Best Jon Boats for Hunting and Fishing: Which Boat is Right for You?

Written by: John Baltes
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While bass boats dominate big lakes and center consoles rule the salt, the simple jon boat is perhaps the most efficient, effective choice for anglers and hunters who need to navigate shallow water.

Built tough and sized right, jon boats are easy to tow, simple to store, and not nearly as expensive as larger fiberglass or aluminum alternatives. And while their flat bottoms can be a problem on big water, they’re a clear compromise that allow boats to run in shallow rivers, creeks, and marshes with ease.

If you’re an avid angler or hunter (or both, like we are!), a jon boat might be the right choice for you. 

Below, we’ll review some of the best jon boats on the market, and conclude with a buying guide that’ll let you know what to look for as you weigh your options:

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Best Jon Boats Reviewed

Crestliner Retriever Jon Deluxe - Tied for Best 16-Foot Jon Boat

Crestliner Retriever Jon Deluxe

Length: 16’
Beam: 85”
Deck width: 60”
Height: 20”
Material: .100 welded aluminum
HP rating: 20 to 50 hp
Capacity: 1051 lbs.
Weight: 670 lbs.

Crestliner’s Retriever Jon Deluxe is available in three hull lengths, but our favorite is the 16. Because of the wide beam and deck, this jon boat is especially spacious and stable, making it an ideal platform for duck hunting as well as bowfishing.

The Retriever Jon Deluxe is exceptionally well made, and from the perfect welds to the sturdy fore hatches, you definitely get your money’s worth. The hull is tough, thick aluminum, and it’s flat and wide enough that stability is simply exceptional.

If you bowfish, you’ll be really pleased with the spacious, stable foredeck. And whether you fish, hunt, or just work from this boat, the ample fore storage is awesome.

The trade off to a wide, flat hull is that when the water’s choppy, the Retriever Jon Deluxe can really deliver a beating. That’s not a demerit - it’s just the truth.

You’ll find plenty of space for three anglers or hunters (and a dog), and this boat sports an admirable capacity of 1,051 pounds. With a maximum hp rating of 50, and a dry weight of 670 pounds, don’t expect blazing speed, but this hull draughts a lot less water than you’d think, and slipping into shallow areas is pretty easy despite this boat’s big deck.

Motor options, a Karavan trailer, and a host of accessories are offered directly from the factory, allowing extensive customization that’s done right and delivered ready.

Exceptional stability, a huge deck, and lots of storage make Crestliner’s Retriever Jon Deluxe a very good choice, but be aware that when fully loaded, manhandling this boat is going to take some serious muscle.

Pros:

  • Tough welded hull
  • Tons of space for three anglers or hunters and their gear
  • Tons of customization options direct from the factory
  • Great front deck storage
  • Exceptional stability
  • Motor and trailer options direct from the factory

Cons:

  • Tough to manhandle and drag ashore

Lowe RX1660 - Tied for Best 16-Foot Jon Boat

Lowe RX1660

Length: 16’
Beam: 85”
Deck width: 60”
Height: 21”
Material: welded .100 aluminum
HP rating: 50 hp
Capacity: 1041 lbs.
Weight: 581 lbs.

I have to admit that I have a real soft spot for Lowe’s Roughneck (RX) 1660. It’s probably my favorite duck hunting boat, and for gliding through shallow water to hit hot fishing spots, it’s very hard to beat.

The reasons are clear. 

Like the Crestliner Retriever Jon Deluxe, it offers fantastic beam and deck width for its length, providing lots of space and a very stable platform for shotguns or bowfishing. That’s aided as well by a 3.5-degree dead rise, but as you’d expect, rough water is going to deliver a beating to you and your buddies.

The hull is thick, welded aluminum that can take an impact and just shrug it off. Whether you’re working a swampy bayou dotted with cypress knees and stumps, or running a river that’s littered with rocks, you can count on the Roughneck to take it. It won’t take much water to float, either, and you can really slide the 16-foot Roughneck into places that will surprise you.

Rated for 50 hp, it’ll carry three hunters or anglers and all their gear with ease. Weighing in at 581 pounds dry, you’ll want plenty of motor on the back, and two powerful Johnson options are available from the factory.

