Enhancing Baits With Scent
By John Neporadny Jr.
The bite was tough for Charles and Travis Bunting on the second morning of the 2009 Crappiemasters Mississippi State Championship but that quickly changed when Charles tried something Travis thought was crazy.
“It was about 9:30 in the morning and we hadn’t caught a fish yet,” Travis Bunting said. “We were running double minnow rigs then in the middle of August and Dad (Charles) got out a can of garlic spray that he sprayed on his minnows. I started laughing and asked him what the heck he was doing. I told him minnows are supposed to smell like minnows for a reason.”
While Travis and their boat spotter kept laughing and thinking Charles was crazy, Charles landed a crappie that weighed 2.85 pounds about 10 minutes after applying the garlic scent to his minnows. “In the next hour he had four big tournament fish in the boat and I hadn’t caught a fish yet so I started putting garlic on my minnows,” Travis said. “Then I started catching fish.” The father-and-son team won the tournament by catching seven fish weighing 14.70 pounds that day.
That tournament victory prompted the Buntings to inject garlic into all of their Muddy Water Baits they make. “I don’t use minnow or shad scent just because I think that is what the crappie are around all the time,” Travis said. “Garlic is something that crappie are not used to being there.” So he believes garlic scent arouses a crappie’s curiosity since it is a different smell than what is normally in the fish’s environment.
Before they started making their Muddy Water Baits, the Buntings enhanced their soft plastics by spraying garlic into Ziploc bags of lures they planned on using the next day. They let the lures soak overnight in the garlic scent so the enhanced baits would be ready to tempt crappie the next morning.
Drying out Berkley PowerBait Crappie Nibbles is another trick the Buntings employ to enhance their baits. They usually set the pellets out on a table in the morning to dry out and then put the hardened nibbles back in the jar in the evening. “They just stay on the hook better (when dried out) and last a lot longer in the water,” Travis said.
Cabela’s Crappie USA National Champions Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus add water to their Berkley Crappie Nibbles to create a scent mixture for their lures. Schoenherr said he puts smashed pellets into a syringe and mixes in some water to make a paste that he injects into the cavities of plastic tube baits. “We usually fill up the tube to where we can actually see the bait bulk up a little bit and to where it is kind of oozing out the back end a little bit,” he said. “It usually lasts a good 30 minutes in the tube.”
Schoenherr favors using the Berkley PowerBait Sparkle Crappie Nibbles which add some flash to their scent paste. “So as we are jigging that bait it kind of gently releases (the sparkle flakes),” Schoenherr said. “So it resembles fish feeding and (baitfish) scales flying.”
Truman Lake guide Barry Morrow favors the glow factor of the Bobby Garland Mo’Glo Slab Jam scent for enhancing his soft plastics. “I am a fan of glow baits especially if there is stained to muddy water,” Morrow said.
The 2016 Crappiemasters Missouri State Champion also likes the minnow scent of the Slab Jam. “It’s not a lot different scent than shad but it is to the fish,” Morrow said. “Most people fish with minnows instead of shad and to me that is a whole different scent.”
The Missouri angler applies the scent any time the bite is tough due to dark, rainy days or muddy water. “Then you have to pull out all the stops so that is when I use the scent and the glow jigs,” Morrow said.
Morrow injects the Mo’ Glo Slab Jam into the cavities of hollow-body lures or smears it on the ribbed bodies of Beaver Bottom Baits. How often Morrow applies the gel to his baits depends on how the frequency of bites. If he hasn’t gotten a bite for a while he will refresh his lures with another application of gel.
Two-time Crappiemasters Team Angler of the Year winner Dan Dannenmueller applies thick coatings of Mo’Glo Slab Jam to the scent channel of a Bobby Garland Baby Shad Swim’R and the tail cavity of a Bobby Garland Slab Slay’R. He notes the gel is water soluble and as the gel dissolves it releases tiny sparkles that resemble fish scales. “So the little scales will come out of the bait similar to when a shad gets attacked and loses scales,” Dannenmueller says.
Water temperature usually determines how often Dannenmueller has to apply the Slab Jam. The gel dissolves quicker in warm water, so Dannenmueller usually applies the gel more frequently in warmer water. He estimates the average time between applications is 15 to 20 minutes.
When he wants a coating of Slab Jam on an entire bait, Dannenmueller squirts the gel into a bagful of lures. Then he places the bag on the deck of his boat to let the sunshine warm up the bag. “That scent will then turn to a liquid state (to soak the lures),” Dannenmueller said.
The Alabama pro also improves his double minnow rigs by adding Stubby Steve’s fish food pellets on the hooks. “We put the Stubby Steve’s on the hook after we put the minnow on, which keeps the minnow on longer,” Dannenmueller said. “It also forces the fish to have to really engulf that bait to get that minnow instead of just pulling it or hitting the minnow’s head.” He slides the Stubby Steve’s pellet all the way to the bend of the hook close to the minnow so it keeps the minnow in a more natural position on the hook. Since the pellets dissolve slowly, Dannenmueller notes the Stubby Steve’s scent will stay on his hooks for hours.
When the fishing gets tough, Dannenmueller doubles up on his scents to catch finicky crappie. “On the bottom of a double rig we will have a Roadrunner head with a Garland plastic body and the Mo’ Go Slab Jam and we’ll sometimes tip it with a minnow as well with the Stubby Steve’s pellet on the Roadrunner hook,” Dannenmueller said.
“Mr. Crappie” Wally Marshall has created the Strike King Scizzor Shad with a port between the lure’s back legs for inserting scent or a rattle. Marshall suggests the lure’s cavity is large enough to insert scent pellets or ample amounts of scent gels in shad, minnow or shrimp flavors.
When crappie turn finicky, try one of these bait enhancement tricks to create a flavor the fish will have a hard time resisting.