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A jon boat (or johnboat) is a flat-bottomed boat constructed of aluminum, fiberglass, or wood with one, two, or three bench seats. They are suitable for fishing and hunting. The hull of a jon boat is nearly flat, therefore it tends to ride over the waves rather than cut through them as a V-hull might, thus limiting the use of the boat to calmer waters. Jon boats typically have a transom onto which an outboard motor can be mounted. They are simple and easy to maintain, and inexpensive with many options to upgrade. Typical options might include live wells/bait wells, side or center consoles, factory installed decks and floors, electrical wiring, accessory pads/mountings, casting and poling platforms.
Jon boats with beefed up aluminum construction, and powered by jet-drive outboards, are capable of operating in extremely shallow water and thus are used frequently in rocky rivers and areas with submerged obstructions such as oyster bars and coral.
Jon boats are available commercially between 8 and 24 feet (2.4 and 7.3 m) long and 32 to 60 inches (81 to 152 cm) wide, though custom sizes may be found. The simple design includes an open hull, without a bilge, leaving the ribs exposed. Many individuals choose to cover the ribs, producing a flat, level surface.
In the late 19th century flat-bottom boats were found popular in The Ozarks, and were ideal for traversing the shallow waters in the Missouri Valley. As a result, people of that region began referring to the boat as the “Ozark John Boat”.
The boats were found useful for float fishing, duck hunting and carrying timber. Visiting tourists and travellers enjoyed the idea of flat-bottomed boats, as they could fish standing up and did not have to fear tipping over.
During the early 20th century the Ozark John Boat saw many advancements in its construction and design. As the boat became more popular among other regions, it was more commonly recognized as the “John Boat” and later shortened to “Jon Boat”.
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