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.
This year's summer is quite mild. The breezes are pleasant, and the temperature, not too incessant. It's perfect for flathead cat fishing, which involving sitting on the shore for long periods of time. And there's few better baits for flatheads than bullhead catfishes, those small catfishes that you often catch on nightcrawlers and bobbers.
Flatheads inhale these things. Bullheads are apparently very tasty to them, because I'm not the only one with my sentiment. I've also caught bass, channels, and even turtles on bullheads before.
Bullheads are better bait than panfishes in that they are very hardy. I left them in the garage overnight in an inch of water, and they have survived, and were back to normal pretty soon (and tasted just as good as fresh ones in the frying pan). In your bait bucket, panfish die pretty soon, but there are days when I go without an aerator in my bucket, and these things were all nice and frisky. They also live very long on your hook, unlike panfishes.
Above: Officer "Ved" Shah shows a student how to catch a bullhead
Catching bullheads is simple. Bullheads are like bluegill. They will readily take a worm on a hook on a hook, split shot, and bobber rig. If it's a live bait rig and catches panfish, it will catch bullheads. Remember, I said live bait. Bullheads aren't much for lures. Live bait has the scent and taste that they can detect. Also, do not get bug spray, sunscreen, or any manmade chemicals on your hands or bait. Nothing scares off bullheads as unnatural scents do.
Bullheads like the dark. If you're fishing by day, consider fishing in the shadows of trees. Or, better yet, fish at night. Keep in mind that you will send the bullheads scurrying off to their little hiding places if you shine down white light (most flashlights). Use red light to rebait your hook, because bullheads can't see red light, apparently.
Small bullheads are a great bait. Catching them is a lot of fun. Try them!
Live bait is something that most of us started out fishing with, and then moved on to soft plastics, flies, etc. We usually associate fishing with live bait as something only for panfish. I disagree.
Do yo know about those small creeks that snake behind houses, stores, and in parks? Most people don't fish such small creeks, but I do, and I find them enjoyable. Even in large creeks and rivers, you can use my method of catching smallmouth bass.
Above: A healthy creek smallmouth is caught out of the Middle Patuxent River in Howard County, Maryland.
If you read any of my previous blog posts, you will find that I like using mealworms as live bait. There are many reasons for that, including but not restricted to these:
1. Natural. A mealworm looks natural underwater, like some kind of aquatic insect larvae, or something that fell off a tree branch. It won't spook any fish.
2. Tasty. Fish love them. Not as much as nightcrawlers, but very close. Besides, a nightcrawler doesn't have some of the most important advantages a mealworm has.
3. Strong. Fish can't ripe the off the hook as easily, due to the shell.
4. They are the perfect size for my technique, and for creek fishing
5. They don't easily dry out. They used to live in bags of grain! How dry is that? When you leave them out in the sun, they won't die nearly as easily as worms do, but they still prefer shade.
6. Hardy. I can shake them around hiking, heat them up while in my car, and other ways. They still don't die. Many other types of live bait, such minnows, die extremely easily.
7. You can put the in the fridge, with little care. That's a good way of storing them, and very convenient.
First, put a mealworm (You can get them at feed and pet stores, or online) on a hook in a way that they are on the hook straight, covering the shank, but with the bend and point exposed. Then, put a tiny split shot 8" or so above it, and cast it out in a nice pool. Feel or watch for bites. The mealworm will look like insect larvae to hungry creek smallmouth, and natural, as well. I have got many fish this way, and so will you.
Red Worms vs Nightcrawlers
Whenever I go out in the rain, I see many garden worms laying out on the sidewalk. They come in different shapes in sizes, from different colors and species. There are those long brown ones, those "jumper" worms. You touch them, and they start jumping and wiggling around. There are those sluggish purple red worms, that are sort of fat. There are other species as well. Go take a walk outside after a rain. You will see the variety.
