Many anglers in many parts of the angling world would never dream of leaving the dock, stepping onto the river bank or even taking the kids to the trout pond without some kind of scent or attractant to help seal the deal no matter what species they are chasing.
So why is it that almost no one brings those same scents along when fishing the hardwater?
As many who know me know, I travel a LOT in winter, and fish many species, in many states and rarely do I see anglers adding additional scent to their offerings.
Now, in places where live bait is used, scents seem to be an afterthought, as the minnows or grubs contain scent on their own.
For many species that don’t need added scent in the summer, I guess why would you need it in the winter?
But for me, when conditions and factors under the ice cause the fish to slow or shut down, a little added incentive seems like the logical choice.
It can get very dark underneath 3 feet of ice and matching snow cover. A little scent can help those fish find your bait.
And if you lose the worm, grub, minnow, or minnow head, some strategically placed gel scent just might keep that spoon or jig a little more attractive until you can re-bait.
In places like Western Montana, where the only live bait we can use are grubs and worms, scent can be a very important part of my gameplan.
Even when using plastics, I look for plastics that have been infused with some sort of fish attracting smell, anise and garlic are two very common and popular bases.
There are dozens and dozens of products on the market, from old style pastes like Smelly Jelly and Atlas Mikes glow oils and gels, to high tech sprays and sticks that you can apply to not just your lure, but to your line without ever touching the scent.
I am a strong fan of natural scents, like earthworm, baitfish, bloodworms and shrimp but believe that anise (that licorice smell that is present in so many soft plastics and commercial scents) and garlic have their place. They may possibly be an annoyance more than an attractant, but they still trigger bites.
Trout especially seem to rely on scents especially in the winter as I feel the smell triggers a feeding impulse, much like the smell of charcoal and burning fat triggers the same impulse in me.
Open almost any commercial trout or salmon eggs, marshmallows or dough baits and be prepared for an olfactory surprise.
The Pautzke brand of Fire Bait scents and brines, Fire Eggs and Fire Balls are absolute game changers when it is time to fish for both stocked and native trout. They have been around for generations and their stuff flat out works! (Color matters with trout as well, but I digress)
The next time you go to your favorite tackle store, look for some scents that match the natural forage in the lakes you fish, like shrimp, shad, crawfish, bloodworm, etc. and do some tests to see if the scented baits work during the winter.
Like in open water, I think you will find that they can make a difference.
It only makes sense…
Local lakes continue to pose challenges for ice anglers, with only three or four lakes still providing safe, consistent ice. Many others just barely have safe, walkable ice.
All the open lakes just need the next hard freeze to put on their ice that will hopefully grow quickly.
Be safe out there!
— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com