Plenty of accessories are too, and you can have Lowe customize your boat for you with options ranging from rod boxes to seating to bilge pumps.

Pros:

  • Tough welded hull
  • Tons of space for three anglers or hunters and their gear
  • Tons of customization options direct from the factory
  • Exceptional stability
  • Motor and trailer options direct from the factory

Cons:

  • Tough to manhandle and drag ashore

G3 Gator Tough 1544 - Best Riveted-Hull Ultralight Jon Boat

G3 Gator Tough 1544

Length: 14’ 11”
Beam: 65”
Deck width: ?
Height: ?
Material: welded aluminum
HP rating: 25 hp
Capacity: ?
Weight: 281 pounds

Gator Tough may not be very forthcoming with the specs of their boats, but there’s no denying that they perform like a dream, especially if you fish or hunt alone or with a buddy who can’t do much heavy lifting. And for less fit, less able, or just plain older sportsmen, an ultra-light jon boat is a great option to consider.

The Gator Tough 1544 measures just shy of 15 feet, with a beam of 65 inches. That’s not as much beam as I’d like for that length, and the other jon boats on our shortlist average a ratio of about .49 rather than the 1544’s .36. On the water, that means there’ll be less deck space and a bit less stability to boot.

That may not sound promising, at least not until you consider that the gator Tough 1544 has a dry weight of just 281 pounds! And whether you’re loading this jon onto a trailer, pulling it close to a dock with a line, or just sliding it ashore, you’ll notice that - for what it is - it’s feather-light.

The specifications for this jon boat don’t list the thickness of the aluminum used to construct the hull. I’d doubt that it’s .100, given its dry weight. And be aware that its construction is riveted rather than welded, which can make repairs easier, but generally decreases durability and increases its propensity to leak.

Gator Tough offers plenty of engine options for the 1544, and even with just 25 hp pushing this boat, it’s going to plane nicely and scoot well.

Tons of options for customization are available from the factory, too, allowing you to outfit this jon just as you’d like it.

For anglers and hunters who need a shallow-running, light-weight jon boat, look no further.

Pros:

  • Feather light!
  • Tough riveted hull
  • Space for two anglers or hunters
  • Tons of customization options direct from the factory
  • Lots of motor options direct from the factory

Cons:

  • Not as much deck space as the other Jon boats on our shortlist
  • Not as inherently stable as the other Jon boats on our shortlist
  • Not as durable as the other Jon boats on our list

Lund 1648M - Best Welded-Hull Ultralight Jon Boat

Lund 1648M

Length: 15’ 8 ½”
Beam: 70”
Deck width: ?
Height: 15” (transom)
Material: aluminum
HP rating: 35 hp
Capacity: ?
Weight: 275 lbs.

Lund’s capable 1648M is another ultra-light jon boat that’s easy to love. Sporting a welded rather than riveted hull, this might be a better overall option for lone anglers and hunters, or those who are less fit, less able, or in need of a very light boat.

The 1648M is a few inches shy of 16 feet, sporting a beam of 70 inches. And like the similar Gator Tough 1544, those dimensions don’t promise enough space for three adult fishermen or shooters, nor can you expect exceptional stability from a ratio of length to beam of just .37.

But what you do get from this boat is just 275 pounds of dry weight, a hull that can take punishment, and blazing speed when pushed by 35 horses. This light boat will plane in an instant, and for fast runs to your honey hole or blind, it’s simply fantastic.

You can order a 20-inch transom model from the factory, and add features like a side console, but beyond that, there’s not much factory customization offered. Instead, you’ll need to outfit this Lund yourself, making it your own.

If a welded hull is a must-have, the Lund 1648M is the ultra-light to pick.

Pros:

  • Feather light!
  • Tough welded hull
  • Space for two anglers or hunters

Cons:

  • Not as much deck space as the other jon boats on our shortlist
  • Not as inherently stable as the other jon boats on our shortlist
  • Not as durable as the other jon boats on our list
  • Not many customization options from the factory

SeaArk 1648 MV Special

SeaArk 1648 MV Special

Length: 16’
Beam: 67”
Deck width: 48”
Height: 20”
Material: .100 gauge aluminum with over-sized one-piece extruded ribs and a 3/16" extruded keel
HP rating: 30 HP
Capacity: 520 lbs.
Weight: 365 lbs.

