After seeing what I have while fishing thousands of days in hundreds of tournaments across the country, I know that scented baits catch more fish. It's no secret, really, and nowadays pretty much every angler uses scented baits to his or her advantage.
This time of year, with the water rapidly cooling in most parts of the country, slowly fishing scented baits are be the answer for coaxing lethargic bass into eating. But with the glut of new scented products on the market all vying for your dollars, anglers need to become familiar with the subtleties and limitations of these baits if they hope to catch more fish.
Nearly everyone that uses scented baits has their own ideas and techniques on how best to use them. But before you cast one into your favorite lake or pond, there's one word to keep in mind: slow.
To maximize the effectiveness of scented baits you have to fish the bait very slow. Whether you catch fish for a living or just for fun, you have to have a minimum amount of patience and this is where it will pay off. Because the baits have built-in attractants, many anglers get excited and want to get the bait in the water in as many different places as possible hoping that the increased number of presentations will increase the likelihood of a strike. But it's not the quantity of presentations that is important — it's the quality.
Because scented baits release so much scent in an area, I use Berkley Gulp! or the new Gulp! Alive! It disperses more scent than any other soft bait and that makes it important that you fish the bait slowly. This helps to build up a scent cloud in the area. That way you don't necessarily have to get the bait in front of the fish to attract its attention. By filling the area with scent, fish that wouldn't normally pay attention to the bait (remember most bass spend 75 to 80 percent of their time in an inactive or non-feeding mode) will be drawn in. That's why I like to rig my drop shot rigs with scented baits.
By dangling a Gulp! Sinking Minnow in the same place for long enough time, I can fill the area with scent and attract bass that I might not be able to attract otherwise. By releasing so much scent into the area, Gulp! dramatically increases the size of the strike zone meaning you don't have to worry about putting the bait in front of a fish for it to be effective.
During this time of year, once the bass have left shallow coves and boat docks and other ambush areas for deeper water, you can fish the Gulp! on a drop shot or a jig and allow the bait to work for you. Once you've located fish with your electronics or areas like depth changes or brush piles that are likely to hold bass, the bait will work to draw fish in that are seeking to feed. No more worrying about making a bait move and whether or not you are taking it away from the bass.
I've witnessed the evolution of scent technology going back to when we used fish oils and other homemade scents to apply to our baits. I always wanted a scent that stayed on the bait and tasted good enough that the fish would hang on longer. But I also wanted a scent that dispersed so that I could fish a bait slowly and trust that I could attract fish that didn't necessarily see the bait. It's the best bet for catching bass in late fall and winter.
Berkley Pro Skeet Reese is the 2007 Bassmaster Angler of the Year and lives in Auburn, Calif.