In an era where bigger, flashier and faster get all the attention, the unassuming jon boat continues to perform a functional assignment on the water.
The jon is a utilitarian, flat-bottomed boat from 8 to about 20 feet in length, and usually offers no amenities beyond two or three bench seats. Typically made of aluminum and powered by a small outboard motor, jon boats are lightweight and rugged, and can be found in service around the world for fishing and hunting, search-and-rescue, and as workboats.
But here’s the beauty of a jon boat/small outboard combo: You’d be hard-pressed to beat it in terms of affordability and versatility. A basic 15-foot jon boat powered by a Mercury 15hp FourStroke EFI or 9.9hp FourStroke outboard may be one of the most-accessible powerboats on the water, a rig capable of efficiently navigating freshwater lakes and inshore saltwater locales. Because its flat bottom draws so little water a jon boat can noodle into shallow coves and creeks that are inaccessible to bigger craft, with little fear of rocks and stumps that would turn back an angler in a v-bottom fiberglass boat. Many owners consider a jon boat the ideal foundation for customization. It’s easy to upgrade with electronics, navigation or other specialized lighting for night fishing, a trolling motor, secure storage for fishing gear or hunting guns, or decking over the seats, and to do it all yourself in the driveway or garage.
An 8-to-12-foot jon boat with a 2.5-8hp Mercury FourStroke outboard is even more affordable and can be launched at the most-remote ramps, or even launched by hand into a pond or creek with no ramp at all. If you really want a bargain, consider repowering a used jon boat with a new Mercury outboard motor. These boats rarely wear out, and a new FourStroke Mercury motor from 2.5hp to 40hp will deliver easy starting, great economy and clean, quiet operation, season after season.
David Bishop of Ed’s Marine Superstore in Ashland, Virginia, says that in his part of the nation small outboards are particularly important for the many aluminum fishing boats used on lakes, including nearby Lake Anna.
“On these boats reducing weight is really important,” Bishop said. “We sell a lot of small Mercury outboards since they’re the lightest around. Plus, on Lake Anna probably 10 out of 11 dealers service Mercury, so everyone on the lake wants one.”
If you want a little more size and speed a jon boat in the 16-to-20-foot range powered by a 30 or 40hp Mercury FourStroke EFI outboard can carry several people or a significant payload with the size to confidently handle bigger lakes and rougher waters. Even with modest power, when conditions are right a lightweight jon boat can zip across the water at speeds to rival those of boats costing two and three times as much money. There will always be a place for the jon boat on the waterfront.