There are many things that attract fish and a great many more that repels them!
A food bait is an obvious choice but also lures and artificial baits will sometimes work too. Sometimes fish may be all too aware of your bait but for some reason may choose to avoid it and swim by. I think all of us have experienced that at some point?
Some examples that attract certain species include minerals like potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, amino acids (essential), bacteria (friendly bacteria like yeasts), salt (sodium chloride), essential oils, black pepper, turmeric and a host of other natural ingredients including molasses, lipids and oils that best suits their metabolism according to season and to a lesser extent – a few artificial ‘flavours’ which can sometimes be off-putting as they have a tendency to ‘blow’ and fall out of favour. Other things that attract and get the attention of fish are subtle enticing movements of the bait or lure, shine, shape and silhouette, the colours and sounds of feed entering the water, and of course other small fish feeding will always attract the attentions of bigger fish.
One of the easiest ways to attract fish into your swim is to offer them something edible and nutritious to eat, or at least something that looks and smells like ‘natural’ food so that they will stick around for a while.
Easier said than done!
For a stupid creature, they can sometimes be hard to catch… especially the big ones!
As a human we have no way of knowing what a seemingly bland food item smells like to a fish in a watery environment, and so many anglers endlessly try to second guess what it is they’re avin’ by doctoring (and mostly over-complicating) their bait with ‘flavours’ – supposedly in the belief that it will increase its pulling power. But of course we can never be certain of knowing exactly what will work on any given day until we try it and the wrong decision could even spell disaster, which is further complicated by the fact that apparently it worked yesterday in the match or the day before on another venue? If you are one of the many thousands of anglers out there that don’t think flavour additives work then there is a justifiable reason for it…. could it be that all you have ever bought and used is artificial?
There is a world of difference between what many think is real and what the fish prefer!
So with all the competing flavours and additives out there, what makes one stand out from the rest?
There are two types of additives; Natural and Artificial.
There’s actually three types being pedantic; which is a combination of the two (still artificially produced and flavoured) perhaps using natural ingredients and an artificial means of processing them, either with a man made ester (alcohol/acid reaction combo in the presence of heat) or which uses alcohol as the solvent and/or Propylene glycol as the base for example. Both will attract due to their solubility factors but artificial additives are proven to be far more limiting long term. In a pond stuffed with starving and stunted fish it probably wont make much difference but to the discerning angler looking to bag a good one, artificial additives are not going to do you many favours.
After many years of research into “what attracts fish and why”, I came to the conclusion that an extract has markedly more potential than a ‘standard’ liquid additive or plain home-made juiced up bit of food turned into juice, particularly more so than many artificial ‘flavours’ in the tackle shop that smell sickly sweet and nice to anglers. Catching anglers?
Unfortunately that’s the case with most (modern) flavours, if they smell nice to the angler he/she will be more inclined to buy them!
But this article isn’t about marketing techniques or how to catch anglers, its about catching fish and what attracts them. Irresistible as it is, we really shouldn’t be tempted to smell ‘flavours’ because we are only fooling ourselves – what might smell nice to a human angler in the shop will be vastly different to what attracts fish and why.
What’s an extract?
The dictionary definition states: An extract is a substance made by extracting a part(s) of a raw material, often by using a solvent such as ethanol or water. Extracts may be sold as tinctures (liquids made with alcohol) or even processed into dry powder form.
Surely that’s alcohol right? As we all know alcohol, is poisonous (makes us drunk and gives us a hangover) and in excess it has the potential to kill us. Whilst this is true, it is not commonly known that alcohol along with acid is also used to make artificial flavours so called; “nature identical” esters (the ones that smell nice to anglers) and is toxic to fish and all living creatures in high dosage. But there you have it, nice smelling artificial additives catch anglers.
I’m sorry if that offends but its true.
The terms ‘Flavours’, ‘Attractants’ and ‘Additives’ have become muddled in recent years to mean they all somehow or other ‘attract’ and enhance or boost the pulling power by adding them to a bait, whereas the term ‘Attractant’ is generally reserved for natural products like ours, although even they are sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘flavours’. But does it matter?
