Crappie Tested: Bobby Garland Baby Shad

By Darl Black

The Bobby Garland Baby Shad (and its big brother the Baby Shad Swim’R) are among my favorite soft plastic jig bodies for crappies. I’ve been using the Garland Baby Shad for approximately five years. I have been amazed how well a 2-inch piece of soft plastic with no built-in action (other than slight tail quiver) can catch so many crappies.

The Baby Shad on a 1/16-ounce Road Runner Head catches crappies one after another when the fish are feeding. Cast out, count down to the desired depth and retrieve very slowly, with an occasional 1 or 2 second pause.

And the Baby Shad becomes my go-bait when crappies get lockjaw. Under tough conditions, the tiny shad profile works best on a 1/24 or 1/16-ounce Mo’Glo Head, often fished below a float while employing a slight rod twitch. Crappies simple slurp it in.

The newer Baby Shad Swim’R has a bit more action due to a swim tab on the tip of tail, as well as scent pocket. I prefer to fish the 2.25 inch Swim’R on a Road Runner Head when the water is off-color or when fishing deep – two situations where a large profile is a better idea.

I generally prefer one of the more natural shad or minnow patterns for both baits, except when the water is stained; then I’m likely to switch to something brighter and bolder.

Be sure to have plenty of Bobby Garland Baby Shads in you tackle bag. Check them out at

Thill Crappie Cork

By Darl Black

Don’t let the name crappie “cork” fool you. The Thill Crappie Cork is a well thought-out and properly designed float that can help you put more crappies in the livewell.

Crappie fishing around cover requires accurate casting and precise depth setting of the bait below a float. While many crappie anglers simply clip any old bobber on the line, a fixed float (held in one spot on the line) makes for sloppy and inaccurate casts due to the tumbling effect of the separated bait and bobber.

Slip bobbers (or slip floats or slip corks) are the better way to go. With a slip bobber the line runs through the center of the float. As you prepare to cast, the float slides down the line to the baited jighead /hook. With the bobber and bait close together, it is possible to fire accurate, long distance casts right to the honey spot.

The weight of the jighead/bait pulls line through the bobber at splash down. The bobber stops sliding up the line when it reaches the preset bobber stop. The stop can be set for any depth from a few inches to six feet or more.

There are a number of different bobber stops, but I prefer the “stop knots” made of colorful braided line. The knots are pre-tied on small straws, and are slid off the straw onto the line. The knot is slid up the line to the desired position before being drawn tight. You can trip the tag ends – leaving enough to loosen and adjust the stop knot to change the depth setting of the float.

The process is to slide the straw on the line and push the stop knot off. Next slip a small stop bead on the line, followed by the Crappie Cork. Finally the bait hook or jighead is tied into place on the end of the line. Slide the stop knot up the line to the desired setting and pull the tag ends tight.

Thill Crappie Corks are offered in different sizes, with each size capable of supporting a specific weight. Sizes include 1/16-oz, 1/8-oz., 1/4-oz. and 3/8-oz. The colorful top makes Thill Crappie Corks highly visible to the angler.

Don’t go crappie fishing without Thill Crappie Corks.


Crappie Tested: Mo’ Glo Slab Jam

By Darl Black

Last year Bobby Garland Crappie Baits ( brought out Mo’ Glo Slab Jam scent to complement their line-up of soft plastic baits. Slab Jam is reported to be an all-natural amino-acid base minnow scent gel formulated especially for crappie. I rarely use live bait for crappies nor do I tip my jigs with live bait – except in certain circumstances. However, I do favor adding scent to my soft plastic jig bodies, and Slab Jam is an extremely handy and effective scent to use. The bottle is small enough to stick into a compartment of a utility case. I’ve had no problem with the Slab Jam container leaking as some scent products do. It is a thick gel that adheres nicely to plastic, especially those with scent cavities. While I have not had time to run side by side comparison tests with other scent products, I have noticed a higher bite percentage when using Slab Jam than when not using it. Be sure to give it a try this spring.

Go Fish!

Tested: Muddy Water Baits

My introduction to Muddy Water Baits occurred during Rend Lake Crappie Camp in the fall of 2014. Charles and Travis Bunting were on hand to provide samples and explain about their products. A father and son team, the Buntings won the Crappie Master Championship in 2012. This was the same year that Travis introduced his new soft plastic bait.

With so hundreds of different soft plastic crappie baits on the market, why create a new one? Travis' reply was simple: "It's a better soft body – less problems and it works all for the various techniques we fish."

Travis explains some of the problems encountered with other soft plastic bodies which he had used over the years. (1) Flimsy tails sometimes flip up and wrap the hook, reducing the number of secure hook-ups with crappies. (2) Many of the baits he used were too soft and too thin, resulting in baits being torn or ripped from the hook. (3) Certain baits were good for a particularly technique, but not for others.

"I tinkered around a design and different densities of plastic until I came up with a soft plastic bait that would hold up to crappies as well as the incidental fish species we catch, and could be used for all sorts of presentations," says Travis.

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