Bubba Life



Crappie anglers are a dedicated bunch. The passionate pursuit of “sac-au-lait” is real, especially during the springtime April spawn where slabs can push the 3-pound mark. It’s a toss-up between the fight and the taste of the fish in a frying pan that drives most anglers and quite possibly, there’s no one more qualified to speak about catching crappie than a 3-time National Crappie Masters Champion and owner of Muddy Water Baits; Travis Bunting.

“I’m based out of central Missouri, and the two types of environments I hit in springtime are rock banks with docks as well as shallow standing timber,” states Bunting. “Crappie is spawning out when the water hits 65 or 66 degrees, but feed heavily from 55 degrees and up as they want to fatten up before they lay eggs. The key is to catch them before they get on those beds.”

One of Bunting’s favorite haunts is Lake of the Ozarks where docks and shallow pea gravel banks attract crappie to build their nests. “When I find that gravel in the shallows, the depth can be anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet, so I’m tossing something very light, like a 1/16-ounce orange or fluorescent pink leadhead tipped with a 2-1/2 inch Muddy Water rubber bait in black/chartreuse.”

“I’m usually working banks when I fish Truman Lake,” says Bunting. “Big female crappie will lay in the “transition zone” of the shallows, which means a bank can be 2 feet of water for 100 yards, but when it starts to dip into a ledge, that’s the transition where they will be hanging.” Along the banks, Bunting switches up to a 1/8 to ¼-ounce leadhead with black/white color patterns for his rubber baits.

“When flipping baits along the ledges, the wind may be pushing us onshore right into the spot we are fishing, spooking fish, ruining the bite. I’ll set a drift paddle out or use the trolling motor steering us along the bankline and keeping us out of the spot and in the zone.”

Anyone who has caught crappie knows the real reward is in the frying pan, but the key is to maximize the fillet with proper filleting knives. “For efficiency, I look to use an electric knife to fillet the fish, then use a stiffer blade to cut out the rib cages,” says Bunting. The Bubba Lithium Ion is custom made for the job, while the 6” Ultra Flex or 8” Ultra Flex are perfect to carve those rib cages out with flawless perfection.

With a pile of slabs and some Bubba Fillet Knives, you can bet the fish fry at Bunting’s house will be legendary this spring.