Jon boats are highly versatile vessels on inland waters. If you own one, there are so many things to do with it, from fishing to camping.
And while Jon boats are multipurpose, many people hesitate to invest in them, fearing that these boats have stability issues.
But this isn’t always true, and I feel that Jon boats are amazingly stable when used appropriately.
Jon boats are best used on calm waters while other v-hull boats can handle choppy waters with ease. It all comes down to how and where you use your boat.
If you ask most Jon boat fanatics, they’ll tell you that these small boats deliver outstanding performance when used on the appropriate waters for the right purpose.
That’s why it’s crucial to know how you want to use your Jon boat before buying one.
If you already own a Jon boat and it feels unstable, there is no need to worry as we will address the issue in this guide.
There are indeed effective ways to stabilize your Jon boat and even make it carry more weight for a better cruising experience.
But before we get on the stabilizing methods, let’s have a look at what makes a Jon boat unstable on the water.
What Makes Jon Boats Unstable on the Water?
Jon boats are relatively small vessels designed to support one to three persons on calm waters.
The width of Jon boats matters a lot as it affects the vessel’s stability. Some Jons are about 3 feet wide, while others are up to 7-feet wide.
And since Jon boats are flat bottom vessels, the location of your cruising crew or heavy loads affects the boat’s stability.
Here are some outboard and inboard factors that make Jon boats unstable on the water:
The Boat’s Hull Design
Jon boats feature a flat bottomed hull, which is well-suited for calm water bodies with shallow waters where larger vessels and other boats cannot access.
However, the flat hull is terrible on choppy waters as it cannot cut through the waves as you cruise. The results are instability and sometimes capsizing.
For this reason, some boaters prefer modified Jon boats as they handle rougher waters with better stability.
In most cases, the flat hull is usually replaced with a V-hull or semi-V hull. Even so, boaters still need to cruise slowly to cut the waters out.
So, if you often sail through rough waters, a modified Jon boat with a V-hull or semi-V hull will serve you better.
Boat’s Size vs Number of Passengers or Load
A small Jon boat less than 48″ wide can only hold one boater at a time. If two or more people get on a Jon boat that is narrower than 48 inches, they are likely to tip over.
Most Jon boats less than 10-foot long are not suitable for a tandem boating crew since they have less width.
They usually cruise at a low speed due to their small horsepower motors and will eventually capsize, especially when there is more than one person on the boat.
On the other hand, larger Jon boats are wider, which means they can accommodate more people or carry more load and sail with stability.
They also have strong motors for better speed, which further improves performance and prevents the boat from being tossed about on the water.
If your boat feels unstable on the water when cruising with your friends or family, you are probably bringing more people than you should onboard.
Moreover, for boaters who use their Jons to carry loads, you should pay attention to the boat’s carrying capacity to avoid an overloaded boat.
If you have a small Jon boat, you may be tempted to buy a stronger motor with high horsepower to improve performance.
However, using a horsepower that exceeds the recommended limit will not do any good to your shallow water warrior.
It leads to more weight, which is unevenly distributed on the vessel since the transom holds the motor.
Other than higher horsepower, it’s also important to keep in mind that the motor designs differ in many ways.
For example, an older motor or one built to a sub-standard design may be heavier than a modern motor of the same horsepower. The huge difference can affect your boat’s stability.
Depending on what you choose, you may be at the risk of having an overloaded transom, unknowingly. This makes it harder for you to control the boat hence stability problems arise.
The Passenger’s Experience
So, you usually sail with perfect balance when alone, but your Jon boat suddenly develops stability issues whenever you bring some people on board.
And you cannot even understand it, because you don’t exceed the maximum number of passengers your boat can carry.
In such cases, the passengers are the cause of the instability. It’s easy for an experienced boater to overlook the innocence of their crew.
Cruising with people who have no boating experience can be a little problematic as they don’t know how to adjust.
For example, when a boat leans to one side, an experienced boater will know how to adjust their position to regain balance.
However, novice boaters will not know how to deal with a boat leaning. This brings about instability and may even result in tipping over.
So, before bringing your kids or friends who don’t have much boating experience on your Jon boat, train them how to deal with leaning.
Unsuitable Boating Conditions
The benefit of having a Jon boat is only enjoyed when it’s used in the right boating conditions.
See, I’ve had my flat-bottomed boat for nearly a decade and never had any stability problems. Perhaps, it’s because I only use it for fishing on calm water bodies like rivers and small lakes.
Jon boats come with a shallow draft, making them unsuitable for wavy waters. If you take your shallow-hulled vessel to the ocean, it won’t handle the waves with stability.
Even if you have a long and wider boat, it’s not ideal for choppy boating conditions. The flat-bottomed boats are designed for use on shallow waters.
It gets even worse when you think that speed will save you from instability on wavy water, but this isn’t a good idea.
You may end up capsizing, as even the most minor waves can destabilize your boat.
If you find yourself often cruising on rougher water and having to deal with instability issues, then you may want to go for a modified Jon boat that can handle the waves better.
