Decades ago, the late Tom Mann of Eufaula, Alabama, and Mann’s Bait Company created the Jelly Worm, which was impregnated with a fruit scent. According to Drew Reese of Rantoul, Kansas, who fished with Mann at the All-American Bassmaster tournament at Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi, on Sept. 30 – Oct 2, 1971, Mann told Reese that the Jelly Worm scents were made to catch bass anglers. Back in those days, there was a popular notion being bandied about by some anglers that malodorous odors — such as those produced by gasoline, outboard motor oil, and the human body — repulsed largemouth bass. But Mann, says Reese, poop-pooped the idea that bass were attracted or repelled by odors. To prove that point of Reese, Mann sprinkled some gasoline into a package of Jelly Worms, and he used those gasoline-laced worms to catch an impressive array of largemouth bass at Ross Barnett. To this day, Reese also pooh-poohs the notion that scents can entice and rebuff largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Reese, who was one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing and a Bassmaster Classic competitor in 1971, proves his point by catching thousands of largemouth and smallmouth bass every year without using a drop of the many scents or other types of fish attractants that have appeared in the market place since Tom Mann created the scented Jelly Worm.
After the Jelly Worm, Berkley eventually created their Power Bait formula, which they impregnated into their soft baits. Gradually other soft-plastic-bait manufacturers developed ways to infuse their soft-plastic baits with various kinds of attractants. One of those attractants was created by Cliff Soward, who was the product development coordinator for YUM Baits. His formula consisted of natural enzymes from crayfish and shad, which were injected to YUM’s soft-plastic baits. YUM also manufactured a spray-on formula of those enzymes. Now YUM has a new attractant, which they call YUM F2. Berkley also has added Gulp and Gulp! Alive! to their repertoire. And TriggerX is manufacturing soft-plastic baits that are impregnated with a formula that they call Ultrabite, which contain pheromones.
Pheromones are chemicals, which creatures, such as fish and various invertebrates, secrete. And it is said that those secretions can influence the behavior of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. There are food-trail pheromones, alarm pheromones, sex pheromones, aggression pheromones, fear pheromones and several others. According to some of the folks at TriggerX some pheromones can allure black bass and entice them to engulf a properly scented bait.
What’s more, if Tom Mann were still alive, he would take critical notice of TriggerX’s declaration that their baits are phthalate-free, which ”eliminates that ‘plastic’ smell found in other soft baits, putting an end to scent contamination.” Of course, Mann would probably call the scent-contamination idea poppycock.
In addition to the creations of Berkley, Mann’s Bait Company, TriggerX and YUM Baits, a vast potpourri of scents that contain oils, pheromones, enzymes, and amino acids have been available for anglers to utilize across the past four decades. Here’s a short list of a few of those scents and attractants: Bass Assassin Lures Inc.’s BANG, BioEdge Fishing Products’ Portions and Wands, FishSticks Lure Enhancer’s Cryogenic Crawfish, MegaStrike Fishing Products’ Fish Attractant, Original Fish Formula Company’s Attractants, Pro-Cure Inc.’s Super Gel, Scientific Bass Products, Inc.’s Kick ‘n Bass, Stanley Jigs’ Spoof Juice, and Wisconsin Pharmacal Company’s Baitmate Fish Attractant.
Besides soliciting Drew Reese’s options about the usefulness and effectiveness of attractants and scents for black bass, we asked several professional bass tournament anglers if they use attractants and scents
Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, who is a veteran and topflight competitor on the FLW, Bassmaster and other tournament circuits, said he used scents — especially in cold-water scenarios. For many years, King used Stanley Jigs’ Spoof Juice, which he described as “a smelly crawfish concoction” that he applied to his skirted-jig-and-trailer combos, beaver-style baits and tubes. Nowadays, he is using a new attractant that Cliff Soward is developing. Soward gave King some of it to test, and it is pheromone-type of attractant. King confessed that it is difficult to measure how effective the various scents and attractants are. He pointed out there are too many variables that prevent a simple answer from being formulated, but in his mind and eyes, scents and attractants have helped him allure a goodly number of black bass across the years.
For decades, Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, has been a successful tournament angler on the Bassmaster, FLW and other tournament trails. He is also a noted largemouth bass guide on Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn and Falcon reservoirs in Texas. Without a moment of hesitation, Martin proclaimed that he has never been a big believer in the effectiveness of scents. Yet, when he gets desperate, he will occasionally work with Stanley Jigs’ Spoof Juice – especially in the winter. And if the bulk of the largemouth bass that he is fishing for are deeply sequestered in thick cover, such as brush or aquatic vegetation, Martin will employ a touch of Spoof Juice in an attempt to draw them out of the thicket and to engulf his lure. He uses it primarily when he flipping and pitching a tube, a beaver-style bait, skirted jig and trailer, and a creature bait. ( It needs to be noted that Spoof Juice has not been manufactured for a number of years. According to the folks at Stanley Jigs, Spoof Juice was declared a hazardous substance and outlawed.)
