I fished all of my young life. It was something that was built into me by my patents, particularly my father. However, because we went on fishing trips every summer (sometimes multiple trips) and had access to a house on a lake in WI (my grandparent’s), as I got older I started to take it all for granted.
When it was time to head off to college, we stopped going. I didn’t touch a fishing pole for several years, and instead focused on making websites and playing music. You can read a bit more about that progression here.
About 10 years ago, I really started to get the itch again. I started to fish by myself from shore at places like Lake Shabbona, “the pit” in Sheridan and the Fox River & Illinois River… but I quickly realized that not having the option to use a boat was pretty frustrating.
When we were growing up, we never had a “great bass boat”, or a big ‘ol Lund – we had a simple aluminum boat with an outboard, and I can remember when Dad upgraded to a 30 horse Mercury… oh man – we thought we were Evel Knievel and Dale Earnhardt all rolled into one!
I remember fishing from that boat, and when I rekindled my interest for the sport, I quickly learned how limiting not having my own boat could be… but… I didn’t have any money…
So began my Jon Boat Project…
(If you watch this summary video, make sure to look at all the crap in the background… this was clearly pre-minimalist fisherman…)
My first thought?
What if I bought an old crappy boat, and I fixed it up?! Ohhhhh… I think maybe we’ll do that!
Turns out this original idea was not so original. After doing a few Googlebox searches, I found out that this was a semi-common practice, and there were tons of guys doing it – even selling plans!
I bought some plans… but… I wasn’t too impressed. So I made my own – check out these killer, super-professional blueprints!
Now don’t get me wrong – I love fishing from shore when that is the plan and when I have good shoreline access. Hell, because of the added simplicity, this helped me get back into pond fishing after obsessing over my business and (briefly) falling away from the sport again.
But I didn’t like that I could ONLY fish from shore. There was a small lake I found near me that had a few miles of shoreline (not the pond mentioned above), with only about 25 feet that could actually be fished via the shore. Situations like this really lend themselves to a small boat – and even though I have a kayak, I wanted something that was a little more comfortable to fish out of.
So I hopped on Craig’s List, and I quickly realized that everyone wants just a little too much for their boat. I’m not sure if this is because they have buyer’s remorse, or they don’t quite understand what things are actually worth, but it was pretty frustrating browsing overpriced listings.
Finally, I found this ‘ol dingy for the low low price of $200, located in a little town called Buda (population 528 at this time) and it was on like Donkey Kong! I went to pick it up without even thinking about how I was going to get it home…
Fortunately, I had several straps, bungees, and access to back roads so I could get this beast back, drop it off, and begin the process of working on it.
I remember when I arrived, I literally tossed the boat in the front yard and started spraying it out with a hose, and TONS of bugs and spiders came running and sliding out of it.
It was disgusting… but… this was at least a solid starting point.
I had the boat.
I didn’t have a TRAILER… but… I had the boat.
So then obvious next question was “well… now what? Where do I start? Where do I even begin??” Look at this big green thing on the garage floor… I don’t even know if it floats! I don’t know if I drill a hole in it if I can seal it up!
So like I already mentioned, I did what we all do and went to the internet! Huzzah! I found some “plans”, but they were all so messy… I bought one of the PDFs I stumbled upon, and I wasn’t real impressed… we can do better.
We must do better.
This led to some late nights sitting up drawing out what the boat could be… and that is a fun little game to play. If you haven’t done this with a project in a while, I highly recommend it. Let your mind just GO wherever the hell it wants. We could put a livewell in it. We could put some storage compartments in it. We could put a flamethrower in it!!
Well, a lot of these ideas didn’t materialize – but you know what – simplicity won. The boat is minimal (imagine that!) and it is functional and it is awesome. We have fished out of it a lot, and caught some lunkers – and I plan to do much more of that this year.
I have a stockpile of images and videos that I need to go through and post, along with every single receipt for everything I bought for this rig, and it all started with a $200 boat and a $300 trailer.
Onward, my friends – if you have any questions just let me know, I’ll be happy to answer them.
>>> Next: Restoring the Old Jon Boat: Part 2 – Using Aluminum Rivets
>>> Next: Restoring the Old Jon Boat: Part 3 – Using Sealed Pop Rivets
Let’s get better.
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