Cigar Minnows: Use Them to Up Your Offshore Trolling

Offshore Fishing

The Humble Cigar Minnow: Use Them to Up Your Offshore Trolling

Discover tactics and strategies to use cigar minnows effectively in your offshore trolling.  Consider fishing situations where cigar minnows may be a better alternative than ballyhoo.  

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Cigar minnow 101

Whether you are a seasoned captain or a weekend warrior looking to level up your trolling game, consider the humble cigar minnow. Known for their impressive swimming ability and irresistible scent, these small baitfish can often be a significant contributor to your offshore trolling spread. In this article, we'll unlock the power of cigar minnows and show you how to make the most of their potential.

Cigar minnows are a favorite among offshore fishermen for their versatility and effectiveness. Whether you're targeting marlin, sailfish, or tuna, these baitfish can attract the attention of even the most finicky predators. Their oily flesh and distinct odor make them an irresistible treat for larger game fish.

But using cigar minnows effectively requires more than just throwing them on a hook and dropping them back. To truly unleash their power, you'll need to understand their behavior, proper rigging techniques, and the best trolling tactics. We'll cover all this and more, giving you the knowledge and confidence to take your trolling game to new heights.

Don't underestimate the power of these small fish. By incorporating cigar minnows into your trolling repertoire, you'll increase your chances of landing that trophy fish you've been dreaming of. So, let's dive in and discover the secrets of utilizing cigar minnows to their fullest potential.

Understanding the characteristics of cigar minnows

Cigar minnows are small fish that belong to the family Carangidae. They can be found in abundance along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. These baitfish typically measure around 6 to 8 inches in length and have a cylindrical shape, hence their name.

One of the key characteristics of cigar minnows is their impressive swimming ability. They are known for their swift and agile movements, making them a prime target for larger game fish. Additionally, cigar minnows have an oily flesh that releases a distinct scent when in the water, attracting predators from great distances.

When it comes to their diet, cigar minnows primarily feed on small crustaceans, plankton, and other tiny fish. This makes them an ideal baitfish for trolling, as they mimic the natural prey of many game fish species. By understanding these characteristics, you can better harness the power of cigar minnows in your trolling game.

How to catch and rig live cigar minnows for trolling

Catching cigar minnows can be a fun and rewarding experience, and it's relatively easy to do with the right techniques. One popular method is to use a cast net to target schools of baitfish near the surface. Nearshore and offshore buoys can often be good places to look for cigar minnows near the surface. Use ground up cat food as chum to lure them to the surface and within cast net range.

Another effective technique is to use sabiki rigs to catch cigar minnows. This technique can be used to catch cigar minnows that don’t want to come within cast net range. Cigar minnows will also often congregate around offshore structure and may only be visible on a chart plotter. The good news is that once you find a few cigar minnows most often there will be a lot of them.

Once you've caught a sufficient number of live cigar minnows in the live well, it's time to rig them for live bait trolling. You can read more about HOW TO MAKE A LIVE BAIT RIG. Insert the nose hook through the lower jaw of the cigar minnow, ensuring it comes out near the top of the head. This will allow the baitfish to swim naturally and increase the chances of a solid hook-up.

Troll live cigar minnows slowly. The speed should be only as fast as needed to keep the lines straight and not allow the cigar minnows to swim across each other. Dragging live cigar minnows is a sure recipe for dead cigar minnows.


When it comes to using cigar minnows for trolling, selecting the right bait is crucial. While live cigar minnows can be the best option, they may not always be readily available. In such cases, frozen cigar minnows can be a suitable alternative.

When selecting frozen cigar minnows, it's important to choose ones that are still in good condition. Look for bait that is firm, with no signs of freezer burn or excessive ice crystals. Thaw the frozen bait slowly in salt water to preserve its natural scent and texture. Always start with thoroughly thawed cigar minnows.

The benefits of using cigar minnows for trolling

There are several benefits to using cigar minnows for trolling that set them apart from other baitfish. Firstly, their oily flesh and distinct scent make them highly attractive to a wide range of game fish species. Whether you're targeting marlin, sailfish, or tuna, cigar minnows can entice even the most finicky predators.

Another advantage of using cigar minnows is their versatility. They can be trolled at various speeds and depths, making them suitable for different fishing conditions. Whether you're trolling inshore or offshore, cigar minnows can adapt to the situation and increase your chances of success.

Additionally, cigar minnows are relatively easy to handle and rig, making them a popular choice among anglers of all skill levels. Their size also allows for multiple bait presentations, such as using them as a standalone bait or pairing them with other lures or skirts to create a more enticing offering.

Tips for rigging and trolling cigar minnows effectively

To get the most out of your cigar minnows, it's important to rig and present them effectively. One key tip is to match the size of your bait to the size of the fish you're targeting. Larger game fish may prefer bigger cigar minnows, while smaller species might be more enticed by smaller baitfish.

In terms of presentation, consider adding attractors to your rig to increase its effectiveness. Flashy skirts or daisy chains can enhance the visual appeal of your cigar minnows, making them even more enticing to game fish. Remember to keep your bait presentation natural and mimic the movement of a live fish.

It's also worth noting that trolling with multiple lines can significantly increase your chances of success. By using outriggers orROD RIGGERS, you can spread your cigar minnows out and cover a wider area. This technique is particularly effective when targeting species that are known to swim in schools or feed in packs.

When trolling dead cigar minnows it is important that the bait be rigged so that it swims naturally. Allow the bait to troll beside the boat and see how it swims. Don’t drop the bait back until it swims naturally without spinning. Lures specifically designed for trolling dead cigar minnows are often helpful to optimize the bait presentation.

Ballyhoo vs cigar minnows

The two main advantages for trolling cigar minnows are that they leave a scent trail much better than other baitfish and that they are relatively inexpensive. Their disadvantage is that they don’t swim as well or troll as long as other baitfish options. Consider fishing situations where the pros help you and the cons don’t matter as much.

Two specific situations to consider:

Mahi along a weedline- Mahi will often congregate along a weedline and present opportunities for some fast action. Cigar minnows can be deployed quickly and inexpensively for medium to small mahi. Cigar minnows can also be cut up and use as pitch baits when bailing dolphin.

King mackerel- King mackerel are a structure oriented game fish. Fishing for them often involves moving from structure to structure until you locate them. When kingfish trolling tight around structure, cigar minnow scent is a plus and the slower trolling speed are not a hinderance. For this situation, cigar minnows are a good choice. If you are trolling along the beach or exploring for kings, you might want to consider using a ballyhoo to cover more ground.

For larger pelagic species like tuna or wahoo, trolling cigar minnows at different depths can be more effective. These fish often patrol deeper waters, so adjusting your trolling depth accordingly can increase your chances of a successful catch. Experiment with different depths and pay attention to the behavior of your target species to fine-tune your approach.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Don't underestimate the power of cigar minnows in your trolling game. By incorporating these versatile baitfish into your repertoire, you'll increase your chances of landing that trophy fish you've been dreaming of. Understanding the characteristics of cigar minnows, selecting the right bait, and employing effective rigging and trolling techniques are key to unleashing their full potential.

Remember to always adhere to local fishing regulations and practice responsible angling. Conservation efforts play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of our marine ecosystems for future generations to enjoy. So, next time you head out on the water, give cigar minnows a try and experience the thrill of leveling up your trolling game. Happy fishing!