April 09, 2016
By Ned Kehde
On March 29, Travis Myers penned a 2006-word testimony that described why he is a scent devotee. Then on March 30 and 31, he footnoted his 2006-word exposition with 497 words, and he periodically added several more observations and words.
The genesis of his scent epistle commenced on March 26, when he sent the Finesse News Network a photograph of a half-gallon jug of a special blend of scent that the folks at Pro-Cure Bait Scents mixed for him. The caption of this photograph said: "No more hand mixing. I got my special 1/2-gallon mix. It should be good for a few years." Upon receiving the photograph, we responded by asking him to provide us with some of his perspectives about why and how he uses scents in his pursuits of the smallmouth bass that abide in the streams and rivers that course through the Allegheny Mountains near where he resides in Paw Paw, West Virginia.
Myers is an ardent and accomplished Midwest finesse angler, and since April of 2015, he has been a regular contributor to the Finesse News Network, and scores of his logs, which feature how, when, and where he catches riverine smallmouth bass, have been published in our monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing.
We asked him to tell us how and when he became a scent enthusiast. We also wanted to know how and when he discovered the effectiveness of the scents that Pro-Cure manufactures, and why those scents work better for him than the other scents that he has used. The third thing we asked was why, how, and when he created his personal blend of Pro-Cure's Super Gel, and we asked about the ingredients in that blend.
Here is an edited and condensed version of his answers to those questions:
My take on scents regarding smallmouth bass is that they are highly underutilized and highly misunderstood. As much as I rely on Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head jigs and Z-Man Fishing Products' soft-plastic finesse baits, my truck or ATV does not leave the driveway without a bottle of Pro-Cure.
I have a wintertime ritual of presoaking in warm water all of the Z-Man's baits, such as their ZinkerZ, EZ TubeZ, and Finesse WormZ, that I intend on using throughout the calendar year. It takes place in December right after my last outing of the fall. I soak them in separate stainless steel bowls in lukewarm water for a week, and I change the water nightly. After that week, I place them on paper towels that are arranged on a large board that is affixed onto two sawhorses, and I allowed them to dry completely, which takes a minimum of three days. When they are dry, I return them to their original packages, and they are lathered generously with my unique blend of Pro-Cure's crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic Super Gel.
This presoaking routine leaches out the salt that is impregnated into the baits during the manufacturing process, and this leaching process creates pores where the salt was, which allows the baits to soak up the Pro-Cure scent like a sponge soaks up water. I used to use Pro-Cure's Bait Sauce, but now I use their Super Gel, and I use my unique crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic formula.
I primarily fish with the ZinkerZ, Finesse WormZ, EZ TubeZ, and Finesse ShadZ. And at times, Z-Man's Scented LeechZ plays an important role in my repertoire. I have a special fondness for the Scented LeechZ, and I think its effectiveness has been overlooked by finesse anglers.
I do not presoak the Finesse ShadZ and the Scented LeechZ. They are not impregnated with salt. The Scented LeechZ is impregnated with Pro-Cure's Leech Super Gel, but I coat it with my special blend of Pro-Cure's crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic Super Gel. I customize the Finesse ShadZ by shortening it and super-gluing it back together, and then I repackage it and coat it with Pro-Cure's Threadfin Shad Super Gel.
Once all of these baits are coated with Pro-Cure and repackage, I do not open them until my first outing in March or April.
My interest in scent started many years ago, stemming back to when I pursued various trout species as a teenager. I was taught how to trout fish by the post-office clerk in my hometown of Norwich, New York. His passion was big native trout from waters that one could jump across. He was a bamboo-rod angler who built his own rods. His rods sported either an Alcedo Micron spinning reel or an Abu-Garcia Cardinal 3 reel, which were spooled with very lightweight monofilament line.
He taught me what I now call the river-stroll technique; albeit back then, he was plying little creeks lined with alder trees. He was as particular as anyone that I ever was blessed to meet, and he taught me a great deal.
He steadfastly stressed that native trout were like bloodhounds, and consequently, they were attracted to natural scents. I later learned that he was absolutely correct. Along the side of a stream, he would collect leaves and rub them between his palms before he nosed hooked a properly cared for nightcrawler, and then he sent it nose hooked and unweighted under alders. He would not put his hand-picked nightcrawlers to a metal coffee can. Instead he used cedar-lined boxes that he constructed himself. He concluded that the metal coffee cans gave the nightcrawlers a metallic scent and taste.
