Scenting baits for more wintertime bites. Live bait is hard to beat most of the time when angling for a variety of gamefish.
Winter is one of those times when I never use live bait because the cold makes it tough to handle some live baits such as minnows and some live baits lose their liveliness in the cold water. A better alternative for me during the winter is to use artificial lures enhanced with some sort of spray or gel scent or scented baits and pastes such as the various Berkley Power Baits.
When fishing gets tough for wintertime trout, I switch from fishing with jigs and jerkbaits to either salmon eggs or the various Berkley Power Baits. I like to fish the urban lakes in St. Louis that are stocked with trout by the Missouri Department of Conservation and in some of the lakes you can use only unscented artificial lures during a catch-and-release period from November to Feb. 1. However after Feb. 1 the lakes are open to keeping the trout and any baits, including live baits, can be used then.
When the lakes are open to live bait fishing, it’s a lot tougher to fool trout with the fake or unscented stuff so I switch to the Berkley Power Baits paste and the Power Baits salmon eggs or trout worms. I use a split shot rig with a small circle hook for the salmon eggs or a small treble hook for the paste. The key to this rig is to use a split shot heavy enough to cast the rig several feet yet the weight needs to be light enough for the trout to pick up the bait without feeling much resistance when it tries to swim off with its meal. Grocery baits that work well for trout during the winter include canned corn, Velveeta cheese and marshmallows.
Scents have also helped me catch more wintertime bass when the fish tend to ignore my jig offerings. One of my favorite lures for adding scented gels is the Gene Larew Biffle Bug because it has a body cavity and ribs that are ideal for holding scent additives. I enhance my Biffle Bug by squirting gel into the body cavity until the gel starts oozing out of the hole. I also slather the lure’s ribs with plenty of gel. Bass that were short striking the lure seems to suck in the bait better and hold onto it longer when I heavily scent the Bug. This trick will work on a variety of soft plastic lures with cavities and ribs such as tube baits, ringworms, and beaver-style baits.
Spray scents have also worked for me on a variety of jigs and plastic trailers. I soak both the jig and trailer with the spray and will apply more spray after about five or 10 casts. Spray scents are available in a variety of flavors but for wintertime fishing, I just rely on the shad and crayfish flavors.
Scented dyes are another great lure-enhancer to coax finicky bass into biting. If I am fishing in stained to murky water, I like to dip the tails of my jig’s plastic trailer in a chartreuse scented dye. Adding the dye makes it easier for bass to see the chartreuse tail and the scent emits a positive smell so the fish will hold onto the bait longer, which gives you the advantage of getting a better hook set. Garlic and anise are the scents most often used with scented dyes. The only drawback I have with using garlic scented dyes is that I get a craving for garlic bread when I’m fishing.
Crappie can by picky eaters during the winter and I have watched them with my underwater camera come up to my lure, nip at its tail and turn away from the bait. When crappie short strike my jig like that I add one or two Berkley Gulp Crappie Nibbles on the bend of my jig hook to trigger harder strikes. I prefer using white or chartreuse Nibbles when fishing in clear water and opt for orange or pink Nibbles for fishing in stained to murky water. Another artificial fish food I have added to my jig’s hook to trigger more bites is Stubby Steve’s, which has a sustained-release fish food odor.
Scented gels such as the Bobby Garland Mo Glo Slab Jam also enhance my crappie jigs and improve my hookups. I prefer the gel over a scent spray because it clings to the lure better and stays on the jig longer than the spray. Applying a generous amount of gel on the soft plastic bait from its head to tail will last for several casts before you have to apply another coating.
A 1/16-ounce bullet-shaped jig with a scented worm has been a productive shaky head tactic for me to catch wintertime crappie. The scented worms that have worked best for me are the Eagle Claw Nitro Trailers Crappie Bait and the Berkley Power Bait Atomic Teasers, but any scented trout worm will also work.