Modern mini-minnows pack a powerful punch
The little deep diving-minnow landed at the base of the rock wall. The first few turns of the small threadline reel and the lure disappeared beneath the surface, rattling against the rocks as it was drawn down.
A large bream that had been patrolling the drop-off looking for an easy feed was attracted to the lure by the noise as the lure banged into the rocks. As the little minnow swam into the deeper water, the fish pounced.
I felt the hit but kept winding until the rod loaded up and the fish started pulling line. I lifted the rod to keep the light leader up and away from the rocks as the fish easily took line off the light drag and headed for the deeper water.
The bream used the current to its advantage but after a few tense minutes I slipped the net under a solid fish. I removed the hooks from the corner of its mouth and looked at the little minnow that had done the damage. It was just another victim that had fallen to a well-presented hardbody.
In the past few years soft plastics have dominated the majority of luring for bream until recent times, with the lowly hardbodies making a resurgence in popularity.
Two of the main reasons for this are the time factors surrounding tournament and recreational fishing and the quality of the lures that have become available. The time factor is probably the more important of the two, because with less time to spend on the water due to work schedules or tournament constraints, we need to be able to cover water quickly. To do this we need to make the most of every moment and crankbaits can do this very effectively.
These are broken down into a two basic categories, shallow runners and deep runners.
These are designed to swim in the top 60cm of the water column and can be specifically used to fish over the top of weed beds, oyster racks or across sandy flats. They are recognised by their short lips.
Some of them are referred to as wake baits because when retrieved they swim just below the surface with water bulging ahead of them. This causes a noticeable wake that is often appealing to bream.
At times hungry fish will swim up out of relatively deep water to follow and then attack a lure retrieved in this manner.
These are designed to run 1m and deeper. How deep they get down depends largely on the thickness of leader and braid you tie them on. For example, a lure fished on 1lb braid and a 4lb leader will dive deeper than one fished on 6lb braid and 8lb leader.
With lures as small as those designed for bream, resistance caused by line diameters plays a big role.
These deep-running lures are great for covering water quickly. They can be cast into the shallows and retrieved out into deeper water while the lure follows the contour of the bottom as it swims deeper.
If the angler wants to fish them over a deep rock bar or sand bank then a long cast past the target is required. That way, once the lure reaches its target it would be at its required swimming depth.
As far as buoyancy goes, minnows can float, sink or suspend.
Floating minnows are popular because when the retrieve is paused, they float up to the surface. This is a big plus when the lure is being fished through structure and the angler needs it to float over a tree branch before resuming the retrieve.
Suspending minnows are generally favoured when a stop-start retrieve is used. When the lure is paused it will suspend at the depth that it is swimming at.
A good technique to use with a suspender is to cast it past the structure, crank it down til it is in the strike zone and then, with gentle flicks of the rod tip, keep it in the hot spot for as long as possible. This simulates an injured baitfish and will often entice an inactive fish into striking.
Sinking minnows are good for getting the lure right down in the water column and keeping it there. A slight pause when retrieving sinking minnows also gives the fish the idea that the lure is an easy meal.
Anglers who spend a lot of time on the water have helped in upgrading and developing crankbaits to be able to cover a host of situations. Places that previously could be fished only with plastics can now be fished quite successfully with hardbodies.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a rod rigged with a softie when I am chasing bream but I usually pick up the one with a crankbait on first. I do this because I can cover water quickly and effectively to locate active fish.
The new technology available to us today has seen lures become more compact and yet still easy enough to cast long distances. Rod manufacturers have also been quick to notice that there is a definite place in the market for specific rods designed for casting and cranking these ultra-light lures. Blanks with soft tips but enough power in the butt section to be able to control a good fish are making anglers’ lives much easier.
The idea behind the soft tip is to absorb that initial hit when the fish takes the lure, allowing it to turn. The angler does not strike when the fish hits the lure; instead he/she keeps up a constant retrieve until the rod loads up.
These rods are a big plus when fishing the ultra-light leaders and lines that help the small minnows perform at their best. They are a lot more forgiving, helping the small hooks stay in a fish’s mouth and also absorbing any critical mistakes the angler might make during the fight.
Many of the micro minnows on the market don’t come out with really good hooks. They are designed in Japan for the trout fishery so strong hooks are not a major issue.
It pays to upgrade the terminals with something tougher. I upgrade most of my hooks with Gamakatsu or Owner trebles.
When changing trebles, make a careful note of how this affects the buoyancy of the lure. You can quite easily change a floating minnow into a suspending or even sinking minnow, simply by putting heavier hooks on it.
Hopefully this article gives you an idea that minnows are not simply something that you tie on and cast out: With a little thought and preparation they can be extremely effective fish-catching tools. So next time you are on the water, dig some of those old forgotten hardbodies out of the box, dust them off and give them a run.
• Try to fish as light as possible because the action of these small lures is easily affected by line diameter.
• Make long casts. This helps the deep-divers attain their optimum depth and allows you to cover more water. More distance between the angler and the fish also helps to catch spooky fish.
• Try using a long leader (twice the length of the rod) or even fluorocarbon right through in ultra-clear water.
• Upgrade the terminals.
• Take note of how the fish bites the lure. If the bite is a crunching hit and the middle treble is solidly hooked in the fish’s mouth, it means that the lure you are using is spot on. Alternatively, if you are getting tentative hits and the fish you are catching are barely on the rear treble then it pays to either change the colour of the lure or the lure itself because something is not to the fish’s liking.