Crawdads... bait and breakfast

By Larry Dablemont, Contributing Columnist
Posted 7/19/21

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 …

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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 is 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 bas 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. 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 really, if you fish them from sundown until about midnight, you’ll have enough success that you won’t have to be out there in the hot sun.

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 fairly strong and put some pressure on a good bass from time to time. I don’t use a really large hook, a number one or even a number two hook will work, with a light split shot about two or three feet above the crawdad. 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 to keep him from hiding.

You hook the crawdad, or crayfish, through the middle of the tail, from the underside of course. And beware of those pincers, they work. Sometimes they can hurt a little, but not usually. If you are the kind of person who calls a crawdad a crawdad, you’ll never notice, but if you call them crayfish, let somebody else handle the crawdads!

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 when you get those which are big enough to eat.

My old friend and fellow outdoor writer, Jim Spencer, 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 before we went to the lake, 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 corn, 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 Spencer 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 that sloped off fairly rapidly. The bass picked it up when I stopped it, and fought hard. She was in 10 or 12 feet of water I suppose, out 30 yards from the bank.

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. It is a great way to fish with crawdads

Check my website to see information on our new Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor magazine. Check out the cover on the internet-- It is really unusual. My mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 and you can e-mail me at


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