Using a Jon boat in areas with high motorboat traffic is also a bad idea as the backwash will cause stability issues.
How to Make Your Jon Boat More Stable
Now that you already know what makes Jon boats unstable on the water, it will be a bit easier to correct the issue.
Some options are as simple as knowing how to balance your load well onboard, while others will call for adding some accessories to your boat.
One of the most efficient ways to deal with instability issues common in small Jon boats is to learn how to use the boat properly in the appropriate conditions.
This works best for owners who use their Jon boats for leisure cruising or even recreational fishing. If you don’t want to spend any money on your Jon, this is actually the best way to start.
Here are some more practical steps for improving Jon boat stability to enjoy a better ride:
#1. Adding Buoyancy to a Jon Boat
While Jon boats rely on water displacement to float on the water, adding some buoyancy will lead to extra stability.
Increasing buoyancy will deal with the effects of the boat’s heavyweight and make the Jon ride higher in the water.
What’s more interesting about this solution is that it doesn’t involve much work and it’s cost-effective. However, you need to do it the right way to achieve the best results.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind when adding buoyancy is that it should be added to the outer part of the hull.
Sure, adding buoyancy onto the boat’s interior will prevent the boat from capsizing easily, but it will not improve stability as you sail.
You also need to ensure that you add buoyancy to counter the features triggering instability on your Jon boat.
Adding buoyancy will not address a problem caused by the limited width of a long Jon boat on rough waters. It has to be relevant to directly solve the instability issue.
And once you increase buoyancy, it doesn’t mean that your boat will now be safe to use on choppy waters. It’s still a flat-bottomed boat with certain limitations, though they may be a bit improved.
So, how do you get some additional buoyancy to make your Jon boat extra stable? Well, here are some great products to use:
Get Some Flotation Pods
Flotation pods are box-shaped metal cases that look like transom steps. They are not only designed for adding stability and buoyancy to boats but also to preserve the boat’s design.
This means that you don’t have to ruin or completely change your boat’s aesthetics just to get some buoyancy.
Another benefit of using flotation pods is that they don’t reduce your boat’s storage space or increase the overall size of the watercraft.
They are also fairly easy to install. You can either bolt the pods or weld them for a permanent assembly.
When installed on the stern of a Jon boat, flotation pods can prevent problems caused by the engine’s weight or having a load on the boat’s rear.
This is one of the oldest methods used to increase buoyancy in boats. It involves adding flotation kits on both or either side of a boat.
Outriggers work well on Jon boats, and there are a number of ways to install them. If you own a small Jon boat, a simple bolt outriggers kit will be a great stabilizer.
For those with larger Jon boats, you’ll need a larger outrigger kit to match the long hull.
Most outrigger kits are designed to add buoyancy on canoes and kayaks, but there are some models that can easily be fitted on Jon boats.
If you want to make your own outriggers kit, there are endless ways to do it, and you are only limited by your creativity.
You could use PVC tubes to make small or larger outriggers like those fitted on pontoon boats.
Buy or Make Your Own Gunwale Floatation Kit
Another effective way to add buoyancy to your Jon boat is adding some gunwales. You can buy a gunwale floatation kit sold with an installation bolt or make your own at home.
If you want to make a DIY gunwale floatation kit, you can use any dense plastic or foam that you can find.
Then cut up your dense plastic to your desired length, cup the edges, and mount them on your boat’s exterior. They may not give the same stability you get from outriggers, but they still do a great job.
#2. Installing Non-Floatation Jon Boat Stabilizers
If adding buoyancy doesn’t seem exactly what your shaky Jon boat needs, you may need to utilize other non-floatation stabilizers.
Some of the best non-floatation stabilizers to use on a Jon boat include hydro foils, trim tabs, outrigger-style stabilizers.
Let’s talk about each to help you see what suits your Jon boat:
Mounting HydroFoil to the Outboard Motor
Hydro foils that can be mounted to the outboard motor feature a whale tail design and are available in a single or two-piece set.
Whichever set you choose, you’ll mount the hydrofoil to the boat’s outboard’s cavitation plate. It will increase stability by redirecting water over the extended surface area to lift the stern.
This will result in a smooth ride and give you better control of the boat as you cruise.
Nonetheless, it’s crucial to choose the right hydrofoil for your small boat, as these stabilizers come in an array of different designs.
The Marine Dynamics Hydro Foil Junior is a great option for those looking for an affordable yet effective way to make a Jon boat more stable.
Mounting Trim Tabs to the Transom
Trim tabs work nearly the same as hydro foils since they also improve stability by changing water flow.
However, they mount to the boat’s transom rather than the outboard’s cavitation plate.
Depending on the type of water you are sailing on, you can adjust the tabs up and down to lift the transom and bring the bow down for better handling.
This will increase stability and prevent leaning on the port and starboard to correct uneven weight distribution as the Jon sails at high speed.
And just like hydrofoils, there are many trim tabs available out there, so you should choose the model designed for smaller boats.
If your boat is less than 19-foot long, the Nauticus Smart Tabs SX Series would be a great way to achieve a stable Jon boat.
