Hey… you smell that?
Was that you?
The largemouth bass wants to know.
Although taste and smell are often lumped together, these senses perform distinctly different roles – especially in fish. Fish nostrils (called nares) bring water into contact with olfactory organs. Trout and catfish have highly developed olfactory organs with many folds, while largemouth bass have less developed organs.
Bass use smell as a social sense, giving and receiving cues to and from other bass.
For example, spawning cues seem to be perceived through the sense of smell. Bass also seem to react to the smells given off by wounded or distressed bass. They may also smell wounded baitfish.
If this seems incredible to you… it is!
During the 1970s, the topic of scent became very controversial. Scent attractants started to become popular, and honestly, little controlled research has occurred (almost none if you discount the studies conducted by the scent attractant manufacturers).
These days, scents are everywhere. They are pretty much expected, actually, and manufacturers work hard to try new smells that catch bass… but also, bass fishermen. You’ll find everything from garlic to coffee to amino acids (which may be more associated with taste then smell) on your bait packages.
So the million dollar question is: do scents attract bass?
Probably, but only at a short range. In order for a bass to smell something it has to pass very close by, or they will have to move in and examine it. If you are using a technique like deadsticking, there is a chance that smell may become extremely important. In these situations bass are often in a negative mood and they need to really inspect your offerings. Inactive bass in cold water may also be coaxed into biting if scent is present.
I personally believe there is one other extremely important aspect to scents on your fishing baits…
They can mask your smell.
You want to stay hidden. You don’t want the fish you are targeting to see, smell or hear you. Just like you want to mask your smell or stay downwind of your prey if you are hunting, heavy scent on your plastics can mask the foreign smell of you – the human. The predator. The outsider.
It surely isn’t magic, but scent is just another tool in your toolbox.
Use it wisely.
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