Stick Minnow Secrets

Josh Carpenter, fishing journalist, the fourth member of light tackle fishing enthusiasts and service engineer at Daiwa Australia shares a few secrets on one of his go-to lures.

Well, it’s certainly no secret that the four of us are big users of Tiemco Stick Minnows but something that happened while on the water at the ‘yak comp this weekend at the Georges river made me want to write this.

As usual, I had prefished, made a plan and about twenty minutes into the morning realised the plan was up poop creek, and needed tweaking. I had planned to crank bridges and boats as we do a lot but the early condition just did not suit. The saturday had wind and cloud cover and the forecast was for more of the same on sunday but at 7.10 I was scratching my head because it was dead calm and sunny skies (the wind and cloud did eventually come but not for about 2 hours). So I paddled from the bridge over to the same boats I had caught fish on the day before and had intended to crank and pulled out the stick minnow instead. I pulled two legals in about three boats and while I was netting the second one, Peter “Woodsy” Woods, who was fishing the shallower boats of the bay asked if both the fish I had pulled were legals. I paddled over for a chat and informed him that both fish were legal and I was getting them on the stickies. At some point through the conversation he explained that the day before he had been searching for an article he remembered one of the Seetos had written about cranking the boats in the Georges. This was the first time someone had told me they searched here for old articles we have written for a specific technique. I’m sure it has happened before but it made me want to write down exactly how and why Stick Minnows can be so deadly in the hope that anglers can learn now or even look it up later.

Now, I’m not one for cagey behaviour at all in a tournament and one of the greatest things about the Hobie tournaments is that information is much more freely exchanged than is in the boat tournaments these days. So I gave Woodsy the 411 on what I was doing and even loaned him a stick minnow.

Thats the really long introduction to why I’m writing this. I truly do hope this becomes another string in some peoples Bream angling bow. Let me start by saying I’m not the expert at this and like most things I have picked up it has been put together from small things I have picked up from the brothers Seeto and in large part Steve Morgan who is probably the Grand Dragon of stick minnow use and won’t mind his tips being out there. I hope this will be a big chunk of the technique that will get you on your way.

First of all, as it stands right now Tiemco Sinking Stick Minnows are the only choice because of their size, action and weight. They are 40mm long (which is an important factor I’ll come to later) and made of solid plastic with a weight in the belly. They cast like bullets and from what I understand, sink at about 12ft per 30 seconds.

Fishing World writer Greg Seeto with a bream caught on a stick minnow lure

This technique is best used as a finesse approach and is where 2lb and 3lb straight through shine. Braid will cause some drag because it tends to float and will cause the lure to not sink straight down. The beauty of a stick minnow is the way it falls on a slack line, straight drop. It rolls side to side as it sinks vertically and drag tends to stop this action. Part of the reason it is deadly is that it is being presented on the lightest of lines. “Then why not just fish bio soft plastics on 2lb?” I hear you say. This is where their small size and the fact they are a treble fitted lure come into play. Steve Morgan believes Bream suck them in whole from the ends to check them out with their mouths and when they try to spit them out get the small, disgustingly sharp trebles stuck in their mouths and from there the hooks are like bubblegum in long hair, getting more and more worked in. At this point you may not even know a fish has picked up the lure yet and your first indication is usually a tiny “tick” in the line. Lures larger than a Stick Minnow tend to get “T-barred”, picked up sideways and without the “bubblegum” effect are not as successful. Even soft plastics are probably picked up sideways for a bit of a feel with the mouth on those tough days when you need a finesse technique. Add to that you are not really detecting the bite as it happens, and working soft plastics on 2lb is a recipe for frustration in my book (I’m sure someone out there is good at it but I sure aint) with hooks seeming to “fall out” when the truth is they probably weren’t in in the first place.

This worked well for me on the weekend because it was very calm and I could fish them very slowly because I wasn’t being blown around and could let it sit motionless on the bottom after it sank for good lengths of time. As soon as the wind started to get up it became hard to control (besides which that the time the crank baits will start working). So as a back up for hard calm conditions this will work. As for where? Moored boats are a great target because that’s where fish will tend to be hiding in calmer conditions but pontoons are another good spot to try under. I imagine deeper flats like St Georges Basin or Lake Mac would be good to but you would need the patience of a saint while they sank in 25ft of water. I’m sure they would work just about everywhere you might find fish in tougher situations but I just don’t think you are going to be pulling too many fish from the oyster racks on 2lb and I really think that light line is key to the technique. The action would just be stifled on anything more than 3lb.

There are parts to the technique you will have to work out on the day, such as where the fish are sitting and exactly what they want but for an example here is what worked for me this weekend. I was drifting past the stern of the anchored boats and just before crossing, cast toward the anchor line and let it sink to the bottom. I would then adjust the yak with the paddle to stop just on the other side. In effect, I was working the lure diagonally, directly under the boat. When you pull them off the bottom it is a very slow lazy action with the rod rather than a rip like a blade or plastic. They also have a lovely S shaped action when moving forward and you want to move it only a few feet. Most of the fish will be close to the bottom in these situation rather than up and feeding underneath the boats and that’s where you want to keep the lure. Then I was letting it sink on the slackest of lines, opening the bail arm at times to make sure it had all it needed and letting it sit on the bottom for about ten seconds, completely motionless while watching the slack line sitting in the meniscus of the water. What you are looking for is the inquisitive nature of the fish. They just saw this thing wobble it’s way to the bottom and just sit there for ten seconds, they don’t have hands, so they pick it up with their mouth and voila…… bubblegum. The indication of a fish was simply the smallest of “ticks” in the line or the line moving forward at an unnatural rate. At this point you simply wind up the slack and come tight. There is no reason to strike as the hooks are probably already as deep as they are going to get and striking may simply pull them out. From here, all the fish swam to the side (hence not wanting to fish from the anchor rope end as they would have gone straight around it) and you have to go fairly easy on them as they are usually lip hooks and too much pressure can simply pull them out. I’ve mention line but a soft rod will help stop pulled hooks as they lunge away from the boat or ‘yak and I used the slow tapered UL Black Label rod to great effect.

This is a fairly specific technique but on tough days it is a deadly one and I’ve heard it also works on schooled Bass in impoundment situations. Try and “stick” this in the back of your mind and when the situation arises put it to use.

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