Beginner’s Guide To Fishing With Crawfish Lures (Facts To Know)

PUBLISHED 31 MARCH 2022

by Robert Ceran

Are you thinking about throwing crawfish lures for bass, but not sure where to start, and which lure types to use?

Crawfish lures have come a long way since the first skirted jigs were designed to imitate crawfish many years ago.

However, the downside of all this progress is that there are now a multitude of different crawfish lure types, colors, and sizes, which need to be fished with many different techniques.

In this article we’ll walk you through the different kinds of crawfish lures on the market. We’ll discuss which ones are best, and will also cover how to fish them most effectively.

What fish eat crawfish?

The main fish species that eat crawfish are catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass, trout, and steelhead. In addition to these main species there are many other fish that occasionally eat crawfish, including yellow perch, panfish (sunfish), northern pike, and muskie.

Keep in mind that crawfish start out very small after they hatch, and during their early life they make a perfect snack for almost any small to medium sized fish. 

However, once crawfish reach maturity, the list of fish species that feed on them becomes a lot shorter, due to their exoskeleton and claws.

What are the different types of crawfish lures?

The three main types of crawfish lures are crawfish crankbaits, soft plastic crawfish, and crawfish jigs. Each of these is widely used, and each of them catches fish reliably when used correctly.

Now let’s take a closer look at these crawfish lure types.

Crawfish crankbait

Photo of Rapala OG Slim Series Red Crawdad

Crawfish crankbaits are made of hard plastic, and usually come with a hollow body that contains beads which rattle when the crankbait moves. The best way to fish crawfish crankbaits is to bounce them off rocks, tree stumps, and other cover, as that mimics the behavior of real crawfish.

Soft plastic crawfish

Photo of Z-MAN Pro Crawz

Soft plastic crawfish tend to be much more realistic than crankbaits and jigs, and can be fished in many different ways. While the most popular option is to use them as a trailer on a naked jig head, they also work well when combined with any of a wide range of bottom fishing rigs.

Crawfish jig

Photo of Terminator Pro Series Jig in pumpkin green

Crawfish jigs are the oldest type of crawfish lure, and have been used for generations. They consist of a jig head with a colored skirt tied to it. The colors of the skirt usually resemble either a pumpkin green, orange, or red color phase of crawfish. The nice thing about skirted jigs is that they are usually weedless, and can be fished effectively close to the bottom without getting snagged.

See also: How do you choose a fishing lure?

Do crawfish lures work?

Yes, crawfish lures work very well for fish species that regularly feed on crawfish. But in order to be used successfully, crawfish lures need to resemble crawfish realistically, and they need to be fished close to the bottom, as this is where fish expect to find crawfish. 

Luckily, there are many good crawfish lures on the market, and if used correctly, they reliably catch fish, especially during the seasons when crawfish are the main forage source for bass and other predatory fish.

What do crawfish lures catch?

Crawfish lures are very good at catching largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, since all of these bass species regularly feed on crawfish. Crawfish lures also work when targeting walleye populations that feed on crawfish (but not if the walleye are keyed in on bait fish).

In addition, crawfish lures also work well for trout, panfish and perch. In fact, crawfish lures often outperform other lure types for these species. However, when targeting these smaller species, it’s necessary to switch to micro crawfish lures that are much smaller than the crawfish lures used for bass.

Is a crawfish lure good for bass?

Yes, crawfish lures catch bass all year round, but they work particularly well in early spring and early fall, which are the seasons when bass are keyed in on crawfish as their main forage. In fact, it can be difficult to catch bass on other lure types when they are focused on eating crawfish, which is why you should always have some crawfish lures in your tackle box.

Are crawfish lures good for trout?

Yes, crawfish lures are good for trout in areas where trout feed on crawfish. If you’re targeting large brown trout, you can use the same size crawfish lures as for bass, but if you’re targeting smaller trout in streams, it’s better to downsize to micro crawfish lures, such as the Rebel Wee Crawfish.

What are the best crawfish lures?

