Ranger RB190 Camo

How Shallow A Flat Bottom Boat Can Go & More About Jon Boats

Ranger RB190 Camo, picture courtesy of Ranger.

When you’re shopping for a Jon boat, knowing the capabilities is essential to choosing the right watercraft. You know Jon boats have a flat bottom hull, but just how deep does the water need to be for the boat to travel safely?

Since a boat is a long-lasting item, it’s always safe and best to buy the most suitable one.  And if you want to take it into shallow areas, then knowing exactly how deep it can go will be essential.

A small flat bottom Jon boat can go in the water as shallow as 8” to 12”. The actual depth depends on a) local underwater ground elevation, b) total weight of the boat, c) size of the boat. The amount of displacement is proportional to the depth of water the boat may travel.

Those who seek information related to flat bottom Jon boats have reached the right place.  Welcome to Boating Guide.

Is A Flat Bottom Boat More Stable?

A flat bottom boat’s stability is decided based on the situation and its usage in the most straightforward words.  However, there are situations where a flat bottom boat is more stable than other hull types.  There are also situations where the Jon boat is not as stable.  Let’s take a look at these situations one by one.

A calm lake is shown in this file photo.
A calm lake is the perfect place for a Jon boat.

Where Are Flat Bottom Boats Stable?

A flat bottom boat shows its stability in the following situations: calm water, shallow water, and closed bodies of water such as ponds, small lakes, and slow-moving rivers.

Calm Water

Since these boats’ design is best suited for calm water, their stability will be at their best in such an environment. Water with zero waves is perfect for such kind of boats.

Shallow Water

Flat bottom boats handle extremely well in calm and shallow waters.  Given the flat bottom hull design, Jon boats are well suited for extremely shallow conditions where other boats would otherwise run aground.

Small Lakes, Ponds, And Other Independent Bodies Of Water

Open water is not for flat bottom boats for obvious reasons.  The larger the body of water, the greater the waves. But that won’t be possible in a closed, smaller body of water. So, always expect excellent stability of a flat bottom boat in closed water bodies such as ponds, lakes, or even slow-moving rivers.

How Can I Make My Flat Bottom Boat Better?

There are several aspects of making a flat bottom boat better. It can be in several terms. So, this section deals with making a fat bottom boat better.

A flat bottom boat can be made better in terms of performance, stability, storage, and seating capacity. 

However, in reality, a flat bottom boat can be made better by other measures too. Take a look at each of them one by one.

Performance

To improve performance, follow these recommendations:

  1. Equip the boat with the best-suited engine. An engine with low or high horsepower will degrade the performance. This issue can be resolved by equipping the boat with the recommended engine.
  2. Longer length means better performance. As the boat’s length gets longer, it can achieve more speed. The top-speed will automatically increase. It has been observed that adding merely 2 feet in the length can increase the speed up to 2 times.

Stability

Improve the boat’s stability to make the boat handle better. This can be achieved by taking the following considerations into account.

  1. Keep the weight evenly distributed. More weight on either side of the boat will cause a disturbance in the stability. 
  2. The total weight on the boat is important too. Too much or too little weight will leave an impact on the speed. It is suggested to keep the boat’s overall weight well within the boat capacity and spread out over the boat, not weighing down the port, bow, starboard, or stern unevenly.
  3. Install outriggers.  Installing outriggers is a way to increase Jon boat stability dramatically.  Think of the difference between a canoe and a trimaran (catamaran but with a total of 3 hulls).  A set of outriggers is like adding two more hulls – one to either side of the main boat hull.  This is a vastly effective way of increasing boat stability.

Storage & Seating Capacity

The amount of storage and seating capacity of a Jon boat is relative to the capacity of the boat.  One can increase the capacity to a small degree by installing outriggers. However, outriggers are more intended for increasing stability, more so than capacity.

With large enough outriggers, one may use the outrigger itself as a place to add storage.  In this sense, outriggers may increase Jon boat storage capacity, and thus seating capacity by default would increase if the weight of gear can be transferred to the outriggers.

How Much Weight Can A Flat Bottom Boat Hold?

The answer to this question is not necessarily straightforward. It must be noted that a flat bottom boat’s weight capacity generally depends on its length and width. The size increases the load capacity. 

But, other factors are governing this limit too. This includes a boat’s hull strength, age, hull design, and how it is distributed. 

