Essential Minnow Plugs for Stripers

Minnow plugs are a time-tested lure that surfcasters have thrown toward hungry stripers since the mid-1900's.

Old School minnow Plugs

Mighty minnow plugs. Plastic, inexpensive, easy to get your hands on, and top-producing lures no matter where stripers swim.

A “minnow plug” is a slender plastic swimming plug that dives and swims with the help of a plastic lip. The first minnow plugs were designed by Lauri Rapala for salmon, but fishermen soon found their effectiveness for all predatory species. The minnow plug has been a favorite among striper fishermen since the 1960s, around the time spinning reels were becoming popular, and allowing fishermen to cast lighter-weight plugs in the surf.

For this list of essential minnow plugs, we’re splitting the baits into two groups: the classic “Old School Minnows” that have remained unchanged for nearly 50 years (because why fix what ain’t broken) and the “New Age Minnows,” baits that have incorporated modern luremaking technology, to great effect.

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New Age Minnow Plugs

Daiwa SP Minnow

Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow
Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow

Available in three sizes (5.1″, 5.9″, and 6.7″) the SP Minnow have been one of the most popular and most effective striper lures of the last 10-plus years. Thanks to an internal weight that slides to the back of the plug during the cast, the SP Minnow sails long distances, but it dives to only 3 feet, keeping it off the bottom in all but the shallowest waters.

The Daiwa SP Minnow fishes especially well in hard-running currents, where it can be fished on a tight line while the moving water gives the plug its swimming action. It’s been popular in the Cape Cod Canal, on open beaches, in boulderfields, and even in backwaters (especially the 5.1″ model). The SP Minnow also benefits from a faster retrieve or a retrieve against the current, as the lure takes on a frantic, almost spastic action.

JoeBaggs Swarter

JoeBaggs Outdoors Swarter

In a unique clash of darter meets minnow, the JoeBaggs Swarter has become a popular shallow swimmer among surfcasters on sandy beaches and boulder fields. The Swarter has the kicking tail movement of the SP minnow with some of the meandering side-to-side movement of a darter being twitched and paused. It is effective on a slow and steady retrieve and with a twitch-twitch-pause retrieve like a freshwater jerkbait.

Available in two sizes, 6″, 1 ounce and 7″ 1.5 ounce.

Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbait

Shimano Colt Sniper Jerkbait
Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbait

Like many of the newer minnow plugs, the ColtSniper Jerkbait includes a moving internal weight aimed at improving casting distance, but instead of using a rolling ball as the weight, Shimano mounted a cylindrical weight on a spring to hold it in precisely the right place on both the cast and retrieve. The bait features a wider profile and a through-wire build able to handle bigger water and larger fish.

The ColtSniper Jerkbait is available in two sizes, 5.5 and 6.7 inches, and originally came in eight colors, including bunker, mackerel, sand eel, and transparent amber. In 2018, Shimano added more classic striper-catching patterns to the lineup, including bone and chicken scratch.

Shimano calls the ColtSniper Jerkbait “slow-floating,” which means it hangs a bit on the pause before slowly floating back to the surface. This makes it perfect for bumping off boulders and pausing while waiting for a savage strike from a striper lying in wait. The lip of the ColtSniper Jerkbait causes it to dive 3 to 5 feet deep. The bait has a tight wobble on a straight retrieve, and slides side to side on a more erratic retrieve.

Rapala X-Rap Long Cast

Rapala X-Rap Long Cast

The Long Cast has a compact, deeper-bodied profile that’s a closer match to peanut bunker and mullet than silversides and sand eels. It comes in two sizes (4¾ and 5½ inches) and nearly two dozen colors that range from the realistic Anchovy to the outrageous Hot Olive. The translucent body gives each color an extra level of realism. It comes fitted with 4X VMC inline single hooks, which aid in safe catch and release for both angler and fish.

Unlike most minnows, the X-Rap Long Cast sinks. Without the resistance of the plug’s buoyancy to provide swimming action, it requires a faster retrieve to get it wiggling. For striper anglers accustomed to slower retrieves, the lure is most effective when fishing across and against current. The benefit of the sinking design is its fluttering fall, so incorporate frequent pauses during the retrieve to exploit this feature. Twitch the rod tip, causing the small plastic lip to dig in and create an erratic slashing action.

Bomber Saltwater Grade Long Shot

Bomber Long Shot

The Long Shot takes the original Bomber Long A design and beefs it up with heavy duty hardware and an internal weight transfer system that allows the rattle to roll to the tail end of the bait on the cast, then roll back into position when the lure hits the water.

It swims with a wider side-to-side wobble and a slight rolling motion which, along with their big eyes and regionally specific color schemes, imitates larger baitfish— whether it’s an adult bunker on the beach or a stranded sea bass in a boulder field. It dives around 2 to 3 feet on a steady retrieve, but with a slow retrieve, the Long Shot acts almost like a wake bait, creating a noticeable V just below the surface as it swims against the tide.


