Gear

Tour Missile Baits with Crews

Welcome to Missile Baits, where Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews spends his time when not driving across the country on tour. Take a tour of the company to see what has made it one of the fastest-growing bait companies in the industry since its founding in 2010.
Crews is met in the foyer by his dog, Dixie Fudge, every time the angler returns from an Elite Series road trip. Of course, Crews can't get to work until after a bit of of belly scratch.
The wall of the foyer is lined with what spawned Missile Baits: soft plastic lures. Crews said being a touring Elite angler and a bait company owner has helped him in ways he didn't expect. "They complement each other in such a way that there are a lot of advantages to fishing the tournaments. Obviously, fishing at the highest level, I come back here, and I have all these ideas," he said. "And then on the tournament side, there are advantages to owning and running a lure business. I'm talking to dealers all over the country and going to shows, and the dealers are the ones talking to fishermen. So there's incredible information: 'There's this incredible new bait that guys are killing them on; you need to check it out.' You don't hear that on the tour as quickly as when you have access to all the dealers."
One of the first things every visitor sees when walking into Missile Baits' office is a large print illustrating one reason Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer has dubbed the pro "the Crews Missile." The photo was taken by Bassmaster photography Shaye Baker.
And then it's time to get to work. Of course, Crews' latest blue trophy, won during the 2022 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, is the first thing visitors see when they walk through the door.
Crews said he was greeted with balloons and signage celebrating the 2022 Elite victory when he returned from the Florida tournament.
Crews spends a lot of time behind his desk in the room that once served as the video studio and all-around hang-out spot, which is why there's a TV on the wall. Even as he works, however, Crews is surrounded by memorabilia and reminders of the family that supports his career. That support is critical, since Crews has to juggle a lot to ensure he is successful as an angler and as a businessman. Fortunately, being an Elite angler and running a bait business work hand in hand. "The tournament side opened up doors, like I can talk to buyers and dealers because I have credibility."
There are often new baits in his office, as the Elite pro works to launch new products. "A lot of them are things we're working on — working on either packaging or developing the baits," he explained. Crews said he launched the company 10 years ago because, "I thought it would open the doors to something I wouldn't have access to business-wise. After working with a couple of companies in the fishing industry, this is what I wanted to do: I wanted to have my own company. After working with Spro, I really enjoyed the design, prototype and promotion process. What Spro doesn't do is plastics, so I wanted to do the same thing I do with Spro but with plastics." After a couple of years of planning, he launched Missile Baits.
Family photos are everywhere in his office, and placement of these photos above his trophies reminds him of the proper order of his life. "You've got to have priorities in your life, obviously, and they are at the top of the list," Crews said.
More family photos top a second self.
Included in his memorabilia is the micro jig Crews' daugher Ivy used to catch her current personal best bass.
Each piece of memorabilia has personal meaning to the veteran Elite Series angler.
Even though Crews is a bass-fishing celebrity, he still can still be a fanboy when meeting legends of the sport like Bill Dance.
And then there are his trophies, including his St. Johns River Elite Series trophy and the Century Belt he wond during the 2013 Falcon Lake Elite Series.
But over and over again, the theme of most shelves returns to the importance of his family.
Of course, there are baits everywhere in the office, displayed in various forms. Some are mementos and others are hard-to-get baits and collector items.
Among his collection of baits displayed in his office is a very special crankbait. "That's the very first sample we ever got for the first Little John that we did with Spro," Crews explained. The rest of the baits that range from collector items like a Fred Young-signed Big O to Balsa Bs, a Silver Buddy signed by Buddy Banks. "I'm a bait and tackle junkie, so they all kind of meet something to me," he said. "A lot of the stuff has sentimental value in addition to just being cool."
Above his desk is a mounted bass that at the time was his personal best, a 9-2 caught at Florida's Bienville Plantation. "That was my personal best for a long time," Crews said. "I think it was my personal best until I caught an 11-pounder at the Harris Chain Elite Series back in I think in maybe '06. And then two years ago I caught that 11-2, which beat it, on the St. Johns. Obviously, I caught my personal best there and I won there, so the St. Johns is special to me."
