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from Hank Parker!

In this day of heavily pressured bass, anglers need to take advantage of every tool available to them. One of the tools that often gets dismissed as a gimmick is fish attractants. That’s a big mistake.

I can’t speak for all attractants, but several of the ones I’ve used have produced positive results. That doesn’t mean that fish will swim across the lake to eat a bait that contains special elixirs, and it doesn’t mean that they find every lure doused with an attractant irresistible.

Nor do I think they make a difference on fast-moving reactionary lures like crankbaits, spinnerbaits or topwaters. But adding scent or taste to slow-moving soft plastics can make a difference on those days when the bite is tough and you need something to get the fish to hang onto the lure a little longer.

You still have to make the proper presentation with the correct lure, but once you get the fish’s attention and have him nose up to the bait, a proper scent can close the deal.

Berkley scientists have demonstrated time and again that bass can smell and taste. Fish will quickly expel food they find offensive but will inhale what appeals to their senses. Bass may not be as sensitive to odors as trout or walleye, but they do use their sense of smell in a number of ways.

I found this out long before my pro fishing and television careers when I used to buy anise oil at the drug store and mix it in with my plastic worms. I saw a difference. And, if nothing else, that oily base made the lure slick, keeping it from sticking to the reeds when I would flip a worm in the reed beds or other emergent grasses.

Fish attractants got their start in the early 1980s when Bill Dance started promoting Fish Formula. I started playing with it a few years later and began to see a difference. I fished with guys who used it, and they got more bites. After awhile, we’d reverse roles, and I’d get more bites. That told me something.

Shortly thereafter, Berkley introduced a similar product called “Strike.” It was a water-soluble attractant that made more sense than oil-based products because it didn’t break down in the water or stay on the surface. Strike would dissolve in the water column where I was fishing and left a scent trail that allowed fish to zero in on the lure. There was a downside to that, however. Strike didn’t stay on the lure very long, and you had to reapply it often to retain the benefits.

Berkley, which has one of the most sophisticated laboratories in the fishing-tackle business, went to work to solve the problem by literally building a special formula into the soft-plastic bait. That’s how PowerBait was born.

The company’s scientists didn’t stop at that. They continued to experiment and created the scent- and taste-enhanced, biodegradable lures that actually dissolve in the water and leave a scent trail – Gulp!

Gulp! critics complain that the lures smell bad and leave your fingers slimy, but the trade-off is that bass do eat Gulp! more than regular plastics.

I used Gulp! last season, and it produced amazing results when I was fishing slowly and deliberately on tough days. It’s an awesome choice for drop-shotting or dragging worms through heavy cover. I found I could get bites in deep brushpiles on Gulp! when other baits of identical shape and color didn’t work.

I really expect to see more growth in the fish-attractant market over the next few years as anglers discover the benefits of making their lures more appealing.

The thing to remember about attractants is that they can’t hurt. On tough days, an extra strike or two can make a big difference, and those are the days when fish attractants pay off the most.