I first started thinking that I wanted to put the jon boat in the bed of the pick up truck. (For the first year I did, but after getting a motor and putting a deck on it, it got too heavy and I bought a trailer.) I have a 90’s F-150 with a regular 6 foot truck bed. I have a tool box in it, which takes up 2ft, so it really only measures to about 4ft of usable space. Once the tailgate goes down you gain that extra 2ft back. I always loaded the transom first so that most of the weight and flat portion of the boat was in the bed. If you loaded the boat bow first, since the bottom of the hull rounds up at the bow, you don’t have as much contact or weight in the truck bed. So I always loaded it transom first, and used ratchet straps to secure it to the truck bed.
*Read my disclaimer. Always check your state laws! Don’t use this article as a legal reference. This is just my experience and what I have learned.
10ft _I never had a 10ft jon boat. No problem to put in the bed of the truck but that was too small for me to fish out of.
12ft _ First jon boat I owned_ The first jon boat I owned was 12ft. It fit in the truck bed with a tool box fine. That would be the largest size I would go with a tool box in the truck bed without any assisted support. Without the tool box, I had no worries.
14ft _ My 2nd and current boat_ 14ft is the max. I would not put anything bigger than a 14ft in a truck bed. Once you go this big you have to put brake lights on it because it just sticks out too far and you want to be safe. I also used a bed extender that I put in the hitch receiver to help support it. I could fit this in the truck bed with out the tool box. It made me more comfortable doing that. Once I put the deck on it, and had the batteries in the boat, it was just to heavy. I mounted a winch in the truck bed to help but all of that got old real quick.
Just to save you your time, your energy, and frustration… Just get a trailer if you have room for it. I was able to get a very nice, small boat trailer for it, brand new, for a final price of $680 after taxes, registration, and tags. You could probably go cheaper with a Harbor Freight trailer if you wanted too or you could go on craigslist and see if you could find one. If you don’t have any experience backing up a trailer up, don’t let that stop you. You can watch multiple videos on that and go practice in a field or an empty parking lot. The main tip I can give you; is if you are looking in your side mirrors, facing forward, put your fist at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn it to the side you want your trailer to go too!
*Something to check when you go to look at jon boats*- If I remember correctly, when I was measuring the Tracker jon boats, the flat section of the bottom of the 12ft flat bottom jon boat was the same as the 1436 flat bottom jon boat. So the added length was “so to say added” to the bow of the boat so it made it seem like it had the same foot print in the water?