Wait, don’t toss out those dead minnows! Here’s how to give floaters a second life to still catch fish
My first introduction to using expired baitfish was decades ago, sitting in a tin boat on a weedy back bay with my great-grandfather. He first started chasing muskies long before the sportfishing industry began producing specialized tackle specifically designed for the species. He used the heaviest rod and line he had, with a big single hook hanging under a red-and-white spring bobber. His bait of choice? A hefty sucker minnow—dead or alive. In fact, he’d boated more muskies than he could count on dead bait. That blew my 10-year-old mind! If you could fool the king of our freshwater lakes and rivers with a dead minnow, I wondered, what other fish could you catch with them? I’ve been finding out ever since.
Most freshwater anglers know that soaking large dead baits such as ciscoes and suckers can be an effective static presentation for pike and muskies, or when targeting large bottom-feeders such as channel cats or sturgeon. Once you downsize your dead minnow offerings, however, you can also catch a wide variety of other sportfish, including bass, walleye and trout. After all, those dead shiners in your bait bucket already have an enticing scent and profile—they just need a little help in the action department to catch fish consistently. Here’s how to put those pesky (and expensive) floaters to good use.