How to Fish With a Minnow? [+ Best Way to Hook a Live Minnows]

How to Fish With a Minnow

Have you ever noticed how certain fishermen seem to catch more fish than others?

The answer could be in their skill of using a minnow as bait. It's essential to select the correct gear and handle your minnows carefully.

However, the key to catching more fish lies in the way you hook these energetic little creatures. There is a technique that ensures the minnow continues to move naturally while also staying alive as long as possible. 

Keep on reading, and you will learn not just the optimal method for hooking a live minnow but also strategies to improve your fishing experience, turning your trips by the water into memorable adventures.



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Choosing the Right Equipment

Selecting the appropriate equipment is key for a successful fishing trip, particularly when employing minnows as bait.

For anglers, the first step involves choosing a fishing rod and reel that suit your fishing style. A medium-light rod with fast action is ideal for detecting bites and securing the hook with a minnow. Combine this with a spinning reel for optimal control over your bait fish.

Next, picking the correct size and type of hook is critical. Smaller hooks tend to be more effective as they allow the minnow to move more freely, thus attracting more bites. Opt for hooks designed for live bait to help your minnow remain alive longer.

For line selection, monofilament is an excellent choice. Its lower visibility underwater reduces the chance of fish being deterred from your bait. Additionally, its slight elasticity is beneficial when hooking a fish with a tender mouth.

Lastly, it's important to have a bucket to keep your minnows alive and well. Sufficient water and a portable aerator will ensure your bait fish stay in prime condition, ready to lure the big fish.

How to Fish With a Minnow - Hook

Preparing the Live Minnows

Ensuring your minnows are in top condition for a successful fishing trip begins with choosing the healthiest and most active minnows.

The well-being of your bait is fundamental to your success. It's important to handle them with care to avoid harming or stressing them, which includes moving them gently into a well-aerated container to maintain their oxygen levels and keep them lively.

Recognizing the specific requirements of different minnow species is essential. For example, some minnows do better in cooler water, while others need slightly warmer conditions. Adjusting the water temperature to suit can extend their lifespan and keep them energetic.

Maintaining the freshness of your minnows before you start fishing involves more than just keeping them in a container of water. It's vital to change the water regularly to eliminate waste and ensure they have fresh oxygen.

For longer trips, using more than one container can help prevent overcrowding, which can reduce oxygen levels and cause stress.

Feeding your minnows small amounts of pet food or special fish feed can help sustain their energy levels without contaminating the water. The aim is to replicate their natural habitat as much as possible to keep them in optimal condition for fishing.

How to Fish With a Minnow

Best Method for Hooking a Live Minnow

Mastering the art of hooking a live minnow effectively can drastically improve your fishing outcomes. It requires practice and a gentle touch to avoid injuring the bait.

  • Method #1: For beginners, the lip hook method is a good starting point. This technique involves piercing the hook through the minnow's upper and lower lips. While this method allows for a few casts, the minnow tends to not survive for an extended period.

  • How to Fish With a Minnow - Lip-Hook-Method

  • Method #2: For those with a bit more fishing experience, the dorsal hook method is an excellent option. This approach allows the minnow to move naturally and survive longer. The key is to hook it properly. Inserting the hook too deeply can be fatal for the bait; too shallow, and it might slip off during casting. The goal is to insert the hook in the back, just ahead of the dorsal fin, without penetrating too deeply.

  • How to Fish With a Minnow - Dorsal-Hook-Method

  • Method #3: The mouth-gill hook method is recommended for experts, especially in swift waters. This technique provides the most secure attachment but reduces the minnow's survival time, as it seldom lives long after being hooked in this manner. This involves passing the hook through the minnow's mouth and out just behind the gills, which requires a delicate touch for smaller minnows.
  • How to Fish With a Minnow - Mouth-Gill-Hook-Method

Fishing Techniques With Live Minnows

Once you've become proficient at hooking a live minnow, discovering effective fishing techniques that utilize your bait efficiently is essential.

Casting and retrieving with minnows offers an active strategy. You'll cast your line into the water, then gradually reel it back. This approach replicates the natural swimming patterns of minnows, enticing predatory fish.

The key is in the pace; reel too quickly, and you risk outpacing the fish. Reel too slowly, and you may fail to attract their attention.

Utilizing minnows for drifting in open waters serves as another successful approach, particularly when targeting fish that prefer bait with less movement. In this approach, you allow the water current to guide your minnow through promising areas.

Although this technique is more passive, it demands close observation for subtle indications of a bite.

Bobber fishing with minnows is yet another technique suitable for both novices and experienced anglers. By attaching a bobber to your line and adjusting its depth based on where the fish are feeding, you can effectively fish in areas with structures, such as weeds or logs.

This keeps the minnow at the right depth near these popular fish spots while avoiding entanglements.

