Dropping water temperatures often force light tackle anglers to reach for a good crustacean imitator from their tackle bag. Colder water also dictates slower presentations that appeal to game fish not willing to expend the energy to chase down the faster paced lures utilized during the warmer months. For this reason, a good shrimp or crab imitation is generally well received by snook, redfish, and sea trout when there is a good chill in the air.
A few obvious artificial choices that ideally mimic crustaceans would be soft plastic shrimp and crab look-a-likes but there are other selections that do a respectable impression as well… such as tube baits, buck tail jigs, craw-like plastics and beaver tail grubs. And when it comes to choosing color for crustacean baits, natural organic hues get the nod 90% of the time but occasionally in turbid water conditions more vibrant colors (e.g. electric chicken) are necessary.
One common trait most crustacean baits should possess is that it has to be presented slow and deliberate to give it a life-like action to match its appearance. In regard to the ideal retrieve discipline, typically the presentation for a “shrimp look” should be a gentle lift, lift, fall (escape move) followed by a hesitation then repeat. The lift movement should be short & smooth and done with the rod only not the reel so that the shrimp imposter does not move a great distance but has a realistic escape presentation. Now when it comes to the “crab look”, think groovy! Really, use a football head jig to keep your plastic crab on the sea bottom and simply drag the bait about 6” to 12” at a time with a short pause in between movements. This dragging presentation makes grooves in the sand or mud and creates a light dust trail just like a real crab often enticing redfish and flounder into devouring the lure. In short, visualize the bait you are imitating and its natural behavior and you’ll catch more fish.
A couple bait recommendations from the Flats Class pros that perform well in a variety of scenarios would be the Z-Man 3” Scented Shrimpz or Crabz, Z-Man Toobz, or the TBS buck tail jig line-up. And my color choices are always predicated on water clarity and bottom make-up… naturally variations of brown and green are favored but fantastic complimentary colors that add to the base color would be orange, gold flake, and red flake. Additionally, you should always consider adding scent to all crustacean patterns due to their slow deliberate movements.
It’s really a simple formula when employing the crustacean pattern, just adhere to the “be the bait” mentality and you’ll catch more of those cold water game fish!