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Best Jon Boats 2020 – Our Top 10 Picks

Best Overall Choice
Crestliner 1860 Retriever

Crestliner 1860 Retriever (Best Overall)

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Best Budget Choice
Lund Jon Boat series

Lund Jon Boat series (Best Jon Boat for the Money)

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Best Premium Choice
F-4 Pro Hull 1754

F-4 Pro Hull 1754 (Best Jon Boat for Duck Hunting)

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 by Updated on October 21, 2020. In Boats

If you’ve been to the Everglades, the Ozarks, or around the bayou, you’re probably already familiar with Jon boats. They’re no doubt the most popular watercraft you’ll see in the South, and with good reason.

Not all waterways are suited to fancy, luxury, high-tech crafts. Some places call for light vessels that can comfortably skim the top of shallow waters. Jon boats are essentially utility boats whose hulls have a special flat-bottomed design that you typically won’t find on any other boat type.

This allows them to sit on top of the water, rather than cruising through it. So, if you plan to go fishing, hunting, collecting lumber – basically any activity that would require you to cruise over skinny waters that have lots of muck, mud, or obstacles in it, like in mudflats, swamps, and other similar areas – a Jon boat is the vessel you need for the job.

The best thing about them is how low-cost they are. This guide explores the 10 best Jon boats for 2020, as well as the critical factors you need to consider when buying one.

Best Overall Choice

1. Crestliner 1860 Retriever (Best Overall)

Crestliner 1860 Retriever

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If you’re looking for a Jon boat that delivers excellent value for its price, then you’ll like what the Crestliner 1860 Retriever brings to the table. This high-performance fishing vessel also doubles up as a hunting boat and even comes in camo to let you get as close as you possibly can to your prey.

But what we like about it are the tons of features it comes with. It has heaps of storage for all your fishing/hunting gear, center/side console, a 16-gallon Livewell, fold-down seats, and ample casting room. It even has a 45-degree Suremount Gunnel System that lets you slide accessories along it for perfect placement.

The 1860 Retriever is fully customizable, so you can incorporate all the comfort features that matter the most to you.

Pros

● Great value for money
● Fully customizable
● Comes with loads of features

Cons

● Not ideal for saltwater use

Best Budget Choice

2. Lund Jon Boat series (Best Jon Boat for the Money)

Lund Jon Boat series

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Lund is no stranger to the Jon boat world. The company has a wide range of vessels that vary in size, measuring between 10 and 18 feet long. The Lund Jon Boat series features flat-bottomed fishing and hunting boats designed to float in extremely shallow waters.

They are made of aluminum, which makes them highly durable and exceptionally lightweight. They are, however, not suitable for saltwater as this corrodes the aluminum.

Their design is pretty basic but functional. They feature a few seating benches that also double up as storage. You also have the option of installing an outboard motor ranging between 3 and 45 hp, depending on the size of the model you go with.

Overall, if you’re looking for a high-quality, durable, and affordable vessel for your hunting and fishing expeditions, a Lund is an ideal choice.

Pros

● Suitable for fishing and hunting
● Affordable price point
● Has a provision for an outboard motor

Cons

● Not suited to saltwater

3. L1032 Jon (Best Jon Boat for Fishing)

L1032 Jon

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The L1032 Jon from Lowe Boats was built for fishing. The first thing you’ll notice is its flat square-shaped bow and 15-inch transom that allows you to get quite close to the water and cast your fishing line comfortably without any unnecessary obstructions.

It has an aluminum hull construction and two oar-lock mounts for your paddling oars. The hull bottom is completely flat with formed-in keels that allow the vessel to float in very shallow water.

All models come with two bench seats for the driver and passenger, in addition to two transom grab handles and one on the bow. It is available in Dead Grass Green.

Pros

● The minimalist design makes it extremely lightweight
● The square-shaped bow and transom provides a lot of room for fishing
● Affordable

Cons

● Trolling motor not included in the purchase

4. Stalker MV 120 (Best Jon Boat for Saltwater)

Stalker MV 120

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Aluminum Jon boats are great, and all, but may not be ideal for saltwater use. So, if you plan to use it on a saltwater lake or the ocean shoreline, consider getting a vessel whose construction is made from something other than aluminum.

