May 18, 2016 Last Updated 11:35 am

* The French Connection – Le Black Minnow – Then & Now

Between 2011 and 2016 the Black Minnow has forged an enviable reputation....

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Now that’s a lovely bass! (Photo: Ben Queguineur )


The French Connection – Le Black Minnow – Then & Now

(This article featured in Irish Angler Magazine in early 2012)

Last year (2011) some Irish anglers were using a secret weapon in their quest to catch bass. Now the secret is out! Jim Clohessy brings you the low down on how to fish the lure that is The Black Minnow.


The time is nearly upon us when the bass start running again in earnest. No doubt some hardy anglers have been catching a few bass from beaches, but the opportunities for catching bass on lures have been few and far between. Sitting in my shed replacing some treble hooks on some hard plastic lures got me thinking about last year’s bass season. I had some fabulous fishing over the spring and it only got better into the early summer. There was a noticeable decline during early autumn, but I was catching enough fish to keep myself happy and interested.

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Another cracking bass on a Black Minnow (Photo: Ben Queguineur )

Over many years of fishing I have tended to keep to myself and fish within a small circle of friends. Last year I fished with various anglers that I had never fished with before. The main reason for this was that I was helping out where I could and when foreign journalists were in the area. I did what I would consider my duty – promoting Irish angling. It’s clear that there is a huge appetite in Europe for angling holidays to Ireland. There is also an established market with anglers in the UK who want to come to Ireland in order to fish for our bass. If journalists are prepared to write about our standard of fishing and encourage others to come here then this can only be good for our economy and for local communities crying out for business in difficult times.


I make no excuses for the fact that I became a bit of a lure nut in recent years! It just sort of happened this way. I got such satisfaction from lure fishing in general and particularly from fishing with soft plastics that most of my other fishing was sidelined. It’s always an attraction to learn a new angling technique. For the first time, last year, I picked up a fly rod in anger and began to chuck some fluff. My plans for fly-fishing were scuppered by a couple of factors, however. Firstly, there was my lure affliction (or addiction) and then there was the weather. Incessant high winds seemed to play havoc with my attempts to perfect something akin to a decent cast. Every time I would try a fly-fishing session I would end up putting down the fly rod and picking up the lure rod. I am sure that many of you have found yourselves in such a situation when setting out on the fly-fishing journey. I plan to get back to the fly this year. One thing I have noticed with my soft plastics fishing is that every lure has its day. That is, you will catch a bass on any soft plastic on any given day. While any lure can be ‘the one’, there are some lures that will consistently perform trip after trip. Obviously these lures get used more and therefore account for more fish than others, but when you’re fishing confidence in your lure can be as important as the colour or type of lure. One such lure that I have found myself going back to time and time again is the Black Minnow.



Some of the range. it has expanded to a large range of weights, lengths and colours.

The first time I saw the Minnow it literally swam by me! I was at the angling show in Nantes – Salon de Peche en Mer – and was walking by the huge lure pool they have on site when I spotted a little fish-like lure swimming along beautifully. I was blown away by the action. I watched for a while, mesmerised, and there and then decided I would have to get my hands on some of these lures. The company responsible for bringing the Black Minnow to market is a French company called Fiiish! We sussed out their stand and headed to investigate the lure. At the stand we met the owners and duly headed for a retail outlet at the show to buy a few examples. We were lucky as the lures had just about sold out from all the retail shops. It is little wonder the Black Minnow had won the innovation award at the show!


The Minnow is a simple lure. It’s basically an articulated jig head with an offset hook and a supple body. I have a thing for articulated jig heads, so immediately I was sold on the set up of the lure. The Minnow comes in various sizes and weights, but the 25g version looked to be perfect for my style of fishing. I couldn’t wait to try it out, but I had to wait a couple of months before I decided to risk using my latest addition to my tackle box. I was not disappointed.


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Another East Ferry Bass!

Over the early months of the summer I was in contact with Matt from Fiiish and over the course of some emails we extended an invitation to them to come across to Ireland to sample some of our bass fishing here in Cork Harbour. I was not really surprised when they accepted our invitation. I am not a fishing guide. My angling is largely driven by my own desires and dreams. In fact, sometimes I feel under pressure to catch fish when there are others fishing with me. It’s fine when you’re fishing with an experienced angler who appreciates that some days are better than others, but less experienced anglers can have a degree of expectation that sometimes cannot be justified or met.


