Jon Boat To Bass Boat Conversion: 6 Simple Steps

Buying a new bass boat can cost thousands of dollars, and if you are looking for a bass boat with a budget, this cost isn’t easy to justify.

If you still want to have a boat for bass fishing, you can convert a lightweight jon boat to a fully equipped bass boat in just six simple steps.

We take you through the jon boat to bass boat conversion process, and offer ten essential tips to make sure your boat conversion project is quick and on budget.

Jon Boat To Bass Boat Conversion 6 Simple Steps

What Is A Jon Boat?

One of the best known and most popular fishing boats, the jon boat is prolific for its small size and lightweight aluminum body. 

There are a number of benefits to using a jon boat over any other fishing boat. We take a look at some advantages as well as disadvantages of these small aluminum fishing vessels.

Advantages Of A Jon Boat

Most jon boats are made of aluminum, which is lightweight. This makes transporting the boat much easier than with other boats. You can just put it in the back of a pick-up truck, on a roof rack or in a small towing trailer.

However, the main reason why jon boats are so popular is that they are cheap. The smaller jon boats come with a price tag of hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands.

From a design perspective, jon boats have squared-off bows rather than coming to a point at the front. This makes them lie flat and can be an advantage for easier transportation.

While most jon boats are aluminum, you can also find equally lightweight fiberglass options on the market. Both types can be powered either with a pair of oars and with an inexpensive battery-powered electric trolling motor. 

With the boat being so light, it doesn’t take much horsepower to get them going.

When you consider its low price tag, easy transport, low fuel and maintenance bills, it’s easy to see why jon boats are such a popular choice for everyone with a love for fishing boats.

Disadvantages Of A Jon Boat

Bearing all the positives in mind, there are also a number of characteristics of jon boats that might count as a disadvantage, particular for anglers.

While their lightweight design with a flat bottom makes them easy to transport, it also means jon boats get blown across the water very easily. This can be an issue when you’re trying to keep your boat in one spot without drifting too much.

Another disadvantage is that the open aluminum hull reflects sounds through the water, so whenever you drop something in the bottom of the boat or you want to move something, it may scare near-by fish. 

However, you can reduce the sound projection by adding decking or carpet to the bottom of the boat.

What Is A Bass Boat?

What Is A Bass Boat

Bass boats are small boats particularly designed for bass fishing or fishing for any other panfish. They are usually used in freshwater, such as rivers, streams and lakes.

Most modern bass boats feature a swivel chair that allows the angler to cast out a line to any position around the boat.

Bass boats are also equipped with rods, lures and storage bins for fishing tackle. They also feature a live well with recirculating water where you can store caught fish and keep them alive.

A bass boat is commonly propelled in two ways. They have an outboard motor which you can use to move the boat swiftly from one place to another. 

They also have a trolling motor, which is perfect to move the boat at a slow pace through an area where an angler wants to fish. This means you don’t spook the fish.

If the two motors fail, you can propel a bass boat with oars in case of an emergency. Their aluminum or fiberglass body is light enough for this.

Aluminum bass boats are usually smaller in size and a lot less expensive than the fiberglass option, but fiberglass bass boats provide more space and are better to handle.

Advantages Of A Bass Boat

Compared to other boats, bass boats hold their value well over time.

They also offer plenty of storage space for fishing gear and equipment. However, the biggest advantage of a bass boat is that they are designed for fishing. 

They have a casting deck and a shallow deck which means that you can reach all the corners in a lake, as near or as far as you want.

Disadvantages Of A Bass Boat

With the particular design ideal for anglers, bass boats are more suitable for quiet freshwater areas, and they would struggle in rough waters due to their low bows.

Bass boats provide less seating capacity than some other boats of a similar size. They also give limited protection from the elements, like rain or sunshine.

6 Simple Steps To Convert A Jon Boat To A Bass Boat

We put together six simple steps to help you convert a jon boat to a bass boat. While there is no limit as to how much you can spend on a boat conversion, these steps work fine with a low budget. 

After all, you don’t want to spend too much money or you could just buy a new bass boat outright.

Let’s get started with your jon boat conversion.

1. Buy An Affordable Jon Boat

First off, you need a jon boat. If you already have one, that’s great and you can move on to the next step, but if not, you need to look out for an affordable, used jon boat to buy.

You can search for used aluminum, wooden or fiberglass jon boats available on the market.

Depending on your preference, the best value for money is typically an aluminum jon boat as it is the lightest material and easy to work with.

