Thoughts on Scents
The idea of attracting fish through their senses of smell is age old and well documented. It is a well known fact that sharks can pick up and follow a blood trail for miles, always making adjustments as they perceive a minute difference in intensity level. The same goes for catfish, they have been caught with stink baits for years. Salmon have the ability to smell the chemicals given off by a human hand placed in the water upstream of them, causing them to stop using a fish ladder until all of the smell has dissipated. It is therefore very interesting to me as a chemist, to hear of fishermen that dont believe in the use of fish scents or attractants. When I made perfume for one of the worlds leading fragrance houses, articles were always coming across my desk about the use of pheromones. Pheromones are secreted by almost every animal (deer, elk, dogs), bugs (moths etc.), and even man and women. So smell plays an important part of all creatures on earth either in feed, fear, flight or sexual response.
In dealing with fish, especially bass, smell plays a very important role. Bass normally find their prey by sight or sound first. The last sense to come into play is smell. Although it may be one of the last senses to come into play, it still serves a very important part of a basss life.
In order to reach a fish's olfactory organs, a smell must be carried by water. Oil and water dont mix, therefore scents that are oil based tend to form large (hydrophobic) water resistant molecules. Although these oil molecules dont disperse readily on their own, they do spread out in water, normally growing smaller and smaller due to different factors such as water current or movement of a lure or bait that has an oil attractant added on to it.
When a bass hears or feels the presence of a plastic worm or jig and pig he comes over to investigate the movement. The attractant that is applied to the bait has already started to give up some of its molecules of oil into the water. As the bass moves to the new food source that his other senses have told him is there, he is expecting the final stimulus, smell, to be emanating from his prey. This may be a crawfish or it may be a shiner or bluegill, but in the final seconds of his attack he is use to confirming the kill with his olfactory senses. As he crushes his prey with his hard teeth lined, bony mouth, the flavor of his prey is released to him. Smell and taste flow through his nostrils and reach his taste glands.This scenario has taken place with him since he was a fry or fingerling, it is an important final stimulus.
In 1980 I left my home state of New Jersey and moved to Arizona. The difference in fishing was more than I could have ever imagined. While still a novice at bass fishing I tried to learn everything I could from every source available. I read books, talked to other fishermen and went fishing every chance I got. I would catch a few fish now and then on some form of crankbait, which was the only lure I had confidence in. Plastic worms were very foreign to me and quite frankly dint instill any confidence in me at all. Yet time after time I would hear how good the bite was on a red or blue lizard or worm. It was inevitable that I finally started to fish plastics. One day after having fished plastic worms for about 3 hours straight and not getting a single hit, I put on some fish oil I had brought from my laboratory and on the very first cast had a strike and caught a bass. I went crazy! I knew that it was the smell that had caused the strike. From that moment on my life as a bass fisherman has never been the same. I went back to my laboratory and started to order fish oils, amino acids, fruit juice concentrates and anything I had heard of that would catch or attract bass.
Over many years of experiments in the lab and on the lakes all over the US and Mexico, I have found out what works and what doesn't. First off a truly water soluble scent (hydrophilic), disperses from a given bait so rapidly that you must apply it often, almost every cast. If you do not dry off your bait and apply a water soluble attractant, it normally contacts the water-wet lure or bait and literally flies off on your back-cast. Whatever is left will be ripped off as the bait hits the water. So much for water soluble (hydrophilic) scents.
The other end of the spectrum is a hydrophobic attractant: oil. As we all know oil and water dont readily want to mix. We have all taken salad dressing and shook it up, the oil droplets will keep getting smaller and smaller but upon sitting they will go back to two phases. You may now be thinking what good is an oil based fish attractant if it is not water soluble? The answer is "its very important."
When placed on a dry worm or crankbait the oil of course, forms a heavy covering. When a bass gets near to his prey, either worm or hard bait, he can pick up with his nostrils the minute droplets of oil that are slowly dispersing into the water. When he mouths the worm or lure his mouth virtually explodes with the taste that is still on the lure. I have let bass run 20-30 feet or even longer after they have picked up a worm treated with a our fish-oil based scent, Kick'n Bass®.
