One of the things I like best about producing the Fishing 411 TV series is the open line of communication it creates between our staff and the fishing public. Thanks to broadcast television, YouTube, on-demand TV, social media and of course good ole fashioned e-mail fans of our TV show have a direct pipeline to myself and my staff.
In an average year we get literally hundreds of messages from anglers commenting on all kinds fishing related topics. In 2020, the year that will go down in history as the “year of the Covid” the number of fans responding to our fishing content has literally quadrupled! I guess the silver lining in the cloud of doom that Covid 19 spewed upon us is that more folks have more time to go fishing. That’s a good thing!
As the year winds down, I’ve found time to catch up on all the correspondence and also to take note which topics seem to generate the most interest among fans of the TV show. If I could pick just one topic that our followers seem especially interested in, it would have to be fishing scents. A lot of anglers out there are wondering if fishing scent products really work.
ABOUT FISHING SCENTS
One of the problems associated with fishing scents is there are so many on the market to choose from, anglers find themselves confused as to what they should be using and when. I divide fishing scents down into two distinctive categories including scents that are designed to be attractants and scents that are best described as cover scents.
Fishing scents designed to be attractants feature natural smells that fish find appealing. For the most part these are scent products made from various forage species commonly found in the diet of popular game fish. Because these scents smell good enough to eat, they stimulate strike responses from fish that might not have otherwise showed interest in a particular lure or live bait.
Another way of looking at these natural scent products is they put fish at ease and stimulate them to do what comes naturally. Anyone who has ever walked into a room where a favorite food is being cooked can attest to how powerful an attractive odor can be.
Cover scents on the other hand typically feature strong odors that are designed to mask what would be considered the unnatural and unavoidable odors associated with using fishing lures and gear. Fishermen come in contact with a lot of scents that fish find repulsive.
Case in point, the natural oil in the skin of all humans is known as L-Serine and research has proven that fish find this odor especially repulsive. Even minuscule amounts of L-Serine as small as “parts per billion” can be detected by fish.
Fish are repelled by L-Serine and dozens of other unnatural odors that routinely find their way onto fishing lures and gear. A few of the common odors “cover scents” are alleged to mask include gasoline, motor oil, suntan lotion, bug spray, skin lotions, fish blood and tobacco.
I use the word “alleged” because there is no good science that documents how effective cover scents are at masking odors that fish might find repulsive. Common sense suggests that cover scents would have some value to fishermen, but to what degree these products work is anyone’s guess.
The first rule to avoid Covid 19 is to wash your hands frequently. Washing reduces the amount of bacteria on your hands and helps to dramatically reduce the chances of spreading viruses. On this topic we have more science than a person could digest in a lifetime of research!
If washing your hands eliminates bacteria, it stands to reason that washing your lures would also be useful in reducing or eliminating unnatural odors caused by bacteria. “I know it sounds crazy, but washing lures and fishing hardware before fishing is probably the single best thing an angler can do to eliminate unnatural odors,” says Steve Lynch of Pro Cure Bait Scents. “Before a fishing attractant can work effectively, an angler must first eliminate unnatural odors that can contaminate the presentation.”
So Steve Lynch and countless other anglers coast to coast have a regiment of washing their lures before they apply fishing scents designed to attract fish. “It’s important to wash lures and rinse them in lake water to eliminate odors, but some soaps and detergents leave behind a residual odor,” warns Lynch. “I avoid any soap that says on the label it includes bleach. Ordinary Joy Dishwashing Liquid Lemon Scented doesn’t contain bleach and is a very good choice for cleaning lures prior to applying scent products.”
Washing lures before going fishing is a good start, but it also becomes necessary to wash baits while fishing. “The unnatural odors that repel fish don’t all come from the hands of anglers,” adds Lynch. “When a fish is hooked and landed, blood from the fish routinely soils the lure. The smell of blood alerts fish to the presence of danger. Take a few seconds to wash away these odors before re-applying scent and putting the bait back into water.”
Most fishing scents are water soluble and as a result are easy to wash off from baits. Unfortunately, these same fish attractants must be applied often because they wash away quickly while fishing.
Other fishing scents such as Pro Cure Super Gel are made from a oily and sticky paste that is designed to stick to the lure and give off a long lasting scent stream in the water. The good news here is that the scent doesn’t have to be applied so often, but the bad news is clean up is a little more difficult.
