Finger mullet and mud minnows are common inshore baitfish that everything from flounder to redfish will eat, but many fishermen are stuck on hooking them the same way every time they use them as bait. They are missing out on a lot of bites, because their hook placement isn’t optimal in all situations.
Steve Chanilo of Murrells Inlet Outpost uses three different options when threading a hook through baitfish. While some anglers don’t put a lot of thought into this, Chanilo said they should.
One way Chanilo likes to hook a mullet or mud minnows is by running the hook through the baitfish’s lips, from bottom to top. This keeps it swimming level and is a good bet when gamefish are holding at a certain depth. For instance, if anglers see fish holding at 3 feet deep on their depth finder, they can use the proper leader under a popping cork, and the baitfish will swim back and forth in the 3-foot zone.
Chanilo said hooking the minnow at the top of the meaty part of the area just in front of the tail fin will encourage it to swim upward. This comes in handy when fish are holding just off the bottom, no matter the depth. Anglers can use a bottom-rig with a split shot that is heavy enough to take the bait to the bottom. With an ample length of leader between the weight and the hook, the baitfish can swim up from the bottom, keeping itself in the strike zone. This is also a good way to hook baitfish if gamefish are feeding near the surface. Instead of having the minnow just below a cork, which will spook many gamefish, anglers can use a leader of 18 inches or so, which will allow the baitfish to swim away from the cork, but still be near the surface.
The third way Chanilo hooks mullet or mud minnows is through the bottom of the meaty part of the area in front of the tail fin. This will ensure the minnow swims downward. Chanilo said a good time to use this method is when fish are holding at various depths. Anglers can use a cork along with a leader of any length, depending on the depth of the area they are fishing in. The baitfish will swim down through the water column, passing by and staying in biting range of gamefish that are present. To keep the minnow passing through the strike zone, anglers just need to reel in a little, which pulls the baitfish toward the surface, then allow the cork to settle. This allows the minnow to swim downward again.
These seemingly subtle differences in the way anglers place bait on a hook is often what has one angler catching fish while his partner complains that even though they are using the same bait and gear, only one of them is catching anything.