- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

The dream of every sport angler is to invent something artificial that he can put on a hook and draw fish to it like a magnet.

If ongoing tests continue to be as successful as my two initial forays into the world of artificial baits that simulate the real article, a fishing revolution might occur. There’s every reason to believe that the Berkley Co. of Spirit Lake, Iowa, is about to set the artificial bait market on its ear. This is the same company that is as famous for its soft plastic impregnated with an alluring scent as it is for its fishing lines.

Berkley, which many years ago introduced the incredibly popular Power Bait — a pliable, plastic product that continues to be sold in the shape of worms, grubs, bait nuggets and imitation salmon eggs that awaken the olfactory senses of fish — now is telling anglers everywhere about Gulp!, a new bait that is 100 percent biodegradable. Gulp! — an added packaging slogan says, “Fish Eat It” — is liquid soluble, and its scents and flavors are said to be released into the water 412 times faster than oil-based plastic imitation baits.

OK, so you think this is little more than an advertising campaign hawking snake oil to cure whooping cough? Oh, ye of little faith.

It all began two weeks ago when Brian Thomas and Karen Anfinson of Pure Fishing, the umbrella corporation for Berkley and six other internationally renowned fishing tackle companies, sent a sample pack of Gulp! baits and asked me to test the artificial lures. For bass fishing, the little box included samples of Gulp! Turtle Back worms in colors ranging from blue fleck to green pumpkin. There also were Gulp! curly-tailed Minnow Grubs. The 3-inch grubs were black; the 2-inch models came in chartreuse. Now add small jars filled with reddish color earthworms, another with natural color nightcrawlers and a third with yellow maggots — all of them belonging to the Gulp! family of baits.

I started with my grandson. We visited a public lake in a Charles County park and the boy ran out onto a little fishing pier and slowly dropped one piece of chopped-up Gulp! earthworm next to the wooden pilings. It never had a chance to sink more than 6 inches before a bluegill inhaled it. We then put a piece of the artificial worm on a hook, and the 5-year-old soon reeled in a red-breasted sunfish. More followed after that.

However, that could have been sheer coincidence. More tests would have to be made.

The following day, a friend and I went out onto the Potomac River to hunt for largemouth bass. We’d have to work under a blazing sun and a strong high-pressure system — not good for fishing. I used a 5-inch Gulp! Sinking Minnow in black with red fleck on a 3/0 worm hook without a slip sinker. Cast after cast among myriad sunken trees in Gunston Cove turned up nothing for either of us, but the one bass that finally cooperated was a healthy 2-pounder that struck the Gulp! Sinking Minnow — which, by the way, looks like one of those dead-in-the-water, do-nothing plastic worms such as the Senko.

Later in another tributary creek, the Sinking Minnow (which sinks like a rock) delivered three additional bass, two of which stayed on the hook and one that got away. A 6-inch Gulp! Nightcrawler eventually caught another fat bass while my partner struggled. Actually, we both struggled on a tough day, but the Gulp! worms saved the day for me.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only inThe Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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