The Stalker MV 120 is ideal for such conditions. It is made from fiberglass, which means that you don’t have to worry about the salty ocean water corroding the hull and other components. It also has a slightly modified V-shaped hull, which provides additional stability when navigating through choppy waters.

Standard features of the MV 120 include two non-removable swivel seats, ample storage under the deck, slightly tapered bow design to cut through rough waves, splash handles for a drier ride, and a transom provision for mounting an electric trolling motor. There’s also an optional non-aerated Livewell that comes with a drain hole at the bottom.

Pros

● Suitable for saltwater conditions
● Affordable price point
● Stable in choppy waters

Cons

● Maximum weight capacity is low

Best Premium Choice

5. F-4 Pro Hull 1754 (Best Jon Boat for Duck Hunting)

F-4 Pro Hull 1754

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The F-4 Pro Hull 1754 from Excel Boats is a beauty. It is decked out with a host of features that you wouldn’t expect to find in a 17-foot long Jon boat. It is tough, lightweight, and quick, which is ideally what you want in a duck hunting boat.

The aluminum vessel has an open hull design with a reinforced floor that allows it to navigate extremely shallow waters with ease. Standard features include a flat-bottomed hull, triple-taper chine, interior lights, running lights, bilge, stand-up bar, front grab rail, low/high front deck, and a step-deck.

It comes in OD Green Standard, although you can choose between Old School camo, Natural Gear, Max-4, Optifade Timber, and Optifade Marsh camo paints. It also has a provision for installing a trolling motor kit at the back of the boat if you like.

All in all, if you’re going on a duck-hunting expedition, this is the Jon boat you need to get the job done.

Pros

● Feature-rich
● Available in a host of camo exteriors
● Built for shallow waters

Cons

● Not ideal for choppy waters

6. Lowe L1852MT Aura (Best Jon Boat for Bass Fishing)

Lowe L1852MT Aura

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Bass fishing is an art and science all rolled into one. It can be tough if you’re new to it and aren’t quite sure how to go about it, or even where to find bass in the first place.

The most important thing to remember is that these types of fish love to hang out in places with lots of plant cover. So, anywhere there’s shallow water with grass or lily pads is your best bet.

Now, to access these areas, you need a flat-bottomed boat like the Lowe L1852MT Aura that can easily navigate areas with skinny waters. It is reliable, durable, and economical, which is precisely what you need for your mission. The L1852 measures 17 ft. 9 in. and has a maximum carrying capacity of up to six people.

Standard features include two transom grab handles, aft bench seating for the driver and passengers, ample storage in the bow center, and a provision for a bowfishing seat. You can also get a Livewell factory-installed and a trolling motor dealer-installed at an additional cost.

Pros

● Large carrying capacity
● Can navigate extremely shallow water
● Aluminum construction makes it durable and reliable

Cons

● Livewell and trolling motor not included in the purchase

7. Alumacraft 1436 Jon Sierra LT (Best Jon Boat for Mud Motor)

Alumacraft 1436 Jon Sierra LT

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If you intend to go duck hunting in an area with lots of weeds or mud, regular outboard motors are not cut out for such conditions. They easily get caught up in submerged obstacles, which can make it extremely hard to get your boat back out. Mud motors are specially designed to cut through mud and weeds with ease.

The 2020 Alumacraft 1436 Jon Sierra LT boat is built with a provision to install a mud motor like the SPS Swamp Runner kit. Standard features of the craft include oarlocks, center seat storage, one-piece hull, and keel breaks. It is perfect for gliding through marshy areas with extremely shallow water.

Pros

● Perfect for navigating shallow marshy waters
● Has a provision for a mud motor
● Affordable price point

Cons

● Only has bench seating

8. American 12 Jon (Best Jon Boat for Shallow Water)

American 12 Jon

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The American 12 Jon fishing boat is specially designed for cruising through shallow water that’s only a few inches deep. Its deck and hull are made of high-density rugged UV-stabilized polyethylene, which makes it extremely lightweight.

