The use of scents, stimulants and ‘organic’ lures (which I will generally refer to collectively as ‘enhancements’) has really taken off over the last few years.
As with any new fad, there is an element of confusion and misunderstanding as to their application.
Scents and stimulants come in many different forms and combinations.
A scent is purely a smell designed to imitate the target species’ food preferences and/or mask the unnatural smell of a lure. They come in many different forms such as sprays, gels, waxes, pastes and even tablets to be inserted into hollow-bodied lures.
Even garlic and salt are often ‘cooked ‘ into soft plastic mixes.
I’ve had great success turning tentative squid into calamari rings by rubbing some pilchard flesh on my jig, so it doesn’t always have to be a commercial product. I know of a few bream lure fishos who even make up their own concoctions.
Stimulants are synthetic pheromones designed to trigger the feeding urge (possibly hunger) in fish and come in a similar range of applications as scents.
There are products that combine both of the above and some even go further with visual attractants such as sparkles or glitter flakes.
Enhanced lures come in two main forms. The most common are those that incorporate a standard PVC soft plastic body that has scent ‘cooked’ into the plastic mix at manufacture or has scent applied, usually via a bit of ‘juice’ in the package.
Less common are the organic biodegradable bodies where the actual lure itself is made from organic matter, usually starch or protein based. They are usually also scent/stimulant impregnated and come with some ‘juice’ in the packaging as well.
There is a lot of debate as to whether they are a lure or a bait.
I’ve cut them into small pieces and fished them statically on the bottom and caught fish, which clearly puts them in the bait category.
Generally this attribute doesn’t worry me in the slightest.
In my line of fishing, catching fish is the ultimate aim and the ‘organics’, in many applications, do this far more effectively than the ‘synthetics’.
They are, however, long overdue for being banned in lure-only fishing competitions where cash prizes are involved.
Overall, enhanced organics are ideal introductory lures for beginners because they are extremely forgiving to sloppy presentations, in much the same way as a retrieved pilchard on ganged hooks is.
So how does all this come together for practical application?
Over the past few years I’ve seen many combinations of enhancements used – and abused. To mention a few, scents on high-speed trolling lures and casting lures, scents on scented lures, stimulants on scented and unscented lures and scents/stimulants on organics.
I will say right from the outset that using enhancements in situations where they add no benefit is unlikely to be detrimental – or is there the possibility that ‘matching the smell’ could, in some situations, be as critical as ‘matching the hatch’?
The question is, do you want to waste your time and money using enhancements if they are not going to benefit? The question will always remain whether you would have caught the fish if you had not used the enhancement but, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that they do work at least some of the time.
It’s highly unlikely that enhancements are going to have any benefit to a lure being trolled in open water for pelagics. The trigger for a pelagic hitting in this situation would be purely visual.
This doesn’t mean that enhancements can’t have an effect in some trolling situations. If, for example, if you were to repeatedly troll a section of mangrove shoreline in an estuary, an enhancement could have the effect of ‘seeding’ the general area.
What this means is that fish in the general area could be triggered into feeding mode long before they actually see the lure. The final attack on the lure will still be triggered visually but the general aggression levels of the fish may have been stimulated by the enhancement.
When assessing the effectiveness of an enhancement, you need to consider what are the primary triggers for individual fish.
A bream scavenging in discoloured water will be employing its sense of smell, whereas a flathead lying in ambush in clear, shallow water will be relying almost totally on visuals.
Furthermore, your presentation and retrieve style need to be assessed.
If you pull a piece of wool slowly and lifelessly past a cat it will ignore it, but if you pull the same piece of wool fast and erratically, it will pounce on it.
Most fish are the same. I’ve seen fish ignore a slow ‘wounded baitfish’ style presentation only to nail the next ‘fleeing’ fast presentation – and vice-versa.
When fish are fired up I prefer the ‘fleeing’ presentation and in this situation an enhancement is likely to have little benefit. The fish’s decision to hit the lure is very much reactionary and it’s probably all over before the fish ever detects the enhancement.
So it’s probably worth considering that in most lure fishing situations ‘visuals’ are the foremost stimulant, followed closely by smell.
In the case of shut-down fish around structure, repeated presentations with enhanced lures will have a similar effect in ‘seeding ‘ the water, as with the above trolling scenario.
Your retrieve style also needs to be considered. It’s highly unlikely that six tuna in hot pursuit and competition for your lure are going to take the time to smell it.
On the other hand, a single bream stalking your plastic on a stop-start retrieve in murky water, is very likely to be influenced by smell.
Similarly, prospecting a shoreline using an enhanced lure with the cast-and-move-on technique will not have the same effect as working a defined area. You will lose the benefit of ‘seeding’ the general area but maintain the benefit of the ‘final approach’ stimulant on fish that have been visually attracted to your lure.
Finally, an enhanced lure has the huge benefit that fish will hang onto it much longer after the take.
So regardless of whether they hit it based on a visual or smell trigger, you have more time to set the hook before the fish rejects it.
Again, the benefits of this are only realised in relation to the retrieve style.
On a high-speed retrieve or when trolling there will be virtually no benefit at all because the fish is hooked on contact.
On the slow flick/pause retrieve used with stickbaits or the flick/fall retrieve used on the likes of bream, jew and flatties, the benefit will be huge.
Most hits with these retrieves are taken on the pause or fall and it can be seconds before the angler realises that there has been a take.
The rejection times between an enhanced and a non-enhanced lure can make all the difference.
In summary, enhancements are ideal in situations on shut-down fish holding in an area where enhancements will have time to take effect, particularly in murky water where fish might be relying more on smell more than visuals.
They are also appropriate for slow pause-type retrieves and will increase the ‘hold’ time after the take.
They are probably least effective on fish that are feeding viciously in a competitive situation in very clear water. They are wasted on purely visual hunters the likes of tuna and are not necessary for trolling or high-speed spinning for pelagics,
You are wasting time adding enhancements to already enhanced lures. I recently saw someone putting Squidgy scent on a Berkley Gulp, which is about as useful as truffle butter on truffles.Reads: 1659