Officially launched at ICAST over the summer and notably introduced by Jacob Wheeler in the Bass Pro Tour event back in May on Lake Guntersville, Rapala’s new line of CrushCity plastics should be an exciting addition to tackle store shelves.
Designed by Rapala, Wheeler and other members of the Rapala pro staff, the baits represent a renewed foray for Rapala into the soft plastic market, and they all seem to be pretty good, with prices coming in at less than $7 a pack across the board. The lineup covers a lot of the soft plastics you want, with some obvious candidates for future expansion. To start, there are five baits: The Bronco Bug, Cleanup Craw, Freeloader, Mayor and Ned BLT.
Happily, I have now caught fish on everything in the CrushCity lineup except the Ned BLT, and that’s almost certainly my fault more than anything else. Overall, the whole lineup seems really solid, with good colors, good shapes and nice packaging that’s easy to open and has clamshells on the inside to keep baits from mixing around and getting oddly bent. Also, all the baits smell pretty nice, and the durability seems to be good to average, with none of the baits falling apart notably faster than expected.
While there are gaps in the line, anyone planning on using just one brand of soft baits probably needs to rethink things, and the baits certainly cover most of the basics.
Coming in 3- and 4-inch sizes and 16 colors, the Mayor is a general-purpose swimbait that should be good for a lot of things. With some similarities to the Storm Largo Shad, which has long been a sneakily used bait by pros, the Mayor really does work well. I’ve landed fish on it as a trailer on a swim jig and on an umbrella rig, where it has really done well, but I haven’t fished it solo too much. In my opinion, the bait could use a shiner or wakasagi color and a chartreuse/blue color, but otherwise I think you could probably fold these baits into your swimbait arsenal pretty easily for a lot of situations.
Though not totally unheard of (shouts to the OSP DoLive Beaver), the Bronco Bug isn’t a bait most fish have seen a lot. Also, it will likely be a lot more available than the OSP bait, which is often one of the issues with getting really attached to a bait from Japan. I had not fished the DoLive Beaver before throwing the Bronco Bug, but I slapped it on a free rig and caught one on roughly my second cast, and actually put a decent number of fish in the boat with the Bronco Bug in a Wednesday nighter on Lake St. Catherine. It’s a cool little bait; I’m not sure if that style of bait will turn into a staple like a beaver or a craw, but I think it’s probably worth investigating further.
Coming in at 4 inches long and in 15 colors, if you’re looking for something new to toss around, the Bronco Bug might be it. One color it might be missing is a white – I don’t really know if the Bronco Bug is going to be a good bed bait, but it feels like the style has some merit for a targeted application like that.
I watched a video Kyle Welcher put out about these. He called the Ned BLT a “turtle back worm,” and that name has kinda stuck for me. I’m not really a big Ned angler, but I’m pretty sure this little guy will work just fine. I like the colors it comes in, and I like the little ribs and whatnot. Notably, the bait is made out of TPE (thermoplastic elastomers), which means it is stretchy and buoyant. It comes in 16 colors and is 3 inches long.
One quirk of the bait is that it’s a bit slimmer than the average Ned bait, and a lot slimmer than something like a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Lil’ General. I know Wheeler loves to drop-shot a Ned worm, and I bet the slightly slimmer profile will be really nice for that.
Lauded for its tournament success, the Freeloader is a minnow-style bait that puts a bit of a new spin on the genre. Taller than it is wide by a decent margin, the Freeloader has a more vertical profile than a lot of other flukes. Due to the ribs and tail, it seems like a lot of folks are comparing it to a Hog Farmer Spunk Shad, but that comparison really doesn’t hold water for me because of the overall profile. Either way, the Freeloader is a really good Damiki or strolling bait, and I’m sure it also fishes well as a vibrating jig trailer.
It comes in one 4 1/4-inch model with 17 colors, the most in the line. Like the Mayor, I believe a wakasagi or shiner color would go a long way for this bait. I also think it needs to come in more sizes sooner rather than later – while it may be sized perfectly for a trailer, it’s not sized perfectly for bass that like eating smaller bait, and big-fish hunters will always want larger versions of anything that even comes close to being a swimbait.
The Cleanup Craw may be my new flipping craw. The first time out with it, I flipped water chestnut at Saratoga Lake and caught almost a 6-pounder, which is a giant there and one of the biggest fish I’ve caught in a while on the big stick. I wouldn’t mind the body being a little more durable, but the claws have a really nice flapping action and the bait is a really nice “Goldilocks” size in my opinion. I also really like the little rib features on the back for rigging – the Bronco Bug has the same deal, and it allows you to get a few more uses out of every bait.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the CrushCity line and I see myself keeping many of them in the boat going forward. I think I’ll be folding the Mayor into my swimbait mix, certainly for umbrella rigs. I also think I’ll keep the Freeloader around as a Damiki bait. Drop-shotting a Ned worm is a thing I need to put some actual effort into; maybe the Ned BLT will be my entry into that next summer. As for the flipping baits, we’ll see on that front – in all honestly, those aren’t baits I throw enough around home to really have solid favorites on.