Season To Taste

Aftermarket scents work wonders for drum and trout, two of many inshore species that hunt by sight and smell, but what about adding natural scents and synthetic enticements to offshore trolling lures and teasers when targeting pelagic game fish?

Capt. Mike Genoun May 27, 2012

Inshore anglers have been capitalizing on the benefits of natural and artificial bait enhancements like scented gels, oils and sprays for many years. I add Pro-Cure mullet and shrimp flavored gel to my soft plastics and have certainly noticed a measurable difference. Now make no mistake—I am not suggesting that you aren’t going to catch fish without the addition of such products, because you certainly will. We all know there is much more to successful backcountry fishing than simply adding a little special sauce to your artificial lure. It’s proper preparation and keen execution that keep you connected.

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Photo: doughertyphotos.com

With that being said, rewarding results in the shallows have proven to me that added scents trigger predators to strike aggressively, but it is obvious that game fish need to be present in the first place. By design, added attractants aren’t intended to invite fish into a particular area like chum, rather they are simply enhancements to otherwise productive lures and are designed to initiate and trigger feeding behavior. Plus, most leading soft plastics are already impregnated or enhanced with natural flavors or ‘eat-me’ pheromones. Still, I stand behind taking something that is already good and making it better. The extra attention often provides the edge we’re always looking for. Even so, only recently have offshore trolling lure manufacturers seriously entered the added scent arena with innovative products proven to produce impressive results.

With rising fuel prices and leisure time at an all time premium, can we actually afford not to stack the odds in our favor every time we leave the inlet in our wake?

How many times have you raised a curious sailfish into your trolling spread, only for the fish to disappear for no apparent reason? Compact, submersible video cameras are beginning to reveal startling footage of what really happens below the surface. You may be surprised to learn that only a fraction of the fish in your spread actually commit. Is it something in the pattern that didn’t look right or track right? We may never know, but expert billfishermen in every ocean reiterate that a significant percentage of raised marlin simply lose interest. It’s turning these lookers into takers that can make the difference between a frustrating day and a successful outing. Of course for tournament competitors the stakes are much greater.  

Surely there are skeptics out there, but research has proven that captive tuna respond well to the scent of prey and can detect even the most miniscule amounts of scent baitfish leave in their wakes. Additionally, we can’t ignore that field testing in real world scenarios has shown that the addition of inviting natural and/or artificial bait scents to trolling lures and teasers significantly increases the number of strikes from raised billfish, wahoo and dolphin, sometimes by as much as five-to-one compared to identical lures without the added attractants. With rising fuel prices and leisure time at an all time premium, can we actually afford not to stack the odds in our favor every time we leave the inlet in our wake?

Fortunately, a number of leading lure manufacturers have emerged with innovative approaches. Frank Johnson III of Mold Craft Fishing Products, makers of possibly the most famous and productive line of offshore trolling lures in existence, has recently introduced a line of modified chuggers designed to accommodate Billfish Juice. In pill form, Billfish Juice contains scientifically designed fish attractants with a controlled release rate. The actual release rate varies with water flow, agitation and temperature, but each pill generally leaves an inviting trail for up to one hour. The idea is that a raised fish enters the spread to investigate the fleeing lures and then gets a whiff of the dissolving pill. The irresistible smell triggers a natural instinct to strike and bam…FISH ON!

“We’ve modified several of our designs to accommodate Billfish Juice including the Standard and Senior 4-Eyed Monsters, Wide Ranges and Supper Chuggers. Mold Craft has experimented with this concept for over 30 years and this is the best new product that we’ve ever used. It is truly the first attractant that I have had marked results with. I personally tested and performed trials with identical teasers, changing sides on the hour with 70% of strikes coming on the teasers enhanced with Billfish Juice. I am always skeptical when it comes to things like this, but I’m convinced Billfish Juice works!” concluded Johnson.

Peter Somogyi of Scent Blazer Lures has taken a different approach altogether. At first glance, Scent Blazer lures appear not much different than what you are pulling now. However, upon closer inspection a patented bait chamber is revealed under the skirt. Simply stuff the chamber with lights, rattles, weights or better yet natural bait like ballyhoo, sardines or mackerel. A sponge soaked in fish oil works well, too. Water channels through the bait chamber and leaves a delicious trail of natural scent and morsels in the lure’s wake that drives pelagic game fish wild. Worldwide testing has proven that Scent Blazer lures loaded with bait produce up to five times more strikes than the same lures that lack enhancements.

“It’s not rocket science—fish eat fish. Lures that smell and taste like real fish are going to get bites more often. It’s that simple,” added Somogyi.

It’s also important to note that the bait chambers are sold separately and can be used in other arenas. Try rigging one directly in-line above your favorite deep drop or daytime swordfish rig and stuffing it with a glow light, rattle and natural bait. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Offshore gurus with a preference for pulling natural offerings can season to taste as well. Pro-Cure Bait Scents has designed an easy-to-use dispenser/syringe combo for blue water crews who prefer to include rigged ballyhoo, split-tail mullet and Spanish mackerel in their spread. The syringe is used to inject Pro-Cure’s Bloody Tuna Oil into the cavity of rigged trolling baits for an irresistible level of appeal. It’s no secret hungry predators can’t resist a wounded bullet bonito or juvenile blackfin, so it only makes perfect sense that any bait oozing natural bloody tuna oil would be impossible for an aggressive game fish to ignore. The enhancement is a great addition to natural rigged baits pulled on the surface off flat lines and outriggers, as well as baits presented deep below the surface with the use of planers and downriggers.

Whether you are a believer or not it’s obvious that natural and artificial scents and aftermarket enhancements aren’t going anywhere. They have proven their worthiness inshore and are beginning to do the same over the horizon. As technology continues to improve and manufacturing processes continue to progress, it is very likely we’ll be seeing an increased number of innovative products and approaches to the offshore scent game. If you decide to experiment in this arena, never lose sight of the fact that proper rigging techniques and focusing your efforts in areas likely to hold your quarry are crucial to successful blue water fishing. Among many other aspects these cannot be overlooked.

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