If you’ve been thinking about buying a bass boat, you may have done some research and been put off by high price tags.
However, what many people don’t know is that there’s a less expensive way of acquiring a bass boat that doesn’t involve paying full price for a new one.
Instead of buying a bass boat outright, you can simply buy a less-expensive jon boat and convert it into a bass boat yourself!
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Converting a jon boat into a bass boat sounds like a lot of work – and it is.
However, if you really want a bass boat for a more affordable price, you can carry out this conversion in just 6 steps. It will take time and effort, but it’s worth it for the money you’ll save.
If you’re interested in finding out how to convert a jon boat into a bass boat using the easiest and most cost-effective methods, read on!
We’ll be breaking down the process into 6 steps and giving you all our top tips for making this conversion as simple and inexpensive as possible.
Jon Boat Vs. Bass Boat
Before we get into how to convert a jon boat to a bass boat, we should clarify the differences between these two boat types.
A jon boat is a boat with a flat bottom which is designed to sail along the surface of the water. Meanwhile, a bass boat is designed to cut through the water due to its round bottom shape and V-shaped hull.
While a jon boat provides greater stability in calm waters, a bass boat travels faster and is better equipped to handle rough weather conditions. Bass boats also tend to have more seating and a closed deck, as opposed to the open deck and lower weight capacity of a jon boat.
So, if you’re looking for a boat that can travel through the water at great speeds (see also ‘A Complete Guide On Average Boat Speeds‘) with a lot of passengers on board, a jon boat won’t be the right boat for you.
However, the good news is that you can transform a jon boat into the bass boat of your dreams using the steps outlined in this article.
Converting A Jon Boat To A Bass Boat
Choose A Used Jon Boat
The first step to converting a jon boat into a bass boat is, of course, choosing your jon boat. That’s assuming you don’t already have one, but if you do, you can go ahead and move on to step to.
For those who have yet to choose a jon boat for the conversion, you will want to buy a used jon boat since this is the most affordable option.
You could work with a wooden jon boat or a fiberglass jon boat, but we recommend getting an aluminum jon boat if you can since the material is lighter and generally easier to work with.
While jon boats are usually flat, as mentioned above, you can also find jon boats with v-shaped hulls.
If you can find a jon boat with a v-shaped hull, the finished conversion will look more similar to a new bass boat and your boat will perform better in strong waves.
Begin The Overhaul
Once you have a used jon boat to work with, you can begin the overhaul straight away.
The first thing you will want to do is remove all of the old screws. This will involve unlocking the nuts to free the bolts, which can be tricky if the screws have become rusty over time, so try to be gentle and avoid snapping any screws.
In the event that some screws do snap off, you’ll need to force them out of the bolt holes using a specialist tool. You can either buy the right tool yourself or hire a professional to do it if you’re worried about causing further damage.
Don’t throw the bolts and screws away once you’ve removed them! You will need these for sizing reference later on when you buy replacement screws.
Sand The Surfaces
Since you’re going to be painting your boat later to make it look brand new, the next task on your agenda will be sanding all the surfaces of the jon boat.
You’ll need to do this on all surfaces both inside and outside the boat, not forgetting about all the small spaces that are difficult to get into.
This is a time-consuming part of the process, but it’s so important if you want your conversion to look professional.
Sanding the surfaces will help to remove any stubborn dirt and grime that may have built up over time, as well as any old paint that may be loose or peeling. It’s best to use no. 180 sandpaper for this task.
Once you have finished sanding, you should also vacuum to remove any debris that might have been created during the sanding process.
When you have finished sanding all the surfaces of the exterior and interior of your jon boat as well as vacuuming, it should be totally free of debris and loose paint.
This means it’s ready for a coat of fresh paint, which will go a long way towards making your boat conversion look amazing.
Before you can apply the first coat of paint, you should apply a coat of black epoxy. This seals the surface you’re about to paint and makes sure no leaks can come through.
If there are any parts of your boat that you don’t want to get paint on, you should apply tape to protect them before you start painting.
After applying the first coat of paint, leave it for between 15 and 20 minutes to dry fully. When the paint has dried, you can apply a second coat, waiting for the same length of time before you apply the third and final coat.
If you feel that the coverage with 2 coats is sufficient, you can skip the third coat and just apply a finish to give a glossy feel to the paint job. We also recommend using a gray epoxy finish on the interior surfaces of your boat.
This will protect the interior from wear and tear and prevent leaks from getting through to the inside.
Install Motors And Devices
Your used jon boat probably won’t come with all the equipment you want for your bass boat already installed, which means that you’ll need to install your motors and other devices yourself (or with the help of a professional, depending on what you feel comfortable with).
We recommend installing an outboard motor as well as a thrust trolling motor. Other electronics you might want to install include a GPS or a fishfinder.
There are many pieces of electronic equipment that can make your boat perform better and handle more easily, so do your research and find out what possibilities are out there.
Install Seats And A Deck
As we mentioned earlier in our comparison of jon boats and bass boats, bass boats have more seating than jon boats. This means that you’ll probably want to add more seats during your conversion.
If you want to keep things simple, you can just add a couple of benches, but for a more comfortable and flexible seating arrangement, a couple of swivel seats can work well, too.
Crucially, you’ll also want to install a deck. This will require some carpentry skills, so if you don’t have any experience with carpentry, you’ll need to spend some time researching the process. We have found several online tutorials on how to do this, and we think this one is the best.
Once you’ve installed the deck, your jon boat to bass boat conversion will be complete, and you can take your new bass boat out on the water for the first time!
Tips For Your Jon Boat To Bass Boat Conversion
If you follow all the steps we’ve covered in this article, you should be able to convert a jon boat into a bass boat with minimal problems.