You can also choose between a V-hull boat or a flat bottom. Commonly, a flatboat is a lot less stable than a V-hulled boat.

2. Overhaul Your Jon Boat

Next, you can start to overhaul your jon boat. Unscrew the old screws and unlock the nuts on the bolts.

If you notice any excessive rust on the bolts or screws, loosen them carefully as they might be brittle and snap.

If any of the screws or bolts snap, you will have to use a special tool to pry them out of the hole.

It’s important that you keep all the screws and bolts that you’ve taken off somewhere safe. You’ll need them later to determine the sizes of the new bolts and screws which you need to get as replacements.

3. Sand The Whole Boat

Time to give your jon boat a proper sanding. You need to sand all the surfaces, nooks and crannies of the boat to get rid of the soil and wear. 

If your jon boat has any old paint on, remove any loose paint and then sand the area.

Make sure that you sand the inside as well as the outside of the boat. For this, you can use no. 180 sandpaper.

Once you are done with sanding down, remove all the first and dust on the boat surfaces as well as you van. Give your jon boat a proper clean with a vacuum cleaner to make sure everything is clean.

4. Paint And Seal The Boat

The reason why it’s so important to remove all dust, dirt, old paint, oil or other stains from the boat’s surface is so your new coat of paint will stick to the surfaces properly.

If you have spotted any leaks, seal them first with black epoxy. Then tape any parts that you don’t want painter.

You are now ready to apply the first coat of paint. Once done, let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Then you can apply the second coat. Wait for the paint to dry for another 15 to 20 minutes. Then apply a third coat.

Alternatively to a third coat, you can apply a clear coat which will add a glossy look to the painted surface. Plus, a clear coat protects the two original paint coats underneath.

For the inside of the boat, you can protect these surfaces with a gray epoxy finish to seal the boat and avoid any water coming in from underneath.

5. Install Your Fishing Equipment

Now that your jon boat is safely protected from water with a few coats of paint and seal, you can start the real transformation of the jon boat to a bass boat.

Put in whatever equipment and instruments you want inside the boat. Consider adding useful devices like GPS or fishfinder.

Next, you need to add a motor. You can choose either an outboard motor or a trusting trolling motor (depending on size, you could have both!). 

6. Install Seating And Decking

The final step to complete the conversion from jon boat to bass boat is to install something to sit on. You may want to install a swivel chair (or two) or some benches which are a little more budget friendly.

The last step before you can finally take your new bass boat out is to install some decking. The installation of decking requires some basic carpentry skills, so if you are not sure, take a look at some videos online on how to install boat decking.

10 Tips For Your Jon Boat Conversion

10 Tips For Your Jon Boat Conversion

For a successful conversion of your jon boat into a bass boat, it’s good to bear a few things in mind. Here are our top 10 tips to make your jon boat conversion easy, cost-effective and quick.

Tip 1: Get A Used Jon Boat With A Wide Hull

When you are buying a jon boat for your boat conversion project, it’s important that you choose a jon boat with the right size. 

Depending on your plan, it’s good to get a used, wide-hulled jon boat as they are versatile and provide plenty of space giving you the freedom of what you want to do.

If you pick a narrow jon boat, this might not give you enough room for the conversion, and they are also unstable in the water when you install decking.

You need to make sure that the jon boat fulfills everything you want from your bass boat because the jon boat is essentially your base for the conversion. 

Tip 2: Don’t Buy A Boat With A Damaged Hull

While you do want to economize for the best value-for-money, you need to make sure that you don’t economize too much. The boat you buy should still be safe to run in the long term.

Whenever you are converting a boat, safety should be your number one priority. As you’ll be using your jon boat out in the water, you need to ensure your safety and that of your friends and family.

When you look for a used boat, give it a thorough and full inspection. You will need to check for any holes, rotten woods, rust, weak spots.

If you select a new hull, you should look for the toughest and strongest one that your budget can buy. Generally, a heavier hull is always better than a lightweight hull.

Tip 3: Choose Aluminum For Your Boat’s Framework

If you love your DIY or you have some experience working with aluminum, then this is a great tip.

Aluminum is lightweight and ideal to make the framework of your boat, which means it keeps the overall weight light. This will give you great benefits for when you take the boat out for bass fishing.

Compared to wood, aluminum is much more durable. Wood that hasn’t been pressured-treated usually soaks up water, making the boat heavy and difficult to steer.

Pressure-treated wood is also not a good option for your framework because it contains chemicals that can harm aluminum.

Even if you don’t have experience with aluminum, it’s worthwhile learning more about it because it’s the preferred material for boat frameworks. It offers a light design with a long-lasting service life.