There's no mistake that freshwater fish love worms. I have caught everything from bass to trout on worms. The kids on the Buddy Program (The YFS has a "Buddy Program," where countless kids are taught fishing, and many have gone on to become avid anglers and ambassadors of the sport. You can view the page "Our Work" for more information) love them, as do the YFS officers leading the program. Creek panfish and fallfish are caught in large numbers, much to the glee of those participating in the program. There also are the memories of your first fish, when you were just a kid dunking worms in a pond. I had caught a 2lb bluegill on a worm when I was 7.
As common as worms are on the ground, people still buy nightcrawlers in stores, for around $4 for a pack of 18. I feel like for ordinary applications, that is a mistake. Worms are easily found under logs and rocks, in the rain, or by digging. I have found the "jumper" worms to have a lot of action on the hook, triggering bites from nice sized fishes of all species. If you need a bigger worm for a larger application, however, you may need nightcrawlers, but for ordinary applications, garden worms will do fine.
Chub/Creek Minnows as Bass Bait
If there is one bait minnow that bass like, it's trout. Soft finned, slender, and tasty, all bass inhale trout. Big trout swimbaits catch big bass in reservoirs where they are stocked. But trout are under very strict laws for fishing. In Maryland, you could only take two trout a day, and there are a whole bunch of laws regarding trout fishing (delayed harvest, no felt waders, etc). Trout also can only live in very cool and well oxygenated water, and free of pollution. If you live in a suburb, like I do in Howard County, you got to do some driving to find an area to catch trout. That's not mentioning that you can only catch 2 per day, if you can catch one at all.
Above: Bluegill aren't appealing to bass.
That why I use chub or creek minnows as bass bait. Thy are relatively soft finned, slender, and bass love them. I get much better catch rates on them, vs a live bluegill. Bluegill are disc shaped, spiny, and hard for a bass to swallow (bass can curl up longer fishes in their mouth, but not bluegill). In a choice between a bluegill vs a chub or creek minnow, a chub would always be chosen.
To catch a chub or a creek minnow, I prefer to use an ultralight rod with a tiny hook and bobber, and a BB split shot. Pic up some worms by flipping over a few rocks, and you are all set. Creek minnows are fast, and using dip nets to catch them would be hard. They also have the sense to avoid cast nests, and catching them by seine nets in the rocky, swift, shallow creeks would be impossible. Any creek minnow or chub that you catch would be fair game as bait, just don't catch the creek panfish.
Targeting Creek Chub with Mealworms
Picture below from wikipedia.org
As discussed in the previous post, creek chub are very feisty fish. They can be reliably caught in almost any stream over 3 feet wide in Clarksville. Photo courtesy of rainbowmealworms.com.
Mealworms make a great bait for creek chub. Mealworms are not as messy as earthworms, hardier in the fact that they will tolerate light, are much less prone to dehydration, are tasty to fish, have a great wiggling action, are smaller than Canadian nightcrawler, which are the ones most locally available (if you cut off a piece of one, the worm dies, and can kill off the other worms in the cup), stays on the hook better than a nightcrawler, are very cheap, and are very good for trout, "slab" crappie and bluegill, bullheads, small bass, and just about every fish smaller than a large bullhead.
I feel the success of mealworms in small streams is also in part to resembling small aquatic larvae that fish feast on. They also look at the small insects that drop off from overhead trees that trout and other fish in a tiny creek eat. That may explain why they work great on small stream trout. The proper rigging technique is as you would rig a curly tailed grub: Hook the mealworm by the head, and push the hook shank down.
The white juices from the mealworm drive fish crazy. Plus, fish don't like always biting through a shell. Rip off the head or cut into the body to expose the juices. Mealworms, as said before are very cheap. You can get 500 mealworms for only $3.99. On the other hand, 100 Canadian night crawlers cost $30, have the disadvantages above, and European night crawlers, which are smaller, cost $8 per 100, and have the similar disadvantages. Mealworms can be stored in long periods of time in the begrudge, with their bedding of bran. Their moisture source can be a slice of potato or carrot. They are very low maintenance bait, and cost very little. I recommend you give them a try, not just for chubs, but for all smaller gamefish!
Below: Small bass can be caught on mealworms.
I hope you find this useful!
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.