Fishing Crayfish Patterns
by: David Coulson 5/10/2013
I once read that for a trophy bass fishery to exist crustaceans (crayfish) must be part of the food chain. While I don’t know if this is true, I am convinced that crustaceans play a major role in producing trophy freshwater fish. Crustaceans include some types of zooplankton, water fleas, Mysis shrimp, freshwater shrimp, scuds, and, of course a favorite, crayfish. When abundant, these high calorie preys allow fish to fatten up to trophy class proportions.
Avid bass anglers recognize the importance of crayfish in the bass’s diets and typically have a variety of lures that imitate craws in some fashion or another, such as tubes or jig and pig. I suspect that other anglers overlook the fact that most predatory fish, such as trout, walleye, pike, muskie, wiper, carp, catfish, you name the species, do feed on crayfish.
This simple fact was driven home to me at South Delany a couple weeks ago. While others were having success on chironomid patterns, I persisted in fishing streamers. After working my way through a number of sizes, colors, and presentations I finally hit upon a combination that produced consistently, a 1.5 inch brown and white clouser popped off the bottom. Bottom was evidenced by the frequent weeds on my point fly. I’m fairly sure the trout were taking the clouser for a crayfish, in part, due to the crayfish parts my temporary playmates left in my casting basket.
When it comes to fishing crayfish patterns (flies/lures), it’s my personal view that size, general color, and presentation are far more important than actual pattern, based both on experience and reading by others.
Many crayfish lure and fly patterns have an unnecessary, and maybe even detrimental, feature in my opinion, large claws. Yes, crayfish have them, but according to what I’ve read, given the choice, bass will take a craw without pincers first, over one with them. Yet, many lures/flies sport them. Personally, I think clawless patterns fished correctly are as, if not more effective than those with larger “threatening” appendages.
I say “threatening” because if you disturb a crayfish, it will likely do one of two things, flee or go into a defensive posture. In the defensive posture it faces its opponent, claws raised, ready, and willing to nip. If you’ve ever tried to pick up a crawdad, I’m sure you know of what I speak. Once the crayfish decides fleeing is the better option, it drops the claws and with a strong flick of the tail goes scooting off backwards, producing a tube like profile. Depending on the situation, it will make one or two quick bursts in an effort to evade it pursuer.
My opinion is it’s the fleeing that triggers the fish to strike. While a lure that’s able to imitate both a posturing position and fleeing might be ideal, my experience, and from what Barry Reynolds wrote in one of his books, it’s the quick darting away that’s most important. One of my favorite crayfish patterns is the foxee clouser. When given short tugs, it puffs out on the stop; think crayfish defensive posture. Then when given a quick hard strip it presents a nice streamline “fleeing” silhouette.
When I suspect the fish are feeding on craws my approach is to tie on a pattern of the approximate size/color of the prevailing crayfish (some serious guess work is needed at times). Then I make sure to get my pattern to the bottom. A few snags or debris on the hook lets me know when I’ve achieved that goal. Finally, my basic presentation is a couple of slow twitches (crawling strips), followed by one or two hard strips of a foot or so, followed by a long pause. This erratic retrieve along the bottom is very effective when bass, trout, or other fish are chasing crayfish.
If you’re not already fishing crayfish patterns, adding them and these tactics to your arsenal will increase your catch rates.
Blog content © David Coulson
Coyute, CO 5/10/2013 8:43:50 AM
Good info. I throw a lot of craw imitations and they are certainly top producers for me.
Steelhead, CO 5/10/2013 10:24:32 AM
FYI-saw some guys kill & gut some fish at south delaney on monday and they were full of crawdads.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 5/10/2013 10:41:01 AM
Coyute, From your tournament success, if crayfish are your go to baits, that's proof enough for me! Do I see Angler of the Year in your future? My hat's off to you. Steelhead, thanks. Good to know my instincts were correct.
Coyute, CO 5/10/2013 11:04:49 AM
LOL. I seriously doubt it. After all, I still consider myself a novice bass fisherman and there are many fine folks more deserving, capable and skilled than I. Thanks for the kind words just the same. :)
BassTracker3, CO 5/11/2013 9:02:15 AM
Great article. And I agree, craws are very important to a fishery. One thing I might add is color. Craws molt. When they molt, it is my understanding that they go from a blue and purple color to red and then brown. Rapala makes DT6's in these colors and they have been highly effective for me this season. I've also heard that their color has to do with breeding and sexual maturity. Let me know if you have any more info on the color cycles of craws!
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 5/12/2013 7:38:25 AM
I've a bit, a lot actually, of reading/studying to do on crayfish, as I do want to produce a full article on the subject. There's a lot to discuss, including molting color, availability times, preferred sizes, etc. So I'm far from done with this subject.
N.PikeHu$tla, CO 5/12/2013 2:10:31 PM
Every pike ive kept at stagecoach are always full of crawfish!!!
TroutSlayer303, CO 5/12/2013 11:33:18 PM
you guys should check out the troutslayer made by trout magnet or lelands lures i use them all the time and always catch trout actually i just caught a nice 7 lb walleye with them too hell just look at my name on here lol check out the trout magnet too works just as good.
JKaboom, CO 5/15/2013 5:38:23 PM
I definately need learn craw patterns better.
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