Now if you want to have the best of both worlds you have to turn to chemistry to give you a little help. The best scent that I could ever envision was one that had the ability to stick to a lure (hydrophobic) and yet spread a water soluble scent area around it (hydrophilic). Picture its spring spawn and the bass have moved up to the stickups and brush. You know the bass are in the bushes so you load up with 25# test a jig or plastic worm and with a quiet flip you drop your bait right next to the base of that cover where Mr. Largemouth is guarding his nest. The bait sits there.........nothing. You jig it a few times... Mr. Bass swims over, turns away and you pull your bait out and repeat the action a thousand times behind a thousand other boats. What went wrong?
When that bass swam up on your bait there was no water born molecular scent to attract him. Maybe he actually smelt some foreign human odor from your hand or tackle box. The ideal situation would be a strong smelling fish-oil based scent that was slightly altered to allow some water miscibility. The curious bass swims up, smells food, gently draws nearer, picks up even more scent and sucks in your bait. At that instant his mouth explodes with flavor and he turns and swims off with his prey.
It is my contention that many times most fisherman dont even know that they have had a bite. Bass can swim down a fast moving crankbait mouth it and spit it out, treble hooks and all. This has been documented by underwater photography in places like Silver Springs Florida where the water is crystal clear. I believe that many worm fisherman dont have a clue as to when they are bit. Thats why Pros talk about a mush bite or the line "Just feeling different". Bass will swim up and mouth a plastic bait taste nothing and spit it out, with most of us never feeling a thing. But with a quality attractant applied to that same bait a bass will try and swim off with his prize, just like your dog runs off when given a bone. Bass want to pick up their prize and swim off with it. They don't have hands so everything they are curious about goes into their mouth. Ive watched them do it a million times since religiously using Kick'n Bass® fish-oil attractant.
One cold spring day in Arizona my wife and I went out at sunrise with a friend of mine and his father. Both of us knew the lake, both of us knew what color worm to use and the depth the fish were biting at. The four of us left camp at the same time in our two boats and agreed to meet back at 9:30-10 oclock. A cold front had moved in and after catching a bunch of bass on the shallow brushy flats we went up on shore and built a small fire to warm up. After getting rid of the morning chill we went out and tried for some hogs down by the dam. Its always fun to throw a worm up towards a rock wall and see your line just head out to deep water with the chance that its a big cow and not just a dink guarding the nest. Even though the wall mounter wasn't stuck, we did catch and release over 40 bass by actual count by 10 A.M. We left and ran into my friend and his father at camp. We couldnt believe it.... They said because of the cold and "poor" conditionings they had one bass in the boat. We of course rubbed it in that we had caught and released over 40 bass. We then led them back to one of the hot shorelines we had just fished. Fishing behind them, we continued to catch bass out of their used water. We did this for about an hour and then left. That night I called and asked how the bite had gone, they had caught a total of 3 fish between the two of them in another 5 continuous hours of fishing, using the same brand worm as us and fishing the same shoreline.
At this point you are probably asking why wasnt my friend using some of my fish attractant? The truth? He said he didnt believe in it and he could do just fine without it. Since that trip and a few more just like it that gentlemen and I have parted fishing company. I learned something very important from him and I hope you learn from it too. Whether bass are active or inactive, in a aggressive mood or a passive mood, put the odds in your favor. Use a quality fish oil attractant and use it often. Dont be fooled by all the claims made in toadys big business fishing industry. You dont need a $25,000 , 70 mph bass boat to catch a bass. You dont need the most sensitive rod in the world to feel a strike. But believe me, you do need a quality bass attractant (Kick'n Bass®) to provide that extra stimulus when a bass gets within smelling and tasting distance of your bait.
Remember, a bottle of our quality attractant cost about the same as one crankbait. It cost 75% less than one of the new foreign, hand made lures that seem to be the rage. Before you spend another $5.00 on some new plug or bag of worms, first buy a bottle of Kick'n Bass® fish attractant and use it on all the stuff you already own. Our attractant gives you the best of both worlds. A heavy fish oil base, yet slightly water soluble. Then use it, use it, use it! Dont let it sit in your tackle box because youre on a spinnerbait bite and getting bit. Remember, you dont want to be the one saying "I saw this monster following my lure, then she just turned away."
Scent is the final frontier. Good luck and tight lines.