A Crayfish dilemma that puzzles many anglers is the color of bait or lure to use. There are just so many options these days, it can be very difficult to pick the correct ones. Figuring out the specific color schemes for each situation and area will be determined by the amount of work you are willing to do. This is the system I use to choose the colors that works for me and I hope it will work for you also. A good knowledge of the forage base is important when you’re trying to maximize your time and presentation to the fish.
Start now preparing yourself to get the job done this Fall. The young Crayfish remain with the female until they begin emerging from their hideouts in the Fall. You want to take the guesswork out of color and size. In every lake or river system I fished tournaments on, I set a Crayfish traps during practice days before each tournament. You can use a simple Crayfish Trap or Minnow trap. Baiting the trap with raw fish is the best.
Take the trap several yards down the bank from the boat ramp, because it's almost always a rocky shoreline, set the trap and leave it overnight. In the morning, check the trap and see the color, size of the local population, match the baits then get to fishing. I know the importance of doing this as many checks have been cashed by taking this small amount of time to pay attention to detail. I have chosen the jig over all others to produce an imitation that will be most productive.
I have caught individual Crayfish in different color morphs as well as specifically black and white to pink ones on Amistad. There can be as many as 5 or more colors from one end of a large lake to the other. It is important to make your trap sets in the section of the lake that you will be fishing. Crayfish have a wide variety of color combinations depending on species genetics, age variables, molting, mating encounters, and the local environmental conditions of the population. All these indicating that color patterns can be very important not only as camouflage but also as a means to establish dominance and social interactions between Crayfish. Almost all my patters were associated with Hydrilla and Crayfish love to hold up in aquatic vegetation.
The molt will really change the color of crayfish from a camouflage olive/brown, to a bright orange or red cast, making them easy pickings for Bass. Crayfish can molt during any month when their metabolisms are high and whenever they need some growing room inside of their shells. This molting season usually is the months from late Spring through late Summer. A soft shell Crayfish often takes on a pale smoky, almost milky translucent color with white, orange and powder blue accents. The colors start out drab, then brightens as the shell hardens. Colors fade out as the hard shell develops to the environmental bottom colors. Bass find soft shells to be tops on the menu, I think this molting pattern can be imitated with a smoke-colored soft plastic for those guys that pours plastics. Understand that a Bass must work harder and expend much more energy to catch a Crayfish during the molt than during the mating cycle. During the mating cycle the large males are just like a buck in rut. They are fearless and out strolling along over the rocks. During the molt, they are in hiding.
This Fall you will have all these young Crayfish out and on their own, without the protection of the burrow which continues through early Spring. These small Crayfish are very active, they’re growing and molting quite often; so colors are changing. The Bass associated with aquatic vegetation are going to be preying on those vulnerable Cray’s to beat the band.
As is the case on any trophy bass fishery like Lake Fork for instance; you must learn to recognize seasonal changes in the Crayfish’s life cycle, and find those areas where the path of the Crayfish and Big Bass intersect. When Fall comes fish the same areas that you fished for spawning fish in the Spring. The Fall mating cycle is the most intense, and often is completely ignored by fishermen. The Fall mating period is made up of all the adult Crayfish looking for love and all the young Crayfish trying to survive.
There are over 350 species of crayfish in North America, and at least 36 of them live in Texas. In general, crayfish species are under-studied, and poorly documented. It is not clear how many of these species got out of its native range in the Ohio River basin. But it is thought that non-resident fishermen brought the crayfish to new areas as bait and released them intentionally or accidentally. Many species are popular for school biology classes and are sold by biological supply companies; so releases from classrooms are another way of species like the Rusty Crayfish to expand its invasive range.Jig Skirt Colors and Trailers:1.
– Green Pumpkin Purple – Dark Red - Brown Red Stripes Trailer - Laminate = Pumpkin Yellow/Gold – Dirty/White Underneath – Black Flake Both2.
- Black Flat Strands – Dark Red –Purple Chart. Stripe. Trailer - Blue – Red Tips – Small Orange Flake3.
- Brown Black Stripe – Purple Blue Stripe - Junebug Chart. Stripe. Trailer - Light Green Pumpkin - Black Tips – Purple Flake4.
- Pumpkin Chart. Stripe – Black – Brown Orange Stripe. Trailer - Translucent Light Pumpkin – Amber/Black Seeds5.
- Blue Black Stripe – Black – Blue Flat Strands.
Trailer - Laminate = Black Blue Flake – Light Pink /White Pearl Belly6.
- Light Blue Black Stripe – Dirty White – Light Blue – Rust
Trailer – Laminate = Blue/Green – White Belly
The research group at Pure Fishing in Spirit Lake, Iowa, is having all kinds of break throughs in Crayfish behavior. Pure Fishing manages one of the largest live fish behavioral test facilities in the world, and statistically measures fish reaction to baits and key foods. Many tests were made with live bass over several months in a controlled environment to measure what kind of shape the bass preferred when keying on soft plastic Crayfish imitations. For 60 days, 450 Bass, taken from the same environment, were tested. Each group of bass was presented a Crayfish bait at the same speed and angle of attack. The Bass tested had never seen the bait that was presented (it was a prototype). The test then continued, with one pincer removed, then a second pincer removed, and finally, the legs. The soft bait that had no appendages (no legs or pincers, just a body and tail) had the greatest number of strikes. This confirms to me why I catch more and bigger bass on 4 inch long Crayfish than on the larger Crays with big claws. The Shrimp Crayfish Seems To Be the Ticket:
In Missouri, the shrimp crayfish is only found in the Boot-heel, where it lives in deep oxbow lakes and large slow-flowing lowland rivers. This small Crayfish is light reddish brown to gray, with darker specks. The body is one piece, not separated at its middle by a space. The pincers are narrow and small. This would be my trailer of choice if one could be found or have a mold built. 7.
- Gold/Black Flake – Dark Yellow/Black Stripe – Hologram – Rust
Trailer – Shrimp Crayfish
If you cannot put in the time and effort to set traps and build baits; then you can do the next best thing. Some Crayfish automatically matches it’s colors to the location, you should match your imitation Cray’s colors to whatever color closely matches the water color, the vegetation color, and the bottom cover colors of the area you are currently fishing. Think darker colors. Crayfish usually spend most of their time hidden under something or buried into the bottom by day. They usually come out to forage under darkness of night. There are two ways you can accomplish this effect with your jig skirts and trailers. First -
You can use opaque (non-see through) colors that are slightly darker than the water, vegetation, cover and bottom. I accomplish this with Living Rubber skirting material and hand poured trailers. Both hold the Pure Extract Crayfish Scent very well. NOTE:
The first 6 trailers pictured are hand poured by ken3313 here on the TFF. Second -
You can use soft plastic colors that are semi-translucent (see through). Just pick a translucent color that matches the water, vegetation, and cover colors. As the translucent skirt and trailer comes in and out of dark shadows of Hydrilla, climbing up or over the pods, the translucence allows it to blend into its background better. This is best accomplished with Silicone skirting materials and hand poured translucent laminate trailers. NOTE:
Silicone will not hold the Crayfish Scent but the Trailers will. All my jigs are molded by CAST Ind..Skirted Jigs: