Choosing a crab pattern

How to select a good crab fly.

Q. There are so many crab patterns now, which one is the best, and what are the criteria for selecting a good crab fly? - Jim Pearson, Dallas, TX

**This is a good question. First, there is no one color or pattern that works best every time. Two years ago in the Bahamas, we hooked a nice bonefish that ran off some distance and became entangled in a sea fan. Before we could get to it, a small bonnethead shark bit off the bone's tail. Knowing it would die, the guide asked to keep it for food. In its stomach, we found nine crabs all about the size of a fingernail, and every one was a different color, ranging from a cream tone to very dark green.

It often helps to use crabs that are the color of the flats. If you are fishing light-colored flats, then a cream-colored crab makes a good choice. On a turtle grass flat, a cream-colored fly may not do as well as an olive or green one.

Certain factors also help in presentation. I have found that even large permit will take a crab pattern that has a diameter no larger than a quarter. Crabs flies that have a hard bottom tend to make more noise upon impact, so I avoid them. I would use crabs with different sink rates, too. The Merkin is perhaps the best all-around choice for a crab pattern.