Ultimate Jon Boat

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.

Tom Schlichter's Ultimate Jon Boat
This boat is ready to fish for a multitude of species and can be readily launchedTom Schlichter

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.

Suzuki 9.9
The author chose this Suzuki 9.9 hp outboard motor as primary power for his jon boat project. Featuring electric start, lean burn technology and battery-less electronic fuel injection. Schlichter reports reliable use and great economy. It retails for $3,396 as of publication date. Learn more about this outboard engine at [suzukimarine.com]Suzuki Marine

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

THE BOAT

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.

Starcraft 1448 factory image
The Starcraft 1448 jon, as it looks straight from the factoryStarcraft
Jon Boat _2
Starcraft's 1448 provided a rugged foundation for the authorTom Schlichter

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.

Special thanks to Albertson's Marine in Southold, NY and Dickerson's Marine in Mattituck, NY for expert help and oversight throughout the project.

THE ENGINES

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.

Minn Kota Riptide
The author chose a Minn Kota electric trolling motor.Minn Kota

ACCESSORIES

.

Humminbird Helix
The HELIX 12 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G2N features a large 12.1" display with LED backlight. MEGA Down Imaging gives you a crystal clear picture below your boat so you can see brush, logs, weeds, fish and any other fish holding structure. Dual Spectrum CHIRP 2D Sonar allows for two predefined frequency spectrums for improved target separation, giving you the confidence that what you see on your screen is consistent with what’s in the water $1,999 ( on publication date) humminbird.comHumminbird
Wise fishing seat

Wise Fishing Seat

Wise seats provide comfort and security aboard the author's ultimate jon boat. They are also removable for more deck spaceWise
Power-Pole Micro Anchor
Power-Pole Micro Anchor Power-Pole Micro Anchor holds Jon boats and small skiffs up to 1500 lbs (including passengers) Perfect for kayaks and paddle boards. Micro driver unit is easily-removable making storage or transfer to other vessels simple. Includes adjustable mounting bracket. Other mounting options available. Includes 15 ft power cable for 12v battery or if no on-board battery is available, add the Micro Battery Pak & Charger (sold separately) and go wherever adventure takes you $595 (at time of publication) power-pole.comPower-pole
Yeti Tundra on Jon Boat
Yeti Tundra 65 Rugged and super-insulated. Doubles as raised casting platform if used with tie downs $399.99 ( at time of publication) yeti.comYeti
Plano Z-Series Backpack
Plano Z-Series Tackle Backpack Carry all your Plano boxes with hands free for rods. Zipperless,high-performance waterproof fabric. Cinch-cord top provides complete closure of main compartment, further secured by buckles and hook-and-loop closure. One additional tool holder and one additional pocket with Velcro closures beneath front flap, plus multiple MOLLE attachment points. Includes Tackle Backpack; Four 3700 Series StowAway Utility Boxes $79.99 ( list price at time of publication) planomolding.comPlano Molding