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Tinkering With Baits to Catch More Crappie

Learn about how crappie baits can be altered or accessorized to enhance opportunities to catch fish.

We fish: therefore, we are… tinkerers. We simply can’t resist the urge to make our crappie baits, well, “crappier.”

Some of our creations would make Dr. Frankenstein proud, while others would humble Rembrandt. Whatever the transformation, the only judge of its beauty lies in the beholder that waits at the opposite end of the line. And any crappie can have a mood that changes at the drop of a bait. The irony of it all is that a failed fishing outing can be just as inspirational in driving our quick return as one that filled the livewell quickly.

So, maybe, we’re the unpredictable ones.

We have tackle boxes loaded with crappie lure styles, sizes and colors, yet we’re always looking for more advantages to sway the odds in our favor. So, we pull out our blades, super glue and accessories and go to work.

Yes, I’m as guilty as anybody of being a modifier. Long before my involvement with the Bobby Garland crappie brand, I was adding, removing or altering bait parts to change a lure’s look or performance. Now, after nearly 15 years in my Garland work relationship, I’ve developed an even greater appreciation for the creativity of crappie anglers everywhere.

We take great pride in Bobby Garland product innovation, and I thought some of you might benefit from knowing the intentions around at least part of our product development so you can experiment even more. Likewise, I have some information as to what others are doing with our baits that could also be worth a try for success in your waters.

Split or Join?

Slab Dockt'R tails glued togetherSlab Dockt'R tails glued together

Slab Slay’RFor years, many anglers have been using a pocketknife or scissors to split the cupped, flexible spear tails of our 2-inch and 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs to give them twin-tail action. The incision transforms a Slab Slayer from a glide-style bait into a dancing-tail bait. I’ve seen it make a difference, so it’s definitely worth trying.

Equally noteworthy regarding the Slab Slay’R, though, is that it acts differently according to whether it is rigged with the tail cup facing up or down. Rigged cup facing down, the tail has much more flexibility and movement and dances enticingly when jigged. Rigged cup facing up, the tail remains more rigid and creates more of a gliding, darting bait. Given these possibilities, the Slab Slay’R is one of the most versatile baits in your tackle arsenal.

Slab Dockt’RThe heavy-bodied Slab Dockt’R was designed for dock shooting (thus the “dock” in its name), a technique in which you want the bait, not the jighead, to be your “weight.” The reasoning is that a bait will skip when launched from a rod flexed like an archer’s bow and “fired,” whereas the jighead is more likely to bury upon striking the water’s surface. So, the purpose of the jighead is really just to hold the bait and can be lightweight; 1/24- and 1/32-ounce are the most common sizes for shooting.

Once the bait skips under the cover, you want it to fall slowly. The Slab Dockt’R has twin tails with a tiny foot on the end of each. During descent, the tails serve somewhat as a parachute to slow the fall while also providing subtle action.  

However, some dock shooters super glue the twin legs together to make one big tail that complements the lure’s oversize profile but still provides some cool movement. Gluing the legs together also minimizes flopping appendages during the skip, which some shooters prefer to maximize skipping distance.

Live Bait or Lively Lure?

Minnow Mind'R riggingMinnow Mind'R rigging

Minnow Mind’RNo need to split a Minnow Mind’Rs tail. We’ve done it for you. The lure’s solid, round body is an intermediate size between the 2-inch and 3-inch Slab Slay’Rs and has a slimmer girth. The built-in split gives the tail plenty of action when used as a standard jig, but this bait is more than standard.

The Minnow Mind’R’s original intent was to “mind” the minnow for crappie anglers who tip their jig with a live minnow. Using a standard hook (not a jighead) for rigging, the shank fits the body length perfectly so that the hook’s point emerging from a lip-hooked minnow can then penetrate the “hood” part of the tail to lock the minnow in place. That way, should a crappie hit and miss the bait, the minnow remains where it was, versus riding up the hook or line. in other words, the bait is “minding” the minnow, while also providing additional action and attraction with colors and moving parts. This is truly one of my very favorite baits.

