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Minnow “Pluggin” for Bass | Bass Fishing Basics

Lets talk Bass Fishing Basics. Bass and many other gamefish will prey on just about anything that will fit in their mouths. Crawfish, trout and a few other forms of fish food are high energy, but most wild things are opportunistic feeders. They prey on anything they can easily catch and consume. Availability in the underwater world is the key to consistent feeding and minnows are available almost all of the time. Besides being available there are dozens of kinds of minnows in many waters.

Fallen logs
The key to the consistent catch is presenting an artificial bait is making it look real and behave realistically. The best teacher is observation in their environment, how the minnow acts AND how they react. My observation of most of the minnow family consists of three specific behaviors.

  • Natural Swimming Motion- with most minnow a slow swimming motion indicates they feel safe and move in schools gliding and turn in a synchronized fashion. This draws little attention.
  • Darting and Escape – When panicked or threatened minnows will dart and often separate from the school. This draws unwanted attention and creates the “cat and mouse” scenario. The fish begins the chase which usually ends with the fish making a meal of the minnow.
  • Injured or Dying – In nature anything that presents itself as injured or dying makes for the predator getting an easy meal. Easy to catch and weak any bait fish becomes a quick meal for the game fish in the immediate area.

Armed with this knowledge it’s the task for the angler to mimic the motion that incites the bass to hit. You accomplish this by your casting to the likely spot and then by utilizing a retrieve most realistic using speed and the correct cadence. This is where the visual memorization of the minnow motions comes into play. My experience shows that at least initially slower is a better place to start. It appears easier to catch and draws both attention and the strike. The step by step approach looks like this: Cast PAST the likely looking holding spot. As cast directly to the spot may spook the fish. Now it becomes a test of nerves, for surface lures the old school approach is to let all the ripples created by the landing of the lure disappear. A quick view of the old wooden surface lures tells you that not much has changed in fishing and catching. (*SEE PHOTO) Often the “defenseless” bait will draw a hit from the bass that goes from inquisitive to angry at the intruder. If there’s no reaction and the ripples are gone you can start the retrieve, remember the flight appearance (darting / escape) and move the bait with sharp twitches. After the start of the return trip you can add a pause for the appearance of your bait to look of being injured or dying.

Old wooden lures

Other considerations are lure size, shape, color and potential alterations. In super clear water often (not always) a smaller lure offers less clues as to being artificial. It’s my belief that larger lures catch larger fish but as is the case there’s no ALWAYS or NEVER in fishing. In clear water neutral / natural colors seem to be most effective. Conversely in dirty, muddy water brighter colors and larger lures often are more productive. Another possibility is adding a red treble hook (red trebles available at Daiichi) to increase the visual predatory reaction. The color red in nature gives the appearance of an injured creature.

Minnow “Pluggin” for Bass | Bass Fishing Basics

There are slim minnow baits and others that look very little like your local minnow choices. Large shapes, cupped faces create more top water disturbance. Lipped minnows can be deadly fished in a non-conventional manner. I accidentally stumbled on an extremely effective presentation. It was late fall and I had a three-inch minnow plug (A.C. Shiner) tied on. The only alteration was a small split ring attached to the line tie. I do that to allow the bait to swim freely and give it a wide wobble. I was casting the bait using a traditional retrieve and halfway back I started a quick retrieve in anticipation of making the next cast. A Big bass slammed the bait. Thinking this might have been a fluke I tried it again. Cast, let the bait rest, start a retrieve with a downward strong snap of the rod creating a twitch, sending the lure a foot deep, then adding a momentary pause causing the bait swim back just below the surface and again a trophy size bass devoured the lure. That afternoon produced eight bass between three and six pounds and a technique I still employ often.

Retrieve speed with any surface or subsurface minnow imitating bait requires experimentation in the hope of developing a pattern that makes catches repeatable.

For lightweight baits I use open face spinning equipment. A medium action rod and medium size spinning reel spooled with either six or eight pound test monofilament or braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. For heavier minnow fishing I use a seven-foot medium action baitcasting rod coupled with a lightweight baitcasting reel (both Lew’s) and 10-pound test monofilament line.

Minnow “Pluggin” for Bass | Bass Fishing Basics

The best range of surface water temperature for this type of fishing runs from 55 to 85 degrees. As is always the case for me the odds are tilted in your favor on a major (new or full) moon phase and the optimum water temperature would be from the low sixties to the high seventies.
I rarely launch my kayak with out a few minnow type “plugs”. Learn the look of the minnows and apply them on the water for the chance to bag a BIG bass.