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Scent, the Final Frontier
by Ken Kross

In this high-paced world of $35,000 bass boats, and tackle boxes that have a value of one thousand dollars, it would seem like we really donít have any place left to expand. But there is, it's scent, the final frontier.

Let me tell you how it happened. I was taking inventory in my garage the other day in preparation for a trip to Lake Oviachic, which I had booked with Ron Speedís Enterprisesģ. There were numerous phone calls back and forth and I had my work cut out. First was selecting eight good rods and about 10 or twelve reels, all loaded with either 17 # mono or heavier, plus a selection of the new braided lines. The rods ranged in size from 6 feet to 7 1/2 feet, fiberglass to graphite, and various combinations of the two materials. My two 20 pound plus tackle boxes, had to be narrowed down to one, one side worms and the other side hard baits. I had made this trip before so I had a good idea of what to bring and what not to bring. First, out came all the little-bitty stuff, next out came all the lures I hadnít thrown in the last five years, lastly out came all the triplicates and quadruples of the same color make and model. When I finished with the hard baits I turned my box over and started with the worm side. This is where my heart sank; you see, I love to worm fish! Again, out came all the finesse worms and little split shots, out came all the three inch grubs. In went the 6 inch lizards in greens, blacks and red, followed by the ten inch worms and the 4/0 and 5/0 hooks, not to mention the one ounce egg sinkers and the heavy barrel swivels. When I was done with this chore, I let to two or three days go by, then I re-did it all over again.

It was then when Stinky came over for a pre-trip visit. He walked into my garage and did a double take, then let out a soft whistle. "What are you taking?" was he first question. You see, there were tackle boxes here and there, all my light weight spinning rods and all my light weight casting rods, plus bags, boxes and trays of light weight spinnerbaits, crankbaits and three and four inch worms. There were stacks of flipping sticks and big baitcasters. He looked around for a moment and then said to "Do you know how much money you have invested here?" I quickly looked around for my wife before honestly answering "A lot!"

It was quite ironic then that the entire trip, cost of vacation, air fare, lodging and guide service, the rods, reels and lure-stuffed tackle boxes should all boil down to an item that costs $5.99, less than the cost of a good crankbait. You see the entire success of that trip to Mexico hinged on a bottle of scent. It was what made and almost broke the trip.

Scent attracts or repels almost every creature on earth. We all know about how smell effects men and women in both positive and negative ways, a pine forest smells more attractive then a rotten egg. Smell affects dogs, sharks, catfish, deer, everything that swims, flies walks or crawls. Therefore as a Chemist and an ex-perfume maker, it is hard for me to understand the resistant that some fishermen have when it comes to acknowledging that scent plays a role in bass fishing. Recently I heard a top pro at a seminar go on hour after hour about presentation, location, line size, bait size, time of the year, species and much more - but never mention scent.

Why? Letís try and get a little deeper into the world of the wonderful fish we all love, the large or smallmouth bass. Lets' start with their birth. At first they feed on micro-organisms and such. Now Iím sure micro-organisms have a smell and taste, but to be quite honest I canít say for sure. But the next stage of a fry is the fingerling. Fingerling feed on other fingerling of both their own species and other species. As they grow they seek out fry of shad, catfish, bluegill, talapia, crappie, carp or what ever else is smaller then they are and will fit in their big mouth. The first stimulus is either sight or sound, the second stimulus is smell and taste.

A typical day for a bass of any size, from fry to ten pounder goes something like this. Hide from predators. Seek out and eat prey. Thatís it, no TV, no 9 to 5. Their entire life is filled with the fight or flight syndrome. You see most of the time a bass is in a resting state in cover, or positioned in an advantageous spot for ambushing a meal. The first stimulus to always come into play, is probably sound. A bass feels or hears his prey approaching first. This may be the clicking of a crawfish as he digs around rocks for decaying matter or it may be the hum of a school of baitfish moving in unison and displacing large masses of water. The second stimulus to always come in to play is sight.

