Fishing with minnows can be a very effective way to catch almost any species of fish. However, there can be questions as to how to hook them so that way you maximize the action, generally trying not to kill the minnow. Fish can be enticed through the minnow then struggling on the hook or the swimming action of the minnow being pulled behind a trolling rig. So, lets figure out the best way to hook a minnow.
There actually are a few ways to hook a minnow. Let’s go over the different occasions that might require a different best way to hook the minnow:
Ice fishing, or any type of still fishing where you are vertically jigging the minnow
Trolling, or any type of fishing where you are pulling the minnow around
Any time you want the minnow to swim freely
Each of these scenarios actually would call for a different way of hooking the minnow to really maximize the action you want to get from it. The real trick is to combine any way of hooking it with a different style of fishing to see if that would entice finicky fish to bite. These methods should work whether you’re fishing with shiners, fatheads, chubs, suckers, and any other type of bait minnow. If you really want to do well, trap minnows from the lake you’re fishing and use those.
In scenarios where there may be multiple options for hooking the minnow, you should try each different method and see what the fish seem to prefer – normally, they’ll hit a lot better on certain ways.
Best Way to Hook a Minnow for Ice Fishing/Vertical Jigging
Vertical jigging or ice fishing is probably one of the best times to use a live minnow, since it helps impart a lot more movement and action to your lure than you would normally get otherwise. You can also use any of the following methods for bobber fishing as well. People also use just a minnow head for ice fishing, tipping any jig or lure with it.
So, there are a couple different ways you can hook the minnow for this type of fishing.
You can hook the minnow underneath the mouth and up through the middle of the nose, just underneath the eyes. This is a fairly solid way to hook the minnow since the jawbone helps to hold it on the hook so it can’t be easily ripped off by a starving fish. This way works best when you have a lure that isn’t too big or flashy, otherwise you’ll have the length of your lure plus the full length of the minnow, which can be too much for fussier fish. However, fish like northern pike can be caught like that. I prefer this way if I am fishing with a small jig, or a lure with with a drop chain. I have also heard of people clipping off the bottom corner of the tail fin so the minnow really has to struggle to stay upright, enticing fussy fish even more.
You can also hook the minnow through the back, just behind the dorsal fin. This way works best to minimize the lure profile while still allowing the minnow to swim around a little bit. By hooking it through the back, it can live a little longer, as long as you don’t hit the spine. Again, you can also use clippers to cut off the bottom corner of the tail fin to impart the most action.
The last way you could use only if you are fishing with a bare hook or a lure with a drop chain is to hook it on the bottom, just behind the belly. The minnow then tries to constantly right itself, giving a phenomenal appearance to any watching fish. As stated, this pretty much only would work with a bare hook (potentially with a sinker a couple feet up) or a jig with a drop chain an inch or two long. However, this way can be absolutely a deadly way to hook your minnow for maximum action that simulates a dying minnow, which is an easy target obviously. To make it even more realistic, clip off the bottom corner of the tail fin.
Best Way to Hook a Minnow for Trolling
Trolling also has a couple different ways in which you should hook the minnow for maximum effectiveness. Since you’re trolling, chances are you probably shouldn’t hook it from anywhere behind it’s head since you don’t want to be dragging it sideways or backwards unless you are basically very, very slowly drifting.
Here are the best ways to hook your minnow if you are trolling.
The most common way to hook it for trolling is coming up underneath the mouth and up through the snout, or nose of the minnow. You want to make sure to be behind the jawbone so that can effectively hold the minnow on the hook.
If you want your minnow to live the longest, you can also hook it just behind the eyes, coming sideways through both eye sockets but not actually through through the eyes.
Both of these methods will help impart natural action to your minnow, since you pull it through the water like a minnow normally would swim, albeit a slightly wounded minnow. That’s exactly what you want, though.
Best Way to Hook Your Minnow to Allow it to Swim Freely
There are times when you want your minnow to swim freely. For instance, this could be if you have a slip weight holding the minnow to the bottom and you want it to swim up a few inches. You could also be fishing underneath a bobber with a weight a couple feet above the hook. Either way, these methods will actually give the minnow the best action to help entice any finicky fish to bite.
For the best possible action, hook it on the bottom behind the belly, somewhat close to the tail. This forces the minnow to really work to stay up, and finicky fish absolutely love it. If the fish are really fussy, try clipping the bottom corner of the tail fin off to make it work even harder.
Another way you can hook it to allow it to swim freely is through the back, just behind the dorsal fin. This works best if the minnow is not too small, since the hook in the back makes the fish roll over and it has to work to stay upright. If the minnow is too small, it just rolls over and doesn’t appear too natural, but you can sure give it a shot. The first rule of fishing is there are no rules. Whatever catches fish that day is the rule.
Lastly, you can hook it underneath the mouth up through the nose to have some control over where the minnow goes. This way is also pretty effective.
If you are letting your minnow swim freely, then make sure to check once in awhile to see if your minnow is still living. Dead minnows don’t swim far, and instead just sink to the bottom.
Our Final Minnow Hooking Tips
Here are a couple tips for fishing with live bait, specifically minnows.
Check your bait once in awhile to make sure the minnow is still living.
Clip the bottom corner of the tail fin off to add more action.
Match the weight of the lure you’re using to the size of the minnow, making sure it’s not too big that it overpowers the minnow or too small that the minnow easily pulls it around.
Use caution when casting. If you cast too hard, the minnow can easily fly off.
Don’t hook too deeply into the back or the skull, otherwise you’ll kill the minnow immediately.
There really is no best way to hook your minnow all the time! Rather, there is a best way for each specific instance, which can only be figured out through trial and error. Don’t be afraid to mix and match these ways to find exactly what the fish are attracted to that day!