Load Capacity Based On The Size

Generally, Jon boats start from 10 feet (in length) and can go as long as 20 feet or even more. But there are some 8 feet Jon boats in the boat market as well.  Here is a rough guide to the weight capacity of Jon boats based on hull length: 

  • 8’ Jon boat: 300 pounds
  • 10’ Jon boat: 325 pounds
  • 12’ Jon boat: 425 pounds
  • 14’ Jon boat: 610 pounds
  • 16’ Jon boat: 990 pounds
  • 18’ Jon boat: 1,425 pounds
  • 20 ‘ Jon boat: 1,800 pounds

The above-mentioned load capacities are exclusive of motor or engine. Adding extra accessories to the boat can further reduce the overall load capacity.

Load Capacity Based On A Boat’s Strength

Generally, a Jon boat is made of aluminum, fiberglass, or even wood. All these materials are lightweight and offer decent strength. However, even the quality of these materials differ. It is possible, for example, that a boat may be made of low-quality wood. In that case, it can severely affect its load capacity.

If the Jon boat’s hull’s quality is compromised, it won’t be capable of holding the average weight listed on the boat placard as the maximum capacity.

In the best-case scenario, a boat can be perfectly fine even with the above-average weight. For instance, a Jon boat of 18’ in length can hold an average weight of 1,425 pounds. Had a boat been made of great quality materials, it may withstand weights up to 1,800.

However, to the contrary, should a hull be weak due to neglect, age or damage, and the same boat may only handle 800 pounds.

This fact exemplifies the fact that regular maintenance and hull inspection is an essential step to maintaining safe watercraft.

What Kind Of Motor Should I Get For My Flat Bottom Boat?

The main issue with a flat bottom boat is its depth in the water. Since it doesn’t submerge too deep in the water, it becomes suitable for both shallow and deep water. 

The motor that’s best suited for a flat bottom boat is one, which has a low shaft length and a size of between 4 and 6 hp. Similarly, motors with adjustable propellor submersion depths are best suited for Jon boats due to the low displacement.

Common 8 and 10 foot Jon boats work well with motors of between 2 and 4 horsepower.  These motors’ sizes should propel a small Jon boat at between 4 and 15 knots (5-17 mph).

Due to stability issues, it is not recommended to operate a small Jon boat at more than 20 mph or 17 knots unless one is an experienced operator.

What’s Better- Flat Bottom Or V-bottom Boat?

Once again, the answer to this question depends on the situation, usage, and users’ preferences. Flat bottom boats and V-bottom boats, both are intended for very different purposes.

A flat bottom boat is perfect for shallow and calm water.

A V-bottom boat is perfect for deep and rough water with waves.

If the intent is to use the boat for watersports like towing a waterskier, then a V-bottom boat would be suitable.

Why Are Flat Bottom Boats Better?

A flat bottom boat is best suited when:

  • The user wants to carry a lot of items. The design of these boats offers a huge volume to carry materials.
  • Keeping in mind the load capacity, a flat bottom boat can carry more riders as compared to a V-bottom boat of the same size.
  • The rider wants to save some money on the boat. Flat bottom boats are slightly cheaper than V-bottom boats of the same size.
  • The overall weight of a flat bottom boat is less than a V-bottom ship of the same size. With lighter hulls, smaller vehicle towing requirements are met.

Why Are V-bottom Boats Better?

Jon boats are incredibly sturdy and secure in calm waters.  But what if you want to go out on larger bodies of water like the great lakes?  A Jon boat is in no way a good choice for any bodies of water that see large waves.

Here are some points to favor the v-bottom hull over a Jon boat:

  • The ability to cut the water, rather than ride on top of it, makes a v-bottom boat better suited to rough conditions.
  • Even if the weight distribution is uneven, it can withstand more abuse. But, for best results, always ensure that the weight is evenly spread on the entire boat.
  • As mentioned, for water sports like wakeboarding or waterskiing, a v-bottom boat is preferred.  Not only do they typically have decent horsepower engines, but a v-bottom boat also cuts the water to create a wake.  This allows for adventurous water sports that take advantage of wakes for aerial tricks.

Jon Boat Summary

Jon boats are excellent smaller boats with tremendous stability and capacity for use on calm waters.  With a friendlier price tag than v-bottom boats, Jon boats are a perfect choice for the discerning boat shopper.

Fun to take out the family or a buddy for a fishing expedition, Jon boats are a fantastic choice for those who want a boat, especially if the goal is a boat that handles well in calm yet shallow waters where a v-hull would be unable to travel.

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