Small ponds can hold BIG fish…but what if you need access to more than just the shoreline? Which style of boat is best for fishing and pond-hopping?
In a body of water that tiny, does your choice in the boat even matter? Believe it or not, it does matter and in this guide I am going to go over the pros and cons of five of the most popular pond fishing boat styles.
Do I Really Need A Boat?
You might be content to just hang around the edges of the pond you own or have access to, but there’s something about the experience of being on the water that you won’t get from sitting on the shore. You’ll be able to access harder-to-reach areas, check on the maintenance of your pond, and even get good exercise by paddling or rowing.
Not to mention, it gives you some advantages when fishing. Small pond boats cost a fraction of conventional boats and they are very portable (many can fit right in the back of a pickup truck!).
For a full explanation of all the different types of boats (not just small boats) visit Discover Boating.
Types of Small Boats
Obviously, not all small boats are created equal. There’s a wide variety of small boat types and styles to choose from. Below are the top 5 types of small pond fishing boats each with pros and cons.
Jon Boats are small, flat-bottomed boats usually made of aluminum. They are the most popular choice for small pond fishing boats and very common all over the world. Jon boats are an excellent choice for crawfishing, fishing, hunting, and other sports that will take you where there’s a lot of water.
The flat shape of the hull means that the Jon boat sits on top of the water instead of cruising through it. This design means that the Jon boat doesn’t have very high sides but provides good stability.
|Durable & Lightweight||Does not perform well in rough water|
|Affordable, and easy to find used options||May leak at rivets or welds|
|The flat bottom offers good stability||Slow in the water|
|Easy to mount small electric or gas motor||Difficult to row or manually paddle|
If you’ve got shallow water to navigate through, especially with a lot of mud or muck or obstacles, that’s when the Jon boat really shines. A Jon boat with a motor or some kind of surface drive is very nimble. Their only real enemy is rough water. The flat bottom also helps in navigating hard-to-reach areas where fish like to hide.
Jon boats are highly customizable, with many aftermarket features and options available for purchase.
Dinghies are small rubber or vinyl inflatable boats. They are very popular in the sailing and yachting community.
Dinghies are often in the use of larger ships and thus have soft rubber edges or padded edges so that they don’t do any damage to the mother ship if they should bump into each other. They’re used to ferry people and supplies back and forth from ships and shores.
|Lightweight and easy to transport||Rubber material not as durable|
|Affordable||Usually, only hold 1-2 people|
|Easy to row or paddle||Not designed for fishing|
|Easy to mount small electric or gas motor||Not much storage space|
In the hands of a casual boater, a dinghy can be fitted with a sail. There’s always the option of oars or a small outboard motor. Dinghies are used for everything from fishing to snorkeling trips.
Dinghies are great for teaching children the basics about boating, and yacht clubs often keep a stable of them specifically for children. And yes, of course, you can fish out of them too!
What’s the difference between a rowboat and a Jon boat or a dinghy? – Well the main difference is that Rowboats are fitted with pivoting oars mounted into place.
They require physical rowing to move through the water which makes them great for exercise! Some are flat-bottomed and some have the V-shaped keel.
|Great for exercising||Not very portable; often heavy|
|Good stability; holds 1-2 people||Usually made of wood, which requires maintenance|
|Moves swiftly through the water||More expensive than other styles|
|Easy to paint and modify||May be difficult to find; limited options|
Flat-bottomed rowboats are easier to navigate to shore. While long, sharp vessels glide through the water with less effort over long distances.
Rowboats are in exceptionally low demand, so they aren’t being cranked out by manufacturers. Your options are either sniffing out a dedicated maker that’s passionate about rowers, or adding oarlocks and oars to your small watercraft, or building your own.
Kayaks are small and narrow sit down vessels usually designed for 1-2 people. They are manually paddled by a double sided oar and glide throug the water very well.
Kayaks are ideal fishing boats if you’re planning on doing it solo. There’s a minimal obstruction between you and the experience of being on the water, with just enough room for you and your gear.
|Great for exercising||Cannot stand up, usually sit down only|
|Lots of add on options and extras||Difficult to turn around, face forward design|
|Moves swiftly through the water||Maximum of 2 people|
|Portable and lightweight||Can be very expensive|
But in this day and age, there are ways to upgrade your kayak. You can upgrade to an outboard motor and you can even make modifications to add a pedal system. You can even buy kayaks with depth finders and livewells!
