How shallow can a Jon Boat run?

Last Updated on October 1, 2022

Jon boats are the popular choice for shallow inland water. A peculiar trait of this type of boat is its flat or nearly flat bottom although; it is quite different from the regular flat bottom boat. It is very simple, small, and light and is known for running sweetly on shallow waters

Knowing the depth of the water or how shallow the boat can travel prevents your boat motor from getting stuck in underwater debris. About shallow, many boaters have driven their boat in waters of about 1 or 2 feet. This makes gliding a river inlet or shallow fishing area possible.

However, to be more specific, certain other factors are considered such as your hull draft and the length of your motor shaft.

Boat draft

The boat draft is how low the boat gets in the water. It’s a function of how much of the boat gets into the water. This you can get by taking measurements from the waterline on the side of the boat to the lowest portion of the hull. You could also determine the draft by using a depth finder especially when fishing.

Several factors such as the load, the passenger seats, and the design of the hull can affect the boat draft. Jon boats come in two types of hull; the flat bottom and the V-Hull each with its unique draft.


Jon Boats with this type of hull is similar to the keel-style boat with the bottom of the boat forming a V-like wedge. Because of the shape, these types can cut easily through waves making them more stable in the water.

If yours is a V-hull, you would need about 2 to 3 feet of water clearance. The sides of this boat are usually higher making it more difficult for water to get in. You might need more fuel, more power, and a bigger engine to move.

Flat bottom-hull

This is probably the most common image of a Jon boat many people have. The hull of this boat does not form an angle as the V-hull boat but has a flat smooth bottom that glides over the water. It is easier to move in shallow water and pull up ashore in a flat bottom boat.

You would experience less rocking in the boat and a much less draft than the V-hull. For a boat with a flat bottom hull, some Jon boaters have recorded that the boats would skim the top of a water body 6 inches deep. There is no risk of bumping into underwater plants and debris.

Flat bottom boats are also very stable boats even with heavy loads. For this, you would need less fuel and a small motor to power since it would glide over the water instead of cutting through. In fact, some people move through with the engine completely turned off.

The load and weight

Asides from the hull, the draft of the boat is also affected by the weight it is carrying. The overall weight in a boat is the sum of the weight of the passenger, the seats, the engine as well as anything else being carried.

The boat draft could increase or reduce depending on the load it is carrying. Assuredly, taking boat draft measurements would change when measuring an empty boat and when the value would also be different when the fuel tank is empty and when it is full.

Consequently, a heavier boat would drive deeper than a lighter one thus an increased draft.

Length of the motor shaft

The motor shaft length also influences the depth at which your boat can travel. If the motor shaft is too long, you might have your boat moving lower and hitting underwater materials. The right length for your shaft should be from the top of the stern to the bottom middle part of the hull. To get it right, take measurements of this area.

The standard motor shaft length used is about 43 inches. But for a Jon boat, you would need one with a shorter length.

If your measurement falls around 15 inches and 17 inches, you should get a shorter shaft. If you measure about 20 to 23 inches, get a longer shaft. Although some boats require an ultra-long shaft, it is uncommon for Jon boats.

Underwater grass and debris

Asides from the boat, the measurement of shallow water is relative. If you find that your boat hits debris and underwater grass, it might not be because your boat drags too much. It could be that the water is filled with grasses and debris.

For instance, the water might be more than 3 feet deep but if the underwater grass and debris are about 2 feet high, your boat would still bump in those. This is especially the case when you are driving close to the shore.

Increasing stability in shallow drafts

It is possible to run at a very shallow depth and still maintain stability in water. Jon boats are known to move on the water surface but many boaters find it difficult to stabilize the boats.

To achieve this, you could make slight modifications to make the boats such as adding some PVC pipes, pontoons, pool noodles, or Styrofoam to the sides.


John boats are built to move on shallow waters and small river inlets. How shallow a Jon boat can run is a function of the total boat draft it gets. That is how deep the sides of your Jon boat would get into the water. This is dependent on the hull, the motor shaft, and the underwater debris.

Jon boats come in two types of hulls; a V-Hull and a Flat bottom hull with each having a unique way they move in the water. Also, getting the wrong sized shaft can affect how shallow your boat would run.

Your boat would go deeper in the water when carrying load than when it is empty. You should also get acquainted with the nature of the water as you could move in deep waters and still bump into debris if the underwater grass is