Allen Casal is an experienced Susquehanna River angler and guide. Tubes, swimbaits and spinnerbaits are staples on the Susquehanna River for big smallmouth bass. In this interview with Allen, we discuss one of his go-to baits that is a bit different than these standards. Allen shares with us his approach to fishing plastic crawfish baits for Susquehanna River smallmouth bass.
How long have you been fishing the Susquehanna River?
Been fishing the Susquehanna my whole life, started fishing it when I was a kid about 40 years ago. Been guiding about 30 years, started on Lake Wallenpaupack and New York Lakes. I fish at least 225 days a year. I am a full time guide and am available 7 days a week.
What section of the Susquehanna do you guide on?
I fish the North Branch from Hunlock Creek up into New York. I do most charters from the PFBC in West Falls Pennsylvania. I like the diversity of the area I fish. We fish from shallow rapids to 25 feet deep holes.
How long have you been fishing plastic crawfish baits for Susquehanna River smallmouth bass?
Been using Plastic Craws my whole life. I always have a soft craw tied on. It’s my number one spring bait. In the spring there are not a lot of minnows left in the size that interest the smallmouth bass so swimbaits are not as effective as later in the season. But there are lots of crawfish around and the smallmouth know a easy meal when they see one. Also come spawn time the smallmouth will crush a crawfish bait anyway near a bed.
Do you have a particular brand of crawfish imitator that you like?
The most realistic crawfish on the market is the Tackle HD Hi-Def Craw. This bait is digitally scanned to create the perfect molds then hand poured and hand painted. It is nearly impossible to tell a real crawfish and Hi-Def Crawfish apart. Keitech USA also makes a some very good crawfish baits.
Do you have particular colors that you like with the bait?
I always start with green pumpkin, if the bite is slow on that then I will switch to a brown-orange. I try to match colors with the real thing if the water clarity is good. If the water is muddy then black-blue.
What type of jig head are you using with these baits?
I mainly use the Tackle HD Stealth HD jighead. It has a unique head design that minimize snags but still allows for a good hookup. I also use a home made sled jig for areas that are really snaggy. As to working the bait the most important thing is SLOW. You can’t work it too slow. I also like to let them sink on a semi slack line so you don’t pull the craw away from the intended target.
I also saw that it looked like you were rigging them as a drop shot. How are you using the bait when river drop shotting with it?
This is where the Keitech USA Little Spider comes into play. I hook them on a Yamamoto # 4 dropshot hook about 12” off the bottom. I don’t use a dropshot weight. I tie a Tackle HD Hi-Def Crawfish rigged on Stealth HD jighead as the weight. Can’t tell you how many times I caught fish on the bottom bait doing this. Also you will get the occasional double on one cast with this rig.
What rod/reel/line setup are you using when fishing plastic crawfish baits for Susquehanna River smallmouth bass?
I prefer Denali Lithium 7’ jig rod. It has a ton of backbone with a medium tip perfect for jig fishing. I use a Shimano Curado with a 8.2:1 ratio to take line up quickly. I always use Sufix Invisline fluorocarbon in 14 pound test.
For dropshot I use a Denali Lithium 7’ dropshot rod. It has a super sensitive tip and plenty of backbone. I pair it with a Shimano Stradic reel spooled with Sufix 832 in 10 pound test. Both these combos are super high quality and will last for years.
Do you consider this a numbers type bait or can people catch big fish on them as well?
I call them a big fish bait first that can also catch big numbers as well. The Hi-Def Crawfish is truly a big fish bait with its large profile and realistic appearance. The Keitech Little Spider is more of a numbers bait, at 3” fished on a 1/16 oz head. It has a very finesse like appearance to it. As a bonus walleye seem to like this bait also.
If someone wants to spend some time learning to fish this bait with you or learning to be a better angler on the Susquehanna River, how can they book a trip with you?
An average day we will start between 6 and 7 in the morning, we will start by trying topwater baits. After the topwater bite fades, we will switch to spinnerbait and cranks. After that we will go to the crawfish baits.
We always start in the pools and work out way into the current areas as the sun gets higher. We will be fishing from a 2017 RiverPro LoPro powered by a 200 hp Merc SportJet fully equipped for any type of river fishing. RiverPro is a very fast boat, also very stable even with several anglers fishing off the same side. We will be able to run thru ankle deep water without making bottom contact. My LOPRO is also a very plush boat fully carpeted with plush seating. And remember…The Fish Of A Lifetime Is Only A Cast Away.
Thank you Allen for such great info. Will definitely be trying some plastic crawfish baits for Susquehanna River smallmouth bass.