The humble jon boat has become increasingly popular in the United States for its versatile performance. Perfect for fishing in or cruising through inland waterways, jon boats are distinguished by their flat bottom silhouette that makes them a little more stable that other boats. Well, at least under the right conditions.
If you own a jon boat, then you might find that it does particularly well for fishing in calm, inland waters. And while you might be able to take it to places where there's slightly stronger wind and waves, that entails equipping it with the right modifications to prevent instability. Wondering how to make a jon boat more stable? Try these tips .
What Makes a Jon Boat Unstable?
By design, the jon boat should be much more stable than most other boats you might find navigating in similar waterways. But even then, there are factors that can affect your boating experience and make it difficult to keep your jon boat upright.
By definition, a jon boat is a small watercraft with a flat hull. That means that unlike a bass boat or a speed boat with a V-shaped underside, the jon boat is entirely flat. Why is that so? Well, the jon boat was made to traverse shallow, calm waters. Its flat shaped hull allows boaters and anglers to ride over water that's just inches deep without having to worry about their hull scraping the bottom of the water.
Unfortunately, this same design will cause instability issues even just slightly choppy water. A V-shaped hull slices through water mainly because of its streamlined shape that sits lower under the surface versus a flat bottom boat. That's also why some people have tried to customized the jon boat to turn it into a semi V-hull shape. But that reduces its scope and makes it impossible to use in shallow water.
Another factor that can affect the stability of a jon boat is weight distribution and how much weight is on deck. Remember that with a flat bottom, a boat's draft is significantly reduced. So instead of being partially submerged in water, the boat literally sits on top of the surface of the water. Thus if there's an uneven weight or heavy load, your boat may dip lower on one end and make it unstable.
This applies to any heavy items you load on board like fresh caught fish, and even the placement of your engine and motor. It also includes the passengers you have on deck. Aside from checking with the manual or the manufacturer, you can calculate how many passengers you can have by multiplying the length of the boat by its width and then dividing it by 15.
This should give you a rough number of its passengers capacity. So for instance, a 16 foot jon boat that's 4 feet wide can accommodate a number of 4.
Water and Wind Conditions
Of course, we can't discredit the role that water conditions play in the stability of your boat. Again, the jon boat was designed for calm, shallow, narrow, inland waterways. It's flat base can glide easily over especially calm waters with little to no currents. That said, you can imagine how the boat might be overcome by even just mild to moderate waves since it has virtually no draft.
Remember that a jon boat can only be used in very specific conditions. And while you might be able to steer your way through slightly rougher open water bodies, it's recommended to stay out of choppy conditions to prevent an unstable ride.
Have you ever tried rushing through calm waters with a jon boat? Like a hot knife through soft butter. For the most part, jon boats will not struggle with high speed as long as you're boating through the right conditions and you've got a strong enough engine and motor. However if you ever find yourself in rough waters, the boat's speed might be severely limited.
Keep in mind that although it might be possible to take your jon boat out to a slightly less relaxing stream or river, that doesn't mean you can go at whatever pace you want. When navigating tougher conditions, it's better to reduce your speed. Without a semi-V or V-shaped hull, your boat may lose the power to slice through the waves.
Most of the people who use jon boats prefer taking them out where they can enjoy some peace and quiet while they fish. So you're probably not going to find too many other boats in the area. That's also because the jon boat travels through fairly shallow waterways which are inaccessible to most other kinds of boats.
But if you decide to take your jon boat out to the lake where there are more people around, then the wake of other boats could be an issue. Strong waves produced after a fast boat slices through the water could destabilize your jon boat especially if you're a little too close to their path.
How to Make a Jon Boat More Stable
Maybe you want to be able to take your boat to new waterways, or maybe you just don't want to deal with the worry of your jon boat tipping over with the slightest currents. Here's what you can do to add to your jon boats stability.
Make It Wider
Now, this one's a method for someone with slightly more experience in handiwork, especially since widening a jon boat might be considered a major repair. This involves slicing your fishing boat in half lenghtwise down the midline, and then adding new aluminum material to reconnect them. The wider boat structure makes it possible to improve stability.
Remove all parts including the engine and motor, and then saw through the boat material. Once the two narrow halves of the boat are separated, you can move them apart to the desired width which should exceed one or two feet. Then, attach ribs to interiors and floor of the two halves so that they're connected across the center. Finally, take your boat material (which is probably going to be a sheet of aluminum), and then weld that in place. You can also add floor to the boat's interior to conceal any joints.
