An often overlooked bait for catfish is the crawfish, crayfish, or crawdad. These miniature lobster-like creatures are found in almost any small river, creek, pond, or lake and are a natural food source for catfish and other major species of fish, including smallmouth bass, crappie, and perch. The next time you go fishing, try putting a crayfish on the hook and drop it near the shoreline. Within a few minutes, you will have a bite.
Live crawfish for catfish bait
Fish prefer live baits such as worms, shad, and hoppers. Live crawfish will be more attractive to catfish than dead ones. Crawfish feed off of algae and plankton found in the mud and silt at the bottom of small rivers or lakes. Catfish feed off the bottom, so this mud dwelling bug makes an enticing bait for most flathead and channel cats. A live crawfish is also a lethal bass bait. Other fish also find crawfish tasty, and a small crawfish is great bait for crappie, perch, and bluegill fishing.
How to rig live crawfish
It is possible to insert a hook and keep the crawfish alive. Many anglers prefer to insert the hook through the tail, from bottom to top. The crayfish will still be able to move his head and pinchers. Some people prefer to remove the pinchers because getting snapped by a crayfish can be painful.
Another way to bait the hook is to insert the hook at the nose of the crawfish from bottom to top. Be careful not to move the hook too far back, because if you puncture the brain, the creature will die.
How to catch live crawfish
Most bait stores do not sell live crawfish, even though they are a popular bait among anglers fishing for catfish, big trout, and bass. If this is the case in your area, you will need to catch live crawdads on your own. This is as easy as wading in a shallow river and flipping over rocks. You will see the crawdads feeding on debris from the river bottom. Catching crawfish is tricky, but it can be fun. They travel backward. Keep that in mind when you uncover them. Grab the crawfish just behind the head and place him in your bait bucket.
If you prefer to catch many crayfish at once and don’t like the idea of flipping rocks to grab creatures that can hurt you, set up a minnow trap. Bait it with chicken parts. The crayfish will enter the trap to eat, but cannot escape. Keep all the crawfish alive by keeping the trap in water or placing the crawfish in a bait bucket with a recirculating bubbler.
Are dead crawfish a good bait too?
Some anglers have asked if dead crawfish produce the same results as live ones. While you can use dead crawfish as bait, it is most likely going to land belly up on the bottom and be overlooked by a big flathead. You might catch a channel catfish or bluegill though.
Crawfish plastics for catfish
If you look at the best baits available in plastics, you will find that crawfish rank right up there with catawba worms and artificial shad. These artificial baits are carefully crafted to resemble things fish eat. Not only are the artificial becoming more realistic with options like jointed tails and swimming features, but these lures are much nicer to use than chicken livers, stinking dip baits, or dough balls that fall off the hook.
Other species that eat crawfish
Not only is crawfish one of the best catfish baits, but smallmouth bass and other sport fish find them irresistible. These are the most lethal bass and big trout baits on the market, and there are terrific reasons for that. Fish are more likely to go after bait that is naturally occurring in the waterway they live in. When hooked through the tail, crawfish present a natural appearance.
Final thoughts on crawfish as a catfish bait
There are all kinds of catfish baits available in stores, from dip baits to artificial fish eggs. While catching catfish is possible using these artificial, the best catfish bait is a live crawdad. Most flatheads will gulp down crawdads without hesitation. Since most bait stores don’t sell these creatures, remember that they can easily be caught by lifting rocks in shallow streams or on the edge of rivers.
You can’t go wrong with crawdads. If the fish aren’t biting, throw them in a pot and boil them with a little cajun seasoning and some salt. Add some potatoes and corn for a good old-fashioned seafood boil.