9 Jon Boat Storage Ideas
Ian Fortey Updated on November 14, 2022. In Jon Boatsby
One of the bigger complaints about a jon boat is the lack of storage in many of the simpler models. Fortunately, as basically a blank canvas, there are a few ways to make storage in a jon boat to increase usability and versatility with some simple jon boat mods that add storage. Just remember, when adding storage, you need to be aware of weight limits.
Convert Benches Into Storage
Some jon boats, especially older ones, have a lot of unused space under the bench seats. The benches take up space side to side and may just hold up a single seat, often in the middle. But the bench itself is often just wasted space underneath. If that’s the case on your boat, it’s easy enough to open the bench by removing the seat, cutting through the top or front and taking out whatever foam may be in there. You can add some cross beam support for remounting the seat and use the empty space on either side as storage compartments which can be either left open or covered with a hinged lid for easy access. This can give you some fairly significant storage close at hand for gear, refreshments or whatever else you want to have within reach of your seat.
You can also size pre-existing storage bins if you want a faster result with less work on your part. Find a cooler, an organizer bin or whatever suits your needs that will fit the dimensions of a bench and you can cut the top of the bench to size allowing you to slip your bin inside. This can work either at the front of the bench or for top down storage depending on what you want and how handy you are with a DIY project.
Use a Raised Deck with Storage Underneath
Raised decks can work well on larger jon boats in the range of 15 feet and longer. A smaller jon boat may work but you may find it too unstable with a smaller boat, especially if you go all out with pedestal seating on top of the deck. A half raised deck is also a possibility.
With a raised deck you’re simply installing a flat surface on which seats are mounted and that you stand or walk on. Below that deck can all be used as storage, a space as deep as the boat itself, which can be accessed either with latched hatches or by panels that can be lifted right off of both.
The space underneath should be more than large enough to handle tackle boxes, life jackets and much more. Because of the flat bottom of the boat you don’t need to worry about things not fitting well like they might in a v-shaped hull vessel.
Install Rod Holders
In a traditional jon boat you’ll often see fishing rods sitting on the floor or in a bucket waiting for use and while they don’t take up a ton of space, it’s much better to keep your rods organized and out of the way. Rod storage ideas can be extremely diverse and you can choose to buy rod holders or just rig your own DIY versions pretty easily to suit your needs.
Simple rod holders can be mounted with just a couple of screws on the transom, the gunwale, or wherever you feel they’d be best suited. There are also clamp style rod holders that don’t need to be permanently affixed and can be easily moved around the boat.
Rod racks and holders can be made using PVC pipes, golf tubes (the tubes in a golf bag that protect your clubs) or other materials. There are a lot of tutorial videos online that can show you various methods of getting it done including many that don’t require any drilling into your boat.
Some of the simplest but most effective storage ideas I have seen for a jon boat, or any boat really, is the addition of simple, small pocket storage that can be mounted on chair backs, on bench fronts, or any other flat surface you have available.
Winch handle pockets are made of PVC and are incredibly easy to point just about anywhere. You can pop a knife in them, pliers, tools, just about anything that you need to keep organized and out of the way when not in use. They only cost a few dollars and can be mounted with a couple of screws or without making any holes using something like a velcro system. That makes them easy to move around as well, if you want to switch out the layout at some point.
Make Use of Pedestal Seating
One of the things that can limit storage in a traditional jon boat is the seating. You can’t add bins or under deck storage around the seat because you need that room for you and your legs. However, you can eliminate that problem by moving the seat up. Install pedestal seating and the room under or around where you had been sitting can be converted to storage now that you can still maneuver around.
Section the Boat
I’ve seen a few jon boats that have been converted into segments. The center features a pedestal swivel seat to give the angler a full range of motion and then the bow and the stern have been modified with a raised deck, essentially breaking the boat into thirds. The center is where the action happens and the front deck and back deck are reserved for storing gear under the decks. The rear third can still have an elevated seat so you can sit and control the outboard, and the bow is clear for controlling the trolling motor as well.