Semantics perhaps… but yes it matters, at least to the fish!
What attracts fish and why?
Junk Food Baits -v- Good Food Baits
It’s known that alcohol has a denaturing effect on proteins and masks the smell and taste of amino acids. By adding artificial flavours made with ethanol (alcohol) to your expensive paste and boilies, what you’re essentially doing is creating a “junk food” bait if you overdo it on the glug – killing the natural attractiveness and nutritional aspects in the process. This is one of the reasons why fish may ignore your bait.
Water on the other hand is a great solvent, but its not as fast acting and has other limitations such as the lack of preservative power that alcohol provides allowing for germs and bacteria to grow, though some bacteria are friendly and attractive to fish, natural and non-toxic, a lot of water-born bacteria are damn right nasty. If you intend to make and concoct baits and additives yourself at home with just plain water, some kind of preservative measure will be called for like adding salt or freezing after a day or so to help prevent spoilage. The only other alternatives would be to use them within a short time of preparation or dry and dehydrate them completely or use preservatives. Commercially made extracts like fishmeal that use water as the solvent are first made into a ‘soup’ and left to steep before wet-grinding and then dried by evaporating or freeze drying and made into a powder form in order to store and preserve them better. Water is important too because it also helps neutralize anti-nutrients in our baits and particles like phytates (phytic acid can bind the minerals iron, zinc, and manganese) making them safe for fish to eat – just one of the reason why soaking particles and pre-wetting groundbait is important.
It’s also the thinking behind our ready to use DINNERbellTM groundbaits/method mix which contains enzymatically predigested & hydrolyzed ingredients, pre-mixed and riddled – NO WATER REQUIRED! If you don’t know what all that means, then you needn’t worry, just be mindful that they are far superior to many other commercially available groundbaits and powders who haven’t bothered or taken the effort to prepare them properly. From both a fish welfare and attractiveness point of view; predigested, hydrolyzed and low-heat processed ground up particles made into a damp powder is a simple and safe concept.
It amazes me why anglers (and other companies for that matter) who already know how to properly prepare particles haven’t given the same consideration to groundbaits and powders? A quick soak at the bank-side to aid sinking is not long enough, especially if it’s something bought as you don’t know what’s in it or how it was produced. By soaking them for a few hours rather than a few minutes before use (longer if they contain nuts and tubers) it will be safer and is definitely more soluble and attractive to fish after a good soak – same as that ‘washed-out’ look of a boilie will be more attractive, not so much because of the ‘look’ – more to do with it being soluble and can be detected by fish other than by sight.
Is it soluble?
Solubility is the key to a baits attractiveness, it’s why a paste is so more effective for example compared to a boilie made with eggs that has all its goodness locked in. It’s also possible to include a ‘water-reactive’ to stimulate the fishes’ senses and an extract, especially used in liquid form is more soluble than a powder. An example of extraction-in-action can be seen when a tea bag (a plant leaf) left to soak even in cold water, will extract some of the components eventually turning the water brown. Hot water works best but again, the heat, just like the alcohol mentioned previously will denature some of the proteins and cause amino acids to fold – once folded they cannot be detected by fish olfactory senses.
Amino acids are a type of protein, the type that fish can detect, they’re tiny – really tiny and they’re important!
In fact, the majority of amino acids are sensitive to heat, alcohol and chemicals, even scolding with boiling water will have a denaturing effect to a certain extent. L-Amino types are generally considered to be more reactive and soluble (positively attractive) to most freshwater fish and some are known to repel. A worm produces and excretes amino acids, as do maggots (though the ammonia is off-putting and why they should be clean and left whole wriggling in sawdust or maize flour), the reason why choppy worm (but not maggot) are better at attracting fish than a whole one perhaps?
