Gone Outdoors

How to Catch a Bass Using Minnows

by Kevin Freeman

Fishing for bass is a fun and often exciting way to spend an afternoon at the lake. Whether you fish from the shore or prefer to travel around to each hot spot in a boat, the type of bait selected can often make the difference between spotting a bass and actually catching one. Lures and worms can be effective bait in many situations, but using live minnows is often the surest way to attract a healthy bass looking for a meal.

The first step in catching bass using minnows is to harvest a good number of minnows to keep alive in a live well or bait bucket for later use. Be sure that the live well or bait bucket is filled and ready before harvesting the minnows. Try to keep the minnows in a cool, shady place throughout the day where they won't be exposed to direct sunlight, which could be fatal to the minnows. It is important to use live, healthy minnows when bass fishing because the bass will be attracted to their movement in the water as they try to swim away.

One of the more favored methods for catching minnows is to use a weighted 3-liter plastic soda bottle with entry holes cut into the sides. In order to prevent the minnows from injuring themselves on what could be a sharp edge or escaping from the jug, many anglers cut off the threaded tops from a few plastic water bottles and thread them into the entry holes on the sides of the minnow jug. These threaded bottle tops provide a rounded, safe entry point for the minnows and also help prevent them from swimming back out of the jug.

Use concrete to weigh down the base of the minnow jug, and insert a lateral rod through the jug base and the concrete to hold the weight in place. Then drill a few holes in the lid of the minnow jug and attach a 4- to 5-foot line to the lid with a fluorescent float at the other end so that you can come back to find the jug after an hour or two. When you have located a good spot in the water with plenty of shady hiding places for the minnows, place a small handful of catfish food into the jug and lower it into the water. Try making a few jugs and placing them in different locations around the lake or pond so that by the time you return to the first jug, it is filled with minnows and ready to go.

When the minnows have been harvested and are ready to use in a live well or shaded bait bucket, find a shady location in the water where the underwater brush is thick and the shade appears to be relatively constant. This is usually the best place to find bass because they prefer to hide in the brush and the shade outside of the sun's direct light. On a cloudy day, the bass may be more scattered throughout the lake, but they will usually stay close to their familiar shade spots even on days when the sun's light isn't very bright.

Hooking the minnow is perhaps the most important step in this process, because the minnow must be kept alive in order to be an effective draw for the bass. To achieve this, many people prefer to hook the minnows through their lips so that their vital organs are not endangered and the tough cartilage of the lips will help to keep them on the hook. Another effective method is to hook the minnows through their tails in a non-vital section that will cause the minnows to continually try to swim away from the hook as they are drawn in. Experimentation with different hooking methods is recommended to find the best way to keep the bait active without killing it with the hook.

Cast the minnows into a place that is past the shady area where the bass are located and draw them through the area with slow jerking motions, allowing the minnows to come near the lake bottom or even make contact with it before jerking again. Be careful not to jerk the minnows too hard, so they aren't ripped off the hook, and try to keep them hooked in a way that you won't get caught up on the underwater brush as they travel through the water. Because of the danger of getting snagged, some people prefer to use a slip float and weight that will keep the minnow just above the lake bottom where it will be nicely visible as it travels.

After a bit of experimentation with the slow jerking motions, the hiding bass will be drawn out from hiding and will inhale the bait instead of simply giving a quick, hard hit. When you suspect the bait has been inhaled, give the bass a moment before setting the hook completely, or the minnow might simply be pulled from its mouth.

Items you will need
  • 1 (3-liter) plastic bottle with lid
  • 3 large-mouth plastic bottles with threaded tops
  • 4 to 5 feet of visible floating line
  • 1 large, florescent float
  • 1 jar catfish food


  • Above all else, enjoy the experience and always fish responsibly.

About the Author

Transcriber position desired in addition to current writer position