We’ve spent a lot time this fall talking about the importance of baitfish movements during the fall and how it affects where you’ll find the bass.
But there’s another element worth considering, and one that we’re already seeing here in the north – the bass are beginning to target crayfish.
Indeed, the key to successful fall fishing is to follow the baitfish, but there is a time when bass will direct their attention crayfish.
Bass are opportunistic, and when the crayfish get active like they have up here in late fall, the bass start feeding on them. It’s like deer; they’ll dine on corn, beans or acorns, depending upon what are most readily available to them.
In our waters, crayfish have been active the past week, especially since we’re in the midst of a full moon and water temps have dropped below 50 degrees. We see it in smallmouth lakes all the time and it has an equal impact on southern impoundments where abundant crayfish are present.
We’re past the high baitfish activity period and our fish are easing toward the winter pattern. Crayfish are transitioning toward their winter patterns as well, hence another reason for their movement.
That’s not to say the fish won’t eat baitfish; if they’re around, they’ll attack them. But when crayfish are sauntering around in the shallows where bass hang most of the fall, they become an easier target.
That same phenomena will occur on southern impoundments later in the season as the water begins to cool faster.
Where do you look? Rocks are the most obvious places, but don’t overlook grass. Frankly, I think grass is the preferred habitat of crayfish because it not only gives them some protection but provides food sources for them as well. I’ve seen them in all types of grass, including hydrilla, milfoil, coontail and sand grass. Another interesting pattern is along shorelines where fallen leaves have sunk to the bottom.
If you’re seeing regurgitated crayfish claws or body parts in the livewell, that’s a clue that bass’ diet may have switched to the crustaceans. It’s time to pick up jigs, crankbaits and tube baits than can be crawled along the bottom to imitate crayfish.
Many people think the tube bait is imitating a baitfish, but when popped along the bottom it looks very much like a crayfish scooting along. In addition to its appearance, tube baits fished with inserted jigheads are one of my favorites because of what I can make them do. I will fish a tube on weed bed edges or over sparse grass, dragging and snapping it along while maintaining contact with the bottom. When the tube catches the grass, I will snatch it abruptly, imitating the sudden burst of a crayfish and that often triggers a reaction strike.
You can do the same thing with football jigs, and to some degree, crankbaits that catch in the grass. Bass react impulsively to that slight hesitation after you’ve popped the bait free.
Colors should be kept simple. Crayfish have a chameleon ability to adapt to their surroundings. If fishing grass, I use a lot of green pumpkin colors. However, when fishing rocks, especially in the south, the forage takes on hues of brown and orange.
So, when you’re fishing this fall and your baitfish imitators aren’t getting the job done, consider tossing crayfish-like baits at ‘em, especially while fishing around rocks and grass.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!