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Lure Review


Cranking Up a Revitalized Classic : Bagley Bait's Balsa B


Date: 4/10/22
Tackle Type: Lure
Manufacturer: Bagley
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 8.33 - GREAT

Bagley Baits has a long and storied history in the bait manufacturing world. Founder, Jim Bagley (1923-2004), was an innovator with high standards and strict quality control that translated to a series of lures that produced results. At least five Bassmaster Classic wins can be credited to Bagley's products.


Bagley Baits has a long history in the lure manufacturing world


When Jim retired in the late 1980's he sold the company and after changing hands several times in 2010, a new investment group led by the grandson of legendary Lauri Rapala, founder of Rapala Lures, Jarmo Rapala, purchased Bagley Baits and set their sights on revitalizing the brand. It was during this period (2015) when the company introduced a proprietary manufacturing process called Heat Compression Molding, or HCM, which drastically improved both product consistency and function in their wooden lures. Each Bagley bait is precisely weighted and balanced to produce the subtle action that the balsa crankbaits are known for.


In May 2020 Bagley Bait company was acquired by Northland Fishing Tackle and the company transitioned operations to Northand's headquarters in Bemidji, Minnesota. With the acquisition Jarmo Rapala also joined the Northland team where he continued to work on developing the company's lures as one combined team.


Today, we take a look at the reincarnation of a bait that helped define the original Bagley Baits


Though Bagley Bait Company has changed hands a few times the brand has always had a strong following among crankbait fans and in recent years under Northland the company has put a renewed focus on quality and a return to form on the tournament scene. Bagley now has some of the biggest name prostaff on their roster including Pros Drew Benton, Scott Canterbury, Matt Becker, and Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson, who has been part of the Northland Fishing Tackle pro staff for over a decade and joined the Bagley Bait family in 2021.


Bagley Balsa B Squarebill Crankbait Specifications

Type Shallow Squarebill
Length B1 = 2" : B2 = 2.5"
Weight B1 = 5/16oz : B2 = 7/16oz
Depth 0-3 feet
Material Balsa Wood
Colors 8
Hooks Unspecified Brand
MSRP $8.79


Today, we take a look at the reincarnation of a bait that helped define the original Bagley Baits. It's a bait that is credited as being the original squarebill and one that Takahiro Omori used to win the 2004 Bassmaster Classic. Here's our take on the modern day, Bagley Balsa B.


Bagley's Balsa B is the original squarebill crank


Impressions: My entry into bass fishing was just beginning when Jim Bagley sold his company, so the lore of Bagley Baits does not resonate as deeply with me. I was aware of how coveted some of the original baits were, but I didn't "get it" at the time. By all accounts, the current Balsa B squarebill crank by Bagley Baits is a reincarnation of the original. Reports are, Jarmo Rapala took it upon himself to study, draw, dissect an original so he and his partner, Bill Cullerton, could start fresh and build off the old design, correct some maladies, and improve consistency.


The Balsa B is offered in two sizes, the B1 (top) is 2" and the B2 (bottom) is 2.5"


The Balsa B is offered in two sizes, two inches (2" = B1) and two and a half inches (2.5" = B2). They are available in 8 colors and rated to a three foot diving depth.

Chartreuse Bluegill in the B1

Real World Tests: A classic bait deserves a classic fishing rod. Well, as "classic" as we can get here at TackleTour. I pulled down my trusty Megabass F4-72GTZ ICBM Biwago Guide Special for the occasion and matched it up with a casting rod built on a classic platform but with modern day technologies, Daiwa Japan's Millionaire CT SV70. I spooled the Millionaire with 10lb YGK G-Soul Tour Grade Fluorocarbon. I gave the Bagley B crank the full on JDM treatment.

Those bug eyes are so classic

Castability: The castability of these Balsa B cranks in both sizes is astounding. Of course, the baits have no internal moving weights to help with momentum, but regardless of this fact, it's very easy to just fire the Balsa B both for distance and accuracy. Heck, you can generate so much momentum with this lure that if you're any good at skipping, I've no doubt you can skip these puppies right up under a dock. I'm not very good at this casting technique so I didn't really try. Another classic balsa wood bait, Rapala's Shad Rap, is notoriously difficult to cast so that was my expectation. Not here, Bagley's Balsa B is super easy to cast.