Some boat owners have successfully completed the job of width expansion for the low cost of about $400 or even less. But keep in mind that you're going to want to assess your own DIY skills before undertaking the project. Any mishaps or mistakes can lead to safety issues when you actually take your boat to the water.
Install Floatation Pods
A floatation pod is essentially a hollow structure that you add to the back of your boat for buoyancy and stability. These pods can be made DIY, and serve the purpose of lifting the stern slightly more out of the water. Now, why would you want to do that? Well, whenever you propel your boat forward with a motor at the stern (where it always is), there's no denying the fact that the force pushes the stern down and the bow upward.
This can make your jon boat less stable as you move forward, and may make the stern more prone to taking on water since it dips lower into the surface of the water. But aside from simply adding the pods, you can also try to redistribute weight so that more of the load sits closer to the bow. You can also try using a store-bought stabilizer that works the same way. Check out the Marine Dynamics Stabilizer which is a great choice.
TIP: Some boaters might tell you to add flotation pods to the inside of the transom. This will not improve buoyancy. Any features added to the transom on the inside of the boat will only add to the weight load and contribute to instability. Add your pods to the outside of boat and close to the bottom edge of the stern to guarantee effective buoyancy improvement.
This one's a common stability feature that you'll see installed on native fishing boats throughout tropical areas of the world or even on canoes. These outriggers attach to a sort of framework that crosses the length of the midsection of your boat so that the pipes sit on either side of your jon to improve stability.
Just like the stabilizer pods, outriggers work to push your boat slightly out of the water by increase buoyancy and thus keeping your vessel from dipping too low into the water. They also work as reserve stability to keep your boat upright in Some boat owners design these outriggers so that they can be removed and adjusted depending on the need.
What Jon Boats are Most Stable?
Let it be known that manufacturers strive to make all jon boats stable. It's really a matter of how well you use it. That said, jon boats are designed so that they're most stable for fishing in specific situations. Thus the quality of your boating experience relies heavily on how well you can tow the line and operate your boat in conditions it was intended for.
Generally speaking, there are two types of jon boats:
- Flat bottom jon boats
- Semi-v hull jon boats
As previously discussed, flat hulls are perfect for fishing conditions where waters are calm. They float on the surface and cut through with graceful speed. They're most stable in relaxed shallow inland waterways.
And then there are semi-V hull jon boats. Let it be known that some boaters will actually contest that modifying a jon boat so that it's V-shaped disqualifies it as a jon boat all together, since the flat base is the identifying mark of a jon boat.
But even then, these boats were designed for rougher conditions, allowing them to slice through currents agreater control and stability. Keep in mind though that these types of boats are better for deep water conditions since the added draft may cause the vessel to hit the water floor in shallow areas.
Will Adding Foam Make a Jon Boat More Stable?
The short answer is no, it will not. Some boaters speculate that adding buoyant material like foam to the inside of the boat can help in adding buoyancy. But again, anything added to the inside of your boat will only encumber it with extra weight and make it unstable -- even if it's just foam. Plus, if you're adding buoyancy that's out of contact with the water, it won't improve stability.
That said, some people insist on adding buoyancy to their jon boat with foam not to improve stability but to make the boat easier to find in case it sinks. Some have even stated that adding foam to the boat's interior can help slow down the sinking process.
When considering the benefits of adding buoyant foam to your jon boat, it's really not about stability. It's more about preventing your boat from sinking too fast, or finding it sooner if and when it completely submerges into the water.
FAQs About Jon Boat Stability
How do you add flotation pods to a jon boat?
You can buy flotation pods or make them at home. Installing them is all just a matter of welding them in place. There are also tutorials online that teach you how to install the pods with just a drill and a few heavy-duty rivets.
What is the most stable jon boat?
Again, all jon boats are designed for stability. But if we're talking about top performers, the Predator series from Lund features excellent craftsmanship and a powerful motor for hunting and fishing use.
How do I make a V-hull jon boat more stable?
All of the recommendations above can be used for flat, semiV, and V-shaped hulls. Keep in mind though that with a Vshaped jon boat, stability in choppy water might not be your biggest concern.
The Bottom Line
In general, jon boats are designed for stability in calm inland waterways. But if you want to expand your horizons and use your jon boat in exciting new places, then you can try to make it a little more stable. Try these tips on how to make a jon boat more stable to give your vessel a better fighting chance against the waves and to explore new locations with your beefed up boat.