Canoes are traditionally long and narrow vessels made of either wood or fiberglass. 1-2 people paddle with single oars and propel through the water. They are very quiet and move very quickly through the water but not nearly as stable as flat bottom vessels.
|Great for exercising||Somewhat portable but can be very long|
|Very quiet and stealthy||Very difficult to stand and fish|
|Moves swiftly through the water||Difficult to mount a motor|
|Easy to find new and used options||Limited stability; holds 1-2 people|
Canoes are very popular for exploring small creeks and tranquil rivers. They are capable of carrying gear and 1-2 people very efficiently over medium-long distances. For pond fishing, their biggest advantage is that they are very quiet and easy to slide in and out of small bodies of water.
Material of Small Pond Boats
Aluminum – Aluminum is a very popular material used in small fishing boats because it offers a very good strength to weight ratio. Aluminum boats are usually very strong, yet still lightweight and durable. The most common aluminum pond boats are small jon boats and canoes.
Fiberglass– Fiberglass fishing boats are very popular due to their strength and buoyancy. Fiberglass boats are very strong, and quiet in the water. They float very well but can be somewhat bulky and heavy. The most common fiberglass small boats are canoes and rowboats.
Wood– Boats have been made from wood for thousands of years. It’s somewhat flexible, easy to paint and modify, and usually affordable. Wood boats require maintenance, such as painting and sealing, and can rot if not properly taken care of. The most common type of wood boats are usually hand-made canoes and rowboats. Some of these can be very expensive and highly collectible!
Plastic – Like many things in today’s world, boats are often made of plastic due to the inexpensive cost to produce and durability. Plastic can last many years, and it can be very affordable. However plastic boats do not offer many options for customization and they can be heavy. The most common plastic-style pond fishing boat are jon boats, kayaks and paddleboats.
Rubber/Vinyl- Rubber and vinyl boats are very common in the inflatable small craft market. These boats are very portable and affordable. They are not as durable as aluminum or fiberglass, but they are very lightweight. The most common rubber or vinyl-style small fishing boats are dinghies.
Q: What is the smallest type of boat?
A: Each of the boats we’ve looked at has a range in size, so none of them truly are the king of the tiny. You tend to find the smallest boats among the dinghies and the kayaks. Kayaks win by being very narrow. Dinghies can be very tiny overall, depending on the purpose it was built to serve.
Q: What is the most stable small boat?
A: Boats with flat bottoms prove to be the most stable, like Jon boats. Paddleboats are also very stable, however, they do not have much foot room for standing up.
Q: Are Jon boats good for fishing?
A: Jon boats are the same to fishing as bread is to butter. They aren’t the only fishing boat, but they’re among the best in terms of design, cost, and stability.
Q: Are Jon boats dangerous?
A: Like any boat, Jon boat is perfectly safe if it’s used in the correct way. Jon boats are ideal for tranquil ponds, small lakes, and shallow creeks. Always wear a life jacket when on a boat.
Q: What is the most stable type of canoe?
A: The most stable type of canoe is a flat bottom hull shape. This style displaces water much better and provides a stable alternative to traditional V-shaped hull canoes.
Q: How much does a rowboat cost?
A: Rowboat prices can vary depending on the quality of the vessel. Hand made row boats can cost in excess of $10,000, however used models or plastic alternatives can be purchased for $500-$2000.
Q: Can you kayak in a pond?
A: Yes, you can kayak in a pond. Kayaks are very popular vessels for ‘pond-hopping’ when you portage from one small lake or pond to another.
Q: Where is the best place to buy used boats?
A: The best place to purchase used boats are online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Ebay (local), Facebook Marketplace. You can also check the classified ads, garage sales, estate sales and small bait and tackle shops in your area.
Each boat we’ve covered has something to offer. It comes down to how agile you want to be on the water and how much muscle you want to use. Will you be fishing? Or just napping? Do you want to be nimble enough to explore close quarters or get exercise?
The answers will influence which boat you settle on. The important thing is that you experience the serenity of having a small boat out on a quiet pond. Thanks for reading!
Does your pond have a lot of small bass that just don’t seem to get much bigger? Don’t worry, your not alone. Small pond and lake owners all over the country face this same dilema…and the solution may be much easier than you think: