Creek Craws as Smallie Bait
Everyone here knows that smallmouth bass love craws. Craws are everyone where there's smallmouth, and the two species share similar habitat, cool, rocky water. What wouldn't smallmouth love more than a real craw?
Sometimes, especially in highly pressured water, smallmouth turn their noses up to soft plastic or flie imitations of craws. While there are some highly detailed soft plastic crawfish imitations on the market, it's like the fish just know sometimes. After all, when's the last time you seen a live crawfish mate with your soft plastic imitation?
Above: Not big, but a beautiful creek craw bass.
You can also catch some real lunkers with live craws. I've seen it done. To start off, you need a catch some yourself.
Go to your local creek. The water should be at least somewhat clear and moving. Get yourself a dip net. Fill over rocks, and under the rocks you may see craws. Put your net behind the craw, and coax the crustacean towards the net. The craw will propel itself backwards with it's tail, and go into the net.
After you get some craws for ourself, you need to store them. Make sure to give each craw sufficient toom in their container so that they don't fight each other.
Then, you are ready to use them. Get yourself a spinning setup with light line, so that the craw looks natural underwater. Next, tie on a appropriate sized light wire hook for the craw, and pinch a light split shot 18" up your line. Hook the craw in the middle of the tail, and cast towards piles of rocks. You got yourself a killer for smallmouth.
The ned rig. The last resort bait for many fishing lakes, a bit for post-front conditions, or when the fish just have lock jaw. But in some places, it's the only bait that works.
There are some places, such as tiny ponds and creeks, that pond bass,, but these bass are small bass, so small that the 1/2 oz jig you purchased isn't going to worm. You got to think finesse, and REAL finesse. Sometimes, you got to use ned rig. In some waters, you even up to downsize that.
Above: A 1 pound, hard fighting creek smallmouth on a 1.5" inch piece of stick worm. The king of the trickle of water that flowed near my garden. I expected smaller fish; this was a pleasant surprise.
Yes, downsize a finesse bait. But the last thing any fisherman would want to do is to get himself skunked. Really small waters, such as tiny ponds and creeks, are a blast to fish, only if you had the right tackle. Think really small baits (1.5" grubs, 1.5" minnows, micro jigs, etc), and ultralight tackle. We are talking tackle for really small water here, folks.
First, get yourself a sticky that you have no use for. Everyone these days has more than one brand of stickworm, and a bag or two of stickworms that they just regretted buying; stickworms with no actions or otherwise appeal to fish. Time to get that stuff out, folks.
Next, cut off some chunks of that stickworm, about 1.5" long. Put it on a sufficently large light wire hook more suited to panfish than bass. The horizontal fall of the ned rig is what gets them. Then crimp down a light split shot about 18" up your line. You are all set. Fish the bait like a traditional ned rig, and if you don't get any bites, or only get nips, it's time to trim the bait down a bit.
A Message for All
I recently was walking by a creek fishing for some smallmouth. It was a beautiful stretch of the Middle Patuxent, yet it was still in the suburbs. There were small waterfalls, the water simmering like jewels, when I just saw a lump of trash. It had greatly detracted from the appearance of everything. Don't litter, folks.
Littering is bad for the environment. It also greatly damages the appearance of the waterway. Would you like to be fishing in a-near paradise, when you just see.............. trash? Just don't do it. Be a responsible steward of our environment.
When you think fishing in southern waters, you don't think smallmouth bass. When you think of smallmouth bass, you think clear water, deep water, rocks, and fast moving water, water with a minimum growth of plants, waters such as deep Northern lakes. The warmer waters are for largemouth - and largemouth only, right?
Above: Smallmouth water?
However, it seems that smallmouth, which are found only in the deeper, colder, and rockier waters of reservoirs are only there because they were chased out of the prime shallow water habitat by largemouth, which will outcompete them. Smallmouth don't prefer the deeper, colder, and rockier waters to more shallower habitat, but were forced there. In fact, some smallmouth hatcheries have water surface temperatures reach 95 F or higher in the summer. Also, the best growth temperature for sallies is 80-85 F. That's right, 80-85 F.
So why are smallies not as widespread as largies? Smallmouth bass, for one, don't do well at all around sunfish or other spiny finned fishes, which dominate most waterways. Sunfish are hard for them to eat, and aggressive grow and outcompete them for food and space. Largemouth bass have the upper hand in static water. Thus, the smallmouth is limited.
It's no secret to people that earthworms are a great bait for panfish. Those little buggers eagerly snap 'em up. However, buying nightcrawlers can be expensive, and they die easily. In the spring, you can get away from buying nightcrawlers by digging them up yourself - but when the soft, moist, cool soil of spring gives away to the hard, dry, and hot soil of summer, what do you do?
Above: Typical sunfish catch
You can turn to crickets, flip over some rocks in a forest, and catch them. Or go into the meadow and drive after grasshoppers. But an easy and convenient way of procuring bait for panfish is within reach. You just need some very common kitchen materials and some of your favorite soft plastic scents.
First, mix some flour with a little bit of water; the portion depends on the amounts of bait you need. Make sure you have a wet but firm lump of flour/water. Next, mash your mixture into a pancake. If you want some extra appeal to fish, drip some fish attractant scent on the pancake, or rub some soft plastic worm with your favorite fish attractant scent on the pancake. Then, put the pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds. Flip it over and put it back in the microwave for thirty seconds. The heat treatment makes the bait harder, like rubber, so that the panfish don't steal the bait as readily. To use it, roll it up in a small lump, and hook the lump. You are guaranteed to catch some sunfish.