The lure’s design also works well if you want to substitute the minnow with a Baby Shad, Baby Shad Swim’R or Scent Wiggl’R, rigging the combination together on a jighead. For this technique, you will want to shorten the body a bit so that the length of the jighead’s hook still allows the point to come through the “hood” area immediately behind the body at the start of the tail. This two-bait combo provides a larger profile, more action and greater color versatility. Of course, if the Scent Wiggl’R is the rear bait, you’ve also added scent.

Color Me Fishy!

Coloring Crappie Bait TailColoring Crappie Bait Tail

Dye marker pens afford great decorating options to any soft-plastic crappie bodies. Chartreuse is a favorite of anglers and crappie, but there are many great options, any of which can have a time and place for added appeal. Coloration can highlight swimming action or be used to provide lines or dots to mimic preferred forage species. But don’t be afraid to color other parts of the plastic body, including the front end or even the jighead. You just might hit on a hot trigger point for the day.


Crappie bait accessoriesCrappie bait accessories

Bobby Garland takes pride in its line of innovative accessory items that appeal to the range of crappie’s senses.

Crappie Glass RattlesOur rattles are tiny, so they’ll fit into most soft-plastic crappie baits, but they’re big in the department getting a crappie’s attention. Three stainless bearings are housed in a USA-made Pyrex glass tube that has a sharp end for easy insertion.

The rattles work especially well with the deep-bodied Slab Dockt’R, making the large and noisy lure a great choice for dirty water in spring and late fall, whether you are shooting docks or not. The rattles also insert easily into the back side of our Slab Slay’R and the Minnow Mind’R.

And, yes, the Glass Crappie Rattle will fit the Baby Shad, but for best results wet the rattle first and insert it after the jighead is already in place so you can strategically place it alongside the hook.

Slab Ticklers

Slab Ticklers are tiny, hard-to-find size 0 and size 1 willow blades. Rig them freely onto the line above the jighead by running the line’s end through the blade’s hole and then tying on the jighead. That way the blade is free to slide up and down the line, so that during the jig’s descent the blade separates from the jighead, and then comes tickling back down to it when the lure settles to its depth. The “tickling” is a very visual action that attracts a crappie’s attention and leads the fish to the bait. The blades come in an assortment consisting of both sizes in three each of four colors: gold-plated, nickel, chartreuse and pink.

Crappie Shooter Pull TabsOne of our Crappie Shooter Pull Tabs makes it easy for anybody to become a proficient dock shooter because you hold it between your thumb and forefinger, instead of fumbling with trying to hold the hook or jig.

The tab Is constructed from tearproof, waterproof material and can be rigged on either end for extended life. It is available in Holographic Scale or Moss Green. The Holographic version is flashy to serve as an attractor whether shooting docks or not. They come 24 tabs per package.

Mo’ Glo Slab JamThis glow-in-the dark, amino-acid based minnow-scented sticky gel is made for easy application to just about any bait surface, including jigheads. But what you’ll especially like is how well it adheres when inserted into the scent envelope on the belly of the Baby Shad Swim’R or between the ribs on the Slab Hunt’R. Holographic flakes in the formula make all baits come alive in the water.

Rig Orientation – Toss Instructions!

Crappie ShooterCrappie Shooter

Crappie Shooter – This bait is designed to be rigged flat so that is skips like a skipping stone when you shoot docks with it and so that it flutters like an injured minnow on the fall, but many anglers report they rig it upright like a naturally oriented shad. I’ve done that, too, with good success.

I still prefer to rig it flat, because you get different actions when flipped from one side to the other. Rigging with boat-hull side down elicits a rather predictable but realistic action. Put the flat side down, and there’s no telling which way it’ll go with each twitch. So, it’s up to you and the fish to decide what’s best on any given day.

Also, ignore the bait’s name. The Crappie Shooter has proven itself to many anglers to be one of the finest vertical jigging crappie baits on the market. It looks and moves like a real shad, and crappie love its size and available colors.

So, the bottom line when it comes to crappie baits is … go ahead, experiment. We know you’ll have success with our baits right out of our packages, because we understand crappie as well as anybody can.

We also know you, and that you’ll continue to come up with new looks, variations and presentations around our designs. We’re okay with that and hope you’ll continue to share your experimentations with us and all crappie enthusiasts. We welcome your photos and notes.

Part of crappie fishing’s great fun is tinkering with your baits. Enjoy!