It has two bench style seats for carrying two passengers on board and comes with built-in stern and bow mounts for a trolling motor and battery storage. This vessel is as light as they come.

Pros

● Can navigate extremely shallow water
● Has a polyethylene construction making it very lightweight
● Durable

Cons

● Price doesn’t include trolling motor

9. Tracker Grizzly 1754 Jon (Best All-Welded Aluminum Jon Boat)

Tracker Grizzly 1754 Jon

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The Tracker Grizzly 1754 Jon boat is no doubt one of the best all-welded aluminum fishing boats we’ve come across. It measures 17 ft. in length and has a generous 6 ft. 6 in. wide beam, making it ideal for fishing, bowfishing, and hunting.

The cockpit floor is made of thick .190 aluminum for a smooth and quieter ride and covered in a textured Sure Thread to provide a non-slip surface. The foam-filled welded-in sidewalls add to its structural strength, rigidity, and durability.

Pros

● Provides a smooth, quiet ride
● Lightweight and durable
● Spacious interior

Cons

● Expensive compared to other boats in its category

10. Grizzly 2072 CC Sportsman (Best Jon Boat for Bowfishing)

Grizzly 2072 CC Sportsman

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The 2020 Grizzly 2072 CC Sportsman is the perfect bowfishing Jon. It has a raised platform to give you the height advantage you need to target your bow and arrow with accurate precision and less deflection.

It also comes with eight super-bright LED lights that produce 40,000 lumens to light up your quarry to see your prey. Standard features of the 2072 Sportsman include a 15-gallon aerated Livewell, Minn Kota trolling motor, sport steering wheel, vertical rod mounts, bow center deck storage, and lots more. The vessel is backed by a factory warranty.

Pros

● Powerful navigation lights
● Built-in elevated platform
● Comes with a trolling motor

Cons

● Expensive

How to Choose the Best Jon Boats – Buyer’s Guide

If this is your first Jon boat rodeo, you’re probably confused about which brand and model you should go with. While these are certainly important factors to consider, your choice will ultimately boil down to how you intend to use the boat and the environment in which you’ll use it.

Before we get into what you need to look for in the best Jon boats in the market, here are three questions you need to ask before you make that all-important purchase decision.

1. What Will I Use My Jon Boat For

The purpose of the boat determines the type of craft you’ll need. This is an important question that new boaters, as well as their experienced counterparts, need to ask before they decide on the vessel they should buy.

If your boating activities require you to carry loads of stuff – “stuff” here refers to both individuals and gear – then you’re going to need a bigger boat.

2. Where Will I Use It

The next thing you’ll need to consider is the boating environment you’ll be in. It’s not enough to simply pick any flat-bottomed boat you come across. You need to pick the most optimal design for the waters you intend to navigate. This will generally come down to choosing between a shallow draft and a deep draft vessel.

Jon boats with a flat-bottomed hull and a shallow draft are ideal for navigating calm inland waterways such as those in rivers, canals, creeks, lakes, etc. They offer exceptional stability, which is what you want when navigating these tranquil waters.

Their flat-bottomed shallow-draft design, particularly when used under manual propulsion – such as a pole or paddle – makes them quite effective when navigating extremely shallow waters. So, you can comfortably cruise through water bodies that are only a few inches deep.

Keep in mind, however, that not all inland waters are calm. You might come across waterways with choppier waters. In such environments, the flat-bottomed hull design of Jon boats may not work in your favor. You also can’t use deep-draft vessels like those with V-hulls, as these would not be ideal for navigating shallow inland waterways.

Hybrid Designs

So, what is a boater to do in such circumstances? Well, you would need to get a vessel that’s a cross between the two. That’s precisely why modified semi-V Jon boats exist. They offer the stability of their flat-bottomed cousins, but with the ability to sit deeper in the water.

The tradeoff is that they can’t navigate extremely shallow waters. So, your decision to buy one over the other largely depends on the location you intend to use the boat, rather than its specific purpose.

3. How Much Stuff Will I Have Onboard

Finally, you need to think about the number of passengers you intend to ferry and the gear you have to stow. Every Jon boat has a maximum weight capacity that determines the combined weight limit of what it can carry.

