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Six Top Baits for Spring Crappie Fishing

Learn how a crappie lure’s profile affects it action and appearance in the water and how to choose the best bait for every situation.

Do you ever look at soft-plastic lures designed for crappie fishing and wonder why they come in such a broad range of shapes? If so, the next question might be which specific bait to choose for a given situation. Here, we will lessen the mystery by comparing the profiles and features of a handful of popular Bobby Garland Crappie Baits, looking at how those distinctions affect each bait’s movements and appearance in the water.

Considering a specific bait’s design and how it swims or falls through the water can make it much easier to select the best bait for conditions and for the technique you intend to use.

Learn Why Profiles Matter

Baby Shad

In the minds of many anglers, the Bobby Garland Baby Shad is the standard for spring crappie fishing, and it is highly versatile in the ways it can be fished. True to the name, the Baby Shad’s size and profile suggest a baby shad or young minnow, and the spike tail provides action that is extraordinarily subtle, matching what you see in nature if you watch a shad or minnow holding still in the water column.

Young shad and Bobby Garland Baby ShadYoung shad and Bobby Garland Baby Shad

The solid body and small size of a Baby Shad allow it to be matched with a variety of head sizes for working a range of depths and varying the aggressiveness of the movement. The design also allows for single color or laminate colors. The two-tone laminate colors allow for better forage matches and for contrasting colors that enhance visibility.

The Baby Shad gets its share of use for pretty much every crappie fishing technique, but it is most popular for stationary or slow presentations, like jigging, dipping and casting under a float and using a twitch-and-pause retrieve.

Because a Baby Shad Swim’R offers the same basic profile as the original Baby Shad, we won’t break it out in a separate section. However, the tiny action-adding foot at the end of the tail, slight tail segmentation and a pocket for adding scent sufficiently set apart the Swim’R from the classic Baby Shad that we could not ignore it. When you want that natural minnow profile with just a hint of added tail kick and an enhanced opportunity to add scent, a Baby Shad Swim’R provides a perfect answer.


Stroll'R CrappieStroll'R Crappie

The Stroll’R has the exact same body as the Baby Shad, so the front-end profile is the same. The tail makes this bait ½ inch longer, though, and the big tail bend and swim foot create a strong thumping action that makes it look larger than that. That said, the Stroll’R retains a narrow profile that still suggests an easy meal to the fish.

The primary original design goal, which the Stroll’R meets extraordinarily well, was to create a bait that would have a heavy thumping action and swim correctly even when fished at very slow speeds.

Easy action at low speeds makes a Stroll’R ideal for spider rigging, long-lining and for slow casting presentations. The Stroll’R works well at higher speeds as well, though, and is a popular choice for various trolling and casting strategies. A Stroll’R is a popular and effective spring crappie fishing choice for any approach where the bait stays on the move much of the time.

Slab Slay’R

Bobby Garland Slab Slay'R CrappieBobby Garland Slab Slay'R Crappie

The Slab Slay’R offers a completely different profile than the Baby Shad or Stroll’R, with a round, ribbed body and cupped, pointed tail section that makes up 2/3 of the lure’s total length. The ribs create vibration, and the tail wavers as the slender-profiled Slab Slay’R falls through the water column or is jigged.

The Slab Slay’Rs body works with a broad range of jighead sizes and styles, and the bait’s action differs dramatically depending on whether it is rigged with the cupped side of the tail up or down. By switching the rigging, it can be made to flutter or to dart from side to side.

The Slab Slay’R comes in two sizes. The 2-inch version is the go-to for many crappie anglers, but the 3-incher provides a solid option for stained water, to match large forage or simply to target larger fish.

Pile Diver

Pile Diver CrappiePile Diver Crappie

The Pile Diver, although only 2 ½ inches long, is big in action and in the amount of vibration it puts out, and it offers a large profile for a crappie fishing lure. A creature bait that is sized for crappie, the Pile Diver can suggest a small crawfish or an aquatic insect.

The Pile Diver features twin curled ribbon-style tails and stubby legs, all with swim paddles at the ends. The tails flap wildly, and the legs vibrate continually while the deeply ribbed body builds bulk, adds water movement and provides good place to add Slab Jam or another attractant.

The Pile Diver works in a variety of settings, but it excels at calling fish out of brush and other thick cover and for off-colored water, where fish rely on their lateral lines, more than their eyes, to locate food.

Slab Hunt’R

Bobby Garland Slab Hunt'RBobby Garland Slab Hunt'R

The Slab Hunt’R is an obvious minnow imitator that looks much larger than its 2 ¼-in length would suggest. A deeply ribbed belly section adds bulk and vibration, and a forked, two-lobed tail that is oriented like a real minnow’s tail, moves steadily when the Slab Hunt’R comes through the water.

The tail action of the Slab Hunt’R engages at slow speeds, but the bait also tracks well at higher speeds, making it a popular pick for a host of trolling and casting applications, especially when a larger profiled bait seems best for the size of the crappie or forage or the aggressiveness of the fish.

The Slab Hunt’R holds scent very well because of its deep rips, and the thick body lends itself well to inserting a rattle.

Crappie Shooter

Crappie Shooter CrappieCrappie Shooter Crappie

Flat on the top and bottom, a Crappie Shooter looks different than most crappie fishing baits. As the name suggests, the design aids dock shooters because the flat sides skip easily, which is important for getting far under docks, where crappie like to hide. The same design creates an additional value during early spring, though. The flat sides of a Crappie Shooter cause it to fall with a slow flutter that very effectively imitates a shad that is struggling in the cold water or even dying.

The Crappie Shooter is a small bait at 1.5 inches and is most often fished on a light jighead. A 1/24- or even 1/32 Crappie Pro Overbite Sickle Head matches with the bait’s small size but still provides plenty of bend for hooking landing crappie, and the light weight accentuates the slow fall of the Crappie Shooter.

Some anglers rig this bait vertically, with the flat edges on the sides for more of a shad profile, but this rigging takes away the slow fluttery fall that can add value for spring crappie fishing.

Crappie Jig Tips

  • Contrast Colors – Choose jighead colors that contrast prevalent body colors to enhance visibility.
  • Double Up – Try tandem rigs to test more than one color or body style and add weight for easier casting.
  • Use loop knots to maximize bait movement and cinching knots to control the orientation of the head.
  • Begin with confidence colors or colors that match conditions, but don’t be stubborn. Experiment and let the fish dictate preferences.

Please visit for crappie baits, jigheads and accessories and to view more how-to content.

Baby Shad

Baby Shad Swim’R


Slab Slay’R

Pile Diver

Slab Hunt’R

Crappie Shooter