Surf: Minnow Plugs - The Fisherman

Surf: Minnow Plugs

SWIMMERS
The Bomber Long A, Cotton Cordell Red Fin and the Daiwa SP Minnow are three staple minnow plugs that have achieved ‘must have’ status among Northeast surfcasters. Dave Anderson Photo.

The advent of the plastic minnow plug and how to get it to work for you.

The year is 1960, my grandparents bought a small piece of land on a big lake in the northeast corner of Vermont a few miles south of the Canadian border.  Back before major interstates it would take them, with my mom, two aunts, one uncle and “Lucky” (their dog who as I’m told was prone to getting carsick) 12 hours to get there from Long Island. My grandfather built a house and dock that is still building family memories to this day.

Now picture this; a sunny July day in the late 1970s, me (with a full head of hair) pulling on a piece of rope attached to our dock and at the end of it in this odd-shaped metal contraption with tons of little fish and the occasional crawfish wiggling inside. Like so many of us, my fascination with fishing began with a minnow trap. I guess I can say I’ve been fishing since the 70s, and by default I’m a seasoned fisherman and I know everything there is to know about fishing. The first part is true, the second part… not so much!

The Minnow

The minnow-style lure has been catching fish for decades; from freshwater to the surf to tuna in the canyons. Most have two sets of hooks, some of the longer ones have three and they are almost always trebles (although some now come with inline or siwash hooks). They are lightweight and easy to cast. They now come in a ton of colors; who would’ve ever thought that a striper would try to eat a “school bus”, that “chicken scratch” would be more than just sloppy handwriting and what the heck is a “blurple”?! Another bonus is that they are relatively inexpensive: perfect for a new surfcaster who doesn’t quite have his/her knot tying skills down pat.

Styles & Sizes

Style wise, they are very similar in shape and easily recognizable. Most have a pronounced plastic bottom lip, which helps with the action of the plug as well as the determining the depth at which it will swim. Most of them commonly range from 5 to 7 inches in length and weigh in between 1 and 2 ounces. Here are a couple of old school and new(ish) examples worth looking into.

Cotton Cordell Red Fin: This is an old school plug that swims close to the surface with a nice V wake, and wiggle.  The major downside of it is that it’s very light out of the box and casts poorly in even just a little wind.  To overcome this many anglers “load” the plug by drilling a small hold in the body, filling it with either water, mineral oil, or BBs, and sealing them inside.

Bomber Long A: Another longtime favorite that’s made a great impression among the surfcasting community. It is a decent caster out of the package weighing in at 1.5 ounces and taping out at 7 inches, with that profile it’s a perfect target size for larger stripers. It comes is a wide variety of colors, its lip is more pronounced so it’s a deeper swimmer.

Daiwa SP Minnow: A newer school plug that has magnets inside the body that help load your cast. This is easily the best caster out of the box, it has great action, and can be found with great flashy colors that add to the attraction. It only swims about 3-feet below the surface so it’s great for shallower water. The one downside is that the stock hardware is flimsy, so it’s wise to change the split rings and hooks.

Method to the Madness

The main goal of these lures is not only to look like a baitfish but also to mimic a wounded one. Here’s where time, effort, trial, and error come into play. What retrieve works best for the conditions at hand and the lure you are using? Use a fast retrieve or a painfully slow one? What kind of wiggle or swagger do you see when you change it up.? Do you twitch (jerk) it every three cranks? Or is a twitch-twitch-pause going to do the trick? Did I inject too many CCs of water during surgery and mess up the plugs wiggle? So, what’s the right amount? Is 5 too little? Is 12 too much or is 10 just right? That’s all part of it. Experiment with loading and with retrieves to find out what works best in your favorite spot.

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