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How To Keep Your SP Minnow From Damaging Small Fish

*This post from 8-year MFCC member Dex Chadsey was originally published in December of 2016. We figured now would be a good time to re-publish this post, because all the information is still very relevant to striper fishing in 2021. 


I'd been hearing about how successful Daiwa SP Minnows could be when fishing for striped bass. In particular, fellow MFCC member Jim Murphy had caught some great fish while using SPs.

There was also this MFCC report by Andrew Burke, published during the spring of 2016, about a big striped bass he caught on a blurple SP Minnow.

However, until recently the SP Minnow had never worked for me. I probably had not been using them the right way or in the right situations. I always brought them along in my plug bag, but used them for only a short time, or not at all.

Overall I had very little confidence in the plug.

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Then during the summer of 2015, MFCC member Ryan Turcotte recommended I use the SP Minnow for a spot on Lower Cape Cod.

That night I finally caught some small fish using the SP, but I was extremely saddened by the damage the treble hooks did to the schoolies.

The SP is so slender, that even small fish are able swallow it deep inside their mouth. The belly hook also became embedded at times, which severely limited any leverage for removing the tail hook.

With small fish there is almost no way to get the fish unhooked without doing significant damage. It is a horrible feeling when you are trying to remove the hook and are ripping the fish's mouth or organs in the process.

Luckily I had packed some hemostat type pliers and was able to get the hooks out and revive the fish, but there still was some blood leaking out into the water as the small fish swam away. It also took way to long to unhook and release the fish-overall not a good prognosis for survival.


Increasing Odds Of Survival

Since that night I've done quite a bit of research on how to catch fish with the SP, while limiting the damage. The accepted re-rigging option is to change the stock hardware for heavier duty split rings and treble hooks.

This is good advice for catching bigger fish, but it does nothing to address the issue of potentially killing small fish you intend to release.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than seeing the white belly of a small fish that you just released float away in the current. I have discussed the matter with many MFCC members.

A smart modification is to remove the tail treble.

A hookless flag can also be added to the tail instead of the treble.

The one option that I have not seen is just using a treble on the tail. This option increases the chances of a treble hook ending up down in the gullet of the fish where it can damage soft tissue and be near impossible to remove.

Inline hooks can also be added, like this photo from Jessie Kim. Use heavy duty split rings and remember to have the tail hook facing up.

Some people use only the inline belly hook.

VMC inline hooks are sold by The Mighty Fish. 2/0 or 3/0 seem to be the most popular sizes. Use a stronger split ring than the stock SP one. Wolverines are strong but are too thick for the SP. Owner makes a quality heavy duty split ring

You can also combine the options. Here is a hookless flag with a single inline hook.

Here is a treble with a hookless flag.

I saw posts on MFCC last year which showed a single hook or treble attached to the belly with a ball bearing swivel, and a split ring on each end.

It does look a bit lengthy though.

You can find swivels that have split rings already attached. They are much more compact than using a swivel and two split rings of 90lb test minimum.

This year I plan on trying the inline single hook option for both the tail hook and the belly hook.

This is the option MFCC member Tom Simpson uses.

When I fished with Tom, he was using only the belly hook, and felt he was missing strikes. So Tom added the inline hook at the tail and experienced better success.

I hope this post proves helpful to both you and the fishies. Of course crushing your barbs will also help to dramatically reduce injury to the fish.

Tight lines 🎣

Dex

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. Hi Ryan,
    I know this is an ancient thread, but I thought I’d offer one simple option that maintains the balance of the plug: use your needle nose pliers and bend the original back trebles the all the way in so the points are nearly touching the hook shank. It takes about a minute. Hook and ring replacement and fancy flags are great as well when you have a bit more time. Cheers!

    Reply
    1. That is a wonderful and simple tip! Thanks for sharing Joe!

      Reply
  2. Hi Dex,
    Thanks for the focus on minimizing damage to the fish!
    I always snip off two of the three hooks on every trebled lure that I buy. It is less elegant than replacement- but it’s also easy and so therefore I actually do it. Do you see any major drawbacks to this simplified approach?
    Thanks, Paul

    Reply
  3. Curious – what is the reason I want the replacement hooks facing up?

    Reply
    1. Hey Paul,

      If you’re going to switch to in-line single hooks, then you definitely want the belly hook (red arrow) to be facing the way it is in the photo below.

      in line hooks

      As far as the tail hook is concerned (purple arrow) there is some debate as to whether having the hook face up or face down is most effective.

      Reply
      1. Thanks, Ryan!

        Reply
  4. Dex,

    Great write up on the SP Minnow. I never fished them until this past season. I mainly fish with bait, macks/eels. MFCC members have promoted this lure so much I picked up a few. The SP Minnow hooked both the largest and the smallest stripers on my boat this season. I swapped out split rings for stronger and put on smaller treble in the rear, all barbs crushed. Also fished with no hook at the back. I’ll try a flag next season.
    Mark

    Reply
    1. Hey Mark,
      There are other lures similar to the SP that have come out since this article was first published. The Mag Darter which runs along the surface, and last years darling, the Joe Baggs Swarter. There are also more variations in the SP line, the Bullet which casts further and sinks a bit, and a larger SP.

      Reply
  5. Good topic Dex.
    I started the season this year with hookless teasers in most of my SPs. By the middle of the summer I ended up removing them all as I found out that the teasers cut the key wiggling action of a SP minnow significantly. I just kept the middle hook.

    Reply
    1. Any hooks on the tail of an SP is eventually going to lead to deep hook sets and difficulty in releasing fish.

      Reply
  6. Hey Dex, I’m referring to a cut VMC treble. You cut the eye and bend it open, then slide the swivel onto the hook and bend the eye closed. This would eliminate the need for a split ring connecting the hook to the swivel. It is sort of the same concept as your open eye siwash hooks, just a treble instead.

    The plugs look great! I am definitely going to try using inline single hooks on some of my plugs next year.

    Reply
    1. I found some Owner inline hooks at Canal Bait this Fall. Jeff said they were great hooks and had held onto some big fish this year.
      On another note, saw your Sheltie on FB. Looks like a sweet dog!

      Reply
  7. Nice work Dex! I used to use the single hook with the split ring-swivel-split ring set up but think I may try using a cut hook this coming year to eliminate one of the split rings. Have you ever used cut hooks before?

    Reply
    1. Thanks Ryan,
      I’m not sure what a cut hook is, but on the tail I use a Siwash hook. The ones I buy at Canal Bait have an open eye that I close onto the tail eye of the plug with heavy duty pliers. I attach the Siwash so that it is facing up. On the middle eye I use an inline hook attached with a split ring.

      Reply

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