Do fishing scents really make sense? I think they do, but have never been able to prove it through a study of my own. To obtain any sort of positive proof would require a rod with bait and scent and one with just bait alone. Even that method could hardly be considered a scientific experiment. Instead, I have to rely on data from other sources.
I always thought that fishing scents were meant to imitate food sources, but a recent article in "In-Fisherman" discussed scents as attracting mates for spawning. I understand lightning bugs also use scents to attract mates, but I guess some fish do the same thing.
My first experience with scents came about when early TV ads touted under arm deodorants and my mom bought me a spray bottle of the stuff. It sure did not make me a girl magnet, but I noticed some of the fairer sex no longer tried to sit several rows away on the other side of the classroom. Except, of course, during trapping season. Somehow Mennen's could not compete with Hawbaker's mink lure for control of their olfactory senses, although, some of the muskrat lure had a healthy dollop of anise and smelled pretty good.
About the time my mother decided I should smell a little better, fishing magazines were running ads for a fishing scent so effective that it "was banned in several states". Of course I bought some. This so called magic liquid came in a small bottle with directions that you should tie a piece of cotton to your line and saturate it with the scent. It didn't smell bad, but I don't think I ever caught a fish because of using it.
I think it was in the late 1970s that a company in Salem began to manufacture a scent called Bionic Bait, and I believe this stuff really worked. The fish did not jump in my boat and I did not need to hide behind a tree to bait my hook, but I honestly feel Bionic Bait improved my chances. On a day when nothing was biting I could add a bit of Bionic Bait to my jig and catch a few fish.
Today there are all sorts of scents available and since hope remains eternal with all anglers I keep trying them. The best was called Fish Formula and I did well with the variety that contained all sorts of sparkling additives that were supposed to imitate fish scales. I don't see this on the market anymore so maybe the EPA ruled the sparkles bad for our water. One fishing guide I knew used Fish Formula to catch a stringer of nice big crappies.
Berkley markets GULP! and GULP! Alive scents. These are supposed to be fantastic, but I have not had much luck with them, although I read glowing reports about them on the Internet. Most of my experimentation with GULP! has been with their minnow variety. These look a lot like curly tail plastic baits, but the tail has very little action. I have caught a couple of fish using them on jigs, but not many. A tub of GULP! Alive costs $19.95 and I threw away what was left of the tub I bought after one season with little success. Maybe it was just the way I used them.
Right now I have three bottles of assorted scents on my boat, but I don't always use them. Maybe I should try them more often and see what happens. What can it hurt?
I once fished with a guide on Lake Barkley who kept spraying his jig with scent. I asked him if he thought it helped catch fish. His reply was, "You have to give yourself as much advantage as you can". Maybe that is why I keep searching for the special scent that guarantees that I will catch fish. If I discover it, I might not write about it. That is one advantage I might keep to myself.