Among all the boat types (variants), Jon boats are popular, and the vast majority of the people use Jon boats. That being said, we will now see what Jon boats are used for in general, and lastly, we will see what Jon boats are not used for (hazardous).
Jon boats are essentially used for calm and shallow water recreational activities, such as fishing, transport, hunting, recreational purposes, etc. A survey also tells that among all the boats used for recreational activities (fishing mainly), Jon boats are used most compared to other boat types.
By that, you can understand what Jon boats are mainly used for; that is for recreational purposes. But, not only those, there are some other ways where Jon boats are used, and we will now see those in a detailed way.
What are Jon boats uses for? (5 uses)
1. Calm and shallow waters purposes
Jon boats are flat bottomed boats, meaning the hull of a Jon boat is flat (the only exception is a V-hulled Jon boat). A flat surface won’t submerge much in the water (draft will be less) than other boats, and it is like throwing a box in the water; it won’t submerge much in the water.
Since a Jon boat won’t submerge much in the water due to its hull design, it can be used in shallow waters where depth will be low (around 3 feet or less). On the other hand, other hulled boats are not like that; they will submerge more in the water (draft will be more) than a Jon boat.
Since the draft is significantly less for a flat-bottomed Jon boat, they are an excellent choice for shallow water and calm water activities. Jon boats are not suitable for rough waters since the freeboard area is less for a Jon boat compared to other boats (foredeck area (ribs) also open for most Jon boats), so water can get into the boat easily and quickly.
However, you can use a bilge pump for that, but it won’t be efficient because water can get in quickly, and it is hard to push back at the same rate with a bilge pump. So, Jon boats are not suitable for rough waters. Other than using it in rough waters, they are excellent for calm and shallow waters.
2. For recreational purposes
Since Jon boats are an excellent option for calm and shallow water activities and many people like calm (peaceful or relaxed) water activities, so Jon boats are mostly used for recreational purposes (such as fishing, hunting, transport, etc.) compared to other boats.
And a survey also tells that among all the boats used for recreational activities (fishing mainly) in the USA, Jon boats are used most compared to the rest of the boats. Since these boats have a low draft, they can go in shallow waters and can help you out to catch all those fishes.
Jon boats also do well in rivers because often depth will vary in the rivers, and these boats will take advantage of that since Jon boat will have a low draft than other boats. So, Jon boats are mostly used for recreational purposes than other purposes.
These vessels (Jon boats) were found useful for float fishing, duck hunting, and carrying timber. Visiting tourists and travelers enjoyed the idea of flat-bottomed boats, as they could fish standing up and did not have to fear tipping over.Wikipedia
3. For lightweight activities
Jon boats are available commercially between 8 to 24 feet (2.4 m to 7.3 m long and 32 to 60 inches (81cm to 152 cm) wide, though custom sizes may be found. A typical Jon boat’s simple design includes an open hull, without a bilge, leaving the ribs exposed.
The average size of a Jon boat is around 12 – 15 feet, and at that size, it can carry about 400 – 600 pounds of weight, which is significantly less compared to the same-sized motorized boats. So, it will be challenging to take heavyweight (equipment) on the Jon boat.
And one more thing to consider is stability because Jon boat inherently light in weight, mean its stability is a shortcoming. On larger models, this usually isn’t an issue, but on very small ones of 10 or 12 feet, standing up and walking from the bow to the stern can be difficult, at best.
Although that flat bottom does optimize stability for a boat’s size and weight, the inherently light nature of a Jon boat can also mean its stability is a shortcoming (source). So, stability can be an issue if the boat size is small, and by increasing the weight, stability decreases, which can cause problems.
4. To fix (install) anything on a boat hull (big boat)
Jon boats are very small compared to other boats, and the freeboard area is also less compared to most of the boats. Since you will stay closer to the water level due to less freeboard area, they can be used to fix anything on a bigger boat hull.