Fishing tiny creeks allows you to sight-fish; the water in most creeks flows quickly, so that the water is clear. Look for underwater logs, large rocks, and overhangs; chances are, fish will congregate there. You may see the fish underwater, too. Make sure not to make excessive noise while looking for a better view; the consequences are obvious.
To fish the grub, there are a variety of retrieves; my favorite is casting it out near structure, let it sink near the bottom, and slowly retrieving it. Other times, quickly reeling the grub back is the way to go; you decide, based on the mood of the fish.
Above: While fishing a finesse rig like the split shot rigged grub, you may come across catching these.
Sometimes, you may just jerk the grub in the water, like a wounded minnow, or just cast it out, and let it sit there. It all depends on how the fish feel. Fish are weird, and you need to experiment at times.
This rig sometimes catches me trout. I also sometimes catch small creek suckers on this. But the most common by catches by far are creek chubs and various species of sunfish.
The good things about the tiny creeks are: one, it's shallow, so you can see the fish easily. Two, it's clear water, so you can see the fish even better. Strikes on the grub can be easily seen, and you can easily see where the fish are two. Creek fishing for "big" bass is really fun.
Have you ever passed by a tiny creek, whether you're running, cycling, or driving home from work, and looked by and wondered whether there's bass in there, and how big it would be?
As fishermen, we are instinctually drawn to the biggest bass in the lake, the alpha, the apex predator. In tiny creeks, however, you don't know if there's even bass; would the creek be big enough to support them?
I've fished creeks all my life for bass, and I have gotten to two conclusions; one, yes, they mostly have bass (be reasonable here, folks. That trickle of water after the rain won't have bass).
Above: Here's the apex predator of a creek that I could spit across at any section.
Two, the best tool for fish for small creek bass, and especially the alpha bass, is a 2"-2.5" grub on a split shot rig.
Get the grub to be in a natural color; anything that imitates small creek minnows is fine, shad colors work great. Make sure that the tail has plenty of action; too often I have seen grubs to have tails that never flutter or corkscrew - terrible action! The split shot should be 12" or so up your line, and should be light, and preferably dull (so that fish don't nip your shiny silver split shots instead). For the hook, a simple yet sharp light wire hook is fine, and there's no need to texas rig, since most creeks are swift moving, thus not really growing any weeds, so you won't really snag.
Get yourself an ultralight spinning rod and reel, with some 4 lb line. For this kind of fishing, an expensive setup really isn't needed; just get some things that are good, but not top of the line. Make sure that the ultralight rod isn't some wimpy noodle rod that can't set a hook; if you have to, a medium action sinning setup is fine. If you can't set the hook into the fish's mouth when he strikes, you only have succeeded in spooking him away. "Big" (for the creek, anyway) small creek bass aren't big for nothing. They are easily spooked, especially if your creek is in a public park.
To be continued.....
Nothing is more of an embodiment of fly fishing for some than the wild mountain creek in the remote wilderness, chasing down wild trout, reveling in the breathtaking scenery. However, such places aren't exactly common, and the price needed for some of the trips aren't exactly common either.
I once was in charge of teaching some students to fly fish before they went to the mountain streams of Virginia for a trout fishing trip. Great stuff. To let them experience fly fishing in a "stream", I took them to a little creek behind their neighborhood.
Above: Large minnows, such as chubs, can provide you with some fly fishing experience.
After they got the right flies to tie on, and set things up, they practiced presenting their flies to....... creek chubs and fallfish, with the occasional smallmouth and sunfish. They learned to feel bites, and handle fish. When they got to Virginia, they caught a bunch of trout and had a blast.
Experience is the real teacher in fishing, and as a substitute for a mountain creek, going to a local creek is fine. Fish for the local creek dwellers to build up your skill and experience. Reading/watching videos never trumps real experience on the water. Creek fish can be challenging sometimes, too, and certain fish, such as smallmouth, put up very nice fights. Plus, it's a lot of fun.
How to Learn to Detect Bites
The effectiveness of soft plastics and jigs is indisputable. Countless fish have been caught these ways, accounting for more tournament wins and more fish caught than any other ways. The stickworm, the jig, the curly tailed worm, the straight tailed worm, the creature bait, etc, all must be fished detecting bites that aren't so noticeable. The aggressive strikes of moving lures (crank baits, spinnerbaits, swim jigs, etc) won't be felt here. You need to feel bites with slower moving lures.
Above: A bite is still a bite, and you will learn to feel for them.
Advice for feeling bites is great, but after teaching many kids on the Buddy Program to bass fish, I realized that the best teacher is experience. After you detect bites, and catch fish, you will know what is a bite, and what is your worm, jig, etc, going over some debris on the bottom. Here's a method to quickly and surely learn to detect bites:
First, you round up your tackle. Get a spinning reel and rod, some light braid or fluorocarbon line, some split shots, a size 1 or 1/0 worm hook, and a 4 inch worm. Then, do a split shot rig. There are plenty of articles on this online. Go to an unprepared pond, cast, and fish on. With this finesse presentation, you will catch fish, both big and small, and feel many, many bites, some from sunfish, others from bass. Experience is the best teacher, and learning to bass fish isn't just watching videos or reading articles. Get on the water!
The Tourney.... It's Over
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.