Thursday, January 24, 2013

Use Common Scents When Ice Fishing

OK, I'll come clean.  I'm not talking about ice safety, although it's a topic for another day.  I'm talking about the use of scent on your fishing lures to further sweeten your lures, to tempt finicky fish to bite while jigging for panfish through the ice.  I'll talk about a few that I use during this post, but I'm not endorsing those particular products.  There are others out there that are probably well worth using.  The point is, use them when the bite is tough.
Use common Smelly Jelly, to put more panfish like this slab crappie on the ice.  This one was caught on the open water, but Smelly Jelly resulted in more bites than when we didn't use it on this trip.
Most ice anglers that jig for panfish tip their lures with some sort of bait.  Waxworms, maggots (commonly called spikes), mousees, perch eyes, or belly meat are commonly added to jigs to sweeten the offering.  The panfish are not actively feeding on these baits under the ice until you introduce them.  In other words, schools of maggots aren't down there swimming around.  So, why do they work?  Scent and taste.

It's no secret that taste and scent are closely related senses, especially to fish.  Sweetening your jigs with these baits will not only draw strikes, but keep them hanging on.  So, when things get tough, obviously, toting these baits on the ice with you is a good idea.  I always carry a container of spikes and waxworms with me on the ice.

However, over the past ten years or so, soft plastics have become increasingly popular for targeting panfish through the ice.  One advantage to using soft plastics is that you don't have to stop fishing to add bait to your jig during a hot bite, and the soft plastics last through a lot more fish than a maggot or waxworm.

I personally started using them over twenty years ago, dropping Bass Pro Shops one inch Squirmin' Grubs down the hole for willing perch, crappie, bluegills and bass.  Later, the now famous Ratso and Shrimpo lures iced many a pannie for me on the ice.  But as good as these lures are, there are times when fish won't touch them.
Soft plastics like these have become popular fished through the ice.  The blue and green ones in the center of the picture are Ratsos, and the two below that are the Bass Pro Shops Squirmin' Grubs.  But sometimes these just aren't good enough by themselves to draw strikes.  A little bait or scent added to sweeten them up might draw strikes or get them to hold on longer when they do.
One way to sweeten them up is to add bait, but another way is to dab some Smelly Jelly, Fish Formula, or Bang on them.  These aren't the only scents that work.  Some people make their own concoctions, and one common theme seems to involve anise oil.  Garlic is also a quite popular additive.

Many years ago, some soft plastic manufacturers discovered that they could add scent to the lures during their production or packaging.  It was as simple as adding salt or liquid scents in the package, but other companies, like Berkley, added scent to their plastic formula with their invention of Powerbait.  Other lure manufacturers mixed salt, garlic and other additives in their plastic formulas.

Even more recently, specialized formulas were not only mixed into the plastic formula, but also added to the packaging, storing them in jars and literally soaking the soft plastics in their secret formula.  Berkley Gulp, Gulp Alive products, Yum soft plastics, and Trigger X have produced complex scented and productive soft plastics.
The plastics to the left are Berkley Powerbait, to the right are Gulp and Gulp Alive products.  All are scented and will draw strikes or get panfish to hang on.  The company claims that these lures outproduce live bait.  I don't think that's always true, but there are times when it seems that way.
More Berkley Powerbait and Gulp products.  I always bring these on the ice with me.  There are times when these outproduce everything else.

Gene Mueller, retired Washington Times Newspaper outdoor columnist and outdoors blogger praised the use of Smelly Jelly just about every winter in his fishing reports, touting the advantage given to anglers that chose to use it.  Gene is also likes using the Berkley Gulp and Powerbait products.  My memory isn't what it used to be, but I'd say the odds are pretty good that it was his newspaper fishing reports that turned me on to using scent in my younger fishing days, and I've been using it ever since.  If I had to sum up what I learned from Gene about the use of scent in two words?  It works.  By the way, be sure to visit Gene's wonderful blog, Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting.
Gene Mueller showing us the benefit of using Smelly Jelly, his favorite fishing scent.  Nice slab, huh?  
So if these scents make a difference on the softwater, it stands to reason that they should make a difference on the hardwater too, right?   I think that these scents not only cover our human scent, or scents that give off a negative reaction to fish, like tobacco and gasoline, but actually attract them in some cases.  And, they seem to cause fish to hang on to soft plastic lures longer, and even ingest them.  So, they must taste good to the fish too.
These were just a few of the nice yellow perch and pickerel that I caught during my first use of Berkley Gulp on the ice several years ago.  Since then, I've not only used their soft plastics, but have also dipped my other soft plastic lures in their Gulp Alive scent to sweeten my offerings.
Bluegills like this one will chomp on jigs with soft plastic trailers sweetened with scent as well as jigs tipped with waxworms or maggots.
I'm not saying that these products are the answer all the time when fishing is tough, but it doesn't hurt to give them a try.  There are times when they could turn your day around on the ice.  Success while using them will give you added confidence in the use of soft plastics through the ice at the very least, and could put more fish on the ice and into your frying pan.  So, please use some "common scents!"

1 comment:

ketchikanalaskafishing said...

Fishing is a great recreational sport, that can be very relaxing, and enjoyable if you are prepared.

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