Chartreuse Shad in the B1

Dive Time: The Balsa B is only rated to three feet in diving depth so it does not have very far to go once you begin cranking. That having been said, the bait wastes little time getting down to bump up against rocks and stumps or catch a weed or two on the way back to the boat.

If I had any frustration with this bait, it's the same as one I have with all squarebill cranks - weeds

If I had any frustration with this bait, it's the same as one I have with all squarebill cranks - weeds. Whether they wrap around the bill or catch the tip of a hook, once a strand or more take hold, the Balsa B ceases to dance. These baits are just best around areas with minimal weeds or right along the edge of more established weed beds.

Weeds just choke the life out of crankbaits

Once you get the Balsa B swimming in the right areas, the vibration it gives off is confidence inspiring. It resonates through your rod and you just know you're going to get bit. Any time that vibration stops, swing. If it happens to be a rock or a branch and not a fish, give the bait some slack and more often than not, it will float back up and out of that snag - unless you caught that obstruction with the bait's hooks.

The Balsa B is equipped with very effective, although brand unspecified hooks

Design/Ergonomics: Bagley's Balsa B is available in two different sizes and up to eight different patterns. Something many may not realize with this bait is there is actually an internal wire harness connecting the line tie to the two hooks. Bagley manufacturers this bait using their innovative Heat Compression Molding that, among other things, allows them to install an internal harness making sure the hooks don't pull out as well as strategically place weights to help with the bait's castability and dive angle.

The classic black silver foil pattern

Price & Application: The tough thing about today's small, custom build, small production run balsa bait makers their baits come at a premium reflecting the painstaking labor that goes into building a wood crankbait. Bagley's Balsa B retails for under ten dollars at $8.79. That is an incredible price for a wood crankbait with the pedigree of the Balsa B.

Tennessee Shad Orange Belly


Bagley Balsa B Squarebill Crankbait Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality I purchased several of these baits in both sizes and consistency from bait to bait was outstanding 9
Performance Casts better than I thought and each bait swam perfectly. 9
Price The allure of a balsa crank at a hard plastic bait price 9
Features Internal wiring harness and weight system, hooks are unbranded 8
Design (Ergonomics) 8 different colors, two sizes from which to choose 7.5
Application Best around hard bottoms, rocks, stumps, docks... 7.5

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Super easy to cast - Somewhat limited color selection
+ Classic balsa wood wobbling action  
+ Internal harness for strength  
+ Gets right down to business once you begin your retrieve  

I had to put this review on pause for a bit to get more time on the water with these baits

Conclusion: Compared to the 70's and 80's, the world of fishing lure manufacturing is a much bigger place. To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I purchased these baits from Tackle Warehouse. I just remembered thinking, "good to see Bagley is still around." When I sat down to write this review, I delved into some of the history behind Bagley and this bait, and I stopped. I needed to take another run or two out on the water with this storied little bait and give it the respect it deserved.

The team has successfully resurrected a classic

That extra time on the water didn't really change my opinion of this bait. From the get go I was amazed at how easy it was to cast, really appreciated how it gets down to business the second you turn the handle on your reel, and most of all, I liked the way it dances sending those tell tale vibrations through your fishing line down the rod and into your hands.

Bagley's Balsa B has earned the credentials for this editor's choice, but what cannot be underscored enough is how great of a value this bait really is

To be honest, you do get the same feel out of many of today's plastic alternatives, but what you don't get is the exactly same buoyancy of balsa or the nostalgia. That nostalgia of tying on a classic balsa wood crank, tossing it out, and cranking it back usually comes at a not so nostalgic price hence part of the reason for the popularity of the more affordable plastic alternatives. But not with the Balsa B. What the combined team at Bagley and Northland have done is to resurrect a classic bait using the same, or very similar materials, that Jim Bagley did and found a way to do so with new build processes and while maintaining a very reasonable price point. Bagley's Balsa B has earned the respect of countless crankbait fans, pro anglers, and while it is a proven crankbait what cannot be underscored enough is how great of a value this balsa based bait really is.


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