If you want to use live minnows, you can either pick some up from a bait shop, which may be hit or miss this time of year when it comes to minnow availability, or you can catch your own with a trap, such as Frabill’s Deluxe Minnow Trap. In fact, wild caught minnows taken from your local creeks and streams tend to be better, size-wise.
Due to the colder temperatures, it’s easier to keep minnows alive for several days in the fall, even weeks, in fact, by using a Styrofoam cooler. Just be sure to change the water daily for at least the first few days. For storage in your boat, you can use an insulated minnow bucket.
When it comes time to rig your minnows and cast them out, you’ll want to employ a few hints. If you’re fishing clear lakes that have deep submerged weedbeds, try to work the deep edges of the vegetation with a drop shot rigged minnow. With a bell sinker in the 3/8 to ½-oz range, you’ll have enough weight to fish the minnow vertically below the boat and work the edge of the weeds. I like to use circle hooks here, in order to minimize the chance of deep hooking a bass. As a bass feels the tension and runs in the opposite direction when hooked, a circle hook will slide into the corner of its mouth, hang up, and hook the bass without problem. In rivers, use either a bait rig or a leadhead jig to fish a minnow. A ¼ to 3/8-oz jig usually works best for fishing deeper river holes.
Minnows are a great live bait for the cooler autumn months, and hopefully today’s tips will help you capitalize on their proficiency at enticing bass when they’re stuffing themselves before winter.