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Unlocking The Secrets Of The Fall Crawfish Pattern

Unlocking the Secrets of the Fall Crawfish Pattern

As many of you already know, there are three main forage species for bass here in the Ozarks: Gizzard shad, bluegill, and crawfish. While opportunistic bass will eat any one of these species year round, figuring out which of these three that the bass are keying on can be vital to a successful day on the water. Through the majority of late fall, big bass are almost exclusively keying on large gizzard shad. However, if you only pay attention to this pattern, you may be missing out on one of the best bites of the year.

In late fall there is a short window when bass will feed heavily on crawfish. Just like in early spring when the water temps rise above 48 degrees, in the fall when water temps fall into the upper 40’s the crawfish will begin a second mating cycle. During this time the crawfish will crawl out from under the rocks and expose themselves for bass to gorge on. This pattern usually lasts for 1-2 weeks, or until the water temp reaches 45 degrees and the crawfish go into their winter pattern. At this time the crawfish will burrow into the bottom and remain dormant until the water warms up in the spring.

Once water temps begin to drop into the upper 40’s I will begin to check my live well for pinchers. This is a telltale sign that the bass have begun to feed on crawfish. If you look into your live well and see a dead shad or two, you might want to continue to throw a shad imitation bait like an A-rig. But if you are lucky enough to find some spit up crawfish, it is a good idea to start throwing a bait that imitates them.

Baits

One of the most versatile crawfish imitators is a jig. You can fish a jig through any type of cover and at any depth, but for this pattern you want to key on creek-channel swing banks in 12ft or less. A Crock-O-Gator Zapper Jig is a great bait choice for this time of the year. The best presentation is to drag the jig very slowly on the bottom and watch your line to detect very subtle bites.

Crock-O-Gator Zapper Jig

Another great crawfish imitator is a Strike King Menace Grub, rigged on a wobble head. This bait is also very versatile as it can be dragged very slowly across the bottom like a jig, or can be fished like a crank bait and ticked off of rocks to create a reaction strike.

Strike King Menace Grub rigged on a Chompers Wobble Head

Wide Wobble Crank Bait

A jig and a wobble head are a great crawfish imitating baits, but perhaps the best and most efficient craw bait to use at this time of the year is a Wiggle Wart. The Wiggle Wart has been catching fish on Ozark Lakes since long before I was born. It is legendary for catching pre-spawn bass in stained water, but is often forgotten when it comes to fall fishing. What makes this bait so deadly is its erratic wide wobble that hunts across the bottom mimicking a crawfish. With this bait you are able to cover a lot more water than with a jig, which greatly increases your chances of coming across fish that are active and looking for an easy meal. This is a power fishing technique that requires finesse tackle. When throwing the wart, you want to use 8-12lb Fluorocarbon line paired with a medium powered rod that has a very soft tip. The soft rod tip will allow the bait to make a wide wobble action and will also help when trying to land the fish.

It is also important to take note that not all Wiggle Warts are the same. The Wart was originally manufactured by storm until Rapala bought the company out in the early 2000s. When Rapala acquired Storm, they changed the molds and plastic used to manufacture the Original Wiggle Wart claiming it to be “new and improved”. Unfortunately Rapalas new manufacturing process critically altered the baits wide wobbling and erratic action, and because of this the Warts that were made before Rapala acquired Storm have become extremely valuable. Some Pre-Rapala Wiggle Warts are selling on Ebay for up to $250. You can tell it’s a Pre-Rapala if it has the words “Wiggle Wart” stamped under the bill. The new Wiggle Warts still work, but if you ask any local expert they will tell you that the old ones work a lot better.

Pre-Rapala                                                                                       

Rapala 

Regardless of weather you are throwing a new or old wart, there are some modifications that you can make to the bait to help you catch more fish. When you take the bait out of the package, the first thing you need to do is take the stock hooks off and switch them out with #4 EWG trebles.  The next thing that you need to do is to tie the bait on your rod and make a short cast into the water to make sure it is running true. If the bait veers off to the right or left on the retrieve, then you need to bend the eye of the line tie in the opposite direction until it runs straight. The last tweak that I will make to the wart is to wrap lead wire around the front hook, this added weight will help the bait run deeper and will also cause the bait to suspend when you pause on the retrieve. Keep these tips in mind and you will be on your way to catching big loads of bass feeding on late fall crawfish.

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