Just because bait stores are still in business does not mean that scented plastics failed. The reality is that while we carry live bait some of the time, scented plastics are always on our boat.
Berkley Gulp! Was introduced back in 2003 (yes, over 15 years ago) and the key to success with scented plastics lies in subtle changes in presentation. For instance, the 2.5” and 3” Gulp! Minnows are a favorite bait of ours and the first change we make is to use it on a heavier jig head with more aggressive jigging strokes. If we are using 1/8-ounce jigs with live bait we use 1/4-ounce Bass Pro XPS jigs because the heavier jig gives the plastic bait a nice tail kick. If we fished like live bait with a lighter jig and smoother stroke the plastic would not be as effective. To make the Gulp! Work more aggressively we also switch to Berkley 8-Carrier braided line for more sensitivity and better control over the jig.
Our typical casting plan is to work different baits until one shines through. One angler in the boat might be working live bait, another a Gulp! Minnow, and another a 3.5” Berkley Powerbait Ripple Shad. If we are fishing alone, we cycle through the options. With three different actions and three different scent profiles one will work.
For slow death rigs the three presentation options would be live crawlers, Berkley Gulp! Killer Crawlers, and then a Gulp! Fry or Gulp! Crawler. The Killer Crawler’s softer material is designed to work best with slow death but the Fry and the Crawler have different color options and a slightly different spin. Let the first few fish in the boat give the final say on what works best that day.
The other half of the story is that live bait comes in basically one size and one color. In many conditions a larger or smaller size is needed or darker water would best be approached with a brighter bait. Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) concerns in most areas further reduce the time and place for a live minnow.
These small improvements in plastics over the past few years add up. Just like the extra time with your lure in the water, longer casts, and walleyes that eat the plastic instead of nip at the bait. In most situations the tough, durable, and colorful lures with active tails can not only replace live bait, but get more of what you want—The Next Bite.