Ideal Jon Boat Trailer Configuration?

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Active member
Jan 27, 2023
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Katy Texas
Plan to rework my trailer this summer so trying to figure out what the optimal setup would be to 1) properly support the boat - run a lot of bumpy dirt roads, and 2) be easy to launch and load solo especially in the wind. Boat is an Alumacraft 1542 with 15 hp Mercury

Bunks - type/covers, placement, length? Currently has 2 bunks made of 2x4's mounted vertical on edge covered by PVC Pipe. They extend just even with the transom in the back and basically cover the flat portion of bottom moving forward. They are placed approx. 12" in from outside edge of bottom. Better cover material? Any additional bottom support needed?

Front support - where, how many? Currently has 1 front support located about 1/2 way down the slope of the hull. It is a 6" wide 2x4 covered in PVC Pipe.

Guide-ons - Currently has 1 1/2" PVC pipe just slid over 1/2" rebar about 3' tall. Have materials to change to 2" PVC pipe that is fixed to bottom support (pipe will not spin) 4' tall with light mounted on top.

Typical winch point but hull shows indentions and possible cracks just below the winch ring.

It just seems to be the bare minimum and can be a pain to load on windy days etc.

Also - any better ways to strap down the back of the boat - Just using ratchet straps run over the boat now. If I ran straps from back of the boat down to trailer is it ok to attach them to the handles?

Any recommendations appreciated.
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Ideal trailer features, in no particular order:

1) Bunks that fit the hull well
2) A tongue long enough to balance the boat well and make it easy to back up
3) Sealed LED lighting, including marking lights, with tinned wire harness
4) Guides that make it easier to load on a windy day
5) Metal side fenders with walk boards, like bass boat trailers, to make it easy to get in and out of the boat, and load gear
6) Full-sized tires, 13" or better, unless it's the smallest of jon boats
7) Bearing buddies or flow-thru hub system
8) A nice, galvanized winch with a heavy strap and safety chain.
9) A 2" coupler, regardless of trailer weight. I hate looking for the 1-7/8" ball!

Regarding #1- I always set the bunks between two strakes. I like 2x6's laid flat, if I can. On some boats, the front of the bunks are sometimes closer together than the backs. Follow the hull, and it will work out well.

Also, if you use pivoting mounts, you can get the bunks to really follow the hull. I often use these, combined with the proper bolts:
On my current trailer, I made the bunks long and used 3 pairs of mounts, back center and front. I locked the back pair at the proper tranom angle and left the front 2 pairs of pivots slightly loose. I wet everything down with a hose to make sure they were really soaked, then loaded the boat, with extra trolling motor batteries in the front. What this did was allow the bunks to swivel slightly in the front, conforming to the hull. I left it like that for a couple of days, until everything dried out, and then I torqued down on the pivot bolts.

This creates the perfect bunks for that boat. They literally fit like a glove. They are almost flat in the back and curve to fit the hull exactly.

I also have short roller guides on the back of the trailer. So when I go to load the boat, as long as I get between the guides, the boat slides in perfectly every time.

One tip to make it easier to load your boat: Don't back the trailer down in the water too much. That way, when you drive up, the bunks catch and guide the boat onto the trailer. On most boats/ramps, you want to back down until the water is somewhere from the tops of the tires to the top of the fenders. 90% of the time, the boat will load very easily.

I live near the state park, and I help people almost daily at the ramp in the summer. Many are new boat owners or just not experienced. Very often, they back way down the ramp, and the back of the boat is floating around, and the boat goes on crooked. IF they listen, I make it easier for them for the rest of their lives. The other day, I was testing a boat, and a guy asked if I was Tony. "Yes." He then told me how I helped him load his boat, and how he has never had a problem since. Being a local mechanic, I get that a lot.

Loading a boat should take less than a minute. Idle or drift up until you touch the bunks and then goose the throttle for a few seconds and you are on. Very often, when I load my boat, onlookers say something like, "Wow! You've done that before!" It looks like skill, but really, it's just a good-fitting trailer.
As a relatively new boater, I'd like to thank thill for answering a whole lot of my questions and also posting links to parts that I'm likely going to need. A picture of your set up would be helpful. My main boat is currently a huge pain in the butt to load even though I'm probably guilty of backing in too far. I'm getting better, but my crappy trailer is part of the problem.