The cigar minnow (Decapterus punctatus) is top notch saltwater bait and is found in much of the Atlantic and gulf regions.
Frozen cigar minnows are readily available at most coastal tackle shops. Many anglers prefer to catch there own using a sabiki jig. Once caught, they hold up well in a livewell and can also be stored in saltwater pens
Like most bait they are always going to be best when caught fresh. Using a sabiki rod and rig can make life a lot easier and help speed up your bait fishing.
If you are buying them frozen from a bait shop then they make a cheaper option than using ballyhoo.
They tend to stay in large schools so once you locate them get several sabiki rigs down to them and you can fill the livewell up in no time.
Cigar Minnow Rigs
There are a number of different ways to rig a cigar minnow as bait. It will generally depend on how you are fishing and what you are fishing for.
Rigging as Bottom Bait
I would generally prefer to use them as bottom bait, in particular for grouper and snapper.
For larger grouper you will need to use the full fish, but for small grouper or snapper you can slice then in half.
Slicing them in have allows a lot of scent into the water and I often find that you will have a much higher hit rate due to this added scent.
The only down side is that you do tend to hit less of the larger fish as they prefer a larger bait.
How to Rig a Cigar Minnow for Trolling
Trolling with cigar minnows is usually the one method that poses a few issues when it comes to getting the rig right.
As small bait fish you need to ensure that once it is being trolled it does not tear or come apart due to the drag through the water.
I would always recommend using multiple hooks. Using one hook is allowing you to have a single point of failure.
One hook through the head and another somewhere along the body. Using multiple hooks will also help to prevent to much spin.
Another great alternative is to use a King style jig head, hooking the stinger hook just under the belly.