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11 Tips for Jon Boat to Bass Boat Conversion

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to build the perfect DIY fishing boat, a jon boat to bass boat conversion may be the perfect answer.

Converting jon boats into bass boats has really taken off in popularity over the last few years. And for good reason! It’s totally possible to DIY your way into an extremely fishable rig for a fraction of the price you’d pay for a name-brand bass boat.

The possibilities and customization options are endless, but there are some important things to think about before you start.

These tips and tricks will give you the help you need to start planning the perfect jon boat to bass boat project.

#1  Choose a Wide Jon Boat Hull for Your Base

The most important piece of the conversion project is the jon boat itself. Choosing the right size hull is extremely important and will make it much easier for you to achieve a final result that you’ll be satisfied with.

Everything you do from start to finish revolves around your base jon boat, so you may as well choose a wide one that affords you the most freedom. Too narrow and you’ll bottleneck the whole operation.

Try to aim for a jon boat that is at least 48″ wide. This is a good minimum width if you’re looking to install decking onto the boat. Sure, you can still deck a jon boat that is under 48″ wide, but it will almost certainly be much more difficult and possibly unsafe.

A boat with a narrow width will almost always have a number of issues during the conversion process. First of all, you simply won’t have enough room for buildout. Second, and more importantly, a narrow hull will be very unstable when a deck is installed.

 The last thing you want to do is go through the trouble of building an awesome setup, only to find out that it’s unstable to the point of being dangerous when a deck has been installed. You may not realize it when you’re sitting down, but you’ll quickly find out upon standing that a narrow boat feels terribly unstable in the water.

The wider, the better. You really can’t go too wide with this project as long as you’re using a reliable hull.

#2  Don’t Use a Low Quality or Damaged Hull

It should go without saying that a jon boat to bass boat conversion should always be done with a quality, reliable hull, but we’ve seen this be an issue more than once. You’re going to spend a lot of time and energy on this project and you don’t want to waste it on something that won’t last.

Most jon boats aren’t purposefully built to handle this sort of project. By their nature, they are lightweight boats that aren’t intended to handle heavy weights or heavy use. This doesn’t mean that a conversion is always a bad idea. It simply means that you need to take extra care to choose a hull that can handle the extra construction that comes when you turn it into a heavier rig.

If you’re buying a new hull for your project, buy the sturdiest one you can afford. Go for a heavier hull made from quality aluminum.

If you’re going with a used hull, do a full, honest inspection long before you start any construction. You’ll want to totally strip the hull down to brass-tacks in order to thoroughly check it out. Look for rust, holes, weak spots, rotted wood, etc and make any necessary repairs on the front end. If these repairs are outside of your handiness, call in the pros for this step.

Turning a jon boat into a functional bass boat is hard work as it is. Don’t risk your work, your money, or your safety with a hull that won’t handle the stress you’re going to put on it.

Even though you may save a little bit of money starting off with a cheap hull, you’ll thank yourself later if you spend a little extra to start with a solid foundation.

#3  Avoid Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated wood is a godsend for many things, but this project is not one of them. Unfortunately, the chemicals used on pressure treated wood are not very compatible with aluminum jon boats.

The chemicals in pressure treated wood cause negative reactions when they meet aluminum. This can result in corrosion and even pitting in the aluminum, weakening or even ruining your hull.

Copper is the main culprit in the wood, but there can be other harmful chemicals as well.

It’s worth noting that newer pressure treated wood is considered to have less of a detrimental effect on aluminum. Even so, most experienced boat builders will recommend that you’re still better off to avoid it completely.

There are ways to create a barrier between the wood and the aluminum, but it’s very difficult to ensure 100% success. Water will almost certainly find it’s way to the wood, taking some chemicals with it as it eventually makes contact with the aluminum.

The bottom line is that you’re almost always better off to avoid pressure treated wood when you’re dealing with an aluminum boat. Even though there are ways to implement it successfully, it’s very difficult and there’s always a chance that you’ll eventually encounter problems.

#4  Use Aluminum for Your Framing

This tip is totally dependent on how handy you are, so go ahead and skip ahead if you’re not 100% comfortable working with aluminum.

For those who know how to build with aluminum, it is definitely the ideal material for constructing your jon-to-bass framework.

The main benefit to using aluminum is reduced weight. Aluminum is a good deal lighter than wood. When you’re dealing with light jon boats, any weight reduction possible is a good idea.

Aluminum also holds up better over time than wood. Non-treated wood soaks up water. This makes it heavier and susceptible to mold, mildew, and rotting.  We’ve already covered the negative impacts that can come as a result of mixing pressure treated wood with aluminum, so it’s no surprise that we would choose aluminum as the optimal choice.

Done right, aluminum framing will give you a long-lasting, light build that is strong enough to withstand heavy use.

#5  Mount Your Decks at the Proper Height

Choosing the right height for deck placement is extremely important for overall stability. You’ll spend quite a bit of time standing and fishing on these decks, so it pays to get it right. The higher your deck, the less stable it will be when you stand.

