How to Hook a Minnow [The Right Effective Ways]

Fishing is not just the fishing gear you carry and the type of water you choose to fish in. Instead, it is all about the skills, tackles, and different kinds of baits you use to target different types of fish. How you learn to coordinate all these will make you the best angler ever.

Therefore one of the basic yet effective techniques in landing you the best catch of the day is hooking a minnow properly. To most anglers, a minnow is just any small fish regardless of the species though there exists the minnow kind. For beginners, it is essential to understand that minnows are the most effective baits.

With that said, let’s learn how to hook a minnow.

Short Answer

Simply pierce a hole in the center of the minnow. Just above the back leg’s top. As a result, you now have another energetic middle that shakes on both sides, head and tail.

Hooking a Minnow

The most vital thing to put in mind is that you have to use a live minnow. Fish will only target other living fish. Therefore, the longer your minnow stays alive, the high chances you have of catching dinner.

So, let’s get to hook your minnow without killing it.

Hooking Through Its Lips

This is an ideal way for multiple casts like trolling, repeated casting, and retrieving. Hooking through the lip enables it to swim naturally as you pull it. However, this method will not keep the minnow alive for a long time since it prevents water from going into its mouth and leaving through the gills. To be on the safe side, replace your minnows immediately if they show signs of dying.

Therefore when hooking, begin with the lower lip than the upper lip. Since the hook will point up, the minnow will swim uprightly.

Hooking Through the Dorsal Part

Hooking a minnow through its back, slightly behind the dorsal fin, will make the minnow swim comfortably/naturally. It is an excellent method to use the minnow as bait when ice-fishing. This method will keep it alive longer than lip hooking. However, you risk paralyzing the minnow if you hit its spine.

Trick Hook

Just as its name, it’s a tricky way to hook your minnow. It is because of the hook placement, and also, it will not keep your minnow alive for a long time. It ensures a better hook placement maintaining the minnow in position when doing various baiting techniques.

So when doing a trick hook, you will need to thread the minnow through its mouth and out through the stomach area. Next, tie your hook on the line and gently pull it back until you see your hook’s bend below the minnow’s stomach.

Nevertheless, this is a delicate method as it takes a risk on your minnow’s life. However, it is ideal if you want to fish in rough and fast waters. When hooking through the lip and dorsal, you will risk tearing your minnow because of severe water conditions.

Note: a dead minnow is still as okay as a live one in fast-moving waters.

Read also: Best saltwater spinning reel

Hooking Through Its Tail

Hooking your minnow through its tail allows it to swim as free as possible, especially if it’s not pulling any weight except the hook itself. Using a minnow to fish with a weightless line is the best way to catch a specific target. Also, anglers use the tailhook with a light sinker attached to the line.

When hooking through the tail, fix the hook just in front of the tail gently not to touch its spine. For the bottom feeders like the walleye and perch, use a heavier weight that will sink the minnow at the bottom. Hooking through the tails allows it to pull upwards hence exposing itself as an easy target.

Moreover, most fish eat the minnow through the head first. So once you get the bite, allow the fish a few seconds before hooking it.

Note: tail hooking is best for smaller minnows.

Hooking Dead Minnows

Remarkably, a dead minnow does the trick as well. Sometimes, it is better to pull through a dead minnow in the water than to risk the life of a minnow without any fish to catch. An upper hand of dead fish over live fish is the portability aspect. Not everyone has the time and way of carrying live minnows in ice to the fishing camp. Besides, dead, frozen minnows are readily available at any tackle store.


Jigging a dead minnow is the best way to get some action from it in water. Also, dead, frozen minnows don’t last long, so hook on both lips for better stability. You can hook more through the head if you notice they are falling off during jigging. Besides, you are not risking killing anything.

The mood of the fish species you are targeting will determine the weight of the jig. For a bigger bite, use a heavier jig and a bigger minnow to target the larger fish. Later on, you can switch to a lighter jig and a smaller minnow.

Minnow Pieces

When dealing with fish, tricks are the most effective approach. A mouth-watering piece of meat is the last thing fish would resist. Use a small part of minnow head or tail, and you will be sure of the day’s dinner of walleye or panfish.

However, you will need to up your jigging game when using minnow pieces. Active jigging will do it, and it would be best if you add some aroma to the minnow head or tail. This will attract not just the striking fish but also the ones moving on.

Quick-Strike Jig

The quick-strike jig is ideal for big fish like the Muskie and pike. Although it requires more set-up than the others, the best approach is using a bigger bait/dead minnow. An 8-14inch dead minnow will be ideal for catching bigger fish using the quick-strike jig. What’s more?

Remarkably, the quick-strike jig is a double hook set-up. This double hook setup enables a speedy setup as it hooks everything. Also, there’s no need to wait for the fish to position the bait in its mouth. Immediately set the hook when it strikes. Generally, this quick-strike jig allows you both quick setup and quick releases. So how do you set it up?

  1. Remove a few scales just behind the dorsal fin on your dead minnow.
  2. Insert the stinger hook just underneath the skin with the point facing towards the tail.  
  3. Use the main hook to insert on top of the head just behind the gill plate.
  4. Remove a few more scales to prevent them from intruding with the firm hook set.

Remember to puncture the air bladder of a big minnow to draw out the air so that it can sink to the desired depth.

Types of Live Minnows

To use minnows appropriately, you need to use the right type for the right skill and fish target. Besides, just like lures, not every minnow will work to your advantage.

With the variety in the market, choose a minnow type that will work with your game and target. See below.

Suckers: this type is resilient enough to last even a day on the ice in the bait bucket. Suckers are the ideal choice for Muskie, walleye, and northern pike. They come in varying sizes to match the fish size. Therefore use the smaller suckers on walleye and northern pike and the bigger ones on Muskie. Moreover, most bait shops sell the variety from 4-12 inches so choose an assorted type to be ready.

Fatheads: this is the most common minnow and is readily available at a cheap rate. They don’t grow past 3 inches; hence perfect for walleye, perch, and other small fish types. They can withstand rough waters; therefore, does a great job of catching fish.

Tullibee: others call them cisco, are related to the large whitefish hence a delicious meal for the big predatory fish. Moreover, dead tullibee is the perfect bait and feast for Muskie and the monster lake trout. Anglers can either catch them to use as bait or find them at the bait shops as preserved and frozen.

Shiners: either the golden or common shiner, they are an excellent minnow type for most anglers. They grow not past 4 inches and are perfect for catching the largemouth bass and walleye. Remarkable, they work best, whether dead or alive, and are cheaply available.

Chubs: they are not a common baitfish to find, but if you get the chance to work with them, don’t hesitate. They grow up to 12 inches long and are a favorite meal for walleye and pike. But walleye prefer the smaller ones.

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Parting Shot

With the lures taking over the bait industry, the live baits are almost dead and forgotten. Fact is, live baits are even more effective than the lures even though they have some hindrances. Unlike the lures, live baits like minnows are perfect in all conditions and easily accessible.

So the next time you decide on hitting the road for a fishing spree, stop by the bait store and grab some different types, dead or alive. Be sure to share the experience!

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