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Sometimes in the crazy world of fishing, anglers get caught up in all the latest and greatest baits, equipment, and techniques that are all the rage at the moment. I myself have countless baits in my arsenal. Although they are very effective when used at the right time, they tend to bog me down by the space they take up in my boat, as well as by the time needed to make choices while on the water. Don’t get me wrong, many of these have their place, and on any given day may be the ticket to catching lots of fish. But lets face it, we as kayak anglers have to deal with the fact that we need to simplify the amount of tackle that we take on the water. Now anyone that has fished with me or helped me load my kayak know that I am not one to preach about limiting the amount of gear you take on the water. That being said, I have seen over the years that no matter how much gear I have in my boat, there is one type that always seems to be tied on my line. That lure is the Free Minnow by 412 Bait Co. This bait is one of the most versatile baits one can have on hand. You can Texas rig it, wacky rig it, use it on a jig head, and more recently I have even been using it as a trailer for other techniques. Here are a few ways that I use this bait to consistently catch fish and often big fish:

One variation of this bait that you will always see in my boat is a Tournament strength 412 Bait Co. 5″ Free Minnow Texas rigged weightless. This bait has put a lot of fish in my boat during some really tough conditions. My favorite setup for this rig is on a 7′ 1 medium action Fate Chrome casting rod by 13 Fishing, paired with an inception 8:1 reel. This setup allows me to throw the weightless bait very far and the length of the rod and speed of the reel allow me to take up the slack when the fish takes off with the bait. This bait can be fished fast, as a semi top water presentation, or slow- letting the bait sink and spiral into pockets of cover be it grass, timber or rocks. The Texas rigged method makes this bait very weedless and allows it to be thrown into some thick cover and fished slowly. One tip on this technique is to really watch your line for movement as you need to let this fall on a slack line to get the natural presentation. Another key is to allow the fish to run with the bait for a few seconds before setting the hook.

The other way that I like to fish the 5″ Free Minnow is rigged on an Owner Ultra Finesse Jig Head. This head has been a must have for me over the years as it is a quality hook that allows me to rig the bait weedless and get down on the bottom to get the bite on the deeper fish, This head with the 45 degree line tie, allows the bait to be pulled over cover quite well when fished slow on the bottom. For this presentation I like to use the 2/0 owner head with the free minnow. It has got some thickness to it and this hook size allows enough gap to get a good hook set.

The next technique that can really put fish in the boat when conditions are really pressured, is to rig the 5″ free minnow wacky style. The new style free minnow comes with an indention that fits an o-ring perfectly allowing you to save baits and use a smaller hook. This presentation has produced many times when fishing heavily pressured water, as well as sight fishing bedded fish. The slow fall with the tapered tail can be irresistible to a bass that has seen multiple baits in a day. The free minnow comes in two sizes and two different formulas. My favorite is the Tournament Strength, which is a dense heavy sinking formula that has great castability and action. This formula also has a softer texture that the fish seem to hang onto, allowing better hookup ratio. The exception to this formula for me is to use the standard formula when I want a presentation that floats a bit more, Most commonly, I use this standard formula when using jig heads that I want to sink slower, or stand up on the bottom more so than the Tournament Strength.

So if you want to lighten up the load and simplify your choices when on the water. take a look at the free minnow. With a few wide gap worm hooks and a handful of finesse jigs, you can cover just about any pattern you will find out on the water. They have put a lot of fish in the boat for me over the years, and with all the plastic that I carry in my boat, they always seem to find their way onto my line. Check them out and you won’t leave home without them!