Hull style and individual preferences both play a role here, but there are some general guidelines for optimal placement.

For jon boats that are 50″ wide and under, plan for decks that are no higher than the bench seats.

For boats that are 60″ to 70″ wide, plan for decks that are about midway between the bench seats and the gunnels.

For boats that are over 72″ wide, decks can be installed flush to the gunnels while remaining stable. Stability is not a problem with any jon boat of this width. It will absolutely be the most comfortable to stand on no matter where you place your decks.

Now, there are plenty of cases where someone has installed flush decks on a 48″ hull without feeling that it was too unstable. It’s just very uncommon to feel stable while standing up that high on a jon boat that narrow.

These numbers are simply a good starting place for deciding your deck height. You also need to factor in things like your weight and physical capability. It’s a lot easier to work with high decks on a narrow boat if you’re light and have great balance.

#6  Choose the Correct Metal Hardware

Whether you’re dealing with hinges, bolts, or anything else, it’s important to make sure that you’re choosing the correct hardware for your project.

The important thing to consider is durability. Don’t cheap out on your hardware. Protect your boat and yourself with heavy-duty hinges and appropriately sized hardware everywhere else.

You also need to take extra care in selecting the type of metal you use for your hardware. Since your jon boat hull is aluminum, not every kind of metal will do.

The wrong metal will negatively react with the aluminum. This causes galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals are brought under electrical contact underwater, causing the metals’ corrosion rates to change. The weaker metal (the aluminum, in this case) will corrode faster than it would have otherwise.

The best course of action is to use high-quality aluminum hardware on most things, saving stainless steel or other more durable metals for the places where they are most needed for structural integrity.

The severity and impact of galvanic corrosion is often a point of debate among DIY boat builders, but it is definitely a real factor to consider for the long run. You may go years without a problem, but certain metals will eventually react negatively with aluminum under the right circumstances.

It’s still possible to use a dissimilar metal with your aluminum hull, but, at the very least, make sure to use a sealant to protect one from the other. This is perfectly fine if done properly.

#7  Don’t Skimp on Proper Electrical Work

This will be short and sweet: If you know your way around electrical wiring, you’re good to go. But if you don’t know the first thing about it, seek some professional help.

Even though it’s not rocket science to wire your jon boat like a bass boat, there are potential pitfalls all throughout the process.

For those doing their own wiring, floating your electric system is the best way to go with an aluminum boat. You absolutely do not want your hull to be a part of the system if you want to avoid extra galvanic corrosion.

#8  Use Marine Carpet

There are plenty of cheap carpeting options out there, but it’s always better to spend a little bit more to get the right materials. Marine carpet is made to withstand the rigors of boating and fishing.

Try to choose a carpet that is high-quality and durable, but won’t easily catch lures or other sharp objects. Some carpets have lots of fluffy fibers that catch on everything and make your life more difficult.

There are other non-marine carpets out there that are okay to use, but make sure you’ve done your research before you buy. Don’t weak-link your boat with carpeting that will tear up in the first few months of use.

#9  Don’t Go Overboard with Electronics

A jon boat to bass boat conversion is meant to be cost-effective and simple, so you’re better off to avoid loading your boat down with every piece of marine electronics known to man.

The obvious reason to avoid too many electronics is that you’ll need more battery power. That means more weight on your boat. Space aboard your boat will also be at a premium, so there’s no need to clutter it up too much with wires all over the place.

If you have a console, try to stick with a good trolling motor setup, GPS/fishfinder, and one or two other features.

#10  Try Not to be a Perfectionist

There’s a big difference between doing a good job and being too focused on perfection. One will give you a good, satisfying final product. The other will frustrate you while costing way too much time and money.

Again, this type of project is meant to keep things simple. Overcomplicating things by nitpicking every minor detail can end up doubling the overall cost of your project both in time and in money.

Decide before you start that you’re going to do the best job possible without driving yourself crazy. Remind yourself that the little things you get hung up on are likely things that no one would notice but you.

#11  Don’t be Afraid to Seek Outside Help

No matter how handy you are, there’s always something that you’ll struggle with. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve struggled until the project is finished and you find out that you missed something.

A fresh set of eyes on your project is often the best thing for it. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision when you’ve been focusing on the details of your boat for hours and hours. A friend or a professional may notice an important addition or modification right away.

It never hurts to get an outside perspective or opinion, even when you think you already have it all figured out.


These tips should give you plenty to consider and help to jump start your project. Just take it one step at a time and don’t get overwhelmed before you’ve even begun.

Converting a jon boat to a bass boat is a very rewarding project if it’s done the right way. You’ll spend a lot of time, a lot of labor, and a little bit of money to get the job done, but it will be totally worth it in the end.

Let us know if you have any other tips or suggestions! And make sure to show us your finished product!