Crayfish are one of my favorite live baits for smallmouth bass in late spring and throughout summer. Rather than catch them as needed, I like to keep a few dozen on hand for impromptu floats down the river or short trips to a local stream. Unlike some other live baits, crayfish are very easy to keep and don't require a large fish tank with a filtration system. If you've got a drill and a large rectangular plastic storage container with a lid (the kind you might store sweaters in), you can keep crayfish for weeks in the garage or basement.
Fill the container with just enough water to cover the crayfish three-quarters of the way. They do not need to be completely submerged. Using a 1⁄4-inch bit, drill rows of holes in the container lid.
Crayfish will eat just about anything, but lettuce is a good choice, as it's inexpensive and doesn't dirty the water as quickly as foods like hot dogs or raw meat trimmings. Feed the crayfish once a week, dropping in just a few big leaves, and change the water the day after feeding. I'll slowly flip the container over and let the old water drain through the holes in the lid.
If any crayfish molt in the container, remove the discarded shells right away. Likewise, get out any dead crayfish as soon as possible. Shells and dead crayfish pollute the water very quickly, which can cause you to lose even more of your baits.
Photo: Anton Starkov/Alamy