Get a Small Outrigger Stabilizer
Outrigger-style stabilizers are large metal plates designed to hang off the boat on either side. They are primarily used in commercial trawler fishing.
When the trawlers are lowered into the water, they reduce the roll caused by natural sea motion or other motorboats on the water.
Most commercial trawlers are big models for large boats, but you can easily fashion yours at a metal assembly shop.
#3. Increasing the Width for Jon Boat Stability
While most people widen their Jon boats for extra space for their load and passengers, adding width has benefits on the boat’s stability.
There is also another benefit of making a Jon boat wider as it allows you to install a stronger motor.
If you have a 48-inches wide Jon boat with a 10hp motor, you could add 12 inches to upgrade the trolling motor for more stability and speed.
However, this is not the easiest way to make a Jon boat more stable, and it’s a risky undertaking, especially if you don’t have enough knowledge and skills.
It’s also an expensive approach compared to the other methods explained above as you’ll need to get the right equipment. Sometimes you may have to hire a professional as the project is not for the average DIYer.
If you think you can still hit the nail on the head, here are a few steps on how to go about it:
- Find a large working space.
- Cut the boat down its length from front to the rear to split it into two.
- Separate the halves to the distance of your desired width.
- Add ribs to reconnect the two halves.
- Mount two sheets of metal to cover the added ribs on the upper part and downside.
- Seal all the joints with an appropriate sealant to prevent leaks.
If you don’t have adequate DIY skills, do not try to widen your boat, as you may end up ruining it. In such cases, it would help to seek professional assistance.
Q: How Do I Make My Jon Boat Hold More Weight?
A: There are numerous ways to improve your Jon and make it hold more weight. This includes improving stability, increasing the boat’s width, and installing a stronger motor.
To increase stability to your Jon boat, you can use flotation pods, outrigger flotation kits, or gunwale flotations as they provide more buoyancy. You can also make a DIY floatation kit for your boat with PVC pipes.
If you decide to add width on your Jon boat, be sure to do it properly, as a poorly fixed boat will lead to serious problems on the water.
When done properly, the extra width will give you more room for your heavy load and accommodate a bigger engine.
Another way to carry more weight on your Jon is by distributing your loads evenly to avoid listing. But you still need to pay attention to the boat’s carrying capacity.
Q: How Do You Increase the Stability of a Boat?
A: You can increase the stability of a Jon boat by adding buoyancy with flotation devices or installing non-flotation stabilizers like trim tabs and hydrofoils.
Adding width is also a great way to achieve more stability on a Jon boat while still creating more room.
Wider boats will also accommodate larger engines, which means better performance and speed.
Another effective way to add stability to your flat bottom vessel is keeping the weight of your load or passengers within the boat’s carrying capacity.
If you have a small crew on board with less boating experience, you should also train them to automatically adjust when the Jon leans to the port or starboard.
Q: Does Adding Weight to a Jon Boat Make it More Stable?
A: No, adding more weight than the recommended capacity will not make your Jon boat stable. In fact, making your boat heavier might even worsen the instability issue and cause capsizing.
If you want your boat to sail with stability on the water, you should always stick to the recommended carrying capacity and ensure even weight distribution.
Adding buoyancy and other stabilizers to your Jon boat will also make your fishing buddy more stable on the water.
If you intend to cruise with heavy fishing gear or bring more passengers for long voyages, you may want to widen your vessel or invest in a larger one.
Q: Is a Jon Boat Stable?
A: Yes, a Jon boat is stable when used on calm waters. Even when cruising at high speeds, Jon boats are quite stable as long as the water conditions are ideal.
The shallow draft featured on draft allows them to ride smoothly on rivers and lakes where other boats with a deeper hull can’t plane.
However, smaller Jon boats are terrible on rough waters. You shouldn’t take your small flat bottom boat in a wavy ocean as it would have stability issues.
But there are some modified versions that feature a V-hull or semi-v, and they perform well on choppy water.
Q: Why Do Some Boat Owners Add Foam on Jon Boats?
A: In most cases, boat owners add foam to their Jon boats to help them float if the boat capsizes.
The added foam makes it easier to recover the boat as it rises to the water surface when the vessel gets submerged.
Many new boat owners think that the foam is used for buoyancy, but this isn’t the case. Anything added into the boat’s interior doesn’t increase buoyancy.
If you want to add foam to your Jon boat, polyurethane is a perfect choice as it doesn’t absorb water.
Does your Jon boat feel stable when sailing, even when only a few people are onboard? You are probably using it incorrectly.
Jon boats come with a shallow hull, and they are designed for use on calm or shallow waters. Taking your flat bottom boat to choppy conditions will lead to instability issues.
Always ensure that your load or passengers are within your boat’s maximum weight and are evenly distributed for a stable ride.
If you want to improve your Jon boat’s stability, there are several ways to do it. You can widen the hull, add buoyancy, or even install some stabilizers.
Feel free to use the Jon boat tips provided in this article to enhance your vessel’s abilities and sail better. Good luck in your boat stabilization process!