Smallmouth bass have long been a favorite quarry of mine. Smallies are gnarly fighters, equally capable of airborne acrobatics and those line-peeling runs we all crave. And in Idaho, they are found in abundance from the Snake River to Lake Lowell, Lucky Peak and Arrowrock Reservoir.
Smallmouth are ferocious predators that will gobble just about anything they can fit in their mouths. But of all the prey items on the menu, crayfish are the preferred meal du jour.
Sporting plated armor and a mean set of pincers, crayfish seem like a tough meal — but smallmouth can’t resist them. I’ve caught dozens of bass that, when lipped, revealed the protruding antennae of a freshly swallowed crayfish. On smaller fish, you will sometimes notice an unnatural bulge of the belly. Odds are, a crayfish lies within.
Mother Nature has even equipped smallmouth with a stealth weapon for hunting crayfish. As smallies patrol their favorite rocky shorelines, they can excrete a crayfish-like scent through their skin. When a territorial crayfish emerges from its rock crevice to ward off the “intruder,” he instead meets the business end of a hungry bass. Times are tough when you’re a crayfish.
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The good news is, we anglers can capitalize on the crayfish crave. Whether you like to throw crankbaits, jigs, soft plastics or flies, if it looks like a crayfish, smallmouth will demolish it. Slowly “crawling” your lure through the rocks, ripping it along the shoreline in a stop-and-go retrieve or slowly drifting it past likely ambush spots are good presentations to try. Crayfish also are legal to use as live bait, but you must capture them on the same body of water you are fishing. As a bonus, largemouth bass, perch, catfish and even trout will whack a crayfish.
Summer smallmouth fishing is in full swing, especially on the Snake River. So tie on a crayfish and join the party.