Hard-plastic swimming plugs are universally one of the most successful families of lures for one simple reason—big fish eat smaller fish. Few tackle companies have embraced that concept and developed it to the degree of Yo-Zuri. Over 20 years ago, fresh from its groundbreaking Crystal Minnow, Yo-Zuri proved that it was no one-hit wonder with the Pins Minnow, which has become a standard when the bite is big but the prey is small.
Small hard-plastic swimming lures were nothing new to the market when the Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow first burst on the scene, but this was a radically different design. One of the goals was to craft a lure in which small and tough were not mutually exclusive. Anyone who has a history with typical 2- to 3½-inch swimmers probably has a tray in their tackle box designated for “de-lipped” versions that have “transitioned” from a swimming plug to a stickbait thanks to whacking it off a rock or the lure being pulverized by a big fish. Odds are pretty good that there are no Pins Minnows in that junkyard.
“The Pins Minnow is built with a proprietary polycarbonate for both the body and the lip of the lure,” explained Yo-Zuri VP of Sales Buddy Prause. Components consist of stainless steel split rings and super-sharp, strong treble hooks for fast penetration and grip. If you’ve been at this game awhile you probably remember the first time you held a Yo-Zuri lure in your hand and were floored by the finish. Far from resting on its laurels, the company is now into the third generation of perfecting those finishes.
There is no tape on the exterior of these lures but rather a computer-generated laser-etched finish complete with scaled holographic foil that is built to last. From the onset this lure was so tough that when the company marketed a saltwater version of the Pins Minnow to satisfy demand, they simply produced different colors. The inherent ruggedness of the lure required no further fortifying.
Today, there is no delineation between salt versus sweetwater Pins Minnows as both salt- and freshwater-friendly colors are available in floating and sinking models. In fact, there are 15 different colors available for the Pins Minnows as well as a range of sizes from 2-inch, 1/16-ounce to 3½-inch, ¼-ounce. Included in the extensive Pins Minnow palette is the legendary Yo-Zuri angled redhead/white as well UV-enhanced finishes. The latter is becoming increasingly appreciated by anglers as we learn that fish are attracted to ultraviolet rays that we cannot see.
Of course, production values as well as a pretty face do not catch fish and it is precisely this fish-catching prowess that has vaulted the Pins Minnow into icon status. “With its signature humpback shape, hydrodynamics and lip design, our Pins Minnow was developed to have a tight wobble, just like a real baitfish,” explained Prause. From its inception this theory ran counter to established lure design, that even to this day showcases lures with exaggerated movements like a dog wagging its tail. All that wobble and roll sure is eye-candy to the angler, but it is decidedly unnatural to the fish. And, of course, the point is to fool a fish. If you watch baitfish and fry they keep their motion to a minimum to avoid detection.
Another goal in the design of the Pins Minnow was to make this little lure fish as if it were a big plug. The challenge was to allow anglers to hit a faraway mark with the Pins Minnow that heretofore was unattainable with small swimmers. “We were the first lure company to debut a weight-transfer system in both our Mag Minnow and Pins Minnow; in fact we patented our proprietary system,” said Prause. That “weight-transfer system” consists of steel balls located in a chamber in the body of the lure that shift to the rear during the casting motion, allowing the lure to be more aerodynamic and cast farther. This system is now employed by a host of other lure makers, but Yo-Zuri did it first and some say did it best.
The first segment of the sportfishing community that took to the Pins Minnow was trout fishermen. Contrary to the stereotypical image of trout gingerly sipping a micro-midge from the surface of the water, most trout have teeth for good reason. Given the chance, they’ll make mincemeat out of minnows and smaller fish. The Pins Minnow is the perfect trout-taker. The floating version can be dead-sticked on the surface and occasionally twitched for big brown trout feeding in low light. Or it can be steadily retrieved—with little or no input from the angler—for nomadic rainbows since fish-catching moves are built in. “West Coast anglers love the sinking version, which they simply troll over marked fish behind 5 feet of fluorocarbon leader,” commented Prause. The sinking Pins Minnow plummets at 2 to 3 inches per second. This anecdote had my wheels turning regarding the prospects of luring in a few landlocked salmon from a certain local reservoir I’m fond of.
Saltwater anglers have taken to packing the small but rugged Pins Minnows for sea trout, snook, Spanish mackerel, redfish, weakfish, false albacore, bonito and stripers. Wherever you fish and regardless of the species, if the forage is small baitfish and you do not have a complement of Yo-Zuri Pin Minnows at the ready, then you are fishing with a handicap.
Even if the intended quarry is powerful and equipped with bad intentions there’s no worry because the Pins Minnow is up to the task. Look at it as the lure version of “the little engine that could” or the honey badger. It may be small in stature but it would be a mistake to underestimate it!