Do Scents Make Sense?
Written by: Christopher Randolph
Do scents make sense? That is the million-dollar question. There has been plenty of controversy in the bass fishing world over “Attractants” or “Scents”. From tournament anglers, to trophy bass hunters, to weekend warriors, bass anglers across the country are all searching for the smallest edge. And if there’s any chance that a smelly potion will get them more bites, then they want it. Me personally, I never throw a glide bait, buzzbait, hollow body frog, swimbait, or ANY soft plastic with-out it being covered in my favorite “attractant”.
First off, let’s take a look at the importance of an “Attractant” or “Scent”. Even though bass find their prey by sight or sound first, smell still plays a critical role in a bass’s feeding habits. A bass’s ability to smell has scientifically been proven to be approximately 1,000 times better than a dog, meaning it can sense the smallest tenth of a drop of a substance in about 100 gallons of water. Basically, it works like this. As a bass hears or feels the presence of bait he comes over to investigate the movement or sound. This is where scents and attractants play a key factor. As the bass moves in for a closer inspection, he is expecting a certain smell to be coming from the bait. If the smell is familiar or “the right” smell he will go in for the kill. As he strikes and inhales the bait, the confirmation of the flavor of the prey by his sense of smell determines whether he spits it out or swallows it.
A bass will usually spit out a bait within 2 or 3 seconds if it doesn’t accept the taste. On the other hand, if a bass likes the smell or “taste”, it will hold the bait up to 30 seconds or longer. In other words, the “Attractant” or “Scent” doesn’t really “attract” bass to the lure, but it does (in my experience) cause the fish to hold on much longer, and therefore increasing the chances a solid hook set.
So, the question isn’t, “Does it matter?” The questions are “When”, “Which Scent” and “How much”? Well, the answer to the question of when is a simple one. Any time you are using any type of soft plastic. It doesn’t matter if the bait comes “pre-scented” or “impregnated with scents”. Those extra 30 plus seconds that the bass holds on could be the difference between missing a bite or landing a fish. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tournament angler, weekend warrior or looking to land the fish of a lifetime, every little advantage that increases the odds of triggering a strike and landing even the most finicky and pressured bass. Also, anytime I’m using a hard body swimbait like a glide bait or a buzzbait I use a “Attractant” or “Scent”. When using a glide bait or buzzbait, I’m normally going to make repeated cast to the same spot or area. Using a shad or bluegill “scent” on a slow-moving glide bait – which is meant to be tracked and followed by big bass – allows for a nice “scent” trail to be made which can help trigger a bite from a following bass. Likewise, when throwing a fast moving buzzbait, using a strong garlic scent helps great a trail that can help trigger a strike on repeated cast to the same area from a bass that otherwise would keep ignoring the buzzing bait moving over its head.
Now the next question is a little trickier. Which “Scent” or “Attractant” to use can be broken into two parts; Which “flavor” or “scent” and which “brand” or “company”. Let’s talk about which “flavor” or “scent” first. The most common “flavors” or “scents” are shad, crawfish, nightcrawler (which have a more “natural” taste and smell) and garlic, anise, and coffee (which are more like “odor of masking” type of scents). There are many different opinions on which is best and it’s really a personal preference.
Whichever “scent” or “flavor” you feel confident with, go with. Me personally, I prefer to “match the hatch”, unless I’m fishing a plastic worm or the water is stained with low visibility. By “match the hatch”, I mean I’m going to use the same “flavor” or “scent” as the bait I’m trying to imitate. If I’m throwing a swimbait I’m going to use either a shad or bluegill flavor, depending on which one I’m trying to imitate. Same thing with creature baits or any craw imitating bait. 9 out of 10 times I’m going to use a crawfish “flavor” or “scent”. The exception is plastic worms. I cover all my plastic worms with a garlic scent. The reason being is that garlic has a stronger smell than “natural” scents and with a slow-moving presentation it allows nice little scent trail that helps give that extra edge when trying to get a finicky lunker to stop examining your worm and into striking.
The other time I use a garlic “flavor” instead of “matching the hatch” is anytime I’m fishing really stained water with low visibility or at night. In those two instances, the stronger scent of the garlic “attractant” produces much better results in situations where smell plays a bigger factor in the feeding habits of the bass your targeting.
Next is the question of which brand to choose, and this question is a matter of personal preference. Believe me, there is plenty of options to choose from. A wide selection of companies including Bass Dynasty, MegaStrike, JJs Magic, Bang, Berkley Gulp, YUM, and Smelly Jelly, to name a few, make everything from spray on scents, scented dipping dyes (to add color and scent), to paste like attractants. Thru two years of experimenting and countless dollars, I have come to rely on and become confident in one brand. And that brand is Bass Dynasty Bass Attractant.
There are numerous reasons why this is my go-to “attractant”. The number one reason is quality. Unlike other spray on or dipping “attractants”, Bass Dynasty sauce is a thick slime like paste made from grounding up the bait that it mimics (i.e. shad attractant is made from real ground up shad). The thickness of the “sauce” creates a thick layer of “slime” that not only last for longer periods than other “attractants”, but also leaves behind a longer lasting “trail” in the water. Another HUGE benefit is that by being made from real bait, bass hold on for a much longer period before spitting out a lure. I’ve literally had bass pick-up a worm while I was fixing a backlash and hold on almost a full minute before I could set the hook without spitting out the worm. Countless times I’ve had bass inhale and swallow 14 inch worms because the taste is so natural and real to them.
The second reason I prefer Bass Dynasty over any other “attractant” is selection. Being a big bass angler, I’m always targeting the bigger bites and swim/glide baits play a HUGE role in my arsenal. Bass Dynasty has created the perfect match for swimbaiters across the country. It doesn’t matter if your fishing trout stocked reservoirs in California, chasing bluegill eaters in Florida and targeting bass feeding on schools of shad anywhere in the country, Bass Dynasty has you covered. Their lineup of attractants features exclusive flavors like “Stocker Trout” and “Bluegill” (made from real ground up trout and bluegill) along with their normal selection of “Threadfin Shad”, “Crawfish”, “Nightcrawler” and my go-to “Double Garlic”.
Like I stated before, I honestly don’t feel “Attractants” or “Scents” attracts fish, but I DO believe they make the bass hold on just a little longer thus providing the time to get a good hook set. That alone is an advantage and I think that advantage is worth the small investment. So, do scents make sense? Yes! But remember, LOCATING the fish, and PRESENTATION of the bait is the most important factor in your success on the water.
Written by: Christopher Randolph aka “Dutch”