by Ben Team for AnglersClub.com, June 10, 2017
I was fishing for a few years before I tried out my first plastic crawfish. Once I did, I felt stupid for not doing so sooner. They catch bass. Period. Exclamation point!
A lot of anglers go craw-wild in the spring, but then forget about them for the rest of the year. This is a mistake, as they remain productive throughout the year. They may not be the best lure for the dead of winter or while the bass are tearing up the top of the water, but you should never hesitate to try them if you feel like they might be effective.
But like every other plastic lure on the market, plastic craws come in an infinite array of styles, sizes, colors and compositions. You have to figure out which will work best for your current conditions.
Bass Don’t Care What You Call It
Indulge me in a quick aside to illustrate an important point.
I was on vacation with the missus and we were staying near a beautiful big pond full of 1- and 2-pound bass. Unfortunately, this pond received an obscene amount of pressure and the resident bass weren’t interested in anything I had to offer. One of the locals swore he had the trick: He reached into his tackle box and tossed me an orange-and-grey beaver tail craw.
Now, I’ll tell you right off the bat, it didn’t draw a single strike; but I gave it my best shot. I suspect that the color combination had something to do with it, but that’s another story.
However, as I chucked out the lure and twitched it back, I noticed that it didn’t look like a crawfish at all – it looked like a struggling baitfish, lying on its side. And this is when I realized that plastic craws do not necessarily mimic real crawfish. Some look more like a fish and some look like nothing in particular – just a wiggly treat.
Now from a fishing-philosophy point of view, I am of the mind that bass do not identify food items before they eat them. I believe they eat things that scratch the right itches and do not look dangerous. This means that lures needn’t look exactly like a particular food item, they just need to look edible.
But regardless of whether you agree with my assessment, or believe that bass do in fact identify things, the important thing to understand is that some crawfish baits may more closely resemble fish, despite what the manufacturer calls them.
Divide and Conquer
You could probably classify plastic crawfish into any arbitrary number of groups, or you could lump them all into the same group. But to my mind, most fall into one of four: realistic, flapping, beaver tail and trailer.
They all work, and you could probably catch bass with them in just about any circumstances, but some are undoubtedly better suited for some times, places and fish than others are.
Realistic Looking Plastic Crawfish
Realistic-looking craws typically feature legs, antennae and other appendages and details that make them look pretty much like real crawfish do. You could easily mistake one for a real crawfish, were you to see it sitting on the bottom of your local fishing hole.
Most commonly, these types of lures work best for slow, finesse-oriented presentations, with light line and gear. Some of the best rigging options for these kinds of crawfish include a drop-shot or split-shot rig.
Flapping or Speed Craws
Flapping or speed craws are more of an abstract representation of a crawfish than they are a replica. They are typically comprised of a thick, long tail (not terribly dissimilar from a plastic worm body), a flattened body and a pair of long arms that flap in the water. They may or may not have “claws” – many simply have little more than “ribbons.”
I probably fish flappy craws more than any other variety, as I am typically looking to present a little, dark swimmy thing (technically speaking) to the bass, and I’m not necessarily trying to imitate anything in particular – just something yummy.
I tend to rig them Texas-style, and I don’t use a weight if I don’t have to. I twitch, drag, scoot and swim them back until I figure out what the bass want. Many times, they want more of a swim-bait or jerk-bait style retrieve, rather than a bottom-oriented presentation.
Beaver tail crawfish barely resemble crawfish. They feature a stout, compact, often-ribbed body with a thin, flexible “tail” (or “claws” if we’re sticking with the crawfish metaphor) that is divided into two halves.
Beaver tails are often used as a jig trailer or Texas-rigged with a hefty bullet weight, but I tend to use them without a weight. Because of their compact design, they are great for punching through dense vegetation, but they are also great to use when more obnoxious craw lures are spooking the fish.
A lot of plastic crawfish are designed to be used as the trailer on a jig. Accordingly, these soft-plastic baits are generally rather small, having a shortened body and (often) slightly shorter arms. They may feature realistic-looking claws, but most have flappy arms that resemble those of speed craws.
I use these on the backs of jigs or spinnerbaits, but I love to throw them on a 3/0 hook with a ¼-ounce bullet weight when fishing ponds that have small bass, or when you are going for quantity over quality. The small size, but ample action seems to create an irresistible bait for the bass.