It's kind of a shame to have a Jon boat without a decent poling platform for poling on the flats, isn't it? Jon boats are very small flat-bottomed boats, ideal for lakes and ocean flats. But, how could you make it even more ideal? Stick a poling platform on it so you can silently stalk the shallows!
You can get a Jon boat poling platform from the manufacturer of your boat, from online, from a skilled welder, or you can make your own platform.
A poling platform in the back of your boat improves your view. It will allow you to climb up and sight-fish effectively on the flats. It gives you a better angle on the water and with your polarized sunglasses, you can see deeper into the water with a raised platform.
It also increases your maneuverability. You can use a poling platform to move your boat around the flats silently with a lightweight pole. This is ideal for redfish, permit, and bonefish.
You may have thought about getting a Jon boat if you're an avid angler. You may have seen some of them with poling platforms installed and you may have thought it would be too unsteady to use on the water. Especially in some waves. That's true, sometimes the small ones are not the most stable of fishing or poling platforms.
Some Jon boat owners install a casting platform on the front of the boat instead to give them a little more foot room. So either a poling platform or casting platform is fine on these small boats, but there are some questions that need to be answered before you decide.
Either way, you’ll need a wizard with metal to install a stable Jon boat poling platform on your skiff. Many Jon boat models on the bigger side can easily fit a customized poling platform on the back of the boat and it won't even get in the way when duck hunting in it.
Is a Jon Boat Poling Platform Safe?
Maybe adding on an improvised poling platform to your Jon boat seems like a bad move, many anglers do it and they adjust how they move on the boat to keep it as steady as possible. You don't want someone 280 lb. standing up on a platform in the back of a small Jon boat with no weight up front. It might be OK if everything balances just right, but then again it might not!
Taking another person along on the trip to stay in the front of the boat will even the weight out and make sure the boat doesn't flip or become unsteady. In practice, many 2-person fishing teams hit the open water in a small Jon Boat and don't even come close to flipping it. As long as the person in front doesn't make any sudden move to rock the boat or unbalance it, you'll be fine.
Jon boats range from 8 to 24 feet long. Should you put a poling platform on an 8-foot boat? I've seen it done! Not often, but they're out there. The problem becomes one of balance on a boat that small. Especially when the platform hangs off the back of the boat beyond the transom.
Weight and Balance
One Triumph Jon Boat we found weighs about 160 lb. and is 14 feet long. The maximum weight it can hold, including the engine, is 610 lb.
If you and your buddy go 250 lb. each, your motor, fuel, gear, ice, and poling platform can only weigh 100 lb. more! A 20-hp motor is going to weigh 100 lb. You can see why this isn't going to work.
So, there is a limit that you have to keep in mind, not only just for the balance of the boat but for the strength and the capacity it can handle.
Jon boats are more stable than boats with v-shaped hulls in calm water conditions, sure. But still, with a lot of weight in the boat and the boat being so lightweight, balance issues can ruin everyone's day.
The problem is not only that the poling platform and someone on top of it is in the rear of the boat, but the engine, fuel, battery, and weight of the platform itself are all in the back of the boat. What's in the front? You need to put something there!
The best way to go about fishing a Jon boat with a poling platform in the back is to have two anglers on the boat. One in the back on the poling stand, and one in the front to counterbalance the weight in the back. Or, if you're fishing solo, add a lot of weight to the front of the boat so it stays steady when you're poling the flats.
Where to Find a Jon Boat Poling Platform
Most platforms are made from strong, rust-proof aluminum or electrical conduit (steel) and have a fiberglass platform on the top to stand on. Some metal workers specialize in making custom units for Jon boats, and that is probably your best bet.
The cost for a good aluminum platform can be around $500. There are pre-made platforms you can buy for around the same price, so it may be better to get a custom fit for your boat.
Staff at any marina should be able to recommend a local custom poling platform builder.
Making Your Own Jon Boat Poling Platform
If you know how to work with metal, you can make your own poling platform. It's a serious undertaking, but it may be doable if you've got the skills or if you and a buddy could combine efforts to get it done. This is the cheapest way to go about it for sure.
Your platform may not look as polished as some of the top-of-the-line solutions, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself, and if it works for you then who cares what other people think?
If you go this route, you can probably build your poling platform for a couple of hundred dollars if you're not including the value of your time in the equation.
Have a look at the video below if you are considering crafting your own metal or aluminum poling platform. It doesn't seem all that difficult as he's doing it, and if you have the equipment, why not give it a try?
Turning Your Cooler Into a Poling Platform
In the not-too-distant past, most Jon boats didn’t have “super coolers” like Yeti, Engel, and other brands. To create their own poling platform for their little Jon boats, they'd just add a piece of wood to the top of the cooler they had and add some grip tape or outdoor carpet or something that would ensure a good grip when standing on it.
Today we have these big coolers you can stand up on without falling through. You should probably put some sort of board or metal piece on top of it to keep your expensive cooler looking good. And yes, this means you'll have to get down from the platform to open the cooler, but that's a small trade-off for having a super-cheap solution – isn't it?
A 35-quart cooler is probably strong enough to stand on but you'll need to anchor it down with either bungee cords or some stronger solution.
Another advantage of this simple system is you can move your cooler to the bow of the boat and pole from there. Jon boats can be poled from the bow or stern. Some prefer the bow because the motor doesn't get in the way.
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Using a Gheenoe Poling Platform
If you want another solution, you can get a small platform designed for Gheenoes and put it on your Jon boat. There are strong metal platforms you can buy on eBay or direct from a manufacturer for not much over $200 for one you can bolt to the rear of your boat.
Fitting a Skimmer Skiff Poling Platform
If you want to get wider with your platform, consider adding a Skimmer Skiff poling platform to your Jon boat. They are almost as wide as your boat and sit on the rails in the back. The wide beam makes a big difference in comfort while standing or poling your Jon boat.
You'll find that many of the older Jon boat models have wider beams, ideal for these platforms.
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Using a Smaller Casting Platform
Another solution to a Jon boat poling platform is to just install a casting platform in the front of the boat. It works for poling and casting and can be favorable to a stern-placed platform because the motor doesn't get in the way.
We've presented a couple of solutions for you to choose from in setting up a poling platform for your Jon boat.
You'll have to take a few things into consideration like the size of your motor, the size of the platform you want, whether you want the platform in the bow or stern, and how much money you're willing to pay for a platform. Do you want to make your own, or possibly just use a big cooler to stand on? Do you need the latest and greatest prefab platform, or can you make do with a simple custom job?
Keep in mind that poling on a Jon boat from the stern may not be what you are hoping it is. Try it out on someone else's boat if possible. Make sure you want to spend the money and that it is going to improve your fishing experience. Getting a trolling motor may be a better option for you and your boat.
Getting higher over the water is definitely an improvement, whether casting or poling (or both), so do consider how best to make it happen!
Tight lines, and let us know what you chose to do!
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