3 Ways to Make Your Wiggle Minnow Fish Better

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Wiggle minnows rock, but articulated versions work even better. Photo Louis Cahill

The foam wiggle minnow has been a mainstay streamer for me for trout and other predatory game fish for several years now.

When you combine its realistic swimming action and the significant water it pushes during the retrieve, its one of the best streamers I know of for calling in fish from great distances to eat. Plain and simple, the wiggle minnow will catch fish just about anywhere you visit in both fresh or salt, regardless of the water conditions you may find yourself fly fishing. Furthermore, it also fishes well on all types of fly lines (floating, intermediate, sinking) and on a wide range of rod weights. This can prove to be very valuable if you find yourself on the water with limited gear options.


Wiggle minnows come in a wide range of colors and you can easily make your own versions.

The last few years, I’ve been experimenting with modifications to my wiggle minnows in the effort to improve their fishability. The first aftermarket change I made was to add an articulated marabou tail and a small stinger hook to the fly. For those of you who’ve fished the wiggle minnow quite a bit, you’ve probably noticed it can be difficult at times to get solid hook ups with them. Quite often, fish will smash the fly hard but won’t eat it fully. It’s very similar to the behavior of great white sharks feeding on seals, which often choose to stun their prey only during the first attack, that way they can come back seconds later for the true kill and eat. They use this two stage attack to eliminate the risk of injury during feeding, and several predatory fish big and small use this technique when foraging on large prey. I’ve found that by tying in a small stinger hook (size 12-14 scud hook) off the back of the wiggle minnow, it will increase my hook up rate 30-50%, and I won’t miss nearly as many fish that short strike my fly either. The sparse marabou tail also does wonders for exaggerating the wiggle action in the water and it increases the size of the profile without adding too much bulk. Too much bulk on the articulated section of the wiggle minnow will destroy the action of the fly.


Recently, I’ve been applying a variety of adhesive tapes to my wiggle minnows as well. Lead tape works awesome (wrapped on the hook shank under the body) for decreasing the overall buoyancy of the fly, and will help your wiggle minnow suspend in the water in between strips. The suspended action during your retrieve is great because it makes your fly resemble a wounded or dying fish in the water. The lead adhesive tape also helps you get a little more depth during the retrieve, which is nice if you’re fishing the fly on a floating or intermediate fly line. If you don’t tie your own wiggle minnows, you can add a small amount of lead tape to the belly of the fly, but too much will hinder the action. I’ve also really enjoyed using holographic adhesive tape on my wiggle minnows as well. The highly reflective tape provides the fly with a ton more flash in the water. Some days a super flashy wiggle minnow will out perform your standard flat colored versions. If you shop around you can even find holographic adhesive tape that sports realistic fish scale patterns. Try these modifications out for yourself and let me know how they work out for you.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “3 Ways to Make Your Wiggle Minnow Fish Better

  1. Hey Kent,

    Really interested in picking a few of these up for bass fishing here in MN. Could you recommend a website where one can purchase these? I’ve looked around and haven’t found one with a good selection.



  2. Dude, I’ve got a few of these things (rainbow and shad grey) hanging out in my “misfit flybox” because I’ve NEVER caught a fish on one of these freakin things. The first time I fished one I thought I’d struck paydirt. The action of these things are pretty good, but I gave up on them because I never could seem to entice anything to even take a look. Not even bass! The marabou stinger sounds like a great addition though. I just might have to break em back out and do that. This might have to be a new conquest!

  3. Loving this idea! I’ve been fishing the wiggle minnow for smallies and the occassional trout here lately and ,as you said , have noticed a good number of missed hook-ups. So far I havn’t tried to tie one myself but after seeing your modifications I’m going to pick up the materials and knock out a few articulated WM’s.
    A wiggle minnow and a 250 grain sinking line and you just never know what you might catch….

  4. The original pattern was invented by Larry Tullis in the late 80’s and is called the Tullis Wiggle Bug and this is simply one variation. The original Tullis Wiggle Bug had a round body too but then soon went to a rectangle body because it increases the swimming motion of the fly. The most exaggerated wiggle is from the Tullis Wiggle Critter, made from a machined foam cone with a wide diving lip. Rainys Flies http://www.rainysflies.com ties these and other Tullis patterns. Variations of the Tullis Wiggle Bug have caught over 70 species of gamefish worldwide. I do particularly well on them in Alaska where I guide for big rainbows, char, pike, steelhead and salmon (especially silvers) but they’ll work anywhere with the right size and color. They can be tied small to imitate scuds, damsels, minnows, leeches, shrimp etc. and larger to imitate baitfish, crawfish, leeches, lampreys, salamanders and even water snakes. They are really fun to fish.

  5. Can you give any insight on how these fish for steelhead? I know Flatshish/Lazy Ikes work, but want to know if you have fished these hard for steelies with noticeable results. Thanks. Love the blog.

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