The Carnivore Crayfish

Big Bass Love Crayfish. This imitation is a killer for catching trophy fish.

[by Drew Chicone]


THE TRICK TO CATCHING A CRAYFISH—if you do want to catch one—is to lift the end of a rock off the streambed very slowly so you don’t disturb the bottom too much. When I was a kid, if I could muster the strength to pry it loose from the muddy creek bed, a large flat rock was always the most fruitful.

By the time I was old enough to fish by myself, I was an expert at capturing the minuscule crustaceans hiding under those rocks. With Grandma’s mop bucket in tow, I quickly pounced on the primo bass bait using a three-finger kung fu grip before they could dart away backwards and vanish. If you distract them with one hand, the more aggressive crayfish will fight and put their claws up in a defensive posture. Although they are only a few inches long, if one of these little savages gets hold of you, you will know it!

Once I had a half dozen or so crayfish in my bucket, I would march to the end of the dock in my soggy Chuck Taylors, hook one of my quarry through its tail, and launch it toward a nearby weedbed. I was always amazed by how fast they rocketed toward the bottom and how quickly they found new rocky hiding places.

Carnivore Crayfish

Hook: Mustad 60403NP-TX TitanX Wacky Neko Hook, size 1.
Thread: Olive 3/0 (210 denier).
Antennae: Black Krystal Flash.
Eyes: Extra-large EP Crab & Shrimp Eyes.
Weight: 7 /32-inch, black nickel Dazl-Eyes.
Legs and claws: Living Image Molting Craw Dalmatian lure skirt or rubber legs.
Head: Olive brown Finnish raccoon.
Body: Olive brown Polar Chenille.
Weed guard: 20-pound-test hard Mason monofilament.
Adhesive: Loon Outdoors Fly Finish (Flow).

Drew Designs a New Fly

The process of designing a new fish-catching fly can take weeks, months, and sometimes years. Selecting the right hook, materials, and essential components to give the fly the desired presentation and action typically requires a lot of trial and error, and usually one of the pieces to the puzzle isn’t quite right at first. After analyzing the characteristics, colors, and behaviors of crayfish for the better part of my childhood, however, conjuring up an imitation seemed like second nature.

Read Drew Chicone’s Newest Book
In his latest book, Largemouth Bass Flies, Drew turns his attention to tying patterns for catching one of our favorite game fish. To learn more about all of Drew’s books, check out his website, www.saltyflytying.com. And while you’re there, be sure to sign up for Drew’s informative e‑newsletter.

Like any other bottom-dwelling critter, a crayfish displays coloration unique to the water in which it lives. In my neck of the woods, crayfish are muddy brown with highlights of brick red or baby blue on the legs, tail, and claws.

You can divide this miniature lobster into two main pieces: the head plus appendages, and a large segmented tail. When held up to the light, the tail of a real crayfish comprises five pairs of swimmerets that give it a semi-translucent appearance. Oversized claws are this little guy’s main defense mechanism, and they are a key attribute to any good imitation.

I create the cone-shaped head of my fly using long, translucent Finnish raccoon guard hairs. The 7 /32-ounce brass Dazl-Eyes look like overkill, but I find that this much weight is necessary to get the fly to the bottom quickly and offset the buoyancy of the rubber claws. Once on the bottom, the fly remains stationary while the claws float upward into the fighting position. Four- to 6-inch-long rubber legs lend the fly good action when stripped through the water and then quickly settle to the bottom, giving this imitation a very natural flight-and-fight posture. A single-strand weed guard is usually enough to keep this pattern snag-free, but you can use a double-post weed guard for fishing around heavy structure and thick grass.

The Carnivore Crayfish is ideal for catching big bass and many other species of freshwater game fish. This pattern is easy to tie and a hoot to fish. Add the Carnivore Crayfish to your fly box and get ready for some great fishing.


Drew Chicone is a regular contributor to this magazine. He is a leading designer of terrific saltwater flies, but as this article shows, he also enjoys tying—and catching—hawg bass. Drew lives in Florida.