For us, the 3 best crawfish lures are the Strike King KVD Square Bill (best crawfish crankbait), the Strike King Rage Tail Craw (best soft plastic crawfish), and the Terminator Weedless Football Jig (best crawfish jig).

And while there are many other excellent crawfish lures on the market, the 3 lures listed above are tried and tested, and continue to catch fish reliably every season. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Strike King KVD Square Bill (best crawfish crankbait)

Photo of Strike King KVD 1.5 Square bill DB Craw

The Strike King KVD Square Bill is a classic crankbait lure designed by legendary crankbait ace Kevin VanDam. The great thing about a square bill crankbait is that it is designed to deflect off the surfaces of rocks and tree stumps when it bumps into them, which is a perfect action for a crawfish imitation lure.

Strike King Rage Tail Craw (best soft plastic crawfish)

Photo of Strike King Rage Tail Craw

While the Strike King Rage Tail Craw is not the most realistic crawfish lure on the market, it comes with an amazing swimming action in the water that strongly resembles a real live crawfish when hopped along the bottom with a jig or a bottom fishing rig. That probably explains why the Rage Tail Craw continues to be a favorite for most bass anglers.

Terminator Weedless Football Jig (best crawfish jig)

Photo of Terminator weedless football jig

The great thing about the Terminator Weedless Football Jig is that it rarely gets snagged on cover, due to its weedguard, and the football jig head, which doesn’t get stuck in rock crevices. While jigs are ideal crawfish lures, since they are designed to be fished along the bottom, this also makes them prone to getting snagged very easily.

What is the best crawfish lure color?

The  best crawfish lure color depends on the season, since crawfish color changes with seasonal patterns. In early spring, the best color to throw is often green pumpkin, followed by bright orange and then watermelon red in summer. During fall and winter, the best color is usually dark brown or black.

How do you rig a crawfish lure?

The easiest way to reg a soft plastic crawfish lure is to use it as a trailer on a naked jig head. When you do this, make sure to rig it backwards, with the tail end at the jig head, since this allows you to mimic the movement of real crawfish, which swim backwards when disturbed.

Another great way to rig a soft plastic crawfish is with a neko rig, where you attach your hook to the middle of the crawfish lure with an o-ring. When doing this, it’s a good idea to insert a small nail lead into the head of the crawfish, to make it sink down to the bottom correctly.

Finally, you can also rig a crawfish with most bottom fishing rigs that are commonly used for bass fishing, including a Texas rig, Carolina rig, or ned rig. 

How do you fish with crawfish lures?

When fishing with crawfish lures, it’s essential to fish them as close as possible to the bottom, and this goes for all types of crawfish lures, including crankbaits. This makes a lot of intuitive sense, since crawfish live on the bottom, and are practically never found higher in the water column.

The best way to fish crawfish lures is to hop them across the bottom, making sure to bump them into rocks, stumps, and other cover.

If you’re fishing with sinking crawfish lures (such as jigs or soft plastic craws rigged with a weight), it’s also a good idea to rest them on the bottom regularly, since this closely resembles the behavior of real crawfish. 

On the other hand, if you’re fishing with crawfish crankbaits, it’s usually best to retrieve them fast enough to make sure they regularly bump into the bottom as they go along. Again, this makes them resemble real crawfish behavior, and is most effective at triggering bites.

Where do you use crawfish lures?

The best place to use crawfish lures is wherever there are rocks or a rocky bottom. This is because crawfish prefer rocky bottom as their habitat, since they can hide from predators in the crevices between rocks, and feed by scraping zooplankton off the rocks.

Any areas where there is a natural concentration of crawfish will also attract bass that feed on them, and this maximizes your chances of catching fish with crawfish lures.

The ideal water depth to target with crawfish lures depends on the clarity of the water. In stained water, it’s best to focus on the shallows under 5 feet of depth, while in clear water you can use crawfish lures in deep water up to 30 feet. 

The reason for this is that crawfish can only live at depths to which sunlight can penetrate, which is different in clear vs stained water.

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