The big issue with this kind of mod is that you need to remember to balance your boat. The rear of the boat is always going to have some extra weight thanks to the motor. If you’re seated back there and you have a rear deck with gear stored under it, you can significantly alter the weight and balance, so be mindful of that.
Invest in a Boat Tote
Boat Tote is a name brand but you can find other versions of these storage organizers or rig your own in a DIY project. These remind me of those couch caddies people used to sell years ago that could hold your TV remote, the TV Guide, a drink, pens and whatever else someone needs on the sofa.
A Boat Tote clamps onto the gunnel of your boat and has a rod holder, drink holder, storage shelves, a small tool rack and a platform you can use to mount your fish finder or GPS. If you go for a DIY you can of course add any additional amenities you want. They make great use of the space and keep everything neat and tight so it’s close at hand, easy to access and easy to see.
Storage like this is a great option to create space where you don’t have a ton already and you’re not looking to do huge modifications or add a lot of extra equipment.
Any hardware or fishing store should have small plastic trays available for just a few bucks. This is definitely a DIY project and depending on your level of artistry and finesse can look a little clunky if it’s not done right but if you don’t care then no worries. These trays can be mounted just below the gunwale, inside hatch lids or just about anywhere you have an unused flat surface. Get the containers with snap shut lids and basically what you’re creating is a modular tackle box system outside of a tackle box. Store sinkers, swivels, hooks and more small items like that. These can either be permanently mounted or you can use velcro again to make them modular, just be careful of how secure they are and how heavy the containers are when mounted.
Try Live Well Seating
If you’re hardcore into DIY, then you may be interested in one of these set ups. I’ve seen a 10 foot jon boat where the owner had crammed as many features as possible in the space including using a small, portable cooler as both his seat on the boat from which he can use the trolling motor and a live well. It had a circulation pump installed inside to keep the water moving and, if no fish were biting, it was still useful as a drink cooler.
The cooler was mounted on a raising deck with the wiring for the pump going to the battery stored underneath. Use a 12V connector and you can ensure the livewell stays totally portable so it can be removed entirely without having to adjust wiring or go below deck.
I personally wouldn’t use this as a seat, but as a livewell it’s a really quick and easy idea that’s functional and cheap as well. Mount the cooler on your raised deck, even just secured with bungee cords or clamps, and a simple pump you can find online can fill it with water from the lake in minutes or pump it back out again when you’re done.
A Note on Flotation in Most Jon Boats
There are a lot of really slick DIY jon boats like this that you can see in YouTube videos and in photos but you do need to be cautious when trying something like this yourself. Especially on smaller jon boats, you have limited storage not just due to lack of space but due to lack of buoyancy. You never want to overload your boat with more weight than it can handle,s o be cautious when looking at doing something like a raised deck. The weight of the plywood plus whatever gear you plan to store under it could end up being more than your boat can handle.
One thing some boaters do to counter this is to add float pods to their jon boat. These can be welded onto the outside of the hull, but there are also methods of adding flotation that don’t require welding as well. I’ve seen it done and done very well with rivets and 3M 5200 marine adhesive. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done! These pods can increase your flotation and therefore the amount of weight your boat can handle. That means your increased storage is less likely to cause balance issues or to potentially swamp you.
The Bottom Line
Storage options on a jon boat are limited, and even more limited with smaller models. You can use mods to help maximize storage space but they’ll take a little bit of elbow grease and DIY knowhow to pull off. Two of the most popular storage options are converting unused bench space into storage and adding a raised deck to use the space underneath.
Add ons can be purchased or rigged by DIY methods as well, including various storage racks, rod holders, rod lockers and Boat Totes to make the most of the limited space you have available.
Organization can also greatly help increase and maximize storage. A pedestal seat makes room for more storage while still allowing you to have mobility and access on the boat.
Always remember to use caution if modifying your boat in any way that requires welding or drilling holes. If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, get a hand to make sure it’s done the right way. Test out any mods you make as well, especially when it comes to things that may offset the weight or balance of the boat, to make sure they work safely before going out onto the open water.
Categories: Jon Boats