This limit is usually higher as the boats go up in size. So, as you would expect, a large boat will have a larger weight capacity than a smaller one. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but this is generally the case.

It is important to keep in mind that bigger doesn’t always equate to better. Larger boats have their own unique set of challenges that gives their smaller counterparts a slight edge over them.

For instance, larger Jon boats often have trouble accessing smaller sloughs or maneuvering tight bends. They are, however, better equipped to ride choppier waters since their larger surface area gives them a higher degree of stability compared to smaller vessels.

So, the best size boat to pick will largely depend on how much stuff you’ll have in your craft and the nature of the waterways you intend to navigate.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Jon Boat

Once you’re clear on the answers to the three questions detailed in the previous section, you’re now ready to pick a boat. The good news is that most Jon boats have the same basic design.

There usually aren’t a lot of variations between the makes and models. Even the customizations are all typically the same. So, making a purchase decision isn’t a mind-boggling task.

Nonetheless, there are still some important considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best Jon boats to buy. Here are the top ones.

Size

There’s a reason this is number one on our list. Size is by far the most important consideration when buying a Jon boat. As stated in the previous section, the size of the vessel you get will largely be determined by your intended purpose for the boat.

If you plan to go for solo fishing expeditions on tranquil inland waterways, then an 8-10 ft. Jon will suffice. These could either be used with a paddle or pole. If you’re all about getting to your destination fast, you can get a Jon boat with a small trolling motor.

If, on the other hand, you plan to go boat camping with your family, you’ll likely need a bigger boat to stow all your camping gear and family members. You may even need to carry along your dogs. If that’s the case, you might want to get a 14-18 ft. boat with a fairly large motor. If you plan to go hunting, you’re going to need an even bigger boat.

Check the boat’s carrying capacity to make sure that you get the right one for your needs.

Construction

Spoiler-alert! The majority of Jon boats from the biggest brands only offer Aluminum models. If you look hard enough, you might come across some made from wood or fiberglass. Wooden Jon boats are often handmade. So, if you do come across them, they are likely the result of a home DIY project.

Fiberglass boats, on the other hand, are more expensive, which beats the purpose of getting a Jon boat in the first place. They are supposed to be a cheaper low-cost alternative to all the other types of boats you’ll come across. But, if you feel like splurging, then, by all means, go right ahead.

Aluminum tends to be the most common construction material for Jon boats, given how lightweight and durable they are. The fact that they are also pretty cheap is a definite bonus.

Keep in mind that aluminum boats aren’t durable when used in saltwater lakes or on ocean shorelines. Salty water corrodes aluminum quite fast. In such circumstances, you’re better off using fiberglass Jon boats or take preventative measures to protect the aluminum against corrosion.

The other thing you need to consider is the method used in the construction of the boat. Ideally, you want one with welded joints as opposed to rivets. The latter tend to corrode quicker over time, which will inevitably cause leaks.

Seating

Most Jon boats you’ll come across all have the same basic seating configuration – bench seats. However, most manufacturers allow you to “Build-a-Boat” and customize it according to your needs and preferences. So, if you would much rather have low-back, padded, or pedestal seating configurations, they can do that for you.

Outboard Motor

Most Jon boats don’t come with an outboard motor. So, if this is something you want to incorporate into your boat, you should be prepared to meet the additional costs that come with purchasing and installing it.

The type of motor you need all depends on the horsepower required to propel the boat at fairly high speeds, even when it’s at its maximum weight capacity.

Budget

This is fairly self-explanatory. Nonetheless, it’s important to mention that sticking to your budget might mean making a tradeoff between the size of the boat you want to get and the customizations you intend to make to it.

Be sure to also factor in the cost of the outboard motor if you plan to install one, as well as the cost of any storage units you might require.

Keep It Simple

The best Jon boats should be practical, affordable, and have a pretty basic design. Unless you want to add custom modifications to it like incorporating a semi-V hull to navigate choppier waters or add a bowfishing platform, a basic Jon boat with a paddle and trolling motor is good enough to meet your basic needs.

Any of the 10 brands detailed in this guide would be a great starting point. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a new bay boat, check out our comprehensive review on the best bay boats for 2020.

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