Sticky Fingers

Over the years tackle manufacturers have undertaken extensive research, design and testing in an effort to mimic and portray the natural and chemical stimulants that increase appeal and entice fish to strike. As with many aspects of sport fishing, anglers have a love-hate relationship with impregnated soft plastics and aftermarket additives that smell awful and typically leave an oily residue on everything they come in contact with.


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Photo: Steve Dougherty

It doesn’t take a chemist to deduce that inshore game fish use their highly specialized olfactory organs to assist in tracking down forage. With many of the state’s estuarine systems featuring tannin and brackish stained waters with poor visibility, scent can be a driving factor in angling success no matter the venue or target species.

…studies have shown that fish use their advanced olfactory organs for many functions including predation, reproduction, recognition and migration.

Whether it’s a soft plastic shrimp, crab, sand flea, mullet, pinfish, pogy, mud minnow, crawfish, shad or something that doesn’t resemble anything that occurs in any of Florida’s wide ranging aquatic environments, tackle manufacturers including Berkley, TriggerX, Saltwater Assassin, YUM, Z-Man, Lunkerhunt and more produce a host of stinky, slimy and smelly baits in an effort to hook anglers and entice reluctant fish to strike. Additionally, there are a host of different types of scent enhanced applications including impregnated baits, spray bottles, scent sticks, squeeze tubes and jellies that can be applied to any lure.

The research involved in developing these products is incredibly meticulous, and the goal is much more technical than simply adding scent to make a lure smell like something a predator fish would naturally prey upon. In fact, studies have shown that fish use their advanced olfactory organs for many functions including predation, reproduction, recognition and migration.

“Scientifically proven to increase your catch ratio!” and “Outfishes live bait!” are only two of the many wild claims backing the effectiveness of scented offerings, but the question remains if scent infused soft plastics really help anglers catch more fish.

While it may seem like a simple question, the situation is much more dynamic and there’s no definitive proof besides what anglers perceive to be increased success due to a specific product. With the scent market no longer in its infancy, many anglers have assessed the situation and report noticeably better results while fishing aromatic soft plastics. Others feel that it’s not only the scientific stink that can be quantifiable in producing increased results, but the complete package of presentation and fishing in areas where there are likely to be predator-prey interactions, among many other variables that influence fish feeding behavior. If your lure doesn’t have the right action, shape and pattern to mimic natural forage, do you think scent will really make a difference?

Aside from smelling terrible and leaving you with stinky fingers, scented soft plastics are unavoidably messy and applying scents in spray or gel form makes the practice even worse. Furthermore, there have been numerous arguments that soft plastic baits are harmful to the environment because they take years to decompose. Whether you are a firm believer or full of skepticism, there’s another group of anglers that are somewhat indifferent and realize that scented soft plastics don’t matter until it really matters.

With experience stalking shallow water game fish, you are likely aware that on some days the fish are more keen on feeding, and at times you can do no wrong. During a wide open bite you likely wouldn’t catch any more fish with the addition of the most proven scent technology, but when these scented offerings really shine is when it’s impossible to buy a bite. However, you can actually buy a bite for about $1 per bait with the latest and greatest impregnated soft plastics.

Ever think back on past sessions and imagine what the results would’ve been had you fished with enhanced offerings? Was the real reason you didn’t catch more fish because of bait selection? Anglers need to be honest about their abilities, approach and dedication, because it’s likely not solely your lure that deserves blame for lackluster days on the water.

With that being said, if you want to be consistently successful and catch fish when they are finicky you should keep a few scent enhancements in your tackle bag. We don’t think like fish and will never know if scented baits are the real reason for perceived increased catches, but if scented baits help boost your confidence and catches, then by all means break out the stench. Don’t take our word for it…take a whiff, fish with these products for yourself and see they make a difference. Let us know how you feel about scented soft plastics by submitting your comments and feedback to

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