- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Just before the recent nasty mess of snow blew into our area, fishing guide Dale Knupp and I were undergoing withdrawal pains. We hadn’t fished in a whole week and were getting the jitters. But that was about to change.

My friend Dale and I needed a fishing fix, and on a windy day the Mattawoman Creek, a tributary to the tidal Potomac River, would provide the necessary hiding spots where we could cast lures to our heart’s content without having to fight stiff breezes.

Both of us belong to an ever-growing army of anglers who apply fish attractants to plastic lures. We prefer a creamy substance known as Smelly Jelly, but if you enjoy success with other substances, including one that is known as Dr.Juice, so be it.

However, the company that developed products always preceded by the word Power (as in Power Worm, Power Craw, etc.), or another firm that makes something known as Yum baits, are going the scent spritzers one better. They produce artificial bass, crappie, striper or trout catchers that have the fish-attracting scents incorporated into the plastic.

The makers of Power Bait, the Berkley division of the Pure Fishing Company in Iowa, also innovated an artificial, biodegradable bait that it calls Gulp. Its fish-attracting powers are unquestioned, even if it has minor drawbacks. Gulp baits need to be kept moist when they’re not being used (that includes the times you drive your boat from one fishing spot to another). They’re sold in a Ziploc kind of bag with a warning not to leave the zipper open. The baits must be kept from drying out.

The other drawback is a happy one. Even when you use the various styles of Gulp baits to target, say, bass, there’s no guarantee that you won’t hook a carp, a turtle, maybe a water snake or a catfish.

The surprises can be endless. Let me recall a day when I excitedly told Reel Bass Adventures fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski about finding a bunch of yellow perch in the Patuxent River that wanted only the curly-tailed chartreuse Gulp grubs. We visited the place a couple of days later and never hooked another perch because we were unable to keep the local channel catfish from inhaling the grubs. Seriously, it was one hard-charging catfish after another — and we didn’t complain.

During certain times of the year, especially in winter when the water temperatures hover between 34 and 40 degrees, Gulp baits and unscented grubs that have been dabbed with a fish attractant are my favorites for the simple reason that you’re likely to catch critters with it you never thought possible.

On the day when Dale and I began to fish in the Mattawoman, using 2-inch-long white or chartreuse Gulp grubs as well as Mann’s Sting Ray grubs — all of them pierced to 1/8-ounce round-headed jig hooks — it wasn’t long before the two of us felt distinctive “pops” at the business ends of our lines and soon reeled in broad-backed, well-fed crappies.

We expected to catch the speckled taste treats, but in one instance Dale felt a slight tug and set the hook. Whatever it was didn’t fight very hard, and we figured he was snagged on a waterlogged branch. It turned out to be a large crayfish, unusually dark, almost black, not brown or tinted blue as most are. And what in the world was it doing crawling around in 36-degree water on a January day? Aren’t crawfish supposed to be buried in the mud until springtime arrives?

Dale also snatched up a fat, roe-laden yellow perch, and before we called it a day — happy as clams now that we had satisfied our fish yearning — we had enough crappies in the live well to prepare a couple of fine dinners.

In other words, bless you Gulp. Once again, you delivered the goods.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column everySunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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