How to Hook a Minnow: 5 ways for Maximum Action

Ever since anglers start baiting hooks, live minnows have played a primary role in catching fish. Used in live-bait rigging, float fishing, spinner fishing, jigging, and ice-fishing, minnows are as good as baits get.

They come in many species and sizes and available all year long, regardless of season. A handful of species account for the bulk of live bait use, most of which are fragile and temperature sensitive so keep them in cool and well oxygenated water.

Minnows are considered as effective and popular baitfish for fish species such as crappie, walleye, bass, brown trout, bluegill, muskellunge, and northern pike.

On the other hand, they are hard to handle, difficult to transport and are very fragile. For this reason, there are many anglers who don’t use minnows for the hassle and difficulty they might put themselves into.

However, when minnows are hooked correctly and incorporated with proper fishing techniques, they can give consistent and effective results allowing maximum action for productive fishing.

Tips before you get started

Get your Minnows

Two things to keep in mind while shopping for minnows:

  • Get the right sized minnow for the fish you’re after.
  • Check to see if they are lively and healthy.

Another way to get minnows is to catch your own:

  • Using seining, which utilizes a net with handles, perfect for capturing a ton of minnows.
  • Another method is to use minnow traps, either bought or self-made, placing them in shallow waters where schools of minnows are passing.

​Check out this video about homemade minnow trap:

You could also use cast nets for catching schooling baitfish just before you go fishing. The key is to practice holding and throwing the net across visible bait schools.

After catching your own minnows, simply put it in an insulated aerated bucket or a baitwell in order to keep them healthy and fresh. Keeping your minnows fresh and lively increases your chances of having a successful fishing trip.

Beware of the temperature

Keep your minnows cool and aerated. The optimum temperature for minnows is about 50 degrees.

Hold your minnows using a flow throw bucket. The fresh flow of water moving through the bucket keep minnows cool, fresh and lively all day.

Change water often.

For long term storage, use a larger insulated bucket and change the water every second day.

Use water conditioning tools like aqua-lung tabs, which removes chlorine and helps condition the water.

Avoid overcrowding your minnows

If you put plenty of minnows in a bucket, there will be competition for oxygen and an increased production of waste ammonia resulting to death from suffocation.

Approximately a 1 gallon (3.79 l) minnow bucket can hold fathead minnows up to 6 dozens with sizes ranging from 3/4 to 1 inch (19.1 to 25 mm), shiner minnows up to 4 to 5 dozens sizes ranging from 2 to 3 ½ inch (50 to 88.9 mm), chubs from 1 to 1 ½ dozen, sizes ranging from 3 ½ inches (88.9 mm) or even larger.

When using very large baitfish, such as suckers with sizes ranging from 10 to 18-inch (25 to 45.72 cm), a bucket with a 5-gallon (18.93 l) capacity is recommended.

Choose the appropriate hook

Avoid a thick wire hook. Using a thick wire hook can create large holes in minnows, causing them to die quickly. So, use a thin wire hook instead, allowing the minnow to move around freely and stay alive a lot longer.

The size of the hook you’re using also matters depending on how big or small the minnows you’ve got. When fishing with minnows under 3 inches (7.5 cm), a hook with size 4 or size 6 works very effectively.

And for minnows that are 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) or even much larger, you can go with larger size like 2, 1/0, or even 2/0.

Check out this video for more minnow info:

Below are 5 ways of hooking up a minnow for maximum action for an effective and productive fishing experience. These methods are also recommended by Ivo Coia, a professional fisherman from Thundermist Lure Company.

5 ways of hooking up a minnow for maximum action


The first way to hook a minnow is to hook it through close to the end of the tail. What will happen is, the minnow will be able to swim around and cause a lot of action down there and entice a bite.

Since the fish is going to the minnow’s head first, make sure to wait a second or two before you set the hook, giving the fish a chance to take your bait.


The second way to hook a minnow is to hook it through the top of the back. Just poke your hook below the dorsal fin and above the spine. Avoid hitting the spine of the minnow to let it live longer and prevent it from being paralyze.

The spine is located in the middle-horizontal part of the fish. What you’ll have is another lively minnow which is shaking on both sides, head, and tail, creating a lot of commotion which triggers a lot of bite.

Don’t forget to wait a few seconds when using this method, allowing the fish to fully take your bait


The third way in hooking a minnow is just to go straight to the lips. Just go right underneath the chin area, then go straight up to both lips of the minnow passing right to the head.

This method is very effective since the fish targets the minnow’s head first, so you know you’ve got to pull it right away and got a great chance to hook that fish before it takes your bait.

However, since this method closes both lips of the minnow, water can’t flow to the gills, slowly depleting oxygen supply, causing the minnow to die quickly. Check your minnows often, and change it if it show signs of dying.

An alternative way you can use is to hook just one lip of the minnow, allowing the water to still flow to its gills making it to live longer.

This alternative method is probably one of the best as it prolongs your minnow’s life allowing you to have a productive and effective fishing.


The fourth way in hooking a minnow is hooking it through the nostril or snout area. There are two ways to do this: The first way is to pass your hook to both nostrils and the second way is to pass the hook to either nostril then out to the mouth.

With this method, you’re not closing both lips, allowing the minnow to live longer because water can still flow through the mouth straight to its gills.

This method also lets the minnow move around freely but still gives a good, solid, firm hold so you’re not going to lose your minnow. You can also get plenty of fish, since the hook is close to the head portion of the minnow.


If you just want to make sure to keep the minnow on the hook, whether dead or alive, the last method you could use is poking the hook right in the mouth of the minnow and then go through just behind the gill cover.

The advantage of this method is that, since the fish strikes the head first, you’ll get plenty of catches while the disadvantage is that, this method causes the fish to die quickly.


That’s all folks! If you just follow the 5 different ways to hook a minnow I’m sure you’ll be in maximum action! It can increase your catch rate leading you a ton of fish to feast on.

Are the above mention methods effective in your fishing trip? If so why or why not? Please feel free to hit the comments. And if ever you have a great way in hooking a minnow please do share it also in the comments.

If you find this post helpful and informative, please do share to let other aspiring anglers get motivated, informed, and prepared in their next fishing trip.Happy Fishing!

John Morris

Hi, I’m John Morris. I’m an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, blessed with an awesome wife and 2 kids. Fishing is not my passion, it is my lifestyle. I fished before I knew how to walk! I’m obsessed with all things related to fishing, even the fishy smell. I’m always willing to extend a hand to novice anglers looking for fishing tips and tricks thus I created this blog. This blog is a collection of my experiences, knowledge, and also research from other blogs.

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