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Pattern Index

Don's Hard Shell Crab

by Don Avondolio

Often overlooked, but still a popular food source for stripers, is the lowly crab. I can still feel the sudden, savage strike of the large bass that hit a floating crab pattern I was using along a Long Island Sound beach front a while back. And during a Montauk fall trip, I noticed that bass rolling on the surface were sucking in small clusters of crabs with gusto while they ignored other baits in the area.

Rocky bottoms, sandy surfaces, beach fronts and estuaries all are common to particular species of crabs, and a crab simulator pattern can often be deadly.

This pattern can be tied either as a floater, or in a sinking version by attaching lead barbell eyes in an appropriate size near the hook eye. The option is yours. Both the floater and the sinker will work, depending upon the circumstances.

The top carapace is made out of a clear Mylar, also known as drafting film and by other names. It's available in art supply and craft shops, and it's a material I've also used successfully for creating gills and tails on baitfish patterns.

Coloration covers a range of rust, mottled brown, blue, cream, gray, olive, green, yellow, and black.

Hook sizes can range from a #2 to a 3/0, depending upon the size of the prevailing crabs.

Bodies may be constructed out of Fun Foam or Furry Foam materials. Either can be cut and shaped into the trapezoid silhouette that's particular to crabs.

The claws and legs are made out of rubber bands. Use a wider band for the claws, and thinner ones for the legs. You can also use the soft plastic legs sold as a fly tying material. They offer better live motion than the rubber bands, but they're not as durable.

  • Sheet Foam
  • Clear Mylar (drafting film - available in art supply shops)
  • E-Z Shape Sparkle Body
  • Zap-A-Gap or 5-Minute Epoxy
  • Claws & Legs:
  • Thick & Thin Rubber bands
Standard Shank 2 - 3/0



  • Heavy-Duty Monofilament
  • Black Vinyl Paint


1: Cut a rectangle out of a sheet of 1/8-inch thick Fun Foam. Make it approximately 3/4 x 1 1/8 inches. Fold it in half and cut it into a trapezoid shape. In case you've forgotten plane geometry, a trapezoid is a four-sided shape with two parallel sides, one longer than the other. For our crab pattern, we need to have one side about three times longer than the other. Cut the longer slide into a slight curve, mimicking a crab's shell.

2: Cut a length of a thick rubber band, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Tie a simple overhand knot about 1/2-inch from on end, and cut the end into a claw-like shape. Do the same with a second, shorter length of rubber band. The knots form the crab claw "knuckles" and cause the "claws" to angle upward in a typical defensive stance.

3: Cut two thinner rubber bands into lengths of about 1 3/4 inches.

4: Open your foam trapezoid and glue the claws and legs onto the inside top with Zap-A-Gap or epoxy. Glue the claws near each end of the longer, curved side, making sure that they point upward. Glue the legs, sticking out along the sides. At least two legs on each, depending upon the overall size of your pattern. Trim the legs to size and cut the tips to a point.

5: Glue in the hook, pointing up in the same direction as the "claws." Fold the foam over, and glue the halves together, making sure halves along the longer, forward edge are sealed.

(Ed. Note: Zap-A-Gap does a quicker, easier job of bonding foam than epoxy -- there's less of a mess, too -- but make sure the halves are aligned properly before you press them together. When the glue is dry, you can make minor profile corrections, using sharp scissors.)

6: Cut the top of the crab shell out of the clear Mylar (drafting film). Make it the same shape as the top of your folded foam, but a little longer on the leading edge so that the Mylar extends just a slight bit over the foam body. Cut tiny V-shaped slits into the longer, leading edge to further simulate the crab's profile.

7: Glue the Mylar carapace in place on top. Make sure the V-cut front sticks slightly out over the foam. Do not glue down this leading edge to the foam. End your glue line about three-fourths of the way up from the rear of the pattern.

8: Coat the Mylar surface with E-Z Shape Sparkle Body.
The sparkling colors look best, and Sand probably the most common color for small, shoreline crabs, but don't overlook Sparkling Black, Pearl, Olive, Crayfish, and the other available colors.

Ed. Note: E-Z Shape colors can also be blended to create unique hues and variegated colors.)

When the E-Z Shape is still soft, you may create a bumpy-looking shell by stippling the top with the point of a bodkin. Several coats will create an extra-hard shell.

9: As the pattern dries, make the eyes by cutting two short lengths of 60-pound-test monofilament, and melting one tip on each with a butane lighter, etc. You don't want to burn the mono. Just lick it with the flame until it melts and forms a ball on the end. Coat the ball tips with black vinyl paint.

Glue the eyes into the front of the pattern by pushing the mono into foam. Starting the holes with a bodkin or needle may help. Position the eyes into the top half of the fold-over, but near the glue line.

Option: Additional colors can be added to the underbody, using E-Z Shape or permanent ink markers.

Ed. Note: Fishing as crab pattern can often be tedious. Some say it's about as close as you're going to get to fishing a bait with a fly rod. It's best to allow the pattern to move with the current, giving it only an occasional slight twitch. Ebb currents are often best, but stripers have also been spotted "tailing" on flats as they nose around the bottom for a crab feast. By the way, don't think we've forgotten to include "tying" instructions. Don's Hard Shell Crab is created without thread.









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