When to Use Crawfish Baits for Bass

Anglers know that bass love to eat crawfish. They devour them, yet there are certain times of the year when they are much more effective. Understanding the behavior of crawfish will make it crystal clear to bass anglers when they should focus on this tiny crustacean. 

The best time to use a bait that imitates a crawfish is when these invertebrates are breeding. Not only do crawfish breed in the spring, but they do in the fall as well. The male crawfish are most susceptible to being preyed upon by bass during these times.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at this favorite snack of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass.

What is it with the color red?

In the spring of the year, bass anglers hear a lot of folks talking about the color red. To really understand where this comes from, crawfish biology 101 is important. Like all crustaceans, crawfish need to molt their outer shell in order to grow. 

It is during this period immediately following the molt where they take on either a bright orange or bright red coloration. It does not last too long before a crawfish returns to its more common variations of greens and browns. 

The color red makes them easy for bass to spot and this works hand-in-hand with the theory of using red in the spring, yet, in may not be as critical as the actual process of the crawfish mating ritual. 

Breeding Season

There is a lot of information out there that I think misleads anglers to think that crawfish are red during the breeding season. This is actually false. The males will molt after they are done breeding. 

During the actual time when the males are actively looking for receptive females, they are still the more traditional brown and green colors. 

When does this happen?

It seems that the magical moment begins once the water hits that 50° mark. There will be little or no activity if the water is below that, but once it hits that fifty degree range, it is time to really focus on crawfish patterns. 

The second breeding season will be in the fall of the year. Most anglers will be focusing on shad patterns. John Tertuliani, a biologist for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Columbus, Ohio, says that the fall breeding season can be even better than the spring. (For the full article about John’s research, click here to read the Bassmaster.com piece.)

Easy Pickins’

When the males are on the lookout for females, they actually will come out from their crevices and walk on top of the rocks. It is at this time that they are the most vulnerable to bass and our favorite predator knows this.

As crawfish walk across the rocks, they make a very distinct clicking sound that can also trigger bass to hone in on them. Using lures that have rattles at this time can mimic this sound to great effectiveness.

Keep in mind, the crawfish are not yet red. Once they molt, and turn red, the crawfish will leave the tops of the rocks and return to their darker haunts.

Locations for Breeding Crawfish

It is not a mystery that crawfish love rocks, but, not all rocks are created equal. Well, maybe they are, but where these rocks are located can make a huge difference in your catch ratio.

Unlike bass, the male crawfish cannot clean out the bed. Crawfish rely on nature to do that for them. Any time that you can locate rocks that utilizes wind or current to wash away debris and silt, you will have positioned yourself in a high-percentage area.

Crawfish will reproduce on a muddy or silty bottom, but it is their last choice. Spend some time on your home water to locate clean rock that is protected from intense sunlight and you will surely be rewarded.

Light Sensitive

Crawfish are very sensitive to the light. Bright sunny days will push them back down into the shadows. 

To make up for this, try to focus your crawfish fishing patterns during lowlight periods. This can and should include cloudy days. 

If you are fishing a lake or river that has clearer water, those crawfish may just be most active in deeper water. They could easily hangout past the twenty foot mark on days when that sunshine is really beating down on them. 

How Bass Approach Crawfish

The same article in Bassmaster mentions that the research also shows that bass are quite wary of the pincers on crawfish. So much so, that bass will do everything they can to avoid approaching them from the front.

There are even many videos on YouTube that show this same thing. The bass will approach from the side or rear, but avoid approaching from the front. 

If the potential snack rears back and poses in the traditional defensive position, with pincers up, a bass will stop immediately in their path and often turn away.

Biologists then started doing some experimentation. They took one pincer off, then two, and then actually removed some legs as well.  When the bass saw the crawfish with no pincers, they were much, much more likely to attack and they would also engulf it from any direction, including the front.

So, you may be wondering, why don’t lure manufacturers offer crawfish baits without the pincers. They have tried, but consumers didn’t buy them. 

The next time that you reach for your soft plastic craws, maybe take a moment to pop off one of the pincers and see what happens. You might just outfish your buddy!

A soft plastic tube jig is an excellent choice to imitate crawfish with no pincers.

Best Lures to Imitate Crawfish

When learning about the research I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it makes me rethink what a wonderful lure the soft plastic tube is. It sure does look like a crawfish without the pincers. The tube is one of my suggestions for best lure to mimic crawfish during the breeding season.

It is also hard to beat a crankbait. These lures can bounce along rocky structure and do a wonderful job of imitating male crawfish walking along the rocks. I would be hesitant to jump to red to soon though and make the switch once you feel the breeding season is advanced.

Texas rigged soft plastics are also good choices. The worm weight creates a nice clicking sound when bouncing through the rocks. Try using some tungsten weights during the crawfish breeding season. The density of tungsten produces are much sharper sound than lead.

Final Thoughts

Crawfish are favorite snacks for bass. No one will argue that, but if we take this information and apply it to our home waters, I think that we can incite a feeding frenzy that will bring many, many bass to the boat.

If you want to be real sure of what color scheme the crawfish are in, pick up a crawfish trap and leave it out the night before. When you hit the water the next morning, check the trap and match that forage bass with your favorite lure.

Good luck out there and don’t forget to encourage someone today. You never know how you might just change their life.

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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