I wanted to really get serious with my river exploits this year so I decided the best way to do that was to get a boat. After mulling over all my watercraft options I decided on a jet sled. I wanted something light and maneuverable that afforded me lots of options for fishing. The jet sled allows me to fish up and down rivers or it can be fished out of like a drift boat. With the jet motor, they easily run in very shallow water and are easy to get unstuck if you do run aground. I had a great transaction with the folks at NR Motors in Prince George and picked up a 1448MT Lowe jon boat outfitted with a 25hp Mercury jet motor.
Jon boats are basically a reinforced aluminum cans with bench seats so to get it river ready, I made a few customizations. The first thing I did was install a floor. This makes standing in the boat and placing things like coolers on the much more functional. It also covers up all the little edges and bumps that will snag or cut you fly line when fishing out of the boat. It also helps keep stuff dry that is stored on the floor.
A lot of guys used ¾ plywood and outdoor carpet to make a floor. It’s sturdy and you can attach things like a chair to it but the drawback with plywood is it’s heavy and it will get moldy and eventually rot. I wanted something light weight and more permanent. I used 1-½ rigid foam insulation to fill in the space between the hull support ribs and then fit ¼ inch rubber matting on top. It’s lighter than plywood; it won’t rot and the foam quiets the hull noise.
The next project was a place to store rods in the boat. A place to store strung, ready to fish fly rods is a really nice feature to have. Throwing a loose fly rod into an aluminum boat is just asking for damage and abuse. Having to restring rods every time you get to a new spot is just a big pain in the ass. Horizontal tubes like you see in some drift boats work pretty good for one or two 9’ rod single handed rods, but they don’t work very well for longer two handed rods. A 13’ Spey rod doesn’t fit very well in a 14’ boat unless you break it down into two pieces and then it is really tough to fit in a tube. The solution I came up with was to do what Adipose BoatWorks does in their drift boats and make a tray the length of the boat to lay the rods in. The tray has raised sides to keep the rods secure and prevent contact from above. I used two 3-⅝ – 20 gauge metal studs. I covered the outside with gorilla tape to take away the sharp edge of the metal stud and then lined the inside with outdoor carpet. The trays are attached to the rear seat and to the platform in the bow and the transom.This system will hold 4+ rods, either full length 9’ or 10’ and up to an 18’ Spey rod in two pieces. The tray can also be a handy place to store smaller items that get used often in the boat.
I put an anchor system on my boat for mooring and anchoring in soft shallow water. It is great to have when operating the boat by yourself so you can beach the boat by yourself without having to get in too shallow of water and risk the pump sucking up debris and clogging the impeller on the pump. I installed a Scotty anchor pulley with 50’ of 3/8 braided nylon rope and made a chain anchor out of ½ inch chain and an eye bolt. It’s a 30-pound anchor and will hold in most bottoms.
I did couple other things to make a jon boat river ready like reinforcing the transom at the motor mounts and a tiller extension to move the most likely heaviest thing in the boat (you) a little more forward to help get the boat on step a little quicker. And lastly to help with storage for things like spare paddles and nets: some bungee cord on the inside of the hull.
I’m going to get some drift boat oars later in the season I’ll probably come up with a few more tweaks but the sled is definitely river ready. Come on Spring time!