SeaArk’s 1648 MV Special is a very capable, bare bones jon boat that can be upgraded almost endlessly, allowing factory customization that will make any angler/hunter happy. But what makes the 1648 MV Special a real winner is a tough-as-nails hull and a well-thought-out design.

At 16 feet, the 1648 MV Special is big enough for several anglers or hunters and their gear. 48 inches of usable deck, and a raised foredeck that can be equipped with a swiveling chair and/or trolling motor add to the versatility of the basic hull. 

And let’s discuss the hull supplied by SeaArk: fully .100-inches of aluminum with durable ribs and a tough keel mean that you can have confidence when traversing flooded forests, murky swamps, and other hazard-filled bodies of water. 

This boat is built tough, and it’ll take it!

By no means a speed demon, the 1648 MV Special has a 30 hp maximum. That’s entirely sensible, and this rather long jon boat will get up to speed quickly, but it won’t turn on a dime.

While the basic hull is just that - basic - the list of possible additions is long, including storage options, consoles, and interior coatings. The basic hull comes wired for a trolling motor, and it includes a switch panel and LED running lights.

At 365 pounds unloaded, the 1648 MV Special can be towed by pretty much anything on four wheels, and it’s not much trouble to pull it ashore or manhandle, even when fully loaded.

Overall, anglers who need a larger jon boat and want the added security of an extra tough hull will want to take a second look at this boat, as will people interested in factory customization.

Pros:

  • Very tough hull
  • Plenty of space for three anglers or hunters and their gear
  • Tons of customization options direct from the factory
  • Light enough to manhandle
  • Easy to tow

Cons:

  • Less usable deck space than jons of similar size

Tracker Grizzly 1648 Jon

Tracker Grizzly 1648 Jon

Length: 16’ 1”
Beam: 72”
Deck width: 48”
Height: 21” (transom)
Material: welded .100 5052 marine alloy
HP rating: 40 hp
Capacity: 1055 lbs.
Weight: 640 lbs.

Tracker’s jon boats have set the standard for affordable quality for decades, and I doubt there are many anglers or hunters out there who’ve never taken a ride in one. The Grizzly’s 16-foot hull is an outstanding option for hunters and anglers who need a tough, shallow-running, affordable jon boat.

The welding on Tracker Jon boats is excellent, and the overall quality of construction is top-notch. Tracker outfits the Grizzly with a modified V-hull and a 7-degree deadrise, making this jon boat a bit friendlier in rough water. That comes with a compromise on stability, and this is probably not a boat I’d choose for bowfishing.

That said, it’s plenty stable for fishing and duck hunting, and it’ll get into tight spots pretty well. It’s also darn tough, and from cypress knees to logs, I’d have real confidence in this hull’s ability to take a licking.

Rated for as many as 40 horses, the 16-foot Grizzly will get you where you need to be, and it’ll carry three anglers or hunters and all their gear with ease. Be aware that the dry weight on this boat tops 600 pounds, however, so pulling it up onto shore isn’t a breeze.

In the basic hull, you’ll find a storage area accessed by a hatch in the foredeck.

Tracker doesn’t offer customization, with the exception of paint, but the Grizzly is ready for swivel chairs and pretty much anything else you want to add. 

Basic, yes - but also very affordable - Tracker’s Grizzly 1648 delivers exceptional value for the money.

Pros:

  • Tough welded hull
  • Tons of space for three anglers or hunters and their gear
  • OK front deck storage
  • Paint and trailer options direct from the factory

Cons:

  • Tough to manhandle and drag ashore
  • No customization from the factory

Jon Boat Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

What is a jon boat?

Let’s start here.

While there’s no set definition of what constitutes a jon boat, for our purposes, we’re reviewing tiller-controlled, flat-bottomed aluminum boats capable of reaching areas that are too shallow for a conventional V-hull.

Yes, there are loads of boats out there that can be considered jon boats that have side or center consoles, as well as a host of different deck configurations.