This painting, which shows the James River, is another family reminder. "This was in my father's law office in downtown Richmond before he retired," Crews explained. "It's part of a three-painting set, and they were all commissioned from a painter.
The tables in his office were stacked with B.A.S.S. Times editions dedicated to his recent Elite Series win on the St. Johns River.
One of the causes Crews supports is autism awareness. During my visit, he had two custom lures he was auctioning off during an annual fundraiser, including a handmade crankbait by buddy Billy Herndon and a custom-painted Bull Shad Bull Glide. "It started out with a friend who's son was autistic, and I got exposed and got to know him a little bit," Crews explained. "The more I got to talking about it, it turned into a whole campaign. You start talking about it, and more people than you realize are affected by it: either people's kids, or people's friends. I have family that's on the spectrum, but not in a real tough way. All you have to do is start talking about it, and you'll find out it's all over the place. You go to a set of bleachers at a baseball game and start talking about it, and people's heads are turning around. It affects everybody. That's the whole point of having Autism Awareness Month: You start talking about it, and you realize a lot of people can say, "Hey, I'm not on my own."
American flags are seen almost everywhere you go in the Missile Baits facility, and that's no accident. "All Missile Baits are made in the U.S.A.," Crews explained. "Some things are more difficult doing it that way, but that's just the way I wanted to do it when I started out. I have a lot of pride in this country, and I wanted to show it."
Even the office's kitchen includes flags and signed memorabilia. The artwork above the table is a painting of the photo in the hallway by noted artist Arturo Gonzalez Murga.
Signed magazine covers are scattered around the office, including over the break room supply shelf.
As you might expect of someone so focused on family, the break room's refrigerator is covered with artwork from Crews' daughter Ivy.
A prized letter in the break room is this letter from the Dan Marino Foundation thanking Crews for his fundraising efforts.
Crews' original office, which is much larger than his current work space, was converted into a studio. "We use it for shooting video, either product stuff, my YouTube stuff, Missile's YouTube stuff, doing commentary for videos," he said. "We use it for all different stuff. It's fun to have a dedicated space to be able to do this. You get in here and close the door, and you can get done and the sound's good and the lighting is good when you use the right lights. It makes it professional looking."
Even the windowsills of the studio are covered with memorabilia.
One wall of the Missile Office features framed T-shirts of many of the Bassmaster Classics in which Crews has competed. "A couple of years ago, (Bassmaster) stopped making T-shirts with all the names of the competitors on them," Crews said. "So I've got all of the T-shirts until they stopped making them."
Behind the office is a 6,800-square-foot warehouse from which every Missile Bait is shipped. Every shelf is filled with boxes of baits just waiting to be shipped around the country.
Mark Saunders, at right, sorts, packs and ships orders that come into the front office. He keeps up with where every line of baits and every color within those lines so he can quickly box up orders.
SKU labels are organized and ready to slap onto bags of baits before shipping.
Handling so many orders makes organization critical, so each shelf is clearly marked with what lure lines are stocked there.
The shelves are jammed with close to 400 SKUs of lures.
The different kits designed by Missile Baits pro staffers stand ready to be shipped.
Jigs are sorted and stored here to make it easy to pull out what is needed.
Saunders uses this whiteboard to keep track of baits that have come into the warehouse but haven't been sorted, just in case there is a need before the baits hit the appropriate shielf.
Even in the warehouse, fishing memorabilia is hanging on the wall. Crews asked Brandon Palaniuk and Mark Daniels to sign these B.A.S.S. Times covers before they were framed.
Among the wall hangings is a satellite map of Louisiana's sprawling Atchafalaya Basin, which reminds him of his time in that wild and ever-changing maze of waterways.
Even Missile Baits' apparel is shipped from this warehouse.
Reminders of company's philosophy of giving back are scattered around the facility.