When I got a driver's license, I would regularly venture to the Salmon River at Pulaski, New York, which was within easy reach of my family's home. I purchase the gasoline for these outings with the money I made from mowing lawns. This was the east coast Mecca for fall-run salmon. I got heavily into wrapping my own skein and learning everything there was about curing natural salmon eggs and properly caring for them.
I took that scent care into my pursuit of other species, thinking that if scent was an essential factor in alluring trout and salmon why not for other species, such as smallmouth bass.
I discovered Pro-Cure in the 1980s, when I was in the midst of my phase of working with salmon eggs, but it was not until the mid-1990s that I became aware of its use among black bass anglers on the West Coast who were applying Pro-Cure's Rainbow Trout Super Gel to their big soft-plastic swimbaits that replicated a rainbow trout. These anglers said the slick surface that the Super Gel created on their large swimbaits allowed those big baits to skate or glide into the mouths of the largemouth bass, which augments hook sets. These anglers also noted that the slick surface created by the Pro-Cure Super Gel prolonged the longevity of those expensive and rather fragile swimbaits, and the Pro-Cure accomplished that fear by reducing tears and nicks that regularly occur when a largemouth bass attempts to engulf a big swimbait.
Even though I did not own a big California-style swimbait, I began thinking of how I could use Pro-Cure on my finesse lures, and how to make them last longer, add retention rate, and up my fish count.
At that time, I had used nearly every kind scent that was available, and there was always something missing, such as not permeating my soft-plastic finesse baits, or staying on long enough, or making a discernible difference in their effectiveness. Straightaway, Pro-Cure's effectiveness stood out. I liked its water-soluble fish oils, which totally dissolve into the water, travel faster and further than other fish-oil scents, and are easily picked up by the olfactory receptors of the fish. And I liked the vast number of different varieties of Super Gels that they manufactured.
No other manufacturer offered what I was looking for. The other scents had ingredients that I am embarrassed to say I cannot pronounce, and those ingredients were antithetical to the natural world that I wanted to replicate. In short, I wanted a product that was similar to what I could create by going to a shoreline with a minnow net and putting the prey I netted into a blender, and in my eyes and from my experiences, that is what Pro-Cure has accomplished.
I have pursued river smallmouth in many venues. It began when I was child, and I caught them at the river behind our house that eventually flowed into the Susquehanna River. I ventured to Canada many times to fish for them. I fished for them all over the Northeast, venturing to Candlewood Lake, Connecticut, Oneida, New York, Cayuga, New York, and other waterways. But it wasn't until we moved to West Virginia that I became a full-fledged smallmouth bass enthusiast and gave up fishing for everything from crappie to muskellunge, which I had pursued in New York for so many years.
With the bottle-water clarity that I have at my disposal, I have been able to witness the behavior of the smallmouth bass that abide in our small rivers throughout the calendar year. In the crystalline water, I can see where and how they live.
I had been an ardent finesse fishing devotee for a great many years before we moved to West Virginia. And after we moved, I began to experiment with scents. When I conducted these experiments, I used two identical finesse rods, reels, lines, jigs, and soft-plastic baits. One bait would be scented, and the other one would be unscented. I did it in cold water and hot water and in water temperatures in between those extremes.
I experimented with scents from differing manufacturers, but I kept coming back to Pro-Cure. I would cast a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig affixed to either a Z-man's 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ or an extremely shortened four-inch Z-Man's Finesse WormZ into a hole where I could see smallmouth milling about along a shade line. The color of the ZinkerZ and Finesse WormZ was the dirt hue. I would cast an identical rig that was unscented into the same locale, and these identical rigs were lying about three feet apart. I would anchor the kayak and stick the two rods in my kayak's rod holders. Then I would sit and intently watch both offerings. It is about as close to catfish fishing for smallmouth bass as one could get. I would usually do this at midday while I was eating lunch.
