By Mark Fike
It is no secret that I love to eat freshly caught fish. That love keeps me on the water looking for dinner and learning new ways to maximize the little time I have to fish after work or between obligations.
Recently I stopped at a local tackle and bait shop to pick up a dozen minnows with the hope that I would be able to sneak out and wet a line one evening for an hour. As life would have it, other things would complicate my plans.
A few things that distracted me include a flat tire, a reminder that a deadline for a publication was upon me, an animal that decided to free itself from a cage which required some good exercise to catch it and a storm rolling in about the time all of these things occurred.
Because of all of the above and then a few unmentioned occurrences, I forgot to add water to my minnow bucket. The bucket was only half full when I got home (my driveway is quite bumpy) and a dozen minnows deplete the oxygen quite rapidly on a 75-degree day in a half-bucket of water.
When I loaded the truck to go fishing, the dozen live minnows had turned into eight dead minnows, one half-dead minnow and three live minnows. I was not happy. I really wanted to take some bass and a few large crappie and I knew minnows were a sure thing where I was going fishing.
The water I was to fish was opposite the direction of where the bait shop was located, so I was stuck using worms and the minnows I had. When I arrived at the water, I put the first three live minnows to use with sparing results. I caught fish on all three minnows, but they were not huge and the strikes were hard work to earn.
Unless I am catfishing, I don’t normally use dead minnows, but under the circumstances I had no real choice unless I wanted to use artificial baits. I decided to try the dead minnows first and am glad I did.
Prior to the first cast, I hooked a jumbo minnow through the nose and then I heaved it out next to some emerging lily pads. Taking my cue from professional bass anglers that use jerk baits, I began working the minnow in such a fashion. A bass exploded on it halfway back and turned out to be a chunky three-pounder. I wondered if it was a fluke and decided to try it again.
My polarized glasses allowed me to see the minnow as it jerked erratically and seductively. I adjusted the twitching and jerking to allow the minnow to fall near likely ambush sites. A second hook up came in short order and my supply of dead minnows rapidly dwindled.
Even the small minnows went fast when I used them in the same manner near crappie structure. Why throw out the dead minnows? If you can bring them back to “life” again you will earn some good strikes and likely land good fish to include bass, striper and crappie.
I even took a jumbo redbreast sunfish on a small, dead minnow. Part of the appeal of using live minnows is that they move around erratically and look like easy prey. If your minnow has just died you can get the same results with a little more work.
Tips for using the dead minnows:
1—Don’t let the minnows rot. If you find dead minnows in your bucket the night before your trip, ice them in a sealed bag.
2—Hook them carefully through the bottom lip and nose. They will stay on longer if you hook them through the nose or head too.
3—Work them by giving them a sharp, but steady, pull allowing them to fall before pulling again. Change up when and how you rip them through the water.
4—Use polarized glasses to see what is going on.
5—Don’t be afraid to sight fish for bass with them.
6—Cast near structure you would fish if you were using artificial bait or a live minnow.
Next time you find dead minnows in the bucket, remove them, put them on ice in a baggie of some sort and use them. There is no reason to throw away good bait when you can catch fish on them! Good fishing.