However, you can use inflatable boats, but Jon boats give more stability than other boats if the weight is not maxed out. And often, Jon boats can be used to clean the hull of big boats (above the waterline only) and can be used to install anything on the hull as well.
Since Jon boats are made out of metal (aluminum), they are less susceptible to any sharp tools if placed on the boat, unlike inflatable boats. Since Jon boats will have two or three bench seats, you can keep all the tools between two bench seats, making them stay still while moving.
It is tough to sit comfortably on an inflatable boat like a dingy and fix or install anything on a boat hull because they won’t be as stable as Jon boats. They are made of rubberized synthetic fabrics, PVC, and polyurethane, providing light-weight and airtight sponsons, not metal.
5. To fix docks and to install anything on the docksides
The dock stays at a higher level, and going under it to fix anything would be tough and challenging with other boats. Since Jon boats have less freeboard area and mostly you will stay closer to the water level, it will be easy to go under the dock for fixing anything.
And installing anything on the docks such as dock bumpers, ladders, etc. turns out easy to do because you can sit comfortably on a Jon boat, which is stable enough until if you didn’t exceed the maximum capacity of the boat. So, Jon boats can be used to fix anything on the dock.
Whereas on an inflatable boat like a dingy, it is tough to sit comfortably on it and to fix or install anything on the docksides because they won’t be as stable as Jon boats. They are made of rubberized synthetic fabrics, PVC, and polyurethane, providing light-weight and airtight sponsons, not metal.
So, a Jon boat, which is made out of metal, can stay a bit stiffer than an inflatable boat, making it comfortable to do any work sitting on the boat. Any lightweight boats can stay stiff only in calm waters, not in rough or choppy waters.
What are Jon boats not used for?
Now that you have got some idea about what Jon boats are used for in general, such as for recreational purposes, lightweight activities, calm and shallow water activities, etc. We will now see what Jon boats are not used for or can be dangerous.
Jon boats cannot be used for rough or choppy waters activities, all-day boating purposes, carrying a heavy load (equipment), and in bad weather. Since these are lightweight boats, which can be easily affected by bad weather or carrying heavyweight activities or so.
Jon boats can be extremely dangerous for rough or choppy water activities (seas or oceans) because water can get into the boat easily since the foredeck area or ribs are open for most Jon boats, and it can be challenging to push the water out at the same rate with a bilge pump.
1. Rough or choppy water activities
Jon boats’ main problem is they are open (foredeck area or ribs are open for most Jon boats); water can easily slide into the Jon boat and quickly if any big wave hits the boat. You need to keep that water away from the boat as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of danger.
In order to keep the water (flooded water) away from the boat, you need to use a bilge pump. One bilge pump is sufficient for calm water activities, whereas for rough or choppy water activities, it requires a powerful bilge pump or extra bilge pumps.
Bilge pumps need to push back the same amount of water that gets into the boat. If they aren’t able to push them out, the boat can be flooded with water, and it could turn into a tragedy. So, sometimes even a big bilge pump or extra ones may not be able to keep the water out quickly.
Finally, by not going in rough or choppy waters such as seas or oceans, you can avoid all those problems and the majority of the risks. In that way, rough or choppy waters can be dangerous for Jon boats, and they can turn any joyful situation into a tragedy.
2. All day boating purposes
Since a simple design of a typical Jon boat includes an open hull, without a bilge, leaving the ribs exposed. Whereas normal boats (other than Jon boats) will have cabins, and some will have canvases or bimini tops to protect from sunlight, rains, etc.
A long day out on the water can lead to an aching back, sunburns (since you are exposed to the sun for a long time), and the exposed ribs are tripping points that can also make it tough to stow large gear like coolers and tackle boxes neatly. The biggest one many people would point to is a lack of creature comforts (source).
Although many people address this issue by customizing their Jon boat to some degree, often over time to spread out the cost, adding things like swivel seats, fishing rod holders, cup holders, and carpeting or even decking. Adding those will prevent some of those problems.
