Jon Boat Fishing Setup

Capt. Jim Klopfer Jon Boat Fishing Machine
Nice snook caught aboard the Capt. Jim Fishing Machine backwater boat.

 Jon Boat Fishing Florida

I had a dilemma that many other anglers have faced; choosing the best boat for my particular fishing application. I am a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida and have a 22 foot bay boat which is perfect for my inshore fishing. However, I also run river fishing trips for snook and largemouth bass. The requirements for this type of fishing are much different than my usual fishing charters so I made a decision to do this Jon boat fishing setup for my guide service.

I needed a boat that was light in weight with a very small draft. Winter is the dry season in Florida and that is when I run these river fishing charters. That means that the water is low in the rivers as well is at the boat ramps. I required a boat that I could drag over sandbars and manhandle off of the trailer at unimproved ramps. The boat also needed to be stable as I often have elderly clients aboard.

Rambling Angler Store 


Speed and hull performance were not considerations. The vast majority of waters I fish with this boat are “No Wake Zones”. Freeboard and handling a chop are not concerns as all of the fishing would be done in protected waters. This also eliminates the need for a large outboard motor. Instead, I run a 3.5 hp Mercury outboard motor. It has a 1/2 gallon Hilton fuel tank. While I seldom use the fuel in this tank on a trip, I do bring a small gas can along to refill if needed.

After looking at a bunch of different skiffs, I realized that I was overthinking the problem. The answer was simple; the venerable Jon boat. Jon boats are inexpensive, low maintenance, light, durable, stable, versatile, and available in many different configurations.

My requirements as I guide are a bit different than those of the recreational angler. My duties are to operate and position the boat while helping my anglers. I have never been a fan of the center seat in Jon boats. Climbing over them is a nuisance.  I much prefer the fore and aft casting platforms with the large open area in the middle. I find this configuration much more versatile and user-friendly for my application.

Two other considerations are the size of the boat and whether it was welded or riveted. Welded boats are stronger. However, they are more expensive and significantly heavier. Riveted boats are lighter, less expensive, but don’t last as long and are not quite as stable. In the end, lightweight prevailed and I chose an Alumacraft 1448 riveted Jon boat. It is 14′ long and 48” wide at the bottom.

This boat turned out to be an excellent choice for its intended purpose. While the boat would probably never see rough water, the modified V works better than just a curved rounded bottom. I contemplated putting a floor in the boat. However, I found that the ribs in the bottom helped keep the cooler in place. Also, a plywood floor would have added more weight.

Jon Boat Seating for Fish

The first order of business was to add pedestal mounts to the fore and aft casting platforms so that my anglers could sit in comfortable chairs with backrests while they fished. This was easily accomplished in an hour. Next, I built a deck over the large opening behind the rear casting platform. There was already a nice ledge there, so this was a very easy project.


jon boat rigged for shallow fishing
Center seat when I have two clients fishing.

One of the advantages to choosing a Jon boat is the versatility. There are times when I have only one angler and other times where I have two. Therefore, I needed to be able to move the trolling motor around, depending on the number of anglers. With one angler aboard, I simply run the boat from the stern seat with a transom mounted trolling motor.

With two anglers on board, I mount the trolling motor on the starboard side about one third of the way from the bow. At first I thought this would result in the boat “crabbing” sideways. However, it works quite well, especially when drifting with the current. Also, by being in the middle, I am in the perfect position to assist both anglers with tackle issues and landing fish. I did add a small piece of floor to support the cooler which I sit on when I am running with two other anglers.

Jon Boat Accessories

A couple of accessories finished off the job of rigging this boat. I added a Garmin combination depth finder and GPS unit. I mounted it on the front of the rear casting platform. In this location I can view it while operating the boat either from the center or from the stern. A tackle tray and tool holder was installed behind the front platform. Vertical rod holders were installed at both the front and rear platforms as well as one horizontal rod holder to store the spare fishing rod. 

The boat turned out very nicely and exceeded my expectations! The large rear storage area holds lifejackets, and anchor, a paddle, a battery, and the small 1 gallon gas can. Eliminating the large 6 gallon gas tank was a huge bonus. A storage area under the front platform holds tackle and some tools. I use a cooler as both a seat and dry storage. A smaller cooler is used to keep a few drinks and waters cold. All in all, it turned out to be an excellent fishing machine!

If you’re looking for some great fishing adventures be sure to book your trip soon with Capt. Jim Klopfer of Sarasota Florida. You won’t be disappointed.

Capt. Jim Klopfer Jon Boat Fishing Machine

Call (941) 371-1390


About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.


  1. Recently purchased a 14’ Jon boat. I’m still trying to get the 1966 20hp Johnson running reliably. I have been wondering how to setup the boat. Thank you for sharing how you did yours. I will borrow your setup if you don’t mind.

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