Like King and Martin, Dion Hibdon of Versailles, Missouri, is an accomplished veteran on the Bassmaster, FLW and other tournament trails. Occasionally Hibdon works with Assassin Lures Inc.’s BANG, and for him it is a shallow-water scenario when he probes aquatic vegetation and when the bass are spawning. But Hibdon says his son Lawson catches scores of deep-water largemouth and spotted bass when he dresses his baits with a garlic scent. Moreover, Hibdon notes that his father, Guido, occasionally wields some soft-plastic baits that are enhanced with scent.
Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Indiana, is a talented, 22-year-old professional angler who competes on the FLW circuits. Wheeler says he possesses the same prospective about scents that Tommy Martin does, or in other words, scents don’t help him catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. In fact, until TriggerX became his sponsor, he confessed that he never thought about scents. But since he has been using TriggerX baits, Wheeler has noticed that spawning black bass seem to hold on to TriggerX baits longer than they hold on to ordinary soft-plastic baits, and that corresponds to Dion Hibdon’s observations about spawning bass. In sum, Wheeler says scents have yet to play a role in his professional career, which commenced on May 22, 2010, and in the 20 tournaments that he fished, he has earned him 710,241 scent-free dollars.
Besides garnering observations from professional tournament anglers, we solicited the opinions of some anglers across the Finesse News Network, such as Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, Dwight Keefer of Phoenix, Arizona, and Steve Quinn of Brainerd, Minnesota.
Brian Waldman is a talented recreational angler, frequent contributor to the Finesse News Network, and proprietor of the Big Indiana Bass Web site. In a Feb. 20 e-mail, Waldman wrote: ” I never use scents when bass fishing, though I did just a little when I first started out way back when. Way back when was when the original Fish Formula was out in the spray bottle. Only time I’d use it was if I was flipping plastics in weeds. Their oily formulation made the plastic baits really slick and helped them slide through tight weed openings easier without hanging up. But that infatuation didn’t last long.
“Outside that one scenario, using scents never seemed like an efficient or practical thing to me, and I’ve never been a huge believer in odor as a driving force to get a fish to bite. Plus there’s no way to prove to my knowledge that they increase the number of bass you catch. On the other hand, most scent products I tried (or partners in my boat that would use them) seemed to smell up your boat and tackle box, stain your gelcoat, grime up your hands, ruin your clothes, leave a film on your lures, get transferred onto every little thing you touch, and heaven help you if you’ve ever had a can/bottle leak or bust open in your boat compartment. Plus until recently, I was always a power fisherman and not a slow or finesse angler. That said, I have been thinking of revisiting them a little this year to use on Midwest Finesse baits.”
Steve Quinn is the senior editor at In-Fisherman, and across the years, he has had a number of chances to see what scents can and can’t do — especially when he was afloat with Matt Straw, who is an In-Fisherman Field Editor from Brainerd, Minnesota. One of Quinn’s most memorable scent encounters occurred at the 2010 Minnesota BASS Federation Championship at Lake Pokegama at Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Quinn was paired with Ron Mehr of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and they were fishing in Quinn’s bass boat.
Quinn wrote in a Feb. 19 e-mail: ”The big smallies proved tough, so I went after some nice largemouths on weedy humps. While I’d employed a Craw Tube to catch them in prefishing, they’d turned finicky. But the dropshot was working. Ron, however, was consistently outfishing me by using a Roboworm that he kept in a Gulp! Alive! container of the nightcrawler formula. It was something, but being the nice guy he is, he did share some of the flavored worms, and I did manage a good catch as well. It seemed to make a marked difference in the bites at that weed edge in about 10 to 14 feet of water. I ran into him last fall in a tournament and he’s still employing that formula with great success.”
Dwight Keefer was one of the forefathers of Midwest finesse, winner of the World Series of Sport Fishing at Long Lake, Wisconsin in October of 1967, and competitor at the 1972 Bassmaster Classic. In a Feb. 9 e-mail to the Finesse News Network, Keefer wrote: ”I can absolutely attest to the fish attracting ability of BANG Shad Formula with a Z-Man’s Finesse Shad-Z and on a drop-shot worm. Time and time again I would find largemouth bass schooled up on a ledge in grass, near a drop off in an area with grass or on a flat with grass sometimes as deep as 20-23 feet. When these largemouth bass quit hitting the Finesse Shad-Z, I would spray it with BANG and immediately start catching them again. I had some five-inch drop-shot worms, which were hand poured to match the green-pumpkin-blue color of the Finesse Shad-Z, and I could catch them after they quit hitting the Finesse Shad-Z out of the same area. I did note that the fish on the drop shot worm would also hit the lure again after I sprayed it with BANG. It is interesting to note is the fish caught on the drop shot were always smaller fish.”
In sum, Hibdon, Keefer and Quinn have found that scents are effective around aquatic vegetation. And Keefer found it effective in depths reaching 23 feet of water, which parallels some Lawson Hibdon’s deep-water findings with a garlic scent. What’s more, Tommy Martin occasionally allured a largemouth bass out of extremely thick patches of aquatic vegetation by employing a scent-enhanced lure, but he works with scent primarily when he at his wits’ end. Waldman, however, found the best use of an oil-based scent was to help his bait penetrate thick patches of vegetation, and he doubted if the scent helped him elicit strikes from the largemouth bass that he extracted from the vegetation. Wheeler unintentionally works with a pheromone attractant because he uses TriggerX baits. King, however, thinks that scents have helped him catch a significant number of cold-water largemouth and spotted bass across the years. And Reese has never used any scent.
