Hook your minnows correctly to catch more fish
This week, we will discuss the art of hooking your minnow. We are at the time of year that the minnow bite rules for game fish in our area. As a matter of fact, bigger minnows start to become part of the equation as we transition to our coldwater period. Live bait fishing with minnows on a jig, rigs, or under a bobber must be a part of your solution for getting bites.
I have been asked many times over the last several weeks, "how do you hook your minnows?" I take into consideration several factors. The first is the size of minnow (and sometimes the type). The second depends on if it is going on a jig or a rig (by rig, I mean live bait, slip sinker, or lindy -- many names for the same thing). And the third consideration is my style of presentation.
For a live bait rig I will use a size 4 octopus style hook for minnows under four inches. If the minnows are bigger than four inches, I may step up to a size 2. With the bigger minnows, I will go in the mouth and up through the hard cartilage part of the nose. Always be careful not to go to far back as you do not want to hit the brain and kill the minnow (or give him a lobotomy that leaves him alive, but inactive).
This time of year I will typically shorten up leader length to three feet or less. I want the minnows to be on a short leash so than can be easily captured by their prey.
Jig fishing with minnows provides several options for hooking them. The most common is under the jaw and out the top of the nose. This hook-up lets the minnow swim very actively and provides a very natural look. I believe this is best used when vertical jigging or moving very slowly. For larger minnows, you may want to go in the mouth and out through the top of the head. I suggest long shank hooks for this as you can get deeper into the minnow, miss the brain, and have fewer "short strikes." This type of hookup works well vertical jigging, jig dragging, or with a "rip jigging" presentation. In most situations, it helps to keep the minnow alive and twitching.
Another variation of the deeper hook-up is to go into the mouth, out the gill, push the minnow tight to the ball head of the jig, and put the hook through the side of the minnow. This can work well in a vertical presentation, but really excels when pitching and retrieving jigs. The "wounded minnow" effect can be deadly at times on the retrieve.
Under a bobber I have a couple of considerations. First is weather I am going to use a jig or a plain hook. If I use a plain hook I will usually hook the minnow behind the dorsal fin. With a jig, I will usually hook under the jaw and through the nose. It is always nice to have several in the boat as you can try different things. Sometimes one presentation style will out produce another and that everyone can switch to what works best.
This is also big sucker (8-14") time for Musky chasers. The quick strike rig has become the recommended method for live bait rigging Musky. The base concept is one hook in the nose and a treble "stinger" hooks by the dorsal fin. The importance here is not to let the Musky swallow the bait, but get them hooked early on the treble hook. This helps ensure the release and survival of these monster game fish. Many of these rigs come pre-tied and can be purchased and their use explained at a local quality bait shop.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)