Bobby Garland Itty Bit Series is Kind of a Big Deal
Nov 16, 2022
Bobby Garland Itty Bit Series is Kind of a Big Deal
The highly popular Itty Bit Series of Bobby Garland Crappie Baits is only getting better, with improvements including a new bag for the entire series, with compartments to protect every bait.
Country music star Alan Jackson took a song with the line, “It’s alright to be little bitty” to No. 1 in the United States and Canada. It seems crappie anglers are also good with the “size thing,” and are finding top-of-the-charts success of their own with fishing lines singing an “Itty Bit” tune of a different kind.
Bobby Garland’s family of Itty Bit 1.25-inch soft-plastic crappie baits has grown in short order and continues to benefit from ongoing series improvements. In fact, today all three body styles – the Itty Bit Swim’R, Itty Bit Slab Slay’R and Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R – are coming out of precision molds, being packaged in compartmented trays to protect shapes and going into new “Itty Bit Series” branded bags.
“The Itty Bit identity will make it easier to spot the baits among all of the great Garland styles at stores, but it will take a while to get them everywhere because the packaging changeover has just started,” said Bobby Garland brand manager Gary Dollahon. “Of course, the new bags still have the Bobby Garland logo and offer a clear view of contents. There’s also a front label that indicates bait name and color.”
The Itty Bit Swim’R came first and was designed especially with northern markets in mind where “small” is the lure norm for catching crappie and panfish in cold water – especially through the ice. Surprising the Bobby Garland folks, though, Southern crappie anglers were clamoring for the tiny baits soon after the summer launch. The miniature minnow was a match to baitfish sizes following spring hatches and the finicky post-spawn crappie were liking it a lot. Ever since, scores of anglers have been fine-tuning the “Why, When, Where and How” of using Itty Bits for year-round success.
The Aha Moment
The Itty Bit Swim’R came out as part of the 2015 tackle year lineup, at a time when the 2-inch Baby Shad and 2- and 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs were getting all the attention. The timing also coincided with a Bobby Garland national survey of avid crappie anglers around some marketing initiatives. Among the discoveries was the fact that 95 percent of avid crappie anglers preferred crappie baits of 2 inches and smaller. As a result, while much of the competition was focused on going “big” to chase Baby Shad and Slab Slay’R’s success, Bobby Garland was downsizing.
“I knew we had something special when we put the first Itty Bit Swim’R prototype in the aquarium at our nearby Bass Pro Shops,” Dollahon said. “It immediately got the attention of every species in the tank, but it was a black crappie that raced to grab it first. Time after time thereafter, something was always eating it. At one point, the biggest bass in the tank, a double-digit one, engulfed it. Even knowing the bait was hookless, it was unnerving to see that main attraction fish swimming with our line coming from its tightly closed mouth. Thankfully, the giant eventually spit it out. What we saw that day sparked the entire Itty Bit series.”
The 1.25-inch Itty Bit Slab Slay’R has a solid round body nearly one-third of its overall length. That means the lure’s tail is also diminutive, but the most prominent feature of the lure’s design.
The thin, flexible tail is cupped and narrows to a point. Cup orientation when rigged on a. jighead influences the bait’s action. Rigged cup down, the fall is more vertical and delivers greater vibration as the tail traps water. Rigged cup up, the fall is more of a darting, gliding action because the convex surface works much like a boat’s hull.
The Itty Bit Slab Slay’R is available in solid colors and also head/tail combinations, including longtime favorites such as Electric Chicken and Bone White/Chartreuse.
The 1.25-inch Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R has a bulkier profile and totally different action than the other two Itty Bit baits, thanks mostly to its unique swimtail.
The lobed-tail resembles a two-bladed boat prop positioned vertically. Even the slightest movement starts it swimming, which keeps a tight and realistic action throughout all retrieve speeds. Even at rest, the bait’s tail bounces and quivers in strike-enticing fashion.
The Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R sports a ribbed belly for vibration during movement and when contacting cover. It also serves to hold scent applied between the ribs, and provides a natural “squishy” feel that seems to make fish hold on longer.
