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If you’re looking for the best craft for fishing you’ve probably wondered which is better – jon boat vs kayak? Both vessels definitely have their pros and cons.
But is one better than the other? We’ve compared kayaks and jon boats to see which one fares better for fishing.
Kayaks: The Basics
Kayaks are generally long and narrow in shape so that you can easily paddle using a double-bladed paddle. A kayak tends to have either one or two seats, depending on whether it is a solo or tandem kayak.
Most fishing kayaks are sit-on-top kayaks but there are a small number of fishing kayaks that are sit-inside kayaks. Sizes of fishing kayaks range from around 10 to 14-feet.
Hull shapes vary between kayaks. Fishing kayaks tend to have hulls that are designed for flatwater conditions, such as flat-bottom hulls or pontoon hulls. But there are V-shaped and rounded hulls that can offer improved stability on rough water or moving rivers.
Standard kayaks require arm power and a paddle to move across the water. However, there are other methods of propulsion available for some kayaks. For example, you might be able to add an electric trolling motor to some kayaks and other kayaks may come with a pedal drive system.
There are many different types of kayaks, with each type being designed for a specific activity or water condition.
Several types of kayaks can be easily used for fishing, including inflatable kayaks, recreational kayaks, some touring kayaks, and of course, dedicated fishing kayaks.
Jon Boats: The Basics
Jon boats are usually flat on the bottom (although can sometimes be V-shaped underneath) and tend to be square in shape at the stern. The bow also tends to be square rather than tapered.
The hull on a jon boat is generally much wider than a kayak. And instead of having a single seat (or two on a tandem kayak), jon boats tend to have bench seats. This can give you more space and freedom of where to sit.
With the bottom of the hull being mostly flat, this can help with stability on flatwater but it may not be the best option for choppy water or moving water. Jon boats with modified V-shaped hulls can handle rough water a little better but might not be so stable on flatwater.
Most jon boats are made with aluminum but some are made from polyethylene or wood. This can make them heavier than most kayaks.
Jon boats tend to be powered by a motor. This is often a gas outboard motor. However, you could use an electric trolling motor on some jon boats.
Because jon boats are much wider compared to kayaks, it would probably be quite difficult to paddle a jon boat with a paddle. But there is the option of using a set of oars if you prefer an alternative to gas power.
However, oars might only be suitable to use on smaller or lighter jon boats, especially if you’re on your own.
Jon boats come in a variety of different sizes, ranging from around 8 feet up to over 20 feet in length.
Generally, the larger the jon boat, the more weight, gear, and people it can carry. Larger jon boats can be a good idea if you plan to fish with a couple of other people or as a family. There should also be room to bring a dog along.
However, if you plan to bring a dog with you, you might want to invest in a couple of non-slip deck mats for traction for your dog’s paws (and your own feet).
While both kayaks and jon boats can be excellent fishing vessels, is one better than the other? We’ve compared some of the main features of jon boats and kayaks to see which one comes out on top.
Fishing kayaks often have excellent storage options, with plenty of room for all your fishing gear for a day. Most fishing kayaks will also have dedicated storage areas for fishing equipment, such as built-in rod holders and places to store tackle trays or mount electronics.
Kayaks will generally have less room available on deck than jon boats, as they tend to be narrower. So you may find you have more space for larger gear on a jon boat compared to a kayak.
Some fishing kayaks will have dry storage hatches built into the hull, where you can keep smaller items safe and dry. Jon boats will generally not have hatches in the hull. But some may have storage built into the seats.
Large jon boats will often have a higher capacity than kayaks of the same length. But smaller jon boats, such as those around 10 or 12-feet, may sometimes have a lower capacity than fishing kayaks of a similar length.
In terms of dedicated fishing gear storage, kayaks are probably the winner here. But if you’d prefer more overall space then a jon boat could be the way to go.
Fishing kayaks and jon boats can both offer excellent stability on flatwater. However, some fishing kayaks can also offer a relatively high level of stability on rough water.
Jon boats, on the other hand, tend to only offer flatwater stability since most of them are designed with flat bottoms.
However, there are some jon boats that have a V-shaped hull, often described as a modified-V or semi-V hull. This shape of hull can offer increased stability on choppy waters but may not be as stable on flatwater.
Some jon boats and some fishing kayaks are stable enough to stand up in, with large jon boats often being stable enough to move around in.
Kayaks may offer a better combination of both primary and secondary stability, depending on the design of the hull, so some kayaks can be suited to both flat and moving water. Jon boats tend to be either suited to flatwater or choppy water rather than both.
Jon boats are not specifically designed for comfort. Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, tend to have a high level of comfort for spending hours on the water.