So it was with some degree of trepidation that the weekend arrived and I met up with Matt and Anne from Fiiish. We met at one of the slipways in Cobh. I had Skua primed and ready for action. Rob McClean had towed his Warrior 165 from Wicklow both to get some fishing in and also in the hope that we would get some nice photos. A friend of Matt’s, BenQueguineur, a professional photographer living in Galway, had joined us as well. Ben has a thing for getting into the water to take pictures! Ideally the plan was to fish the pinnacles at the Ling Rocks for pollack and then, when the tide was right, head back to the Harbour to fish for bass. As would be typical with our Irish summer we would have to bash our way out towards The Smiths –- reefy ground –  and if possible head further out to areas where we could be certain of some big pollack. Conditions made sure that we were lucky to get out to The Daunt Rock, a few miles from the mouth of Cork Harbour, because it was in the lee of the brisk westerly wind.


The Ling Rocks! (Photo: Ben Queguineur )

The Ling Rocks!
(Photo: Ben Queguineur )

I wasn’t exactly happy. Obviously I wanted to show as much fishing as I could to the guests. As it happened we were lucky to catch a few small pollack and a few decent cod before I was able to call for lines up. It was time to head for some bass fishing. It’s at times like these that you are thankful for the robust construction of the Warrior 175. We were able to blast our way towards the Harbour at twenty-odd knots while throwing a wall of water away from the boat. Nothing fazed Matt and Anne. They were happy and dry as we passed Roche’s Point and away from the swell and snotty conditions. It is the beauty of Cork Harbour –- despite brisk winds that would make fishing fairly intolerable outside –- the confines of the harbour offer sheltered waters and more importantly, plenty of bass marks.


It would be fair to say that the best French lure anglers are really ahead of the game. We Irish are playing a catch up game but we are catching up fast! The French have been using soft plastic lures for many years and have refined their techniques to a fine art. Their use of light tackle and rods designed specifically for the purpose really set them apart from us here in Ireland. But what were scarce a few years ago are now becoming commonplace in most good tackle shops. Good quality, reasonably priced rods and a wide selection of soft plastic lures are commonplace. The Xlayer is no longer the only party in town!


Fishing with French lure nuts is something of a learning experience. I spent as much time watching as I did fishing in the early part of the day. In deeper water, where I would usually fish my soft lure vertically, Matt was quick to set himself up at the other side of the boat. He cast his Black Minnow uptide and worked it back to the boat as we drifted in the direction of the cast – interesting! I persisted with my vertical techniques, making sure my lure was in contact with or close to the bottom. The results were inconclusive as Matt, Anne and myself were fairly evenly matched in catch terms.


A brace of Cork Harbour bass (Ben Queguineur )

A brace of Cork Harbour bass
(Ben Queguineur )

We pulled into our first bass mark. We began to fish the swift current of East Ferry. This is a difficult area to fish. Concentration is the name of the game here as the place can be somewhat of a tackle graveyard. The Black Minnow is rigged weedless, but even that is not enough in the brutal tide run and rough bottom. I’d been having a degree of success in the area so I decided to leave the Black Minnows in the box and try the lures that had been working for me. Matt and Anne were using Minnows, so it would be interesting to see how their lures and techniques stacked up against mine. Conditions were far from perfect, but within a few drifts we had a bass on board. It was a feisty fish caught on a Hart Absolut worm mounted on my favourite articulated jig head. Score one for the locals! It was plain to see that the conditions were going to make the fishing tough, but soon Matt racked up a few bass in succession –  Vive la France! As the drift eased we moved to another mark in the outer harbour. Here there was less tidal flow and I could see that this area was going to suit the French a lot better than the tackle graveyard that is East Ferry.


The Black Minnow out fished my normal lures - I'm Hooked! (Ben Queguineur)

The Black Minnow out fished my normal lures – I’m Hooked!
(Ben Queguineur)

The technique was simple –- cast your minnow uptide, wait until you felt the lure touch the bottom and with a wrist action impart some jerking movement to the lure. Reel in a few turns. After imparting some animation to the lure let it sink to the bottom again. Once it touches down, repeat the process. It may go against the grain for some anglers to retrieve a lure so slowly, but this is the difference between catching and not. There are times when a fast retrieve will do the business, but more often than not the slow methodical route is the way to go. I put the boat into some tricky places. This is where the frustration of being the guide becomes clear –- many times I had to stay at the helm rather than fishing. The frustration was incredible –- I wanted to be fishing not driving! Still, it was a great education to see an angler fish the lure that he himself had designed. Make your mind easy on one thing: this is not ‘chuck it and chance it’ angling. The levels of concentration used in this style of fishing are impressive. You need to be close to the bottom to catch more fish, but if you are on the bottom you will probably lose your lure. It is a fine balancing act. Matt tried out various sizes of Black Minnow from the ultra light 10g to the most popular 25g to the latest version, a 60g/140mm monster that would be most suited to fishing deep water.