For instance, if you’re really looking for a boat that’s ideal for bowfishing, Tracker’s Grizzly 2072 CC Sportsman is probably nothing short of perfect.

Tracker’s Grizzly 2072 CC Sportsman

I don’t think it’s the right boat for conventional anglers or duck hunters, however, and as a general Jon boat, it’s going to fall short - unless you want it specifically as a bowfishing platform.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pond Prowlers aren’t true Jon boats either, and you certainly can’t hunt or make a run to the back of beyond in one. That doesn’t make them a bad option, and they certainly have their place, but we’re not reviewing portable boats.

Bass Pro Shops Pond Prowler 8 Fishing Boat

Why are we reviewing 16-foot jon boats? Aren’t there other lengths?

Jon boats come in a wide range of sizes, with many being 12 feet or less and plenty more being 18 feet or more.

Smaller jon boats in the 8, 10, and even 12 foot range are ideal platforms for excursions and exploration, but they don’t offer the deck space or capacity for more than one angler. They typically aren’t rated for much motor, either, limiting their speed and hunting and fishing effectiveness.

Jon boats of 18, 20, and even larger lengths are ideal for large groups or commercial applications, but they’re too big to launch easily, too heavy to drag ashore, and too ungainly to maneuver in tight spots.

For hunting and fishing, 16 feet is the Goldilocks length for jon boats.

Welded vs riveted hulls

Aluminum hulls are tough and can really take a beating. They’re also very light. But they can’t be formed into their final shape as fiberglass can, and they need to be joined at important seams.

There are two ways to join aluminum: welding and riveting.

  • Welded seams are leak-proof when fabricated properly, and they’re actually stronger than the metal surrounding them. The only downside to welded seams is that repairs can be more complicated and costly.
  • Riveted seams are more prone to leaking, and they’re not quite as robust as welding. BUt they can keep initial costs down, and if you need to repair the hull, they’ll save time and labor.

Modified V hull vs. flat

Jon boats are typically designed with either a nearly flat hull or a modified V. Each has advantages and disadvantages that you need to know.

  • Modified V hulls cut through the water more cleanly, allowing them to handle rougher conditions and bigger waves. They tend to be a bit faster than flat-bottomed jon boats, but they’re less stable at low speeds, when drifting, or when anchored in place.
    The shape of the hull can also limit usable deck space, and typically they don’t offer as much room as a similarly-sized flat bottom jon.
  • Flat-bottom hulls ride higher in the water, allowing them to run in shallower water than a similarly-sized V hull. But that flat hull will bang against every wave and chop in rougher water. They tend to be a bit slower than similarly-sized V hulls, but are far more stable at low speed, when drifting, or when anchored in place. 

They can be pushed by the wind a bit more than a V hull, but they typically offer more usable deck space.

Dead rise

Dead-rise is a measurement of the angle of the hull from the keel. A zero-degree deadrise would be truly flat, whereas a 30-degree deadrise would indicate a pronounced and sharp V.

Capacity

We’ve reviewed jon boats that are in the neighborhood of 16 feet, making them ideal for hunting and fishing. 

They’ll all provide sufficient capacity for 3 to 4 anglers or hunters and their gear, no problem.

Final Thoughts

We can’t tell you which jon boat is the best fit for your needs and budget, but we can point you in the right direction.

We’re in the unusual position of finding two jon boats that are evenly matched and darn near perfect for hunting and fishing.

The Crestliner Retriever Jon Deluxe and Lowe RX1660 are simply exceptional boats, and we recommend them both strongly. Your choice will come down to which boat you can get a better deal on, as well as individual preferences in the deck layout and options you’d like to add from the factory.

Whichever you choose, you’ll get an exceptionally stable, tough-as-nails jon with room to spare and awesome options for customization.

Not every angler or hunter can handle a heavy boat, and there’s no question that lighter jons make it much easier to load and unload them from a trailer, push and pull them around, and drag them ashore. 

For anglers looking for an ultra-light jon boat, the G3 Gator Tough 1544 and Lund 1648M fit the bill perfectly. Both are well under 300 pounds dry, and they’ll serve you well in your outdoor adventures.

We hope that this article has helped you make the right choice, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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