Minnow lures are very effective lures for a wide variety of fish species. To be effective it is very important that a minnow lure swims correctly & in a straight line. A minnow that is swimming off in one direction or laying on its side will not find many takers & is very limited at the range of retrieve / trolling speeds it can handle. As well as being able to adjust the swimming direction you can also adjust the type of action a minnow lure has. Its action can be altered from a slow wobble to a fast shimmy type action & that is the action I prefer to set my minnow lures up to have. Well tuned lures will swim at a wide range of speeds & will take speeds of up to 6 or 7 knots when trolling depending on the type of minnow that is.
To tune minnow lures you only need a good pair of pliers & it is much better to use a set of pliers which does NOT have serrations all the way to the end of the jaws as these when used to grip the towing point (eye) of the minnow lure can cause sharp ridges to form which can damage the leader in use. I use square nosed pliers like the ones pictured below & they have a flat smooth section of about 5mm on the nose which is ideal. Apart from a good pair of pliers the only other requirement is some water to test the lures action. Swimming pools are ideal or just test them on the nearest water.
First you need to establish what adjustments if any are needed. Attach your lure using a loop knot. It is very important to use loop knots to allow the lure to swim freely. It is no good tying your lure on with a style of knot that is tight on the towing point then tuning your lure as the action will never be any good & will be different every time you tie it on. One you have attached your lure cast it out & wind it back & check to see if it swims directly back to the rod tip without veering off to one side. If it even veers off a tiny amount it needs tuning. If your lure runs to the left the towing point needs to be bent slightly to the right & if it runs to the right bend it slightly to the left. I have demonstrated this in the diagrams below. To do this grip the towing point firmly with the pliers then bend the towing point slightly in the correct direction then test again. Usually only a small adjustment is needed.
Lure swimming right
Lure swimming left
Bend towing point (eye) Left
Bending towing point (eye) Right
Once you have adjusted your lure to swim in a straight line you may alter the action if you like by bending the towing point slightly up or down. This is not possible with some types of lures particularly plastic body types so if you try & there is no movement possible then don't worry about it as you may damage the lure. By bending the towing point up slightly it will produce a fast shimmy action & by bending it down it will produce a slower wobble with a wider tail action. Myself I prefer to have a tight action on my lure as the increased vibrations I think attract more strikes & because the lure is not moving too far from side to side the fish connect with it better when they strike it. I think this type of action results in less "bumps" & more solid hookups. As I said its not possible to adjust the action of some lures but its an option worth remembering.
Bend up for a tight shimmy action
Bend down for a slow wobble
This covers the basics of tuning a minnow lure & a well tuned lure will catch far more fish than a minnow lure that swims poorly. Other types of lures such as the Rapala CD series can be tuned also using the same principles but twisting the whole metal bib instead of just the towing point. Points to remember are the smaller the lure the less the towing point needs to be bent to adjust the swimming directions. The smaller minnows are far more sensitive than the large ones & at times can be fiddly to adjust. Only make small adjustments at a time & ALWAYS check the towing point after final adjustments have been made to ensure there are no sharp edges or burrs left there by the pliers. If there are a very fine stone or some fine grit wet & dry emery paper can be used to remove them. If they are not removed they will wear away at your leader & end up slicing through it.
Take the time to tune your lures properly & check them after each fish to ensure they still swim properly & you will find the effort does pay off!