Most people associate Texas pro Bud Pruitt with crankbaits: specifically, red Rat-L-Traps. After all, that's the lure he used to win BASSMASTER Central Invitationals on Sam Rayburn in 1996 and again in 2000, weighing in nearly identical weights of 53 pounds, 3 ounces in '96, and 54-12 four years later.
Pruitt, however, only throws 'Traps a short time each year. He spends far more time fishing a Mad Man Crawfish Tube — an extremely realistic, tubelike lure he describes as one "every angler needs to learn to fish."
He explains, "Crawfish are an important part of the food chain for bass. "Not only do they live in a great many lakes throughout the country, they're available for at least half the year, and when they are available, bass prefer them and may even look for them.
"Besides, crawfish lures are easy to fish, so it's easy to gain confidence in using them. You just can't go wrong with them."
Pruitt has three primary ways he fishes the Mad Man Crawfish: hopping and crawling it around shallow, visible cover; flipping it through hydrilla and other thick vegetation; and pitching it to bedding bass.
Fishing shallow cover
"When I'm fishing stumps, stickups, laydowns, docks, rocks and other shallow, visible cover, I Texas rig with a 1/8- to 3/16-ounce sinker and pitch to each target," explains the four time BASS Masters Classic qualifier. "These are very natural places for crawfish to be, and rigging this way allows me to present the lure very realistically.
"I let the crawfish sink to the bottom, then work it very rapidly. I don't crawl the lure back to the boat, however. Once the crawfish is on the bottom beside the target, I shake my rod tip to make the lure jump, and hop it right in the same spot. Then I pause it a few seconds and shake it again.
"I fish the lure this way because I'm basically looking for a fast reaction bite," he continues, "but really, there isn't a wrong way to fish a crawfish bait around shallow cover. You can crawl it, hop it, even swim it back, and bass will hit it."
Pruitt prefers the hollow Mad Man Crawfish Tube so he can insert a rattle, which he feels is also extremely important in this type of presentation.
Flipping thick vegetation
He doesn't usually peg his sinker, but he does when he's fishing hydrilla or other heavy vegetation. He uses a sinker ranging from 3/8 ounce to 1 ounce in size, depending on the thickness of the vegetation and the depth of the water.
"This is purely a vertical presentation," he explains, "and the crawfish lure is just one of several that fishermen use in these conditions. You can also use a heavy 'grass jig' as well as a large plastic worm in this situation. I like the crawfish because this is a natural place for them to be. They often attach themselves to the hydrilla strands underneath the mat."
Bass, of course, are underneath the mat, too, but until Pruitt determines exactly where, he works the crawfish at various depths.
"First, I let it sink to the bottom, then I start shaking my rod tip again to make the lure start dancing in place. If bass aren't right beside the crawfish, then I think this type of action may help get their attention and perhaps draw them to the lure. This is another time a rattle can be important."
If he doesn't get a strike with the crawfish on the bottom, Pruitt gradually raises the lure until he feels it hit the underside of the vegetation. All the while, he's shaking his rod tip to make the lure jump and vibrate.
"If bass are suspended in the open water between the bottom and the top of the hydrilla, your best chance of getting their interest is by shaking the crawfish at different depths as you gradually bring it up," he explains. "It's important to know where your crawfish is when you do get a strike so you can duplicate the presentation again."
A slight variation of this presentation, Pruitt smiles, is to trigger a feeding binge by knocking live crawfish off the vegetation. "Sometimes you can do it by running your boat a few yards into the vegetation, and then as soon as you stop, flipping your lure out right beside the boat," he says. "I've seen this work best in Florida with floating hyacinths, which have long, dangling root systems that attract crawfish."
"I think bass instinctively know crawfish are not supposed to be in their spawning beds, so they don't let one stay around very long," notes Pruitt. (He caught 34 pounds, 13 ounces of bass in one day with a crawfish during the famous BASSMASTER Top 150 at Lake Toho in 2001.)
"I like to pitch a crawfish in the bed and then just leave it. When a bass approaches, I shake the lure slightly, and pretty often that's all it takes. I've caught bass on beds with a crawfish in just a few minutes, after other anglers had worked on them for hours with other lures.
"In fact, during that Toho tournament, I spent two hours trying to catch an 8-pounder, but I never got a second look, even with a variety of lures. After I pitched in a Mad Man craw, I caught the fish in less than five minutes."
For virtually all his crawfish fishing, Pruitt prefers a 3 1/2-inch lure, which he rigs with either a 2/0 or 3/0 wide gap hook. This is a smaller hook size than many use, but Pruitt believes it presents a more natural appearance, and with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braided line (for hydrilla), he still gets good hook sets. He uses both 7- and 7 1/2-foot medium heavy rods.
"Overall," he says, "I believe a slow and deliberate presentation is best. Even my shaking presentations are deliberate. I pitch to a target or flip through hydrilla, and let the lure sink to the bottom. I shake it, then let it sit there, then shake it some more before I reel in for another pitch.
"Often, strikes come just after I start shaking a second time. I think what happens is that the bass comes to investigate when I first shake the crawfish, and when I stop shaking, he just looks at it, probably out of curiosity. Then, when I start shaking it again, the bass might believe the crawfish is trying to escape, so it strikes."
Lure color is also important to the Texas pro, who prefers black/blue, green pumpkin or watermelon under most conditions. Though many anglers prefer to use white lures (including crawfish), Pruitt often catches fish with the watermelon color.
"White lures are easy for anglers to see," says Pruitt, "but they certainly aren't natural, and I think one of the most important factors in fishing plastic crawfish is making certain you present a natural appearance."