- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

How valuable are fish-attracting scents? Ask any number of fishing guides and touring professionals who chase after bass and they will quickly tell you that the odoriferous juices, creams and vapors sold by various companies are, indeed, an important part of their tackle inventory.
The worst statement you will hear from fishing insiders is, "At least it won't chase a fish away, so what can it hurt?"
Several of my closest collaborators when I work on bass and catfish stories are firm believers in the fish-drawing powers of something known as Smelly Jelly. Unfortunately, the company that makes it isn't good at marketing the product; hence, it is not widely available. But ask a bass fishing guide what he dabs on his plastic worms, jigs, grubs and crankbaits and the answer invariably will be, "A little Crawdaddy Smelly Jelly, maybe Baitfish or Herring flavor." Flavor is the byword. Whew!
Now comes saltwater specialist Mike Marsh, the outdoors writer for the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News who says, "In the 1970s I visited a plant that processed menhaden [baitfish] into oil. I was able to talk the owner into filling a few five-gallon buckets with the thick, black oil for a small price."
Marsh then added small amounts of the oil to ground fish chum and saw that the oil helped create a scent-laden slick on North Carolina's Atlantic offshore waters that helped attract various fish species. Eventually, he and some fishing pals would trickle the precious oil through intravenous bottles into the ocean, thus leaving a scent trail behind their boat that seemed to attract king mackerel.
Marsh also tried coating the live bait with menhaden oil, which seemed a superfluous thing to do. Baitfish already possess pretty strong scents that can be picked up by any gamefish's superior olfactory senses.
However, Marsh noted that the bait that was dipped into the oil soon received most of the attention by roving bands of king mackerel. "No matter where it was set in the spread, that bait had a 90 percent probability of being the first one to be struck by a fish, even with five other baits set in the water column," he said.
Marsh then tried adding a drop of the fish oil to a bucktail jig, and that lure would outperform other jigs by a 10-to-1 margin.
The original oil as bought by Marsh eventually would congeal and be rendered useless something that made for unhappy baitshop owners who started stocking the stuff. But the scent idea caught on, and now it is being sold more refined in spray bottles.
A Wilmington, Del., area fishing guide, Jimmy Price, told Marsh that he also experimented with fish-attracting scents. He saved the oil from sardine cans and used it as a sort of chum slick around various fishing piers. He noticed that the fish would start biting whenever he did that. Soon he also daubed the potent, scent-laden sardine oil on lures, even fresh baits. It worked like the dickens.
Now Price is marketing the Advantage Fishing System, a super scent product that comes in flavors like Red Drum Juice, (Sea) Trout Juice and Flounder Juice.
Price also gives much credit to Berkley Power Baits, scent-filled soft plastics that can make the difference between successful fishing trips and outings to Skunksville. In his case, he likes Berkley's saltwater Power Bait products but adds his own "juice" to such scented baits.
Anglers need to add fresh scent every six to 10 casts, he says, and we concur. I am not yet sure, however, if I am ready for a five-gallon bucket of menhaden oil. I'll stick with Berkley Power Baits and the creamy substance known as Smelly Jelly.
About that Route 301 bridge Longtime reader Don Beach appears to object to our saying U.S. Route 301 bridge when we should pay tribute to the man it was named for, Harry W. Nice. If you're not familiar with it, it's a high Potomac River span that connects Charles County, Md., to King George County, Va.
We did the Route 301 thing in the Sunday, May 13, column that dealt with croaker fishing captain, Steve Riha.
However, Mr. Beach, I must tell you that we Charles County residents (yes, after 26 years of living there I consider myself to be one of them) never repeat, never refer to the bridge as the Harry W. Nice Bridge. It is either the "Potomac River Bridge" or the "Route 301 Bridge." Everybody in Southern Maryland knows it as one of those. The "U.S." portion always is added by one of our diligent desk editors here at the paper, who, for some reason, thinks it must be done for accuracy's sake.
Whichever way, remember that locals simply never call it the Harry W. Nice Bridge, maybe because it isn't all that nice or because it's too long a name. It reminds me of the William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge. You say you don't know it? That's because everybody in Maryland calls it the Bay Bridge, up there in Route 50 country, the one that lets Ocean City-bound tourists cross the Chesapeake Bay from its western side to the Eastern Shore.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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