How To Hook A Minnow

Most anglers know that using live bait to catch fish greatly improves your chances.

However, this isn’t the easiest to carry out, as it’s hard to hook your bait and keep it alive at the same time. 

One of the most common types of bait is the minnow. These are usually readily available, come in many different sizes, and are known for attracting both small and big fish.

How To Hook A Minnow

It can be hard learning how to hook a minnow properly, but if you’re struggling to do so, we can help!

You’ll learn some of the ways of hooking a minnow in this article, both dead and alive.

We’ve also included the advantages and disadvantages of using minnows as bait, as well as advice on looking after your minnows while you fish.

Keep reading to learn how to hook your minnow bait! 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Live Minnows As Bait

Minnows are a popular bait, but they do come with some drawbacks. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using minnows:


Many different kinds of minnows come in various species. As minnows are available in so many forms, you can use them to catch practically every kind of fish!

No matter what type of fish you plan on catching, live minnows will be able to help you along the way. Some common types of minnows include mosquito fish, gold shiners, and fat heat. 

Minnows are also readily available. You can find them in many different stores and online retailers. It’s hard to run out of minnows, which is why they’re often used as bait. 

Minnows are also very easy to breed. Some anglers even choose to breed their minnows to save costs on buying bait.

Breeding minnows is a simple process, just like breeding other kinds of fish. 

This bait is quite versatile. If you aren’t planning on catching any particular kinds of fish, try hooking a few minnows and placing them in the water.

Soon enough, you’re bound to see some kinds of fish biting later. 


Unfortunately, using minnows isn’t legal everywhere. Some states ban the use of minnows as bait at all costs.

It’s best to look up the fishing regulations for your state or the location you plan on fishing in before you begin.

Using live minnows may increase your chances of catching fish, but hooking the bait can make it tricky to keep them alive.

You’ll need to learn how to hook and manage minnows correctly. This may sound hard, but the process isn’t that difficult!

With enough time, effort, and practice, you should be able to master the art of hooking live bait in no time. 

Ways Of Hooking Live Minnows

Minnows are a common part of a fish’s diet, so they are likely to attract many fish to your line. Here are some of the different ways you can try hooking a minnow. 

Through The Back (Dorsal-Hooked)

This is a popular method of hooking minnows, as it doesn’t prevent the bait from swimming naturally. 

To do this, you’ll need to use single or treble hooks that match the minnow in size. Don’t try to stop it from moving.

Aim to hook the bait at the back of its dorsal fin. Pierce the upper layer of skin, but don’t push too deep, as you’ll touch the spine. 

Most fish eat minnows head first, so aiming the hook’s point near the minnows head will increase your chances of you catching a bite. 

Attach some smaller lead weights around ten inches above the hook, as this will push the bait down to the optimum depth.

Don’t add too much weight, as this will stop the minnow from moving. If you don’t have lead weights, you can use miniature jigs or heavier hooks. 

Through The Tail

Tail hooking a minnow isn’t often done, but it can have its advantages. Tail hooking bait is ideal when fish are biting too deep and start swallowing the hooks off dorsal-hooked bait. 

You can tail-hook your minnow by piercing the hook slightly ahead of the tail. Make sure you don’t insert it too deep as you may touch the spine.

You may have success using a heavier weight that will fix the minnow nearer the end. This works well for fish that like to eat close to the bottom, like perch or walleye.

Tail-hooked minnows will draw up against the hook, becoming an easy victim. 

If you see softer meat next to the tail, you’re likely to lose a lot of minnows to fish that bite lightly.

If this occurs, you can try hooking the minnow in a different area or using smaller-sized bait altogether. Tail hooking is best saved for little minnows. 

As stated previously, fish tend to eat minnows head first. After you get a bite, allow the fish to eat the bait for a few more seconds before fixing the hook into the fish’s mouth. 

Through The Lip

If you want your minnow to move around more, try the lip-hooked method. Moving minnows are important as they will draw in suspicious fish.

However, keep in mind that less active fish are better attracted to a bait that moves slightly, instead of working to chase wriggling minnows. 

To hook a minnow through the lip, pierce the hook into the bottom and top lip, allowing the point to come through on top.

Take note that weaker minnows are likely to die in this way, as they won’t be able to move their mouth to let water contact their gills.

If you’re worried, you can increase their life by just hooking through the top lip, not the bottom. 

Ways Of Hooking Dead Minnows

Ways Of Hooking Dead Minnows

While live bait is one of the best ways of catching fish, there may be instances where the fish are hungry for dead minnows.

Dead minnows are also easier to transport around, as you don’t have to worry about keeping them alive. You can find frozen preserved minnows at tackle stores. 

Hooking On A Jig

As dead minnows don’t move, fixing them to a jig can help them move when fishing.

Frozen and preserved minnows aren’t very robust, so you’ll need to hook the jig in both lips to stop it from falling off of the hook.

If the minnows keep falling off, you can try piercing through the head more. 

How much the jig weighs is also a factor, depending on the types of fish you’re trying to catch.

If there are a lot of fish around, use a heavier jig and a larger minnow, as this will attract bigger fish. You can switch to a smaller, lighter jig once the bite slows down. 

Use A Quick Strike Rig

This method is approved by muskie and pike fishers. You’ll need to use larger bait for this. Dead minnows that are 8-14 inches will attract larger fish.

The quick-strike rig involves using a double hook arrangement. The stinger hook will make sure the hook fixes to one side of the mouth.

You won’t need to wait for the fish to eat the bait; all you need to do is plant your hook the second it bites. 

Quick strike rigs are generally fixed with wire leader and treble hooks. The trailing hooks shouldn’t be too far away from the initial hook; 2-4 inches is more than enough. 

You’ll need to scrape some of the scales at the back of the minnow’s dorsal fin. Pierce the stinger hook beneath the skin so the point leads in the direction of the tail. 

Now you’ll need to pierce the primary hook on the crown of the head, at the back of the gill plate. Try rubbing some scales away as this will prevent obstructing a firm hook set. 

Ways To Look After Your Minnows As You Fish

You can keep your minnows alive for longer by taking good care of them. The following advice can help you do so. 

Keep The Minnows Cool

Minnows usually live longer in cooler temperatures. Colder water has more oxygen, so keeping the bait away from the sun will prevent the water from becoming too warm.

If the water in the cooler warms up too much, you can add some ice to cool it down. Only add small amounts at a time, as adding too much can make the bait go into shock. 

Maintain Clean Water

You’ll need to keep your minnows in clean water, just like you would with fish in a tank. Change the water if fishing for longer periods.

If the water in your cooler is sourced from tap water, pour some dechlorinating mix in to eliminate chlorine from the water.

Change the water if it becomes cloudy, as this indicates there’s a build-up of excretions within the cooler. 

Don’t Crowd Your Bait

You may think keeping as many minnows in a bucket is a good idea, but this just leads to overcrowding. If the minnows are overcrowded, the bait will battle to take in enough oxygen.

This will also lead to a build-up of ammonia within the bucket. Your bait will become weak and anxious before you can even try hooking them. 


Minnows are a popular bait and for good reason. They’re affordable, readily available, and fish love them.

Once you’ve got the hang of hooking minnows, you’ll be well on your way to catching many different kinds of fish! 

Whether you choose live or dead minnows as bait, do remember that they are delicate. Take care when you hook them to avoid the bait falling off of your hook.

Allowing the minnows to move will work better at attracting fish.

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