spring, late fall, and winter.  There are boat shows with sales on the big boats and people want to trade up.  This leads to a large market of small boats with which the dealers want to bother.

There is not a lot to check out on small boats and motors. However, if you are new to boat ownership, it is a good idea to pay someone to check it out.  Motors that have been stored over the winter might need some cleaning up in the spring to make them “sea worthy”.

In today’s market of high-speed bass boats, the Jon boat is over looked.  Nevertheless, when it comes to catching fish, big and fast is not always better.



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  1. Pingback: Issues Concerning Speed Boat Ownership

  2. You are absolutely right. Jon Boats are also good for fishing. And I know you can buy a new one jon boat for only $400. Excellent price for a boat.

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