Make sure to check out the video at the end with Professional Angler Michael Murphy On Crayfish.
Soft plastic lures have been popular with bass fishermen for decades, but one such bait many anglers overlook is the soft plastic crawfish. Many pro anglers use this bait both by itself on a leadhead, as a jig trailer and in other ways to cover a surprisingly broad array of depths and bottom conditions.
HOW SOFT CRAWS SIMULATE LIVE CRAWFISH: Soft plastic crawfish are an amazingly effective simulation of the real thing. When bumped along on a leadhead or flipped Texas style or on a jig, bottom contact imparts the same slow, erratic movements a live crawfish exhibits when foraging. When the lure is stopped momentarily, the plastic craw’s pincers float upward and wave in a lifelike simulation of the live crawfishes’ defense posture. Plus, the size of these lures closely matches that of living crawfish.
WHEN TO FISH PLASTIC CRAWFISH: Many bassers believe the only time to fish a soft plastic craw is spring, when the water is still cold and bass are first moving into the shallows. True, spring is a great time to fish these lures; however, many anglers use them in all four seasons by varying the fishing location as well as the rigging and presentation used.
WHERE TO FISH PLASTIC CRAWFISH: 1. Shallow Structure. They are fished especially in early spring. Warm spring rains often promote mass numbers crawfish to emerge in shallow bays and tributaries. These same rains lead to run off from feeder creeks which will wash large quantities of craws into the system. Bass hunt for crawfish around mud banks, gravel flats with stumps and logs and the first emerging green weedbeds. 2. Weedbeds. Most anglers are unaware of how abundant crawfish can be in aquatic grassbeds, especially in late spring through fall. Pulling up a clump of grass from the lake and shaking it often will reveal dozens of live crawfish. Plastic craws have a compact profile and slide through thick grass more easily than most other lures. 3. Deep, Clear Lakes. Bass in clear, rocky highland reservoirs dine on live crawfish constantly, and a plastic craw is an effective strike getter. Rig the lure on a leadhead and fish it on 45 degree shale banks, gravel flats and bluffs. This is a favorite late fall and winter lure with anglers who target smallmouths and spotted bass. 4. Main Lake Structure. A plastic craw can be fished on submerged roadbeds, humps, creek channel dropoffs, points and other main lake structures, especially when rigged Carolina style. The offshore approach works best in summer and fall.
RIGGING PLASTIC CRAWFISH: 1. Texas Rigging. Use this when the craw is flipped or pitched into heavy cover such as grassbeds, when the craw is worked on the bottom on the outside of stumps and logs. In thick grass, use a heavy worm sinker ( up to 1 oz. ) so the craw can get down through the surface mat quickly. When short lining a 4 inch craw, use up to a 3/0 wide bite Kayle style worm hook; with a 6 inch craw, use the same hook in 4/0. When casting the lure around wood in shallow water, use the lightest worm sinker possible ( down to 1/16 oz ) and a tighter, closed gap hook. In both instances, rig the craw so the pincers trail out the back. This presents the bait in a realistic manner. 2. Jig Trailer. Simply substitute a plastic craw for a pork bait or other soft plastic trailer and rig it on the jig hook so the pincers trail out the back. 3. Leadhead Lure. In clear, rocky lakes, rig the craw with pincers trailing behind on a 1/8 to 3/8 oz. leadhead. Leave the hook exposed. 4. Carolina Rigging. Substitute a plastic craw for a lizard or worm on the end of a Carolina rig.
TACKLE FOR PLASTIC CRAWFISH: Vary tackle according to water clarity and conditions. In murky water or when fishing thick weeds, use a flipping or pitching stick and 14 to 25 pound test mono or heavier high tech lines. In clear, rocky lakes, use a medium to stiff action spinning rod and 6 to 8 pound test mono. When casting, use a 6 to 6 1/2 foot medium heavy baitcasting rod and 12 to 17 pound test line, or a stiff action spinning rod and 10 pound line. When Carolina rigging, use a long Carolina baitcasting rod with 17 to 20 pound test mono or stronger high tech line as a main line. Vary the leader according to water clarity, bottom conditions and size of bass you’re likely to encounter.