But if you didn’t (don’t want to) customize the Jon boats, you may face all those problems such as discomfort aching back. And the exposed ribs are tripping points that can also make it tough to stow large gear like coolers and tackle boxes neatly, etc. if you go for all-day boating activity on a Jon boat (on a sunny day).
3. For carrying heavy equipment
The stability is one of the things which is essential for a boat because a more stable boat keeps the boat upright in the water without tilting sideways or capsizing. However, the flat bottomed Jon boat does optimize stability for a boat’s size and weight.
Any boat will be stable if the weight of the boat does not reach its maximum limit. If you push more, the boat will not be stable and can tilt sideways or even capsize. If you don’t exceed the boat capacity, most probably, you don’t need to worry about this.
Especially Jon boats are very stable until if they didn’t exceed its maxed capacity. If you carry more weight than the boat capacity, it can tilt or even capsize in the worst-case scenario. So, you need to check the weight you are taking with you on the boat to prevent the risk of dangers.
For a big Jon boat (above 13 feet), you don’t need to worry about stability even if you carry more weight. But small Jon boats (8 – 12 feet) are not like that. Standing up and walking from the bow to the stern can be difficult, at best, and increasing the weight will increase the risks along with it.
Related post – Check my article on How to prevent capsizing a boat? (link opens in a new tab) to know some of the essential things to take to avoid boat capsizing.
4. In saltwater
Water (both freshwater and saltwater) can be dangerous for boats because they can damage the boat by forming rust on the hull’s surface and all types of growth (algae, barnacles, etc.). Although they are some ways to prevent them, it takes time and money to do that.
Enormously salt water accelerates the whole process of rust and growth formation, and it is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Although people will say that aluminum boats (Jon boats) are less susceptible to rust and growth formation on the hull, it is only to some extent, not entirely true.
Saltwater is highly corrosive, and saltwater corrodes metal 5 times faster than freshwater. So saltwater effects the boat more than any other waters. So, keeping the boat for a long time in the saltwater or using the boat for a long time in salt water can affect the boat over time.
However, keeping the boat in normal water (freshwater) also effects the boat, but freshwater effects the boat slowly compared to other waters (saltwater). So, try to avoid keeping the boat in the water for a long time, primarily saltwater, to prevent rust and growth over time.
Related post – Check my article on the Effects of saltwater on the boat (link opens in a new tab) to know the effects of boating in saltwater and growth and rust prevention tips as well.
5. In bad weather
As mentioned above, Jon boats can perform poorly in rough or choppy waters. Jon boats’ main problem is they are open (foredeck area or ribs are open for most Jon boats); water can easily slide into the Jon boat and quickly if any big wave hits the boat.
So, you need to take care of the weather as well before and while boating as well. Checking the weather continually while boating is also an essential thing to do to prevent any risk of danger. If the weather is bad or starts raining, you need to be very careful.
To prevent all those water problems from getting into the boat and capsizing, you can do one thing prior to the trip that is checking the weather before starting the trip. By checking the weather before starting the trip, you can avoid most of the problems.
And while boating, listening to the weather constantly on a phone or VHF radio (if you have one) will help you a lot. Because you will get to know about the weather details in advance, and you can get back home quickly if you heard anything bad or something.
Jon boats are mainly or most commonly used for recreational purposes such as fishing, hunting, transport, etc. and not used for rough or choppy water activities. So, if you are interested in boating often in calm waters, Jon boats would be a perfect option for you.
Jon boats are mostly suitable for calm and shallow water activities. Due to its flat-bottomed hull design, you can easily and comfortably go in shallow water areas compared to other hulled boats (V-hulled Jon boats is a bit comfortable and more stable than other hulled boats).
Jon boats are not suitable for boating in rough or choppy waters such as in seas or oceans. A typical Jon boat’s simple design includes an open hull, without a bilge, leaving the ribs exposed, making it more susceptible to water getting into the boat if any waves hit the boat. So, it’s better to avoid boating in bad weather, especially while using a Jon boat.