Each of these approaches proves effective under different conditions and depending on the targeted fish's behavior. Experimenting to find what yields the best results for you is advisable.

How to Fish With a Minnow - Bobber-Fishing

Fish You Can Catch with Live Minnows

You're now prepared to discover which fish can be caught with minnows as bait.

Live minnows are especially successful in attracting types such as bass, crappies, pickerel, trout, and yellow perch.

Here's a detailed look at the reaction of each of these fish to minnows ...


Bass aficionados often discover that smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass find live minnows irresistible.

For those aiming to catch these vigorous opponents, employing live minnows can greatly improve your chances of a noteworthy catch. The secret is to understand the preference of each species.

Smallmouth bass, renowned for their dramatic jumps and strong bursts, typically reside in rocky, transparent waters where minnows are abundant. Largemouth bass, the predators that wait in ambush, prefer environments with more vegetation and less clarity, where they can easily surprise their prey. Spotted bass, somewhat rarer, inhabit areas similar to those of smallmouth bass and show akin feeding behaviors.

By choosing minnows that fit the natural surroundings of the bass species, you prepare for an engaging day of fishing.


When targeting crappies, minnows are an exceptional choice for bait.

These fish have a strong preference for minnows, making them a favorite among anglers aiming for a sizeable catch. The allure of live minnows to crappies is significant. Their natural movements and scent are irresistible to these fish, making them hard to resist.

Ensuring a live minnow is hooked properly allows it to continue its vibrant movement, crucial for attracting crappies. In both calm waters and areas with mild currents, presenting a minnow effectively can greatly improve your odds of landing crappies.

The livelier your bait, the higher your chance of a successful fishing adventure.


Like crappies, pickerel are fond of live minnows, making them an attractive target for fishing enthusiasts during the cooler seasons.

These elongated, greenish fish are notorious for their vigorous attacks, and employing minnows can greatly improve your chances of catching one.

When fishing for pickerel, it's important to note their preference for cooler waters. This means that as temperatures decrease, your chances of catching one increase. By using a lively minnow in their environment, you are imitating their natural food, which can provoke an immediate response.

It's important to keep your minnows active and to hook them in a manner that allows them to move freely. This strategy will make your bait more appealing to pickerel in the colder waters.

How to Fish With a Minnow - Pickerel


Venturing into the realm of trout fishing, it's evident that all trout varieties, including rainbow, brown, and brook trout, are partial to minnows.

This preference opens up excellent prospects for anglers in both rivers and lakes. Utilizing live minnows as bait can substantially boost your odds of capturing these fish. The strategy of presenting these baitfish to the trout is vital.

Due to their acute vision, trout can easily become suspicious of anything that appears unnatural. Thus, it's essential to hook the minnow in a manner that allows it to move freely and with vitality. Attaching a lightweight hook through the lips, back, or tail helps preserve the minnow's natural motion, making it highly attractive to trout.

Patience and a low-profile approach are beneficial in these fishing endeavors, as catching trout can be both a challenge and a delight.

Yellow Perch

After investigating trout, we shift our focus to yellow perch, a species that greatly enjoys live minnows, especially the larger ones.

While yellow perch generally prefer minnows, the smaller individuals may not show the same enthusiasm. This inclination makes using live minnows to target the larger, more desirable yellow perch a wise strategy.

When selecting minnows as bait, concentrate on attracting the larger members of the perch population. These fish are more likely to respond, increasing your chances of a successful catch. The strategy is to cater to the tastes of the bigger yellow perch, making your fishing trip more fruitful.

Therefore, save your minnows for the larger fish to enhance your opportunities.

Tips for Maximizing Success

For better results with minnows, here are a few general tips ...

  • Minnows are sensitive to water temperature changes. Try to keep them in a bucket that has similar temperature as the lake. If you buy them, slowly adjust the water temperature not to kill them or shorten their lifespan.

  • Minnows work very well in cooler waters. Fishing with a minnow in extremely warm conditions is not advisable.

  • Replace the water in the bucket frequently to keep the minnows alive and healthy.

  • Cast very gently because hard impacts could kill a minnow.

  • Be careful when choosing a bait presentation location. Live minnows can find tiny hideouts and be useless as a bait if a targeted fish can’t reach them.

  • To keep them alive longer you can feed them with goldfish food from a local pet store.

  • Water in the bucket has to be oxygenated. If you want to provide the best possible conditions for minnows, invest in a battery-powered portable aerator. Buy only those which are quiet when operating. Loud noises can have a negative impact on minnows.

How to Fish With a Minnow - Casting


Fishing with live minnows can significantly improve your fishing results.

It's essential to select the appropriate equipment, prepare your minnows correctly, and learn the most effective way to hook your lively bait. Using the correct fishing methods can greatly impact your ability to attract larger fish. With live minnows, a variety of fish species can be targeted.

Follow these suggestions for a more successful fishing outing. Enjoy your time fishing!

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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