A contributing editor for Boating, Tom Schlichter is also the outdoors columnist for Newsday. He’ll cover any activity that gets him on the water, in the woods or away from his desk. Follow “Outdoor Tom” at @outdoortomcorp and outdoortom.com.
Jonboat conversions are trending so I couldn’t resist decking-out StarCraft Marine’s 1448, a 14′ stable, 260-lb. hull with a 72″ beam and powering it with a Suzuki Outboard. The goal: create the ultimate simple platform for shallow water fishing.
I started by sketching a basic layout and identifying key points. At the least, I wanted a spacious casting deck, comfortable seating and two live wells. Both gas and electric motors would also be necessary. Terrible with power tools, I’d also have to enlist some help.
In the end, the project took about 80 hours and cost approximately $1,500 in necessary decking, pumps and DYI materials. The takeaway If I pulled it off, so can you – probably for less money and labor
Lacking welding skills, I opted for three-quarter-inch marine-grade plywood covered in fiberglass. This was screwed atop 1” x 2” and 2” x 3” framing glued to the hull and braced at key intersections. Before laying the deck, a 3” PVC pipe was set along the starboard side, isolating wires for the bow lights, live-well pumps, fish-finder and electric motor. A bilge pump was added in the stern.
I knock things overboard so I set the deck 6” below the gunwale amidships. In the rear forward third, I dropped in a custom-built dual live-well (15”w x 28”l x 12”d each box) which doubles as semi-dry storage. Two 4-1/2”circular ports access the pumps.
Once secured, the deck was dressed with jonboat green marine paint and finished with 6 mm SeaDek decking. Mylar sheeting allowed creation of a template to custom-fit the stylish and comfortable, non-abrasive, sound-dampening surface which includes an embedded 32-inch ruler. A beveled desert camo over camel color scheme keeps the deck cool and conceals imperfect cuts.
After painting, the outer hull received a Shadow Grass Blades pattern Mossy Oak Graphics wrap. Now it looks sharp, vanishes against the shore and appears professionally finished. Between the SeaDek and Mossy Oak this vessel is camouflaged enough to pull double-duty as a wildlife photography platform or duck boat.
The StarCraft hull handles a 25-hp outboard but I fish both fresh and saltwater and many lakes have a 10-hp limit. Suzuki’s DF9.9BEL proved the solution. A sleek, electric start, four stroke, 9.9-hp portable with gusto, it features “battery-less” electronic fuel injection. It has proved quiet and reliable. It’s light enough to remove if gas power is prohibited.
Minn Kota’s bowmount Riptide ST Terrova with I-Pilot was the logical trolling motor choice. A rugged, saltwater model with built-in GPS, autopilot and anchoring functions, its “Spotlock” capability creates a virtual waypoint to hold position even in strong winds.