What Are Crayfish and Why Do Bass Like Them?

Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that look just like miniature lobsters, to which they are related (taxonomically). They are members of the Astacoidea and Parastacoidea families. Crayfish inhabit a huge range of locations and water conditions from muddy bogs to gin-clear free flowing streams. Some species are found in brooks and streams where there is running fresh water, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and rice paddies. Crayfish are omnivores and can eat both living and dead animals and plant matter. Crayfish are quite prolific when the environmental conditions allow, and they represent a huge food source for all types of freshwater fish. Typically encased in their hard shell, crayfish periodically shed their outer skin in order to grow larger. Crayfish patterns are always a good option to fish, but especially important during the time of the year when they are molting.

When Crayfish Molt

  • They become softer and lighter in color.
  • Predators will eat them year round, but are especially fond of them when molting due to the ease of swallowing them.
  • Fish white, tan or pink crayfish patterns when molting rather than the red or orange ones. This equates to hatch matching, but can really pay off big time.

Bass Especially Love Crayfish Because

  • They are a large meal and provide a lot of sustenance in one gulp.
  • They are more easily chased down and methodically hunted than other fast moving baitfish forage. A big bass can take its time working on swallowing a crayfish instead of spending a lot of energy chasing down baitfish.
  • Crayfish will eat bass eggs, so they are in some way a natural enemy of a bass. Bass will sometimes attack them out of sheer avarice and hate instead of hunger.

How Do I Fish With a Crayfish Fly?

Crayfish are very distinct in their movements. There is nothing else out there in the river or pond that swims the way a crayfish does. Therefore, there is a way you should fish with a crayfish imitation.

  • Use a sink-tip, sinking line or leader, or a good amount of splitshot 1'6"-2'6" above your fly.
  • Cast out into the likely holding water and let the crayfish pattern sink right to the bottom. Crayfish are bottom dwellers, living in between rocks, and in woody debris.
  • Once the fly is on the bottom you need to strip the line once or twice hard and fast. Pull in about 1' of line with each strip and wait at least 2-5 seconds between strips. This will give the pattern good action like a crayfish that is using its long tail to push itself from rock to rock.
  • The take will most often happen as the crayfish rests again, so keep the line as tight as possible so that you can feel the take as the crayfish settles back on the bottom again. Crayfish aren't the easiest for larger fish to eat, so if you feel a tug but you don't come tight and hook up, leave the crayfish on the bottom and let the bass have another try. Once a bass has it in its mind to eat a crayfish, they will likely come back again and again until they can swallow it down.

Crayfish represent a huge base of food for larger fish when they are present in the same waters. Many trout anglers could also benefit from fishing crayfish patterns, as they are available in most trout streams and large trout pay as close attention to them as bass in a pond do. When they are molting, crayfish are large soft snacks for fish to gulp down and are almost irresistible. Big fish always seem to recognize the crayfish as a meal worth tangling with. If you haven't fished a crayfish pattern before, then it's high time to tie one on and give it some hard strips; when the conditions are right, you won't be disappointed!

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