PRESENTING SOFT PLASTIC CRAWFISH: 1. Flipping and Pitching. Use these short line presentations to work plastic craws rigged Texas style on a pegged sinker in dense weedbeds, or rigged on a jig around shallow stumps and timber. In weeds, use a sinker heavy enough to allow the craw to slip down through the grass to the bass lurking below. As a rule of thumb, flip the craw in murky to muddy water, and pitch it in clear to stained water or where obstructions such as overhead trees prevent you from flipping. 2. Casting Presentation. Use this in early spring when bass move shallow to gorge on crawfish around mud banks, inflowing creeks and shallow areas with scattered wood cover. a. Cast past your target. When working mud banks, cast the craw right against the bank. b. Let the craw sink to the bottom with rod held steady at 10 o’clock. c. Fish the craw very slowly back to the boat, either by simply turning the reel handle so the sinker digs intermittently into the bottom and the craw crawls erratically, or by using the lift and drop plastic worm technique. 2. Leadhead Presentation. This is the same retrieve used when fishing a leadhead grub or hair jig on a sloping bank in clear water. 3. Carolina Presentation. Use the standard Carolina presentation, keeping the sinker on the bottom and the craw darting and settling behind on a leader.
PLASTIC CRAWFISH SIZES: Plastic crawfish come in 2 1/2, 4 and 6 inch sizes. 1. Use the 2 1/2 and 4 inch versions in deep, clear lakes, rigged on leadheads. 2. Use the 4 inch lures in cold, stained water when casting around shallow wood cover in early spring. 3. Use the 4 and 6 inch craws either as jig trailers or Texas rigged with pegged sinker when flipping or pitching heavy cover.
CHOOSING CRAW COLORS: Color is an important consideration when using plastic craws. Here are some tips on selecting colors: 1. Live crawfish vary in colors according to region and season. Turn over rocks and debris in a shallow creek that feeds your home lake and capture a live crawfish, examine its color. Match your plastic craw to the real thing. Note also that most live crawfish have a dark back and a lighter brown or gray belly. Two tone plastic craws are available that match the hatch closely. 2. Live crawfish often have scattered bright markings against a drab green, brown or black background for example, the prevailing color may be dark green or brown, but the tips of the legs and pincers may be bright orange or red. Keep various colors of worm markers or color dips in your boat and add similar color touches to your plastic craws, but do so sparingly. 3. When in doubt, you can seldom go wrong with natural shell colors: drab green, brown, black. 4. Other popular plastic craw colors include watermelon/amber brown, black/blue, black/red flake, and black/chartreuse. But it pays to experiment with craw color.
MORE TIPS FOR FISHING PLASTIC CRAWFISH: 1. The most common mistake anglers make with plastic crawfish, other than not fishing them, is fishing them too fast. Live crawfish are slow moving creatures unless alarmed. Slow down your presentation and catch more fish. 2. Because live crawfish make clicking sounds when they move, inserting a worm rattle into a plastic craw is always a good idea, even in clear water or where bass have been highly pressured. Put the rattle close to the hook on the belly side. 3. In cold water, use a minimum of shakes to nudge the plastic craw through cover. But in warmer water, try shaking the rod tip several times each time you move the lure. 4. In clear lakes, live crawfish often hide during the day and emerge at night to forage. Plastic craws are therefore excellent night fishing lures in these waters. Either use them as a jig trailer or fish them open hooked on a leadhead. Expert night fishermen usually retrieve plastic craws right across the bottom, using the reel handle to move the lure slowly and relying on bottom contact to impart an erratic look to the bait. 5. Plastic craws are among the best lures you can use for stream bass. Rig them on a leadhead and bump them on the bottom around rocks, logs, and undercut banks.