Almost without fail, I would witness my scented bait being stalked and shadowed by the smallmouth bass. By that I mean, if a smallmouth bass didn't immediately engulf my scented bait as it sat motionless, four or five smallmouth bass would position themselves in what I would describe as a pecking order around that bait and shadow it. And what usually would transpire was similar to what happens when four or five smallmouth bass spot a crayfish on a sandy river bottom. I have watched these smallmouth bass encircle a crayfish, and then one of them would make a pass at it, and if it missed, another smallmouth bass would make a pass at it, and that scenario would continue until one of the smallmouth bass engulfed the crayfish. And when I employed my scented and unscented test, I have witnessed river smallmouth bass act out the exact same behavior around the scented bait, which is lying dead still on the bottom and my spinning rod is in the rod holder. The unscented bait usually lies on the bottom dead still and untouched and unnoticed. In fact, only three out of 19 tests did a smallmouth bass engulf the unscented bait. That is proof enough for me that Pro-Cure scent is effective.
After I watched the river smallmouth bass react to the various Pro-Cure concoctions that I had created, I went on a mission to find the best one for my finesse rigs. This task started eight years ago.
I was always a big fan of Pro-Cure's Bait Sauce, which is what I used to use when I marinated the presoaked baits during the winter, but nowadays I use my special blend of Pro-Cure's crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic Super Gel. Then when I afloat, I apply my blend of Super Gel to my bait every 30 minutes. Admittedly it may be a bit of overkill, but I do it anyway.
I had used Pro-Cure's Garlic Crawfish Super Gel with a great deal of success right off the shelf. In fact, I think it is the best available non-minnow offering on the planet for finesse jigs. I zealously use Pro-Cure's Threadfin Shad on my Finesse ShadZ even though there are no shad in my waters. I will be adding something new to me from Pro-Cure for my Finesse ShadZ in 2016.
In my non-minnow offerings, I traditionally used Pro-Cure's Nightcrawler Super Gel. Then one day I decided to create a mixture of their nightcrawler scent and garlic scent. The first mixture was 95 percent nightcrawler scent and five percent garlic scent, and I gradually upped the garlic portion to 10 percent. After that, I then began mixing Pro-Cure's crawfish and nightcrawler scents together, and with that combo, I really beginning to have fun watching smallmouth react to it. Then I wanted to see what adding the garlic scent to the nightcrawler-and- crawfish combo would do. As I tested the crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic combo, I watched numerous smallmouth bass engulf my offering as soon as it touched the bottom, which occurred before I could place by rod in the rod holder and start eating my lunch.
From my testing endeavors and many days of fishing the rivers of West Virginia for smallmouth bass, I have come to the conclusion that the crawfish-nightcrawler-garlic combo is the most effective, and it consists of 45 percent crawfish scent, 45 percent nightcrawler scent, and 10 percent garlic.
This winter I spoke with Steve Lynch, who is the brand manager at Pro-Cure, and asked him if he could make it. He was extremely professional, very accommodating and assured me that he was going to make it himself. It is a stellar custom-made blend for sure, and one that I have not been able to completely replicate in my garage with measuring cups and funnels for years. A half-gallon jug of it cost me a pretty penny, but it should last me several years. In years past, I have used about eight ounces a year.
At the beginning of this testimony about my history with scents, I stated that scents are misunderstood and underutilized by the majority of smallmouth bass anglers.
There was a well-publicized Bassmaster tournament on Lake Erie where anglers who were not sponsored by Berkley were drop-shotting Berkley's Gulp baits and exclaiming their virtues for smallmouth bass. But since then interest in scents among my smallmouth bass brethren has waned.
In addition to the expense factor, I know that scores and scores of anglers do not use scents because it can be messy and stain their clothing and the carpets in their bass boats.
There is an old piscatorial maxim about scents being advantageous in cold-water situations, and they are. But I have found scent to be extremely effective throughout the calendar year. Anglers will not completely know how effective they are until they use them incessantly and ardently applying them.
Some critics say that scents are used by anglers as a substitute for the lucky-rabbit-foot syndrome. But, off course, I say that critique pure hogwash. It has become an integral part of my finesse quiver. For instance, it adds a stellar dimension to an extremely buoyant 2 1/2-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ affixed to a 1/32-ounce Gopher jig. This rig will suspend from a foot to several feet above the bottom, which allows me to execute extremely slow retrieves that are highlighted with alluring shakes that radiate with scent.
Throughout 2016, I will be working on adding an Emerald Shiner Super Gel and a custom-made mix that will stick to my Finesse ShadZ rig. And I want one that will be sticky and gummy and become almost glued to the Finesse ShadZ.
(1) Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column about scents that we published on Jan. 15, 2014: http://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/scent-for-fishing-scent-update/.