Soft-bait offerings that suggest a crawfish profile are adaptable presentations, particularly when a swimming retrieve is part of the mix.
From late spring through mid fall, I find the combination of a skirted swimming jig coupled with a crawfish trailer effectively covers the many features of a weed-rich flat. I pitch a Swim Jim (www.jimmydsriverbugs
) swimming jig loaded with a Yum Money Craw next to stalks of eelgrass and cattails. Oftentimes, the initial descent of the combo triggers a strike from largemouth holding in the vicinity. If not, a bite-stimulating retrieve that bumps the stalks of coontail and milfoil on the way back will frequently trigger a strike.
Minnesota-based tournament angler Scott DeZurik believes the swimming jig/craw trailer significantly improves his efficiency.
“I fish a swimming jig and craw in many of the same situations as I would a spinnerbait,” says DeZurik. “But it’s much more versatile than a spinnerbait. The combo allows me to pitch next to cover, and fish it like a traditional jig, looking for that vertical bite, and then work it back to the boat, like a spinnerbait.”
Using a Swim Jim (with the fiber hook guard slightly trimmed) dressed with a white twin tail trailer like Yum’s Boogie Tail, DeZurik pitches next to wood cover and allows the bait to fall before starting his retrieve. He’s also had great success using the tactic in weedy situations like reeds.
While Pennsylvania FLW pro angler Dave Lefebre also uses swimming jig/craw combos in heavy cover, he doesn’t limit the tactic to such applications.
“I find the swimming jig and craw trailer to be a great alternative to crankbaits and spinnerbaits in open water situations,” says the 2009 Forrest L. Wood Cup finalist. “You can cast it twice as far as you would a crankbait.”
Using a 9/16 ounce Tabu Open Water-model jig dressed with a five-inch Yamamoto Pro Double Tail trailer, Lefebre fires lengthy casts over deeper structure like creek channel bends, rocky points, and deeper humps. Typically, he’ll trim back the skirt of the jig so it doesn’t flare as much on the fall.
“This is a great tactic in the late spring and early summer, following the spawn, when bass start to gather up on these spots,” notes Lefebre. “And again in the fall, especially on northern waters.”
In cover-oriented situations, the rate of the retrieve is customized to make contact with weedgrowth and wood. But Lefebre says it’s necessary to experiment with assorted speeds and cadences in open water. At times he’ll shake the rod tip while maintaining a fairly steady turn of the reel handle.
“A snapping retrieve is a good tactic when you’re on a school of fish that quit biting,” he adds. “Say you were biting bass in the morning, but they shut down in the afternoon. Often you can squeeze out a few more bites by giving the jig a sharp snap that lifts it two or three feet. You’ll miss some bites ‘cause of the slack, but it does induce some extra hits.”
Mitch Looper was instrumental in the design of Booyah’s Swim n Jig. So it’s not surprising when the Arkansas veteran fell head-over-heels for Yum’s Money Craw, which he feels is the perfect match for many swimming jig applications.
“When the water’s warm, I like to swim a jig fast,” says Looper. “And the Money Craw is about the only thing I’ve found that will produce the kicking action I like at that speed.”
Looper says that natural pork frogs are one other option, but that only four or five in the jar will produce the right swimming motion.
When the water is warm, Looper heads for some of the thickest emergent and submergent weeds he can find. Using a half-ounce Booyah Swim n Jig and 2.75 inch Money Craw, he burns the combo near the surface.
“Largemouth will group up in bunches of three or four, and they can be competitive,” he explains. “When you burn the bait across the weeds, it produces an instinctive bite.”
Swimming craws don’t have to be fished behind jigs to work; they are also effective on more than lake-bound bass. River-dwelling bass, smallmouths in particular, are suckers for swimming craws fished more like a soft swimbait.
What makes the Money Craw unique among baits of this category is its pinchers. They sport miniature paddle tails. In effect, the pinchers are downsized versions of shad and shiner-shaped paddle tail soft swimbaits. So when you swim one at moderate to faster speeds, the pinchers swim like all get-out.
For river smallmouth bass, I rig a 2.75 inch Money Craw on a 1/0 Mustad Powerlock Plus hook, which comes with either a sixteenth- or eighth-ounce belly weight. Center the head of the craw with the barbed appendage and run the hook up through the bait from the bottom, keeping everything in line. River smallies often hold in the shallows, right near the bank. Cast the craw within inches of the bank and swim it back with high expectation that a brown bass will intercept.