Smallmouth and Scent

Mike Iaconelli
Mike Iaconelli

All bass use a wide variety of their senses to find their prey, but smallmouth primarily use two — sight and smell. We’re going to save the sight part for another day. Right now I want to talk about scent.

I’ll start by telling you that I never fish with a plastic bait that isn’t scented or to which I haven’t added scent. That’s an absolute rule of mine. Never means never, not ever. It wouldn’t make sense. I want the smallies to smell something attractive and I never want them to smell me or anything I might have on my hands or in the boat.

You see, the scent thing works two ways. A good scent brings them in and gives them confidence that what they’re attacking is real, that it’ll be good to eat. A bad scent — soap, sun block, aftershave — will do just the opposite.

So what you want to do is get rid of the bad by never using regular soap or sun block on your hands and by washing them with scent free soap. You can protect your hands with gloves and you can get scent free soap almost anywhere hunting supplies are sold.

Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Flat Worm
Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Flat Worm

The best good scent I’ve found is the one that’s used in the Berkley Powerbait Maxscent lures. I’m not a chemist and I don’t play one on TV. I’m not going to tell you how they made Maxscent or what’s in it. However, I am a pretty good angler and I do sometimes play one on TV. I can tell you the stuff works. It gets them going and it disperses quickly into the surrounding water.

Berkley’s line of Powerbait Maxscent lures comes in an almost endless array of shapes and sizes. My preference for drop shotting is either a 4-inch Flat Worm or a 4 1/2-inch Hit Worm. They look like the real thing to me and they seem to catch more brown bass in the waters I’ve fished them, and that’s darn near everywhere in the country.

Berkley PowerBait® MaxScent Hit Worm
Berkley PowerBait® MaxScent Hit Worm

They’re offered in a super number of colors, nine or 10 at a minimum. Pick one to start and then swap them around if that doesn’t work. If you only get a couple of colors, I suggest black or green pumpkin. They’re pretty much universal.

I used both baits as my go-to lures at the 2018 Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet a couple of weeks ago, and they worked just like I thought they would. I finished 28th in that event, and I’m proud of it.

And, speaking of the St. Lawrence River, I’m telling you that if you want to catch giant smallmouth in giant numbers figure out a way to get there. I’m not kidding — Becky and I are thinking about looking at property up there. It’s unbelievable.

In the meantime, think about scent the next time you chase smallies. If you do, you’ll catch more of them.


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