Tip 4: Don’t Use Pressure-Treated Wood

As mentioned in tip 3, pressure-treated wood as material for your boat’s framework has some clear disadvantages. 

The chemicals in pressure-treated wood can react badly with aluminum, which leads to corrosion and even small holes. This can considerably weaken the hull of your boat.

While you can build a barrier between the wood and the aluminum, there is no saying that this will be effective.

Usually water finds its way everywhere to wood, and the wood is bound to come into contact with the aluminum, so it’s best to avoid using pressure-treated wood for your jon boat conversion.

Tip 5: The Right Metal Hardware Is Essential

It’s important that you only use metal hardware that’s designed for fishing. This includes all screws, bolts, nuts, hinges etc. 

These hold the boat together, so they need to withstand the elements and should last for a considerable time.

Ideally, you want to use heavy-duty hardware. This is a little more expensive but going for the cheap things might cost you in the long run.

Look out for hardware that’s compatible with aluminum. The wrong type of metal hardware can react negatively with your framework, resulting in galvanic corrosion. 

As aluminum is a weaker metal, it’ll always corrode faster. You can cover the aluminum with a sealant on the points of contact to the different metal so to avoid the worst.

Tip 6: Mount The Decking At The Right Level 

The installation of decking can have a significant impact on the overall stability of your boat. That’s why, you need to mount the deck at the correct level or height to ensure your bass boat is stable.

As you’ll be standing on the deck, you need to bear in mind that when the deck is too high it’ll be shaky.

Also the style of the hull and your height preference can determine the deck’s correct level.

For the right decking height on your boats, there are a few basic rules:

  • If your boat is 60″ to 70″ wide, your deck height should be half the gunnels and the bench seats.
  • If your boat is 50″ or less wide, the deck level should be lower than the seats of the bench.
  • If your boat is wider than 72″, the decks should sit flush to the gunnels. As these boats offer significant space, stability isn’t usually a problem with these boats as you can easily stand in the boat wherever your deck is.

Generally, for narrower boats, it’s easier to work with higher decks.

Tip 7: Use Marine Carpets Only

If you want to put carpet into the bottom of your boat, it’s best to use specifically designed marine carpet only.

Any type of cheap carpets won’t last long when they are used to cover boat flooring. However, marine carpets are made particularly with the strong wear and tear on a fishing vessel in mind.

Look out for high-quality carpet which is strong and has been designed for heavy-duty use.

It’s important to pick carpet that doesn’t have any fluffy fibers. These fibers can easily catch lures and other sharp objects, making your fishing trip a nightmare.

Tip 8: Don’t Overspend On Electronics

This is a reminder of your budget. A jon boat to bass boat conversion can quickly add up with all the basic things you need, so spending a lot of money on electronics could quickly take you over budget.

Try not to give into the idea of installing all the high-tech marine electronics on your small boat. Marine technology is expensive, and it also needs more battery power which adds to the weight of your boat.

In addition to that, you are limited on space. The wiring and hardware of any electronics can quickly clutter a small space.

If your boat has a console, try to just put in the absolute essentials, such as fishfinders, GPS and a reliable trolling motor setup.

Tip 9: Professional Help For The Electrical Work

If you know your way around electrical wiring and electricity, you can easily do all the electrical work for your bass boat yourself.

However, be careful. If you don’t have experience with electrical work, then it’s better to speak a professional electrician who specializes in wiring boats, so he can get you up and running.

The best way for an aluminum boat is to float the electrics.

Tip 10: Keep Your Boat Conversion Project Simple

At the end of the day, you are likely to convert your jon boat to a bass boat because you want to be out fishing, and not spend years converting a boat (unless you really enjoy it).

That’s while, try not to overcomplicate things and keep the project as simple as possible. Your boat should be safe and the system should function well, so there is no need to be too picky with the details.

It’s a good idea to make a list of all the must-haves for your new bass boat, so you can get an understanding of how much time and money you need to spend.

Conclusion

A conversion to transform your jon boat to a bass boat doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. The full conversion process does however take some time and effort, so it’s essential that you choose your jon boat, which is the base, carefully.

Follow the steps above to get your jon boat cleaned up and sealed first, then add in all the equipment, seating and decking you need for fishing.

This will give you the satisfaction that this is your own personalized bass boat, saving you the money you would have spend on an expensive, new bass boat. And it’s the ideal boat for anglers to take out fishing on lakes, streams or rivers. 

Happy fishing!

Danny White