Learn how to hook your bait for more effective results
Over the last several weeks I have noticed fishing baits properly is something I have come to take for granted. I forget many anglers are still in the early stages of their learning curve when it comes to presenting baits. Even after showing some clients how to hook a minnow, leech, crawler, or plastic bait, they can revert back to old habits if not monitored.
Sometimes, the bait may be hooked correctly, but not for what we are doing. An example would be the client that kept hooking the minnow under the dorsal fin, as that is the way they (he and his father) have fished minnows since he was a young boy. If we were fishing the bait under a bobber, he would have been totally correct with an effective presentation of the bait. We were live bait rigging, and that is not even close to being as effective as nose hooking the minnow as a proper presentation style. If moving slowly, as we fish larger minnows in the fall, tail hooking the minnow can also be extremely effective.
When fishing minnows on jigs, they can be hooked several ways. The biggest factors here becomes minnow size, jig and shank size, and type of jigging. The most common way is to nose hook the minnow. This is very effective in a vertical jigging scenario. If trolling with jigs, fishing them aggressively, or pitching and retrieving them, you may want to "thread" your minnow onto the hook. The most common ways to thread minnows onto the hook (and you need longer shank type hooks) is to go in the mouth, out the gill, slide the minnow tight to the jig head, and bring the hook back through the back or side of the minnow. Another way to get the hook deeper on the minnow and help with holding power is to go in the mouth as deep as you can, push the hook back up and out behind the head. Make sure you don't give your minnow a lobotomy. It is a good thing to have them live on the hook.
Leeches are most effective when fished under a slip bobber on a hook or jig by hooking them right behind the sucker from the underbelly up. If trolling them on a spinner, hook them from the narrow (head) end as they move through the water with streamline, non-line twisting effectiveness. I have seen many anglers hook them in the middle (because it is easier). Not that you might not catch fish on the bait hooked that way, but you will catch more if fished in a more naturally presented fashion. When jig fishing with a leech you may find it helpful to double hook the leech. They seem to be effective hooked through either end, but starting top down, sliding the leech slightly up the hook shank, and hooking them back from underbelly up, will help keep the bait on and prevent short strikers from nipping the leech off the jig.
Night crawlers can be a challenge to get on the hook properly as they can squirm as you are trying to hook them. Take the time to get them on properly. Many anglers will "gob" them on the hook. If you are fishing for catfish, bullhead, and sturgeon....good job, this is an effective presentation. If you are fishing for walleye or bass, try again. I like to go down the nose from the dark end of the crawler and tread it on the hook and let it trail out long and proud. Some will hook it near the end of one side and let it trail. When fishing on a two or three hook harness on a spinner, make sure it is trailing clean and not bunched up on the line. Some will troll them by treading them on a long shank hook on either a live bait rig or spinner.
The "slow death" hook of some years back made a resurgence this year. These hooks have a bend in them, and when the crawler is threaded onto the hook and trolled, it has an enticing rotation. On the jig, a half crawler threaded on the hook and trailing straight out behind the jig is most common. Some will also have success hooking them "wacky style" (in the middle with both ends trailing out like a double twister tail).
Next week will focus on plastics and crank baits fished effectively. Get out and practice being more effective!
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)