Do scented plastic lures like Berkley GULP really work better than the plain variety? I get asked this question nearly every time I give a fishing seminar, and the answer I always give is a simple one: Yes, but…

striped bass fishing with gulp jigs

What's hanging from the end of your rod: scented plastics like GULP, or regular plastic jigs?

As with all things fishing, there’s more to the story. First, the facts: when striped bass fishing in the fall with four-inch jigs on the Chesapeake Bay, a regular plastic jig will catch one third fewer fish when used side-by-side with a GULP of the same color.

Now, for the “but”. The more voracious the fish act, the more this difference disappears. The best theory I’ve had to date is that the fish hang on to scented baits longer when they’re feeding gingerly, because they like the taste. A regular plastic, on the other hand, will be spit quickly since it just tastes like plastic. Yucky.

Note: GULP tastes pretty dang yucky too, at least to human taste buds. I tried chewing on a chunk to see if it really tasted like fish, and discovered an oral sensation closer to scrambled eggs mixed with squid juice. Second note: water alone will not rinse this taste away.

What about scented baits other than GULP? I have yet to find one that seems to work nearly as well. And no, I’m not on Berkley’s payroll. But I have met the brains behind GULP, Berkley scientist John Prochnow, and I was blown away by how much time, effort, and money was put into developing GULP. Hundreds of compounds were tested by trolling synthesized baits in front of live fish in a giant aquarium via a remote-controlled boat, and they didn't settle on a base-flavor until they watched a fish eat it one day, poop it out the next, then turn around and eat it again.

Why not use this stuff on each and every cast? First off, it costs more than a buck a bait, which gets expensive fast. Second, toothy fish like blues, pickerel, or Spanish mackerel chew ‘em to bits in a single strike. And third, if they sit on your jig too long they turn hard as a rock.

So here’s the bottom line: Yes, they do work better, but no, you don’t want to use them exclusively. Keep a few packs on the boat, and break them out when the fish are finicky. If the bite’s hot, just use regular old plastics. And however tempted you might be, don’t try tasting a GULP — trust me on this one.