The Best Minnow Fishing Lures For Bass, Trout & Crappie

Open any random tackle box in the world, and I’d bet money you’ll find some variation of minnow fishing lures.

Why is that?

Well, because minnows are a common and preferred food source for countless species of fish all over the world.

With so many different types, styles, actions, and colors of minnow lures on the market, how do you choose?

In this minnow lure fishing guide, I’ll break it down by type of lure and give you my recommendations for some of the most popular fish.

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What Are Minnow Lures Used For?

Minnow lures are artificial lures that imitate minnows. The term minnow includes true minnows (Cyprinidae) and other common long and slender baitfish, like shiners, silversides, and shads. 

Minnow lures are used to catch many different predatory fish species that feed on minnows. The great thing about minnow lures is that they catch all kinds of fish, and they are very effective fish catching lures. 

The Best Minnow Fishing Lures For Bass, Trout & Crappie

Minnows are at the bottom of the food chain, and all sorts of species eat them. The minnow profile is not unique to any particular region, in fact you can find slender minnow-like bait fish all over the world.

There is a reason why minnows are one of the most popular baits, with many anglers raising their own minnows from home!

Whether you are targeting bass, trout, crappie, walleye, pike, or countless other species…minnows lures are popular for a reason…they work!

What Are the Different Types of Minnow Lures?

Minnow lures come in many different types. There are three general categories: hard plastic, soft plastic, and metal lures.

Hard Plastic Minnows

In the hard plastic category, the most common style of minnow lures are jerkbaits, crankbaits, topwaters, and twitch baits.

Thanks to detailed realistic paint jobs, hard baits are some of the most realistic minnow imitations on the market. They also can utilize loud rattles, iridescent flash, and vibration to trigger fish into biting. 

Action Types

For these hard baits, there are three action types: floating, sinking, and suspending.

Floating Action

Floating hard baits work best when fishing in shallow water or targeting fish that are feeding closer to the surface. 

Floating jerkbaits, crankbaits, and twitch baits are great, because you can pause your retrieve to keep your bait above the bottom and away from snags.

Topwaters, like the Cotton Cordell Boy Howdy are also floating, and are great minnow imitations for surface feeding predators like bass and trout.

Sinking Action

Sinking hard baits are the most versatile, between the three hard bait actions, because they can be used at any depth, shallow or deep.

Most sinking hard baits slowly sink, at a rate of about 1 foot every 1.5 seconds. You can fish them as deep or shallow as you’d like, just wait for them to sink!

When fishing sinking hard baits, just vary your retrieve to keep the lure at the right depth: faster retrieves will keep it shallower, and a slower retrieve will give the lure more time to sink.

The famous Rapala Countdown is a slow sinking minnow hard bait. It was given the name Countdown, because you can count as it sinks to your target depth. It is known as a versatile minnow lure, for many different species of minnow eaters.

Suspending Action 

Suspending hard baits are quite advanced! On the pause, they will suspend motionless in the water column.

Jerkbaits are the most common suspending hard bait, but some twitch baits also suspend. Suspending baits excel in clear water, cold water, or when fish are being very picky.

Use the suspend to your advantage! You can perfectly hold the bait in front of the fish’s line of sight and trigger a reaction strike. 

Suspending hard baits require the perfect balance. Fortunately, they are usually tuned perfectly out of the boxy, but if you change the hooks or split rings, this will affect the balance.

Keep in mind that different types of line can also affect the buoyancy of your hard bait.

Soft Plastic Minnows

While not as fancy as most hard baits, many different soft plastics make great minnow lures! They are all extremely versatile when fished on a jig head rig. They can be fished weedless too.

Soft plastic minnow lures come in two main types: swimbaits and straight tails. Both of these are very effective minnow lures. Soft lures have a special element of finesse not commonly found in other style lures. 

Swimbaits have a tail that catches water and kicks as you retrieve. There are a number of styles with paddle tails (like the infamous swim-Senko) and boot tails being the most common for minnow baits.

Straight tails can either be just a straight tail or a split fish-tail. Straight tails are sometimes called soft jerk baits because they dart side to side when rigged weightless.

Most soft plastic minnow lures are pretty minimalistic, but many newer products have added elements of realism to their baits.

