Gene Larew Plastics

Posted on September 7, 2003

This story begins last year when I learned that the plastic crawdad I relied on for years had been discontinued to make room for the newer, better model. I was sorry to see my go-to bait for fishing the river take an abrupt, early retirement. That sent me on a long search for the next craw that would take up residence in my worm bag. I searched high and low. I went through all of my catalogs, searched the Internet, and attended fishing lure shows. I had some criteria that had to be met in order to trick the smallmouth that live in the world’s second oldest river.

In my home watershed, the New River, crawdads are the main food source for the large population of smallmouth that roam the river, the impoundments along its course, and its many tributaries. Some of the state’s largest smallmouth have come from this river and were caught on crawdad imitations. These smallmouth have seen just about every lure under the sun and to expect to catch quality fish consistently, forage imitations and presentations must be exact. The biggest bass in the river are hard to fool, but can be landed with the right tactics and baits.

I have an aquarium with crawdads and a bass in it and I am able to observe the way crawdads behave in certain situations. When craws are feeding, they crawl along the bottom, walking forward, picking up food and eating, walking along, and picking up more food. As a bass passes by, the craw stops foraging, settles down closer to the bottom, and watches the bass. If the bass has no intention of eating, the wary craw resumes eating when danger has passed. Now when a bass is looking to eat a crawdad, the craw gets nervous and twitchy. It’s eyes dart around looking for an escape route. If there is an exit, the craw uses it’s powerful tail to explode backwards and away from the area with quick thrusts of its tail. The smallmouth either takes chase or moves on to find another meal.

When the smallmouth is able to find a craw that is cornered, and as the smallmouth closes the distance between the two, the craw gets more and more jumpy. The craw raises its claws up at the smallmouth in one last defensive stance to fight for its life. The craw seems to say, “Hey! Stay back or I’ll pinch you!” Undeterred, the smallmouth, in a split second, blurred motion, moves forward, opens it’s mouth, and sucks in the crawdad. The smallmouth swallows the craw and moves on to its next meal.

Watching all of this drama take place, I took note of the defensive posture the crawdad held to defend its little life. When I saw the plastic crawdads drop in the aquarium, they looked good drifting and gliding down to the bottom like a real crawdad. I even tested the ultra realistic crawdads. They looked great going down through the water column. Then they settled down on the bottom and laid down flat. I twitched and hopped it, looking similar to a real craw, and the craw wiggled and moved like a crawdad hopping along the bottom. Then it settled and layed down flat. When a smallmouth came up to inspect it, the plastic craw layed flat on the bottom. I twitched it and the craw moved some, but then layed flat. The bass inched forward and seemed hesitant. Something wasn’t quite right. The bass probably thought the craw was dead, or even worse – diseased, and moved on to a livelier meal.

This spring, I went down to Bass Pro Shops for their spring sale. There were close to 75 lure representatives on hand showing their latest new products. I was on my search for a crawdad that could mimic the ones in my aquarium. I came across a few that looked okay, but just didn’t seem right. That is until I saw the Gene Larew Plastic Lure booth. They had some new baits and a little aquarium to show how the baits looked underwater. My eye caught a crawdad on the bottom with its claws up. I picked up the line and shook it and expected to see it settle down flat on the bottom. It didn’t. The claws floated up, looking like a fighting crawdad. I talked to the reps for a while and wanted to buy some packs of the floating crawdads. They had sold out! I told the reps how I had been searching for a new crawdad for a long time and asked how I could get some. They said to get in touch later and they’d send me some sample packs.

A couple of weeks later, I received a box from Gene Larew. I opened it up to find it full of new plastics! I was elated to say the least. I had found what I was searching for. My criteria of what I needed to present a crawdad imitation were in this new floating crawdad. There were several aspects to these baits that set them apart from other companies. Loaded with special salt compounds found in distressed crawdads, these enzimes drift in the water and alert the bass that there is a crawdad close by. There was an assortment of colors aimed at mimicing the colors of natural craws with added brightly colored claws in some models to help show up in murky water. The key aspect to this craw setting off a trigger reaction from an inspecting smallmouth is the ability to raise those claws in a last effort fight against becoming a meal. As the bass moves in, any small twitch of the rod wiggles the claws that simulate a live craw waving its defensive tools. This sets off a learned response in the bass to attack. Even in competition with the ultra-realistic crawdad imitations, they can’t match Larew’s floating claws that pose in a strike-inducing stance.

Along with the crawdads, there were new floating tube worms and jigs. I especially liked the jigs for a few reasons. I liked the placement of the eye. It is positioned in such a way as to allow the jig to penetrate weeds and glide through easily. It also aids in hopping up and over obstructions. The skirt has a unique pattern that is multi-colored and broken up with little black dots to better mimic craws that other plain skirted jigs fail to produce. Further points that place this jig at the top of the pile is the use of a black colored, super-sharp Mustad hook, barbed trailer keeper, and just the right ammount of bristles in the weed guard. Enough to do the job, but not like others that put too many on that hinder hooksets and alert bass to the jig being a fake. I added a floating craw as a trailer and was impressed with its realism in mimicing a crawdad. The claws stood up, ready to pinch the next smallmouth in the face.

I took the plastics out for a test run and was convinced that I was finally able to end my search for the plastic crawdads needed in my arsenal. I waited until after the flood waters had receeded to a safe level, and went to a spot known for its concentration of crawdads. By the end of the afternoon, I landed 22 decent smallmouth between 11″ and 22″. Fifteen were fooled by a Texas rigged craw, 5 on the jig/craw, and 2 on the tube worm. The largest, a 22″, 4lb. bronzeback, ate the jig and craw combo.

I was greatly impressed with the way these new baits from Gene Larew worked. Twenty-two pre-spawn smallmouth in a few hours in muddy, cold water, was enough to sell me. I can’t wait to fish them this summer and fall. If you are looking for a better crawdad imitation, pick up a pack of these new floating crawdads. The floating claws can be the deciding factor in convincing a hungry smallmouth that you are offering the real thing.

Tackle used:

Texas rigged craw and tube worm
Rod: Bass Pro Shops Extreme HM54 graphite rod, 7′ med/light, 1/16-3/8oz. lures 4-10lb. line
Reel: Quantum Energy E5-2 spooled with 8lb P-Line Floroclear, clear
I used a 1/8oz. bullet weight and Eagle Claw Featherlight L713G, x-wide gap 0.5/0 Nickel Teflon hook
Watermelon seed tube || Black/blue, black/chart claw, green pumpkin, melon pepper/chart claw crawdads

Rod: Bass Pro Shops Bionic Blade IM-6 Flippin’ Special 7’6″ Heavy, 3/8-2oz. 10-30lb. line
Reel: Quantum Energy E500CP spooled with 12lb. Berkley Big Game, clear
I used a 3/16oz. melon pepper jig w/ melon pepper green/neon orange claw

by Travis Dixon

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