Old School Minnow Plugs

Cotton Cordell Red Fin

Cotton Cordell Redfin

The Red Fin runs shallow, less than a foot under the surface, making it a top pick for sandy beaches, boulderfields and backwaters. Retrieve the Red Fin slowly enough, and it will stay on the surface, creating a long V-wake as it kicks across the top. This will usually get a quick reaction, making it a great “search lure.” Anglers will tie on a Red Fin first, fishing it as they work a stretch of shoreline, to determine where the fish are holding. The slim profile of the bait makes it appetizing to all sizes of stripers, from the very small to the very large.

If there is a downside to this plug, it’s the plug’s light weight, which can make it tough to cast. This can be overcome by “loading” the lure with BBs or water to add weight and casting distance. Many surfcasters will keep both loaded and unloaded Red Fins on hand, as the extra weight changes the action and an unloaded Red Fin is easier to swim on the surface.

The Red Fin comes in two sizes, a 5″ 5/8-ounce model that’s perfect for backwaters and a 7″ 1-ounce version most popular in the surf.

Bomber Wind Cheater

Bomber Wind Cheater

Originally made by Rebel, the Windcheater has been re-launched by Bomber. (Both brands are owned by parent company Pradco.) The lure has a huskier profile than most minnow plugs, along with some extra weight to help it cheat the wind (hence the name) and cast for distance. The Rebel version of this lure was a classic, popular among previous generations of surfcasters because its extra weight allowed it to be cast on conventional tackle. It was also responsible for fooling Al McReynolds’ 78-pound striped bass caught from an Atlantic City Jetty in 1982.

Bomber Magnum Long A

Bomber Magnum Long A

The original Bomber Long A was invented in the 1940s for largemouth bass anglers to have a deeper swimming plug than the Creek Chub Crawdad—it eventually made its way into the plug bags of striper surfcasters, and has been a favorite plug for sandy beaches and boulderfields ever since.

At 7 inches and 1.5 ounces, the Bomber Magnum Long A is heavier and swims deeper than the unmodified Cotton Cordell Red Fin.

Today, the black, “blurple”, “chicken-scratch,” and “school bus” Bombers are still surfcasting staples, even with many more modern minnow plugs to choose from. The large profile of the Magnum Long A makes it a big fish plug, which has accounted for many 40- and 50-pound striped bass over the years.

Related: Rhode Island Surfcaster Catches 58-pound November Striper on Black Bomber


Gone But Not Forgotten

Mambo Minnow

Gag’s Grabber Mambo Minnow

When cruising garage sales and fishing flea markets, keep an eye out for this classic striper minnow plug, the Gag’s Grabber Mambo Minnow. This lure in the 7″ model stayed close to the surface on a snail’s pace retrieve, making it a deadly lure for calm, shallow waters.

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24 on “Essential Minnow Plugs for Stripers

  1. Richard Fuchs

    You forgot the tried and true Bomber long A. Ward to get distance, but has been known to catch more fish to date then most of the rest.

  2. jeepsrs

    Got 6 keepers on the Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow this season. Last year I got a lot on the Rapala Saltwater X-Rap broken back bunker. I troll these in about 30-35ft of water and they bring them right up.

  3. Greatwhite

    Just landed 2 nice Stripers yesterday evening in the surf using the Salt Pro Minnow. It casts great and the action of the lure is awesome. A must have especially when the bass are feeding on Bunker. Gonna hit the beach again this evening.

  4. Andrew

    You really missed a great minnow plug in the Yozuri Mag Darter it’s $14.99 but boy does it catch fish, I’ve caught big weakfish, stripers, and blues on it when every other surf caster was throwing an SP Minnow and getting nothing I was landing fish after fish on the Mag Darter.

    1. Jimmy Fee

      “Chicken Scratch” is yellow over white with three lines of black dots going down each side.

  5. jacob

    Sp minnow sinking bunker color has landed me 6 fish over 24 inches here in Maine catching when others haven’t around me. Great action in the current.

  6. Chris milliron

    Love the sp casts great wished it casted a little longer but it’s been great for blues and stripes. Have landed some very large fish on the sp???

  7. Bruce r bain

    For me there is nothing like a loaded red fin swung in a current i load with 10 cc of mineral oil, also those modified by Ron reddington @redingfin on instagram. I don’t usually throw minnows but did have great luck this year with the yo Zuri hydro minnow

  8. J. Minnow

    Glad you failed to mention our favorite plug which cost less than most and is killer. BTW we flatten the barbs on our plugs for easier release.

    1. Robert

      Well? What is your favorite plug that cost less than many others?
      Always like to learn from others. Thenks

  9. Steven

    I found that Shimanos silent assassin jerk bait line with flash boost in mellow yellow. Color has worked awesome, the bait is essentially a freshwater bait, but I landed some killer striped bass on it last year with different hooks.

  10. Romer

    Gags Grabber Mambo Minnow gets my vote. Too bad they don’t make them anymore.

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