Nervous Minnows Provoke Reluctant Walleye Bites
So, which minnow do you think draws attention and provokes walleye bites? A small minnow that just passively sits there? Or a large, panicked minnow attempting to flee for its life?
The answer is obvious: The big minnow that stands out amidst its surroundings, just begging to get bit!
In recent years, the term “nervous minnow” has been applied to an old livebait rigger’s trick: slip sinker rigging a large chub to locate walleyes and make them bite. Here’s how it works.
Large redtail or creek chubs are far more active than shiners or suckers; you can feel them dance around on your line, as opposed to just sitting there, being towed along behind your slip sinker. This activity makes fish take notice, and helps provoke them into biting.
When a large chub comes cruising along the breakline, reaches the tip of a point, and suddenly comes face to face with big white eyes and teeth, it understandably becomes nervous. More like panicked, immediately seeking to escape. When it does, your rod tip starts dancing, and if you’re paying attention, you feel distinct tugs on your line. That tells you that something big is down there, even if it’s not yet biting.
So, what do you do? Stop! Hover in place above the fish, letting the chub struggle and dance in its face. One minute. Two minutes if necessary. Apply patience while the chub virtually screams, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. You can’t catch me!” Actually, it’s more like, “Holy smokes, I gotta get outta here!” But to the walleye—smallmouth, pike, whatever is staring down the chub—it’s an invitation to chomp. And eventually, they do. Even if they had no intention to feed. Because after all, any self-respecting fish can only endure so much teasing before reacting.
When it does, pause a bit to let the fish take the bait. Sometimes, they firmly engulf it, and you can set right away. Reluctant smallmouths, however, may barely wrap their lips around the minnow’s tail, holding it. You have to tease them up the bait a little, gripping the line between forefinger and thumb and imparting a gentle tug or two, that mimics a minnow trying to escape. In any case, it you miss the fish on the set, wait a little longer next time. If the tail comes back scuffed, it’s a bass. Sliced, it’s a walleye. Shredded, it’s a pike. You’ll know what you’re dealing with even before hooking it.
Use a fairly large livebait rigging hook—like a size 2 or 1 livebait or Octopus style hook—to hook a medium-size 4-inch chub up through both lips. Or—even better for triggering large or very reluctant fish—hook a 5- to 7-incher up through the top lip only. This ensures that’s there’s plenty of exposed hook gap to engage the hook point into the fish’s mouth on the hookset. A smaller hook might be dwarfed by the bulk of a large minnow, causing the hook to slip out of the fish’s mouth on the set. Opportunity lost.
Properly, executed, however, you can entice even the most unwilling critter to open its clenched jaws. And with fall being trophy time, and this being a really good big-fish tactic, you need to stash it in your bag of tricks, pulling it out as needed.
Minnow photo by Bill Lindner