If you’ve been fishing for any period of time, it’s not long before you hear and realize that shiners are one of the best baits you can use in all of freshwater fishing.
Virtually EVERYTHING eats shiners. Bass, catfish, pike, musky, stripers, and even big panfish like crappie.
In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to hook a shiner in 5 different ways for every fishing scenario.
Table of Contents
Through the Top Lip (Upper Mouth)
In my opinion, the best way to hook a shiner is through the top lip. This allows the bait to swim naturally and leads to an excellent hook-up ratio.
With the point of your hook, insert it into the open mouth of the shiner in the fleshy part between the upper lip and the brain. The hook should come out the top or roof of the mouth and point outward.
It’s important you get the ‘meat’ part of the upper mouth, not just the lips. The lips of a shiner are very fragile. You will cast off the shiner or bass will simply rip it off the hook if you only hook through the lips.
This method is best for ‘free lining’ shiners with little or no weight. It also works well for slow-trolling and sight casting.
Near The Dorsal Fin (Top of Back)
Another way to hook a live shiner is near the dorsal fin, or the top of the back.
Insert your hook perpendicular to the shiner, about 1/4 of an inch deep just in front of the dorsal fin. This area is solid muscle. But be very careful not to hit the backbone as it will kill the fish.
This method works well if you are fishing from an elevated position, such as a dock or pier. It also works well if your anchored in a boat, and dropping your shiners directly down from your position.
Belly/Anal Fin (Underside)
You can also hook a shiner on the underside, near the belly and anal fin.
Insert your hook on the underside of the shiner, just above the anal fin. You only need to go about 1/4″ inch deep.
Hooking a shiner in the anal fin usually makes them swim down (deeper). This is great when fishing around vegetation, or free lining. Be careful when reeling in, as it drags the fish backward.
Tail hooking a shiner is another popular method, where you hook the shiner behind the dorsal fin, in the top of the tail.
Tail hooking a shiner is another way to make it swim very naturally.
This method works well for free-lining shiners but also works well if you are using a slip-weight sinker. The sinker will keep your shiner near the bottom, but the tail hook will allow it to swim naturally. Excellent for big catfish and deeper fishing!
Through Both Lips
The last method to hook a shiner is through both lips. Simply pierce your hook through the bottom jaw and upward out the top of the mouth.
This method is really only best when those shiners are almost dead, or completely dead (but still fresh). I find that the hook stays in really well, allowing for long casts and you can still give the bait some realistic action with your rod tip.
Tips When Fishing With Live Shiners
Keeping Shiners Alive
I’ll let you in on a little secret the pros and guides use…they treat their live bait like royalty!
Keep your shiners healthy, happy and active and you will catch more fish. It’s the same reason why pros and guides spend a lot of money on high-quality live wells, aerators, and pump systems.
Some of them even use 100% oxygen to pump into their live-bait wells.
- Dont overcrowd your shiners; I dont put more than 18 in a 5 gallon bucket (12 if they are really big shiners)
- Keep them cool, and in the shade. They will overheat! Add ice if you need to.
- Be delicate when handling them, have your hook ready and get them back into the water asap.
How To Cast a Live Shiner
Anytime you are casting live bait, you have to be very careful not to ‘cast off’ your bait. This usually happens when you cast too hard and rip the hook out of the bait causing it fly off.
Don’t worry, it happens to all of us from time to time, ha!
Here are a few tips when casting a live shiner:
- Use a slow or medium action rod. This style of rod is much more forgiving when casting live bait becuase it flexes and bends, absorbing the shock motion of a strong cast.
- Avoid overhand casts; instead use side arm casts and be delicate!
- Let your shiners sit! Each time you cast it out, and reel it back in puts stress on the fish, and eventually can kill it.
How To Catch Wild Shiners
Shiners are not cheap! In fact, they are pretty darn expensive…especially if they are wild shiners. I catch all my own shiners and you can too!
Check out my full article on How to Catch Wild Shiners HERE.
Best Hooks For Shiner Fishing
I highly recommend either circle hooks or Kahle hooks when fishing with shiners (or any large-sized live bait.)
The reason for this is because you will have a much better hook-up ratio, and greatly reduce the chances of gut-hooking a fish.
When bass and other predatory fish eat live bait, they often have to chase it down. This makes it difficult to know when to ‘set the hook’.
Wait too long, and you may gut hook the fish. Set it too soon, and you will pull the live bait out and miss your chance.
By using circle hooks or Kahle hooks you simply start reeling and apply tension when the fish starts taking out line.
I hope this article helps you, now get out there and go fishing!
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