Fishing fads and fashions come and go, so it’s easy to forget just how effective some of the established styles of lure fishing can be. Some of us still remember the good times you can have with mighty mini minnows.
Until recently, the most popular lures in this country were small hard-bodied minnows and plugs. These tiny wobbling artificials have always been favoured by sporting anglers and with good reason. In the right hands, they are highly effective fishing tools, which can be used to catch everything from bream and flathead to bass and trout.
The main advantage small hard-bodied lures have over other lure types such as soft plastics or spinnerbaits is that they usually float, or in some circumstances, have a negative buoyancy. This allows them to dive to a predetermined depth and then either float back up towards the surface or simply suspend when the retrieve is stopped.
This highly desirable feature of small hard-bodied lures means that they can be worked successfully over the top of snags and other fish holding features like oyster racks. Because they float, you can avoid trouble by simply stopping the retrieve and allowing the lure to float back to the surface. These snaggy areas are highly productive places to swim a lure, and it is certainly easier to fish them with a floating diving minnow than it is with some other types of lures.
I know that some of the new generation of soft plastics float, but in general, they are either used as surface lures or as sinking lures when fitted with a lead head jig. Neither of these replicates the action of a traditional, floating minnow.
Suspending minnows have always been seen as a somewhat specialist lure, however nothing could be further from the truth. You simply work the lure down to its predetermined running depth, and then stop the retrieve. At this point the lure will either sit there or ever so slowly start to rise. Having the lure hover in its face is often too much of a temptation for any following fish to resist. Bream spinners in particular find this a valuable feature, and the popularity of tiny Sneaky Scorpions from Halco is well justified.
Of course, not all mini minnows float. The Count Down range from Rapala sink at a predetermined rate and can be used in the same way as a lead head jig if desired. There are also mini versions of bibless rattlers (like rattling spots) which sink and can be used successfully on fish that might shy away from larger offerings due to high fishing pressure or unfavourable weather. In general however, the down and up nature of diving minnows is their best attribute.
Another feature of minnow-style lures is that they are often at their best in flowing water, particularly in rivers and streams. This makes them ideal for active pursuits such as spinning for cool water species like trout or fast water natives like jungle perch. When the current is really working, the vibrations put out by minnows are solid enough to still be detected amongst the noise of the running water. While some other lure types seem to get swallowed up by the current, minnows have a strong sound signal, which is easy for the fish to detect.
If you have ever experienced the joy of walking the banks of your favourite stream with a light rod and reel and just a small day pack of lures, you’ll know how addictive this type of fishing can be. Sure, you can use other lure types for this sort of fishing, but mini minnows just fit so well in the tight confines of a mountain stream.
They are so versatile that the ways to present them are almost limitless. You can cast them directly at structure, allow them to drift in under bankside cover before retrieving them, or even wind them in with your rod tip held high so they swim along just under the surface. If you really want to test your nerves, you could even try small hard-bodied surface lures, which often draw explosive strikes out of all proportion to their size. Fishing this way, there is nearly as much satisfaction to be had in making an accurate cast and getting your lure to do what you want it to, as there is in actually catching a fish.
There is much to be said for the mini minnow’s ability to work at a predetermined depth, even when fishing from the bank. The size and position of the lure’s bib will determine how deep and how quickly the lure will dive, and it’s important to select the right lure for the depth of water and structure being fished.
For example, you might employ a shallow running Rapala to work over the top of a weedbed, where you can use its bib to swim the lure down to kiss the top of the weeds before letting it float back up out of harm’s way. You might then need to swap to a small deep diver like Halco’s Poltergeist 50, to work the sunken extremities of a deep snag. With a broad bib protecting the hooks, you can use this type of lure to rattle the timber and wake the fish up, before walking it out of the snags without hanging up.
Small minnows are also excellent trolling tools for many situations. Indeed, a small minnow lure trolled around an estuary is likely to turn up anything from whiting to flathead or trevally to tailor. This is a great way to get youngsters or new anglers into lure fishing as there is a high chance of catching something, without the need for a lot of skill on the part of the person holding the rod. You can also apply this technique to our freshwater impoundments with great success. As well as the usual line up of bass, yellowbelly and saratoga, you can add more reluctant lure takers like silver perch to your catch stats when using little plugs and minnows.
Of course, there are downsides to every method of fishing and with mini minnows the main one is the cost. To put it simply, good quality small lures are expensive. Despite what you might assume, small lures are often more difficult for lure makers to produce than larger lures, so they often cost just as much, if not more than the larger models, despite the fact they require less materials. Losing any lure hurts, but your hip pocket will soon feel the strain if you start donating your mini lures to the fish gods.
Another problem with small lures is that they can be difficult to tune, as the balance is critical. They also have to be fitted with appropriately sized hardware, as they usually can’t carry large hooks without sandbagging the action or turning them into sinking lures. And of course, you can only really fish small minnows on ultra light threadline tackle. Unfortunately, just because your lures are small, it doesn’t mean the fish that eat them will be too. So be prepared to get bitten off, busted off and generally beaten up on more than the odd occasion.
Overall however, it’s worth putting up with any the possible hassles that go with mini minnows. Quite simply, using them when the situation demands will help you hook fish that you just can’t entice using other lure fishing techniques. You can also find yourself tangling with some species that aren’t always considered to be lure fishing targets. In short, by adding mini minnows to your line up, you will be presenting your lures to the widest range of potential targets. Best of all, mini minnows are just plain fun to use, and there can be as much satisfaction in fooling a handful of line class specimens on mini minnows as there is in landing a bagful of bigger fish using other techniques. So why not rediscover the magic of mini minnows on your next fishing trip?
What is a mini minnow?
For ease of reference, any small hard-bodied lure with a body size of 5cm or less can be considered a mini minnow. This includes the elongated skinny minnow shapes, as well as the stouter built models sometimes referred to as ‘plugs’. Proven examples of mini minnows include Rapala Count Downs and Floating Minnows, Rebel Crawdads, Baby Merlins, Predatek Minn Minns, Halco’s Sneaky Scorpions and Lively Lures Micro Mullets.
Mini minnow tackle
Small lures need to be matched to light tackle to show their true worth. They are at their absolute best on the latest high-tech threadline outfits employed by bass and bream specialists. Rods between six and seven foot in length and designated for line classes in the 2-3kg range are ideally suited. There are a host of models on the market to choose from, with Strudwick, Shimano, Daiwa, Loomis and Pflueger all having suitable sticks in their range. These rods should be matched to reels in the 1500 to 2500 size range and again, Shimano, Daiwa, Pflueger and Penn all offer small reels with multiple ball bearings that are built to last. Of course, light, braided line brings out the best in these outfits and will allow you to cast your lures further, as well as assisting them to reach their optimum running depths.