Realistic eyes, paint jobs, and iridescence can be found on many new soft minnow lures.

Metal Minnow Lures

Metal lures are old school classics that were used before plastic lures became common. This category includes metal spoons and spinners. 

The flash from metal spoons like the trusty Johnson Minnow and spinners mimic an injured baitfish struggling in the water.

The flash is very appealing to sight predators such as pike. On a sunny day, that flash will stand out even in stained and muddy water.

Spoons and spinners also create a lot of vibration. This vibration helps fish feel the bait through their lateral line. Even in muddy water and low light conditions, you can expect fish will find your lure.

Best Minnow Lures for Bass Fishing

Zoom Fluke

Without a doubt, the number one minnow lure for bass is the Zoom Fluke! Zoom Bait Company has been around since 1977 and ever since their lures have become incredibly popular among bass anglers. The Super Fluke is one of their most successful baits.

A couple of sizes and styles are available, but they all follow the simple and effective fluke shape. The slender body with a small split minnow tail. The fluke darts side to side when rigged weightless with an extra wide gap hook.

7 lb bass caught on a zoom fluke

A wide variety of colors are available, but my favorite color is Golden Bream. This is a semi transparent color with lots of iridescent gold flakes. It looks just like a golden shiner darting through the water.

Pro Tip! Fish the Zoom fluke on an underspin jig head, or an Owner Flashy swimmer. The extra flash and vibration works great especially in stained water. 

The Zoom Fluke can be fished several ways. When rigged weightless, fish the Zoom Fluke with a twitch twitch pause retrieve. On an underspin, fish it like a spinner, with a slow and steady retrieve.

Double Willow Blade Spinnerbait

A spinnerbait is an all time classic for bass fishing, and they catch big bass! The double willow blade spinnerbait is the best style to imitate minnows. Compared to a colorado blade, the willow blades are long and slender, so it better matches the minnow profile.

My favorite spinnerbaits are War Eagle Spinnerbaits. They are light wire spinnerbaits and have better action than heavy wire spinnerbaits. I use gold blades in stained water and silver blades in clear water

Several sizes are available too. Use spinnerbaits with smaller blades when imitating smaller baitfish. Larger blades are better for imitating larger baitfish.

Fish the War Eagle Spinnerbait with steady retrieve. Vary your retrieve speed depending on the temperature and fish feeding activity. 

Pro tip! For a bigger presentation, add a soft plastic trailer, like a swimbait or fluke, to the back of your spinnerbait.

Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait

A hard jerkbait is essential for bass fishing! The Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait is slow sinking jerkbait, and this makes it incredibly versatile. You can count down and let it sink to your desired depth.

The Rapala Shadow Rap jerkbait comes in a shallow and a deep diving model. On the twitch, the darting action is erratic, and on the pause it has a finesse slow sink that fish can’t resist.

Fish the Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait with a twitch-twitch pause retrieve. Cast to targeted structure or at offshore points. Let it sink to your desired depth and start your retrieve.

Best Minnow Lures for Trout Fishing

Joe’s Flies 

The Joes Flies is a metal spinner with a fly trailer. This is a classic minnow lure perfect for trout streams and a favorite of many trout anglers.

The Short Striker has a single hook and a small trebel hook trailer that catches short strikes, hence the name Short Striker.

The Joe’s Flies comes in several sizes and weights. I fish the size 8 and 10 Short Striker in shallow water. The Super Striker comes in 1/16, 1/8, and 1/4 oz and is better suited for deeper water or faster current.

Fish the Joes Flies with a slow and steady retrieve. It works equally well in clear and muddy water.

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Rapala Original Floating Minnow

The Original Rapala Minnow is the classic minnow hard plastic lure! These are deadly on trout and work great in creeks, rivers, and lakes.

The Original Rapala is a floating minnow lure. It comes in many different sizes from 1.5 inch all the way to 7 inches. You’ll want to select a natural size and color for the area you’re fishing.

Remember to match the hatch for a natural presentation!

The Original Rapala dives and floats, so it works better in shallow water. If you want a bait to hit deeper holes, try the Rapala Countdown.