However, before you get to work, please take the time to consider these 9 important tips for making your conversion a success:
Inspect The Hull Before Purchase
You should inspect all parts of the jon boat you’re considering buying before purchasing it. Ideally, this is a purchase you should finalize in person rather than online so that you can take a close look at the boat.
If you’re dealing with an online seller, try to arrange an in-person viewing before you hand over your money.
The hull is an especially important part of the boat (see also ‘The Parts Of A Boat That You Need To Know‘) to inspect because if it’s damaged, it could cause some serious safety issues.
For a thorough inspection, it’s best to strip the boat all the way down and inspect the materials for any holes, rust spots, or other forms of damage. Rotting wood and holes in the hull are serious causes for concern.
You should also consider the weight of the hull since a heavier hull provides more stability.
Opt For A Wide-Hulled Jon Boat
In addition to ensuring that the hull of your chosen jon boat is in good condition, you need to factor the width of the hull into your decision.
We recommend choosing a jon boat with a wide hull. This is because a wide-hulled jon boat will fit better with the plan for a bass boat conversion. A hull over 48 inches in width is optimal.
Anything narrower won’t have a lot of stability in the water and also won’t leave you a lot of flexibility for your conversion.
Prioritize Aluminum Framing
We mentioned earlier that you can get jon boats made out of fiberglass of wood, and you can make a bass boat conversion work with either of these materials, but we recommend getting one with aluminum framing if you can.
The reason for this is that aluminum framework is lightweight, so it will make maneuvering the boat during the conversion easier. It will also be better when your boat is in the water because lightweight boats are better for fishing (although a heavier hull is still ideal).
Aluminum is also more durable than wood and you won’t have to worry about treating the wood to stop water from soaking into it and weighing down the material.
Avoid Pressure-Treated Wood
If you do opt for a wooden jon boat, you might be tempted to prioritize pressure-treated wood since this stops the wood from absorbing too much water. However, we would actually recommend avoiding pressure-treated wood.
The reason pressure-treated wood isn’t optimal if you’re planning on doing a conversion is that this kind of treated wood does not react well with aluminum. It can cause metal components to become corroded and small holes might even form in the metal, weakening the hull and leading to safety issues.
You can try to prevent this by putting barriers between wooden and aluminum components but this isn’t guaranteed to work, so it’s actually better to get an untreated wooden jon boat if you can’t find one made of a more durable material.
Don’t Overspend On Tech
When you’re excited about your boat conversion project, it can be tempting to overspend on technological additions.
Remember, the reason you’re converting a jon boat into a bass boat is to save the money you would otherwise spend on a new bass boat. If you overspend on electronics, you might end up bridging the price gap, meaning that you may as well have bought a bass boat.
You’ll also need to take care not to overload your boat with too much weight from added electronics or overcrowd the interior space with technological clutter.
Start with the essentials like a GPS and trolling motor and only add more electronics if you have enough space left.
Make Sure Hardware Is Compatible
In our 6 conversion steps outlined above, we mentioned that you will need to remove existing screws and bolts and replace them.
However, if you want this process to go swimmingly, you need to be sure that your chosen replacement hardware is compatible.
Not only should your new screws be the correct size, but the material needs to be compatible with the material used in the construction of the boat itself.
This is especially important if you have an aluminum boat because using hardware made of the wrong metal can lead to galvanic corrosion.
If you realize after purchasing your new hardware that the materials are incompatible, you’ll need to cover the aluminum parts of the boat with sealant to prevent corrosion.
Mount The Deck At The Correct Height
The most important thing to bear in mind when mounting a deck to your boat is the height.
Mounting the deck to the wrong level can destabilize the boat, which can lead to dangerous situations, especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of time standing outside on the deck.
You specifically need to make sure that the deck isn’t mounted too high since this is what’s most likely to cause instability.
The correct height for your deck will depend on the width of the boat. If it’s less than 5o inches across, you’ll need to mount the deck beneath the bench seating.
For boats between 60 and 70 inches wide, the deck should be roughly half the height of the benches and gunnels.
Meanwhile, if the boat is over 72 inches in width, the deck needs to be mounted flush to the gunnels (although stability won’t be as much of an issue with a wider boat like this).
Only Use Marine Carpets
Installing carpet inside your boat can help to make it feel more comfortable and cozy, but if you don’t choose marine carpets, your hard work carpeting your boat might not last as long as you’d hoped.
Marine carpets are designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear. They’re made for heavy-duty traffic and are easy to wash in case of stains.
Marine carpets also aren’t as fluffy as regular carpets, which is important because you don’t want your fishing lures getting caught in your carpet fibers.
While the type of carpet you’d find in most homes might feel more luxurious, it’s best to go for practicality over luxury when it comes to converting a boat. You’ll be grateful you chose marine carpets when it’s time to deep-clean.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
This last point is an important one. While covering a jon boat to a bass boat is definitely possible without assistance from a professional, certain tasks are best left to someone with experience.
If you have absolutely no electrical engineering experience, for example, you should probably leave the tech installation to a qualified electrician.
Sure, there are some things you can learn from online tutorials, but if you’re starting out with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever, we recommend hiring an electrician who specializes in boats to do this work since wiring something incorrectly could have disastrous consequences when you’re out on the water.
The main thing to bear in mind when converting a jon boat to a bass boat is not to overcomplicate things.
If you keep things simple, you can carry out this conversion in just 6 steps: choosing your boat, replacing the hardware, sanding, painting, installing electronics, and adding seating and a deck.
Prioritize aluminum framing (see also our favorite welded aluminum jet boats) if you can, choose a wide-hulled boat, make sure your new hardware is compatible, install the deck at the correct height relative to the width of the boat, and don’t be afraid to ask a professional for help if you need it.