The Slab Hunt’R comes in a variety of solid, laminates and head/tail colors, including Bobby Garland favorites like Cajun Cricket and Bluegrass, as well as in newer ones like Coppernose and Purple Monkey.
Little baits need little jigheads. Well, sort of. The need for right-sized jigheads to match little baits was realized early in Itty Bit bait development. The Bobby Garland manufacturing team discovered most mini-jigheads had hook sizes that decreased correspondingly as jighead sizes decreased. That case was less than ideal for crappie fishing, since the species have relatively large mouths, and because many of the biggest fish caught each year come in late winter and early spring when finesse tactics and baits are being widely used. Roy Williams, Williams Bait and Tackle from Guntersville, Ala., provided a solution to a head that worked well for the Itty Bit need. Soon after, the Bobby Garland Itty Bits Jigheads in sizes 1/48- and 1/64-ounce were born. Both featured the same hook size, a crappie-worthy No. 8 Eagle Claw.
“Itty Bits” became the name for jigheads purposely to distinguish them as “tools,” much like drill and driver bits. Also distinguishing is the jigheads
Another distinguishing Itty Bigs Jighead feature is the “down” bait keeper. The keeper facing down instead of up, puts the baitholder in the meaty part of Itty Bit bodies. The positioning provides less damage to the bait on insertion, and it maximizes holding strength.
Itty Bits Jigheads are packaged 20 unpainted heads per resealable vinyl envelope.
Crappie Pro, a sister brand to Bobby Garland, has two jighead sizes – 1/32- and 1/48-ounce – in its Overbite Sickle Mo’ Glo family that also works well with Itty Bit baits. Both sizes are equipped with the same super sharp No. 6 “sickle” hooks. The hook’s unique shape affords a deeper gap in the throat area, but also has a shorter shaft length than traditional No. 6 hooks to allow a good fit for the Itty Bit Swim’R, Itty Bit Slab Slay’R and Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R.
Overbite Sickle Mo’ Glo Jigheads are packaged 10 heads per resealable vinyl envelope and come in Crappie Pro’s Mo’ Glo glow-in-the-dark durable color finishes: Pink Glo, Ghost Glo, Orange Glo and Chartreuse Glo.
Don’t Fret Light Headed
“Small” is part of crappie’s usual diet anyway, and black crappie in particular feed predominantly on insects. So why not cater to their snacking moods with Itty Bit offerings?
Bobby Garland pro staffer Terry Blankenship (Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri) says he can relate. “If I walk past a bowl of M&Ms on a table, I’m likely to grab a few whether I’m hungry or not. It’s just an instinctive reaction. I like to think of crappie doing the same thing when I put a bait in their face.”
Looking at and holding a rigged Itty Bit bait for the first time can cause some head scratching and wondering “What am I doing?” However, there’s already lots of proven ways to fish the lightweight rigs and perhaps the following will help get you started.
Small Diameter Line Light line does help, with 4-pound-test being a good option. However, many Bobby Garland pro staffers prefer their all-around 6-pound choice for these baits as well.
Double Rig Using a double-jig rig obviously increases the overall weight at the end of your line. Two 1/32-ounce Itty Bits equal the weight of the commonly used 1/16-ounce jighead. There’s also nothing wrong with one of the jigheads in a double rig being heavier to help add weight. If you do use different size heads, consider putting the heavier jig on top. Lure designer George Toalson began noticing the effectiveness of doing that while demonstrating the Itty Bit in fish tanks at promotional events. The Itty Bit on bottom trailed behind the heavier jig during descent and fish were hitting the smaller one 90 percent of the time as a result. He started applying that rigging to his lake fishing as well and experienced similar results. Now a lot of us do that exact same thing when using a double jig rig.
Add Weight Above Add most any form of crimp-on weight – split shot, clam weight, etc. – 12 to 15 inches above your jighead for more line control when necessary. Doing so doesn’t impact the Itty Bit’s performance, and more “weight above” is a much better approach than is trying to fish an Itty Bit on an oversized jighead where the head or hook overwhelms the bait and keeps it from appearing and working naturally.