Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Crawdads--Bait And Breakfast

       The crawdad is an unusual creature, always looking back where he has been, and going where his isn’t looking.  Quite often where he has been appears quite safe and there looms a bass or walleye or catfish where he is going and he winds up not going as far as he thought he would. That’s why the crawdad, or crayfish if you prefer, spends most of his time under rocks. You may be standing in the knee-deep water of a small stream or good-sized creek and not see a crawdad anywhere while there are dozens of them around you. Turn over the rocks and they start scooting off backwards.

       I point this out because this is the time of year that bass fishing can be very good if you have a bucket of crawdads and a gentle wind. Drift a crawdad over a point in 15 or 20 feet of water…sometimes a little shallower and sometimes a little deeper, depending on the lake…and you may find out that summer bass are easy to catch. Smallmouth and Kentucky bass are especially fond of crawdads, and they’ll take them any time of day. If you can stand the heat, you can catch bass on crawdads.  But truthfully, I recommend late evening if the heat and humidity are high.

       There are things you have to know first. Maybe this is a type of fishing better suited to spinning gear than the traditional bait-casting outfits us big time bass-mastering, lunker-busting, hog-hustlers would ordinarily use, compete with 12 or 14 pound line. Crawdad fishing is finesse fishing, and I like 6 or 8 pound line with medium action spinning gear and a fairly solid rod. You’ve got to set a hook and put some pressure on a good bass from time to time. You want to get the bait down there on the bottom, and move it. A still crawdad is usually a crawdad which gets under a rock and stays there, so if you aren’t drifting over the points, keep the crawdad moving a little so he can’t hide. You hook the crawdad, or crayfish, through the middle of the tail, from the underside of course.

       Everything eats crawdads, bullfrogs and coons and snakes and fish and wading birds and even humans. They are crustaceans, just like lobsters except different…the main difference being the size. But out in deep water in most of our Ozark rivers and lakes there are some big ones, and they can be caught in specially made crawdad traps baited with raw chicken necks or hot-dogs. And those crawdad tails are delicious. My old friend and fellow outdoor writer, Jim Spencer, who once wrote for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, came up here to the Ozarks a few years ago to fish all night with me on my pontoon boat, and be brought with him about 10 pounds of Louisiana crawdads. During the afternoon he set up a big pot out on my back deck underneath a big oak tree and boiled those crawdads with seasoning, whole potatoes, whole onions and whole roastin’-ears.

       When they were done, he drained all the water and put it all in a big plastic cooler, which in that case of course became a big plastic heater, and I ate so well that night I nearly forgot to fish. It has to be fairly simple to make crawdads delicious, because if you knew Jim you’d swear he couldn’t make a good baloney sandwich.

Crawdads have to be boiled live, and if they aren’t curled when you peel the tail, don’t eat them. Straight-tailed crawdads, according to Spencer, aren’t good for you.

I caught a nice bass just last week late in the evening using an artificial crawdad and a Carolina rigging, fishing slowly out from a gravel bank which sloped off fairly rapidly. The big one, about 5 pounds, picked it up when I stopped it, and fought hard. He was in 10 or 12 feet of water I suppose, out 30 feet from the bank. But he may have followed it, because we caught several smaller bass in only six or eight feet of water. It’s a great time to fish those plastic lizards and worms and crawdads late in the evening and into the night. But you have to fish very, very slowly, on the bottom, with some scooting or hopping action to the lure.

       In case you are wondering, a Carolina rig is swivel tied in, about 2 to 3 feet above your plastic lure, with a sliding bullet or barrel-type led weight of an eights to a quarter ounce in size above the swivel which won’t slide down past it, and never gets close to your lure. When a bass picks up the lure, he doesn’t feel the weight, because the line slides.

       If you don’t have live crawdads, they have some on the market now which look and feel so alive they will work nearly as good as real ones.

       I am looking for writers who might contribute to my magazines.  Stories about the Ozarks, Ozark history, nature and culture fit the Journal of the Ozarks, and writers who can write good outdoor stories will be of interest to my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal. Right now we are looking for stories for both fall and winter issues. Send them by mail to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613, or via email,  For more information, just call my office, 417-777-5227.

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