Making Soft Plastic Baits

John Crews of MISSILE Baits Explains Making Soft Plastic Baits

There are a lot of them out there these days, but what actually goes into making soft plastic baits? 

We sat down to chat about this with John Crews, Bassmaster Elite Series angler and owner of MISSILE Baits. 

When your livelihood comes from being just a little better than the competition, attention to detail is key. For Crews, that means two things: edging out the competition on the water and in bait design.

“Everything has kind of spawned off of what I need on tour,” Crews said. “I’ll get out there and think ‘these are good baits but I wish I had one that would do this.’

Making Soft Plastic Baits: To the ‘Drawing Board’

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After he identifies a need, Crews takes it to the drawing board — literally. 

“I draw the ideas for the bait out on graph paper like it’s a homework assignment. Then I send that drawing to the mold maker. They put it in 3D CAD software and make a single-shot, prototype mold.”

The prototype mold is then shipped to the manufacturer who hand shoots a dozen or so baits for Crews to test. Crews puts his desired modifications down on paper and sends his ideas back to the mold maker.

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I’ll give them very, very precise measurements and adjustments to make. For example, let’s change this dimension to 6 mm instead of 4 mm. And then they’ll make those adjustments and we’ll go a couple rounds on the prototypes until they get it just like I want it.

Making Soft Plastic Baits: Where the Real Design Work Begins

Once Crews is satisfied with the final dimensions and design of the bait, he gives the mold maker the green light to create a production mold that typically costs between $5,000 and $10,000. Once the production mold is completed, it is sent to the manufacturer. That’s where the real design work begins.

I tell them the exact consistency I want. The salt content, exactly what color and size flake I want, whether I want a single- or two-color laminate, a two color swirl, a three color laminate, etc.

He even gives them instructions on packaging specifications so they keep their desired shape and create a good presentation for the consumer.

This level of attention to detail on the manufacturing side probably makes Crews a better angler on the water and helps him in tournaments, too.

He said that is definitely the case. But even more so, that attention to detail allows him to pass on his expertise to other anglers without them even knowing it. 

“I’ve said this from day one on the bait design side of things: If I figure out what makes a bait function and get a bite better or have a better hookup ratio, the customer doesn’t need to know why, they just need to know it works.”

Making Soft Plastic Baits: Taking Out the Guess-Work

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By designing his own soft plastic bait, Crews basically takes the guess-work out for consumers. 

“That way they can just put a hook in the bait, throw it out, get bit and set the hook. If it hooks up good they’ll say ‘Yep, it works. I like it.’ I like to figure out all the little details on the back side and then they can just get to go out and enjoy it.”

Crews prides himself in that attention to detail and giving anglers better tools for the task at hand. It’s a never ending process.

And he’s probably sketching some idea down as we speak.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Shaye Baker

ABOUT Shaye

Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and Wired2Fish.com, FLWfishing.com and Bassmaster.com. While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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