After wading the Fox for MANY years, I've decided to buy a 12' jon boat. Should I go for the 6hp OR save my money and get a 2 or 3.5hp outboard. I just wanted to know if there was a marked difference. Thanks in advance for any advice.
I have a 12 foot with a 5 hsp it is okay for the fox river but what I have found is that since i got my boat I like to fish other lakes and rivers. On most other lakes or rivers I wish I had more power. I dont know if your 12 foot boat will hold a 9 or 10 hsp motor, but if I could that is the route to go.
My advice is to get as much outboard as your budget will allow, or the max your boat is rated for. I bought my first boat to fish the Fox in '74, a 12' Jon with a 4 1/2 hp Ted Williams o/b. One season later I was stepping up to a 7 1/2 hp Mercury because I wanted to use it on rental boats at other lakes, and I wanted some versatility. I'm back to fishing the Fox almost exclusively again, and I settled on a 15 hp Johnson. I'm not too worried about dragging it around to run on rentals anymore, but in case you do, alot of lakes have hp restrictions on their rentals and only take up to 9.9 hp. Just my 2 cents, hope it helps. Just remember, the Fox is a shallow, rocky, son-of-a-gun and will wear a prop to a knub in a heartbeat! And bring lots of shear pins and spare cotter pins. Take it easy until you get familiar with the stretches you fish.
A 12' jon boat is not all that big. A 9.9 would be a great choice. It will get you up on plane quickly, uses very little gas and you could still use it on lakes like Shabbona that have a 10 hp restriction. If the 9.9 is a little out of your price range that is understandable. In that case I would go with the 6hp, it will still get the boat up on plane, just not as fast, but may not get as good gas mileage as the 9.9. This is due to the fact that the smaller engine will have to work harder. the 6 will be running at the top end of its rpm range while crusing, while the 9.9 will be able to run about mid-way into its rpm range once the boat is on plane. This will translate into much better fuel economy in the long run. In addition you will have that extra power in store if bad weather approches. In addition I would recommend something with a little more versitility then a jon boat. The jon boat is inherently unstable due to the flat bottom and unsutable for bigger water. You may want to consider looking into a used Lund "semi-v bottom" boat. I would highly recommend the Lund line, all the way down to their 12' bench seat models. There is no better fishing boat made as far as I am concerned. I owned a 17' Lund Pro Angler that I would take onto Lake Michigan when there were 6'+ swells. It was scarry as hell at first. Did you ever drop down into a trough of water and realize the wall of water all around you was taller then your head? After about 20 min. we realized it was no problem! The Lund just rode those waves like a cork. I wouldn't try that in a 12' bench seat model but beleave me you will be far safer that you would be in any jon boat on the market. If you search the web you can find used Lunds for a very good price. Your best bet would be to check out local papers from up north (many are on line). Minnesota and Wisconson also have tons of resorts that sell used boats at the end of the season. It would be worth the trip if you can't find one locally. It may take a little looking to find a used Lund down here in Chicago. People just don't want to part with them unless they are getting a bigger one. I've known some old guys that had their basic bench seat Lunds for over 40 years. I like asking them if they want to sell their boat, they laugh or give you a dirty look, but they never say yes. Know why? Because in forty years they have never had a problem with the boat. More information then you asked for but I felt I would throw in my two cents.
You may also try getting a manual transom jack from Cabels's or bass pro. Not only does it push your motor back and give you a better "bite" but you can raise and lower the motor. On my 12' jon with a 4.5 hp short shaft, motor tilted and up all the way, I was able to run under full throttle in 7.5" of water without destroying my prop.