We have all been there. After we get a batch of lively minnows, we insert the hook, and they are dead five minutes after they hit the water. What went wrong? Did we forget how to rig a minnow? Did we ever learn?
Most baitfish are very fragile and you need to handle them properly. If you don’t, they will die pretty easily. Keeping minnows alive on the way to the water is one thing. Hooking them to keep them lively is another one altogether. Rigging baitfish is pretty simple.
It is usually something you can learn in a weekend. You just need to know where to put the hook. Once you do, you can take a lot more fish on live bait. This is going to be a tutorial for the beginner. It will go over the basics of what you need to know and why as well as how to do it right.
The Importance Of Using Very Thin Wire Hooks
Before you learn where to pierce the minnow with a hook, you must first choose a hook. Don’t choose a thick one either. Thick wire hooks lead to more bait fatalities than improper hook placement does. Hooks with a thick wire are the last thing you want to use in any circumstance. Forget a moderate wound. Thick wires do not stop at just skin wounds. They are actually very lethal.
Your baitfish can bleed completely to death out of just one area. This is why is extremely important to use a very thin diameter bait hook. Imagine it like this. You are much more likely to survive if you get a medicine shot or even a tattoo on your hip. That becomes much less likely if your hip is pierced with a spear or sword. Not only that, but they are not near as lively and they don’t like to move around. This alone would defeat the purpose of using them, to begin with.
How To Rig Minnows: Proper Hook Placement
Once you have selected a good hook to use, you need to insert it properly. Hook selection is important but they don’t just keep fish alive by themselves. You still need to put in the effort to learn where to place that hook. Placing it in the wrong way can still cause a high mortality rate. Pierce the brain, heart, gills, or another vital organ with a thin wire hook and you will still watch it die.
You should try to focus on flesh wounds for the most part. Flesh wounds are much less likely to kill them quickly. Also, they will be a lot more lively too. They will want to kick around much more which is what you want. Below, we are going to go over a few of the best ways to hook a baitfish so you get a lot of action and movement out of your minnows. A bait that moves more gets bitten more often.
Near the Tail – Poke It Through The Center
With this method, we start by taking the hook and inserting it near the back of the tail. Stick it right through the center. The result is a minnow that will want to swim downward. If you do it right, it will stay alive for quite a while. The fish are going to hit the head first. That means that you must wait for an extra second or two before you try setting the hook.
This is because the hook point is near the back and the fish needs to get it in its mouth first. This does not cause a lot of injuries either. It works better when you are after catches that primarily chase or feed on food that inhabits the bottom. A few examples include Channel Catfish that like to feed on Sunfish, Darters, or Suckers and Smallmouth Bass that like feeding on crayfish.
Species like Black and White Crappie naturally feed looking upwards so having the hooked fish swimming downwards will allow them to get a good look at it. If it is not on a fixed rig in place, allowing it to swim down naturally will put itself right in the strike zone for you. It looks exactly like it wants to pick plankton or other food off the bottom. It is also very easy to lose your minnow this way.
Top Of The Back – Remember To Miss The Spine
This method is actually a little harder to get right. It requires some preexisting knowledge of the anatomy of your bait. You need to know where the spinal column is. This is needed because you want to miss it on purpose.
If you hit the spine, you will paralyze it. Paralyzed anything will cease to move at all. That is a guarantee. A paralyzed specimen is about as useful as a dead specimen.
Whatever you do, don’t touch that spine at all. Go under that spine and come out on the other side of the fish. If you did it right (it takes some getting used to), you will have a very aggressive action and it shakes on the hook. It will shake on both sides. The action you get out of this technique is nothing short of incredible. It will shake, swim, struggle, and try to flee until it runs out of energy.
When you do it right, however, you get something that is a bit harder to steal off the hook. The only thing you need to be aware of is when to set the hook. The hook is going to be sitting on top of the fish. Give the taker enough time to fully get the hook in its mouth. Wait up to three more seconds before you set it to make sure that the fish will be pinned when you pull up.
Through Both Lips – Very Natural And Enticing
Another great way is to pass the hook under the jaw of the fish and come out through the top of the head in front of the eyes. You want to hook it through both lips by passing the hook up through the bottom and up through the top lip.
This looks extremely natural and is probably one of the best-looking ways to do it. You can cast it out rigged like this and retrieve it too. There is a slight problem you will encounter though.
The issue is that the lips on the bait are forced closed. For anybody who is wondering why this matters, it will help to understand some basic fish biology and how fish breathe. Fish have feathery organs called gills. They are full of blood. The fish breathes by taking oxygen through its mouth and forcing it through the gills. This provides oxygen that is pumped through the rest of the body.
This means that closing the mouth will not allow the fish to receive any new oxygen through its body. This means it will very easily die of suffocation. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to drown a fish at all. Since drowning is suffocation by lungs filling with water and fish don’t have lungs, they can still suffocate but they cannot drown. It is also very easy to lose it to short strikers.
Threaded Onto The Hook – Not Lively At All
The very last method is one that should only be used in the most extreme circumstances. The reason is that the bait will not be lively at all. If it is beforehand, performing this technique will essentially kill your minnow. This is how you are supposed to rig them if they all died on you. It can also be an acceptable practice if liveliness is not an issue you are worried about.
It does have some pros and cons. For one, it is very difficult to lose the fish without ripping the hook right through the body. It is a great technique to keep it on the hook. You take it and run the hook into the mouth, thread the little fish onto it, and then come out through the side of the body behind the gill. This way does not have to be near as precise either.
Since you are basically killing the fish anyway, how it goes on is not incredibly important. As long as it looks somewhat natural, it should work fine. It is useful to know that not every fish species will hit dead or unlively prey. If you are after live bait Largemouth, don’t use this method. If after Walleye, don’t use this method. It will only work for species like Channel Catfish and Yellow Perch who don’t mind having dead or dying food. No good predator unless it is a scavenger prefers dead over live and healthy food offerings.
Considering All Of These
Rigging minnows is not that difficult. Catching fish on them may seem like a cheating way to avoid the sport but it does have its place. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You just need to know where to put the hook and how. One thing is for sure if nothing else is. They catch fish. For every species both freshwater and saltwater, natural bait just produces and produces.
Some are more fragile and some are hardier but to sum it up, all you need is a thin wire hook and some good old fishing wisdom. Learn the anatomy of the species you want to use as bait and never stray away from all the study and homework you must do out on the water. You will be much more prepared for next time if you put what you learned previously to the test and continue to practice.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you liked this post. It helps us out! You can even help out others with your comments. Tell us this. What is your favorite way to rig a baitfish?