We have now covered about 99% of what most fisherman think fishing is all about - sound and sight. Throw a chartreuse crankbait or spinnerbait in muddy water and a bass will feel the vibration, home in on the sound and blast the plug. Throw a Carolina rig and the bass will see the sinker kicking up silt and nail the worm behind it. Unfortunately we all know that every plug or worm is not attacked on every cast. Some days we even go fishless after 12 hours on the lake, throwing every $20 imported lure we were told would just slam the fish.

So what when wrong? Are we to believe that in 12 hours and hundreds of cast we didnít present our bait in front of even one fish? Of course not. What happened to the first two stimulus that we rely on so heavily for our simple equation: Sight and Sound = Attack! Well today the bass were in a negative mood. All the sight and sound just made them pull in a little tighter to cover until the threat of your lure was gone. They were having a bad hair day and we didnít adjust to that fact. Nor did we apply the final stimulus, scent.

When we arrived in Mexico, it was a week before Christmas the fishing was not at its peak. The bass hadnít moved up to spawn yet and the fish all had a case of lock jaw. We tried topwater in the morning, spinner baits in the mesquites and were just about fishless at noon. We then went to some humps and started to throw 6 inch worms loaded up with a special fish oil scent attractant that I had been working on for about 10 years for my own personal pleasure. It had always worked for me and I had tremendous confidence in it. My partner was a man who worked more then he fished, so he didnít have the hours of worm fishing experience to detect light biting fish. Well, for two days we didnít have to worry about that. The bass that were in a negative mood and were ignoring all fast baits, would just inhale our worms and then slowly swim off with them in their mouth. Scent, the final stimulus that day proved to be the most important. The second day was a repeat of the first, no bite except on oil-drenched worms left sitting on the bottom, not even moving. Then at about 10 AM we ran out of my fish attractant formula. The fish stopped biting. We went on for hours without a bite in the same place we had been killing them. Out of desperation my partner started to smell every worm in my tackle box until he found one that had been sprayed from the previous day. He put that worm on and on the very next cast he started to catch bass again. That moment was the birth of my company. We took my private formula and started to market it.

If your scent will catch me even one more fish, itís worth putting it on. That's what a famous pro said to me at a recent trade show. Why is it then that fisherman think that the final stimulus that has been ingrained in a bassís strike response, is unimportant and of no meaning? Why would a bass that has killed and eaten his way through his life since he was a fry, ignore smell? If you think a crankbait is a reflex lure think again. If you think a spinnerbait is a reflex lure think again. A bass can swim a fast moving bait down and smell and inspect it, then turn on the after-burners and just turn way, that fast. He didnít perceive the final stimulus and simply turned away. Sure the dink may hit it, but what about those 4 and 8 pounders? They didnít get fat feeding on the smell of plastic and steel and human sweat or gasoline.

There are many "fish attractants" out in the market place. Most are water soluble and come off after four or five cast then have to be reapplied. Most are made up of sweet-smelling anise oil or some other nice smelling thing so that the fisherman who buys it will like the smell. The best attractant is one made out of heavy, natural fish oils. Something that smells like fish and adheres for hours upon hours on all sorts of plastic or metal baits. The smell may be offensive to humans, but who cares if you are catching fish on it. If you want to smell pretty, go buy some anise cologne. If you want to cathc bass, you have to get back to the basics, which are that bass are smart and want their meal to smell like all the rest of the meals they have grown up with.

The bottom line is that I have experimented with various different chemicals, oils, fruit scents and things I donít like to talk about. There are some things out there that are proven stimulants. I have combined these things into a fish oil base and have outfished good fishermen 10-20 to their 1. No joke. This spring when you have to fish used water behind 100 other fishermen who are all good and flipping the same trees that you are, give yourself the edge, use a good fish oil base attractant. When that hog swims over out of curiosity, trigger that age old feeding response that she has survived with. Give her that final stimulus and Kick Some Bass.

Remember, a good bottle of attractant costs less then a good crankbait. Donít buy all new lures and worms this year, just treat them with a good bite stimulus and let nature take itís course.

And that's why I say that scent is the final frontier!

--Ken Kross

Author Information.

Ken Kross is President and Chemist of Scientific Bass Products Incģ. Tel 1 (800) 605-BASS

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