Before the final period is put on this blog, we need to note that there is a small cadre of Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas who have been experimenting for the past four years with Berkley’s Gulp, Berkley’s Gulp!Alive! nightcrawler scent, Berkley’s Gulp!Alive! crawfish scent, and Pro-Cure Inc.’s Super Gel nightcrawler scent. These anglers primarily use Z-Man Fishing Products’ ElaZtech baits, such as the Finesse ShadZ, Hula StickZ, Finesse WormZ, FattyZ and ZinkerZ, and they have found that Pro-Cure’s Super Gel is easier to use on ElaZtech baits than Gulp and Gulp! Alive! For example, the hook slot in the belly of the Finesse ShadZ is an ideal place to inject the Super Gel, and as the ZinkerZ ages and the impregnated salt dissolves, it readily absorbs the Super Gel.
Unlike King and Martin, who use scents primarily in cold-water situations, and Dion Hibdon, who utilizes it only during the spawn and around aquatic vegetation, these Midwest finesse anglers use Pro-Cure’s nightcrawler scent 12 months of the year in northeastern Kansas, and the most effective months seem to be cold-water ones. And when these Midwest finesse angler bass fish for trout in March, they have noticed that a 2 1/2-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig that is lathered with Pro Pro-Cure’s nightcrawler scent seems entice a goodly number of big rainbow trout. (www.in-fisherman.com/2012/02/22/bass-fishing-for-trout)
These anglers fish flatland reservoirs that range in size from 50 to 11,600 surface acres. The water clarity is stained, and they catch their largemouth and smallmouth bass in depths of one to 12 feet. Some of the reservoirs are graced with American water willow, bushy pondweed, coontail, curl-leaf pondweed and milfoil. Many of the shorelines are lined with riprap. As these anglers ply the aquatic vegetation and riprap shorelines at these reservoirs, they have attempted to devise a scientific method or system to measure the effectiveness Pro-Cure Inc.’s Super Gel nightcrawler scent. But to their chagrin, they have not been able to create one. Yet, in the eyes and minds these Kansas finesse anglers, Pro-Cure Inc.’s Super Gel nightcrawler scent seems to be effective, but because there is no tangible and scientific data to focus upon, these anglers occasionally wonder if scent has become a psychological crutch or even an illusion rather than an efficient and necessary tool.
(1) Here’s a link to 2,396-word discourse on scents: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/07/18/softbait-breakthroughs-for-panfish/
(2) For a profile on Tommy Martin see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/11/04/the-life-and-times-of-sam-rayburn-and-toledo-bend-reservoirs-and-one-of-their-finest-bass-anglers/
(3) My fellow In-Fisherman blogger, Matt Straw of Brainerd, Minnesota, is a dyed-in-the-wool scent user. In fact, Straw wrote: “I apply scent products to everything, probably because of my experiences with steelhead. They detect substances in smaller concentrations than bloodhounds. Give trout the faintest whiff of a negative cue and they can and will use it against you. We wonder why sight feeders have such an extraordinarily well-developed olfactory sense, but the fact is, they do.” To read more of the many words that Straw has penned about scents see:
(4) For more information about Dion and Guido Hibdon see:
(5) For more information about Drew Reese, Dwight Keefer and Midwest finesse fishing see the following blogs: www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/10/legends-of-the-heartland/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/01/17/a-short-history-of-midwest-finesse-fishing-for-black-bass-1955-2013/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/06/26/midwest-finesse-tackle-rods-reels-and-lines-according-to-dwight-keefer/
(6) For more information about Brian Waldman see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2011/11/17/the-manifold-virtues-of-the-small-hair-jig-according-to-brian-waldman/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/07/22/how-to-locate-and-catch-spawning-bluegills-in-indiana-according-to-brian-waldman/; http://www.bigindianabass.com/
(7) For more information about Jacob Wheeler see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/01/14/bass-anglers-gear-guide-triggerxs-buzz-tail-worm-according-to-jacob-wheeler/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/01/20/bass-anglers-gear-guide-triggerxs-goo-bug-and-how-jacob-wheeler-punches-it/
(8) For more information about Stacey King see: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/10/08/stacey-the-jika-rig-king/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2012/11/01/jika-rig-update/
(9) In 2012, a two-ounce bottle of Pro-Cure’s nightcrawler Super Gel lasted one Midwest finesse angler throughout 122 outings. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, we were working with Gulp and Gulp!Alive!, and in late 2011, we were told by the folks at Z-Man Fishing Products that Super Gel works the best on ElaZtech baits. So, we started working with Super Gel in 2012, and we found it easier to use than Gulp and Gulp! Alive! Pro-Cure says that the “ nightcrawler scent is 100% real bait and enhanced with UV.”