The seats on jon boats and kayaks are usually very different. Jon boats tend to have basic bench seats that are not padded, so you may need to bring your own cushion if you plan to sit for any length of time. Or, alternatively, you could always upgrade the seats.
Many fishing kayaks often have framed seats with breathable or padded fabric and a backrest. The seats are often elevated off the deck for added comfort, unlike standard recreational kayak seats which tend to be level with the deck.
Fishing kayaks also often have cup holders close to the seat, as well as foot rests to support your legs.
Jon boats, on the other hand, tend to offer more space to move around, as you’re usually not restricted to just one seating area.
Kayaks are generally more comfortable than jon boats for fishing for long periods.
Kayaks are generally pretty easy to use. Even if you’re a complete beginner or a child, it can be relatively easy to get the hang of paddling after a few strokes.
Kayaks are compact by design, so they can be easy to maneuver in small bodies of water and you should have no problems controlling a kayak by yourself.
A jon boat, on the other hand, is motorized (usually with an outboard motor) so you may need some prior boating experience, or in some cases, a boating license.
Most states have a requirement that boaters pass a boating education course before legally being able to operate a motorized vessel. Laws and who is required to pass a boating safety course will vary between states.
A few states, such as Alaska, Arizona, South Dakota, and Wyoming, have no requirements to complete a safety course or hold a license before operating a motorized boat.
While a motorized jon boat might get you to your honey hole more quickly than a kayak, a kayak will tend to be easier to maintain in the long run than a jon boat. This is because there are no mechanical parts to maintain on a kayak.
On a jon boat, the engine will have to be maintained to keep it in working order. You’ll also have to fill it with gas – unless you have an electric motor, in which case you’ll need a battery and a charger.
Kayaks can be easier to use than jon boats, simply because they can be powered by hand, without a license, and have no mechanical components.
When comparing a motorized jon boat to a non-motorized kayak, you can probably tell which one is faster. Jon boats will tend to be faster across the water than kayaks, simply because they have a motor attached.
You can also add a motor to some kayaks if you want increased speed or hands-free propulsion. However, if you add a motor to a kayak, you will usually need to register your kayak as a motorized vessel, just as you would need to do with a jon boat.
Non-motorized kayaks will usually rely on arm power (paddle power) alone, so they will only go as fast as you can physically paddle.
However, there are also pedal options for some kayaks, which can let you use the extra strength in your legs to power you and your kayak to your next fishing hole. Pedal kayaks can usually be faster than standard kayaks that rely on a paddle only.
Jon boats tend to use outboard motors, which will usually offer increased speeds over a trolling motor attached to a kayak. For example, a 14-foot jon boat will typically be able to reach speeds of 25 mph.
This will generally be much faster than a 14-foot kayak, even with a trolling motor, as it will only be able to reach speeds of around 5 mph.
Jon boats win the speed test, being able to go much faster than fishing kayaks thanks to the motor.
In terms of portability, a kayak will generally be easier to transport than a jon boat. Most kayaks can be transported on a roof rack on top of your car.
Jon boats are usually too big to be able to car-top them. So you will usually need a trailer to tow a jon boat behind your vehicle.
In most states, you will need to register your trailer. You will also need to attach a license plate that corresponds to your towing vehicle as well as the required lights.
However, some small jon boats may be compact enough to fit in the back of a pickup truck, just like some compact fishing kayaks.
While jon boats are considered lightweight boats, you’ll probably find that most jon boats are heavier than kayaks of a comparable size. So it can be easier to carry a kayak down to the water. You may need a second person or a trolley to carry a small jon boat and some will be too heavy to lift at all.
Kayaks are easier to transport without a trailer, making them generally more portable than jon boats.
Both jon boats and fishing kayaks are ideal for customization. Both options tend to have plenty of additional accessories that can be attached to the vessels to tailor the craft to your specifications.
Rudders, motors, anchor trolleys, additional fishing rod holders, and electronics are just some of the aftermarket options that kayak anglers often choose to add.
Jon boats can be customized with new seats, upgraded motors, and new paint jobs.
There are also plenty of DIY mounts and accessories you can make for both fishing kayaks and jon boats.
Both kayaks and jon boats probably have equal opportunities for customization so there is no clear-cut winner in this category.
As you can see, kayaks and jon boats both have their advantages and disadvantages for fishing. Is one better than the other? That probably depends on your personal preference and the type of fishing you want to do.
If you plan to fish alone, a fishing kayak can be better. If you want extra space to bring along more people, a jon boat might be the more suitable option.
Which one do you think is better? Let us know your thoughts. And if you think your angler buddies would like to compare the two, share this with them.