Jeff Little's Crawdad Bait Tips | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Jeff little holding a huge smallmouth bass Photo by Jeff Little

An expert's tips on how to use crawdad as bait

Wilderness Team Captain, Jeff Little fishes the swift moving, rocky waters of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River. To design his line of custom Confidence Lures, Little studies the river and its inhabitants like Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands. If he’s not working the rock gardens and pools with rod and reel in search of smallmouth bass, he dons a scuba mask and jumps in to chase the bait the fish eat.

Many times, he finds the bottom littered with crayfish. These tiny lobsters hide in the rocks during the day then venture out when the light is low. “Crayfish aren’t just prey for bass,” Little points out, “they are predators, too.” He suggests searching for the crawdad’s prey, first. “Turn over rocks and look for aquatic insects and small fish,” he instructs. Little says that areas that hold big numbers of these little critters will also host crayfish and bass. A perfect mixture of rock or cobble bottom provides places for the craw to hide and hunt.

When he finds a crawdad, he studies its color pattern and behavior. Bass are particularly fond of molting crustaceans. “That’s the phase of life when the crayfish is growing out of its shell,” he explains. Often, the crab is dark green or black, but slight variations in color differ from area to area. Little promises, “If you can match the local color pattern, your lure won’t be left alone long.”

More important than choosing the right color, Little also observes the crawdad’s movements. “Notice how fast the crayfish move when you uncover them,” he says, “then match the speed with your retrieve.” He says that crayfish will dart and bash into things while fleeing a predator. “A square-bill crankbait bouncing along the bottom imitates this motion,” he says.

Working a crankbait along the bottom allows Little to cover a lot of water looking for a bass bite. “It allows me to find high-percentage areas,” he explains. He also uses the crankbait to fish wind-blown, muddy banks of a reservoir or river whitewater.

Once he finds the fish, he may switch to a jig to slowly work the area. “Crayfish will try to hide by holding completely still,” he says, “one little twitch and the bass will pounce.” He also relies on the crawfish jig when the water is cold. “It’s also great for fishing heavy structure since it can bounce through rocks and deadfalls without getting snagged.”

Little uses a super-soft polymer in his Confidence jigs that flits and flutters in the current. “I’ll let the bait sit in one place for up to a minute,” he says.

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