Dynamic Trout Spinnerbait

The Dynamic Trout Spinnerbait is a mini trout sized spinnerbait. The great thing about this lure is that it deflects off snags. 

This trout spinnerbait has a single small willow blade that mimics the flash of a minnow. It weighs 1/8th oz, so it casts very far! It comes in several natural and vibrant color options.

Fish this spinnerbait like any other, with a steady retrieve.

Best Minnow Lures for Crappie Fishing

Crappie Magnet

The Crappie Magnet is a small slender soft plastic minnow lure. It is very minimalistic, but it’s also very effective for catching crappie. The split tail has a very subtle natural action in the water which is perfect for finessing lazy crappie.

The crappie magnet is a bit under 2 inches long. Fish it on a light jighead, 1/32 oz or less, and you can also fish it under a float for suspended fish.

This is hands down one of my personal favorite lures to use when I’m trying to imitate minnows to target crappie.

I’ve caught countless crappie on nearly every color but I prefer to use bright colors on sunny days and dark colors on overcast days. The crappie magnet is available in a 96-piece kit that also comes with jigheads and bobbers.

Eurotackle B-Vibe

The Eurotackle B-vibe is a mini paddle tail swimbait. It has a reputation for catching giant crappie around the country, but this small slender minnow lure catches all sorts of panfish too. 

This swimbait comes in two sizes suitable for crappie: a 2 inch and 1.5 inch. The paddle tail puts out a lot of vibration for such a small lure and fish can feel it swimming through the water.

Black crappie caught on a B-vibe 1.5 inch softbait

Rig the Eurotackle B-Vibe on a jighead, something in the range of 1/32 to 1/8th oz. Fish the B-Vibe with a slow and steady retrieve. You can also let it fall, then raise your rod, and let it fall again.

Rebel Raider

The Rebel Raider is a slow sinking twitchbait. It perfectly matches the profile of a threadfin shad. A combination of flash, rattles, and a darting action makes this a great minnow imitation.

The Rebel Raider is 1 ⅝ inches long and weighs 1/8th oz. When you twitch it, it darts side to side, and on the fall, it sinks very slowly and wobbles side to side. This slow sinking wobble action is perfect for crappie.

Fish the Rebel Raider with a delicate twitch-twitch pause cadence. Let it sink to your desired depth and give it a few twitches. Let it sink after a while because most crappie will hit it as it sinks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly Are Minnows?

Minnow has a scientific and common definition. Scientific definition for minnow is a small slender fish in the Cyprinidae family. This family includes carps, barbs, shiners, and true minnows (Leuciscinae).

However, most anglers use the common definition for minnow. It is used to describe any small slender bait fish, and it has no taxonomic meaning. 

See Also: How Long Do Minnows Live? & Other Common Questions

What Are Some Common Minnows in North America?

There are many different kinds of minnows. Shiners are a common type of minnow and wide ranging throughout North America. The Common Shiner, Golden Shiner, and Notropis shiners are some examples of common shiner species.

Other common minnows are bluntnose minnow and creek chubs. Silversides and shads are common in lakes and rivers. 

Livebearers and killifish, like mosquitofish, mollies, and topminnows are also considered minnows, and are common baitfish.

Knowing the local minnow species in your body will help your fishing tremendously.

Are Minnows Good Bait?

Minnows are an excellent choice for both live and dead bait when targeting freshwater fish. Nearly every desirable gamefish eats minnows, and they are universally seen as a top-choice bait.

During the winter when minnows become scarce and hard to catch, using minnow fishing lures can fill the void and entice strikes from lethargic and picky fish.


When I was a kid, I caught minnows out of the local ditches to use them for bait. And even back then, I knew that minnows caught fish. Plain and simple!

Nowadays, I love experimenting with a wide variety of different minnow fishing lures. It’s fun!

I hope the tips and recommendations in this article helped you out, and I hope you catch your new personal best the next time you go fishing.

Thanks for reading.

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If you haven’t guessed yet, I love fishing and everything about it!

To learn more about why I started Panfish Nation, visit the About page and follow along on Social Media:

Download a copy of my FREE Lure Color Selection Chart & Knot Guide!

Stay up to date with fishing reports, tackle reviews, industry news, and much more! We respect your privacy, unsubscribe at any time.