(Ben Queguineur )

(Ben Queguineur )

We had caught some nice fish but no real bruisers. I manoeuvred the boat into a nice position where we could all fish and I watched as Matt deftly cast into an area behind an exposed rock and began to work his lure. I could see the tip of his rod stop dead as he got a decent take. “Poisson!” Fish on! When we got to see the flash of silver we could see that this was a decent fish. It was not going to come to the boat easily and there were a few knee-trembling minutes until I slid the landing net under a good fish that was around the 8lb mark. If I was delighted then Matt was chuffed to bits. You must remember that there are areas of the French coast where bass are much more prevalent and easier caught than in Irish waters. This was a good result and we all knew it! It was a close run thing. Bass are fish of time and tide and we had nearly run out of both. We fished on in the fading light and caught another couple of smaller fish. Eventually it was time to partake in that other of Irish angling traditions – the post-mortem and celebratory beer.


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Don’t they hang on! (Ben Queguineur )

I was wrecked after the day’s efforts, but nicely so. In difficult conditions we had produced the goods. It was an enjoyable day’s angling and a good learning experience. The Black Minnow showed its mettle. And I had a new appreciation for the life of a bass guide. As the summer edged its way towards autumn I used the Minnow ever more often. There were times where it was my ‘go to’ lure and there were times when the Minnow dug me out of trouble when the fishing was tough, especially at the back end of the season. As the sun set on another bass season and the fish became thin on the ground I was speaking with fellow Corkonian Pat O’Shea. Pat had struggled through the season with only a couple of Minnows that he had managed to procure. Fiiiish had not anticipated such huge interest in their lure and struggled to keep up with demand. After all, it had won the innovation award at the Nantes show and became a much talked about lure on the internet. They are better prepared for 2012.


Heading for home! (Ben Queguineur)

Heading for home!
(Ben Queguineur)

The Black Minnow is not cheap. On some of the marks that I fish using the Black Minnow would be foolhardy or desperate. I find that it is my lure of choice given the right mix of ground and tide. It would be a lure that I would not go out fishing without. In preparing this article I decided to get an opinion from Pat O’Shea. Pat has an amazing track record in catching big bass and is one of the best bass anglers around. Pat said: “In the annals of lure fishing history a lure comes along every so often that is so fundamentally effective compared to the existing players that it is almost revolutionary. The initial results with the Black Minnow suggest that it is one of those lures. Lures that have had a comparable effect would have been the famous Redgill and later, but to a lesser extent, jellyworms and shads. In the world of bass fishing Rapala plugs would have had this effect, as would the more recent high tech Japanese designs such as Feed Shallows, Tide Minnow, and Zonks. In terms of soft plastics, Xlayers would have had this impact over the last few years. Now, the Black Minnow is in this category, and, I would suspect, over the next few years, will actually mark itself out as legendary.”

High praise indeed! Pat has caught a double-figure bass on the said lure. I think there is nothing else to be added.

Thanks to Ben Queguineur for his innovative and excellent photography.

Fast forward to 2016…..

We have had a few years of the Black Minnow. It is available in a huge array of sizes, weights colours and profiles. The company, Fiiish, have launched more lures and also a range of braids, clips and additives. They have attempted to capitalise on the success of their famous little lure.


In a world full of “game changers” and other bunkum it is fair to say that the Black Minnow has changed the way many anglers fish for bass. When you see commercial rod & line fishermen buying an expensive lure you can be sure of one thing –- the lure works!


The recent explosion of soft lure fishing has brought a whole mini-industry of lure making to the angling world. Soft lure moulding has become a very popular spin–off hobby. What is probably the most popular rip-off lure out there? The “split belly shad”, the popular name for a copied Black Minnow of course.


Many tackle companies have tried to emulate the success of the BM. Few have mastered the catching quality. Illex have tried the Nitro Sprat, an over engineered attempt. You have the Tronix Artic Eel, the idea is there but the action is completely different. Delalande tried with the Swat Shad , I haven’t had great bass success with this one, I have caught plenty cod though. French company Sakura have the Tex-Shad while it will be intersting to see how the Tsunami TS shad gets on (It looks a very blatant rip off). Black minnow copies have started to appear on Chinese sites.



The Tronix Artic Eel – Deserves more attention!


Much of the competition is trying to emulate the success of the BM. Of course they are also competing at a price point where it is more attractive to buy than the BM. I tend to use my Black Minnows sparingly. I use them for bass fishing only. I do not see the point in offering a soft and supple Black Minnow to wrasse, pollack and even cod. With this in mind the price of a BM is worth it!


What are the thoughts of experienced bass anglers? “It’s my go to lure”. Does this make it the best lure or does this mean it is the lure I fish with most often and therefore it catches me more bass? I think I am more confident using this lure than most others. Of course other lures catch bass. Every soft lure has it’s time and place. It’s just the Black Minnow seems to produce when the fishing is tough. It is fair to say that the Minnow adorns most lure anglers’ tackle boxes in some guise or another. Would I go fishing without one? Mais NON!



The Flouro Yellow appeared in 2015!


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