“Dish soaps like Joy will cut the oily residue left behind from applying Super Gel, but I find that using a solvent like WD40 does a better job of cutting this greasy film,” says Lynch. “I put a few inches of liquid WD40 in a jar and toss my lures into the jar and tighten down the lid. A few shakes and the lures come out clean. I then wash the baits again in dishwashing liquid to get rid of the WD40 residue, rinse the lures in clear water and store them for the next fishing trip.”
All this washing may seem like a royal pain to those who aren’t convinced that fishing scents work in the first place. Sticking with a simple regiment of washing baits before applying scent products is the best way to create a natural and attractive scent stream in the water.
Natural fishing scents are those made from forage species commonly targeted by game fish. As every angler knows, different bodies of water feature different forage species. Also, certain species of game fish are especially attracted to certain forage types.
It pays to do a little research and find out what forage species are abundant in specific bodies of water. “Game fish like walleye for example have seasonal forage preferences,” says Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 TV. “In the fall of the year, gizzard shad tend to form into huge schools near river mouths. A couple good examples of this are the Saginaw River where it pours into Saginaw Bay, the Raisin River where it pours into Lake Erie and also the Huron River where it pours into Lake Erie.”
By using scent products that “match the hatch” so to speak, anglers can better entice strikes. It’s just as important to avoid certain scents when they are not appropriate.
Every bass fisherman knowns that crayfish are a favorite food of smallmouth and largemouth bass. Later in the season when crayfish have buried themselves into the bottom to hibernate, using crayfish scent would not be a good option. Crayfish scent works best in spring when these crustaceans come out of hibernation and all summer long when bass gorge on them.
Fortunately, Pro Cure Super Gel scent products are made from a host of common forage species such as alewife, smelt, emerald shiners, crayfish, leeches, nightcrawler, gizzard shad and many, many more.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD SCENT BE APPLIED?
On average, oil based scent products should be applied about every 30 to 40 minutes for the best results. Water based scent products should be re-applied every 10 to 15 minutes.
When applying scent to hard baits such as spoons or crankbaits, the scent must be applied a little more often than when using scent on soft plastics that absorb and hold the scent a little better.
Natural scents can also be used on live baits such as minnows, leeches and nightcrawler. Most scent products are concentrated, so when applying use a modest amount of product. A dab about the size of a pencil eraser on a lure or live bait is plenty when using concentrated scents.
Some lures such as bucktail jigs and spinners dressed in hackle or maribou require special attention to detail when using scent products. Oily scents or those scent products that come in paste form can mat down the hair and feathers used to dress certain lures. A water soluble scent product must be used in this case, so as to allow hair and hackle to pulsate naturally in the water.
DO SCENT PRODUCTS NEED REFRIGERATION?
Most scent products do not need refrigeration, but they should be kept out of direct sunlight or exposure to high temperatures. Scent products do however have a shelf life.
“Pro Cure Super Gel has a five year shelf life,” says Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 TV. “When I buy a new bottle of Super Gel I mark on the bottle with a permanent pen the date I purchased it. That way I know when the scent has reached the expiration date and needs to be discarded.
HARD TO EXPLAIN SCENT PRODUCTS
Some scent products are just hard to explain when it comes to why they work so well. “The Super Gell Bloody Tuna is one of those scent products that defies logic,” says Romanack. “While blood is normally considered a negative in terms of fish attracting odors, when it comes to salmon, bloody tuna scent is hands down my favorite.”
Salmon and tuna are natural enemies and using a bloody tuna scent seems to get aggressive results from all species of salmon including chinook, coho and Atlantic salmon. Ironically, Super Gel Bloody Tuna also works well on lake trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.
SUMMING IT UP
So the question still remains, do fishing scents really work? Some anglers may disagree, but based on several years of using natural scent products religiously, I’d have to say that yes used properly fishing scents do stimulate fish to strike more often and with more authority. My experience suggests that the colder the water becomes, the more that scent products excel in triggering explosive strikes.
It’s also true that certain species respond better to scent products than others. Bass, panfish, trout, salmon and catfish are some of the species that use scent heavily in daily foraging efforts. Walleye can also be added to this list of game fish that can be effectively targeted with scent products. This tip goes double during the winter and fall of the year when walleye can become lethargic.
Using fishing scents is one of those things an angler has to prove to him or herself by using them and judging the results. To some the jury may still be out regarding fishing scent products, but in my boat there is no debate. You can either use fishing scent or at the end of the day, wish you had!