There’s been quite a bit said about amino acids in the past and they’re really not all that difficult to understand when you think of them simply as being the building blocks of protein – essential nutrition for all living creatures (including fish). They are simply proteins that can be detected by fish receptors and are responsible for smell. Not all food is 100% complete nutritionally speaking though and it doesn’t hurt to supplement another with a first-limiting amino acid like REACT which has been proven to increase palatability.
Steam fractionisation, excessive heat processes, hammer-milled pellets (the usual industrial method of producing hard hookers used for fish feed in aqua-culture), alcohol, acid, alkali, certain chemicals and preservatives etc. – all these things will affect how good your bait is. The processes used at the factory and whatever else you do to them at the bank side afterwards can have a detrimental effect to their usefulness and ability at being able to attract and sustain fishes’ nutritional requirements.
Extracts made from a real food item (particularly Glycerite’s made without alcohol) like SACTM juice (which stands for Soak And Coat) are full of nutritious, soluble and solvated components. Its essentially why they’re so more potent compared to the real whole fruit/food. An extract of banana for example will contain an active form of potassium citrate and everything else that fish find attractive – more so than the banana itself (or any other whole, raw food item) if you were to put it directly on the hook.
The best extract in the world – by far!
Unlike a tincture made with alcohol a Glycerite is NOT poisonous, it is the purest, most nutritionally efficient and kindest extraction method known. A true alcohol-free Glycerite like SACTM juice (developed specifically as a bait activator) takes upwards of a year to 18 months to produce at carefully controlled low ambient temperatures, a very long soak and intermittent agitation process whereby the traditional route uses natural vegetable glycerine (glycol) to extract the soluble ingredients from herbs. Our own pioneering work here at Laguna has also been able to show and demonstrate that the same extractive and preservation processes can be used on seeds, nuts, fruits, fish and various animal proteins and meat using natural enzymes, low heat (typically room temperatures), no alcohol, acids, alkali or chemicals. The resulting extracts are then fortified with amino acids once at the optimum pH levels (a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution) to compliment the full spectrum of all 10 essential amino acids that fish require. This results in a superior natural product with a guaranteed shelf life in excess of 20+ years – without the need for artificial preservatives, freezing or refrigeration.
The same thing cannot be said of any other additive in the world.
The glycerol extraction process of edibles yields many more components (some of which are attractive to fish and are otherwise absent) without all the harmful effects of alcohol, or heat and is 100% natural, totally edible for fish and safe for the environment.
The culmination of all the research effort done by Laguna over a 7 year development period (now in its 10th year) has resulted in this new breed of additives sold through our Pristex label as a “bait activator”. It activates because SACTM juice contains live biota/biotics (active bacteria and organisms) at the manufacturing stage and is designed to be; “truly active” (similar to the functions of a probiotic) and therefore naturally attractive for fish. The gentle extraction and enzymatic pre-digestion processes puts back and replenishes some of the beneficial nutrients and attractors such as amino acids, minerals and vitamins normally lost through boiling and other industrial processes – a Glycerite is also classed as a Nutraceutical, a portmanteau of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”, valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavour, palatability and/or scent.
Fish, if given a choice will never shy away from eating unprocessed foods (i.e. natural and wholesome as they would in the wild), they are already accustomed to eating them and will often prefer them to the modern anglers synthetic bait because they’re safer – they will never be able to feed confidently or consistently on anything less than seemingly odourless, natural and real-food baits. Glycerites are 100% natural, safe, non-toxic and edible – with a low natural odour. They contain all that fish are able to detect using their olfactory senses and are suitable for ‘activating’ real food baits like prepared particles, maggot worm and corn. You can also add them to processed baits like meat, pellets, boilies, groundbaits and home-made paste baits to help revitalize (activate) them – its the tiny microscopically-observed organisms, biological detritus, minerals and amino acids and all the other natural nutrients present that attracts fish.
Low natural-odours, do they work?
Sure they do, as Christian Barker one of the country’s best chub anglers once said to me, “What does a lob worm smell like to you”?
The answer is probably nothing much, but to a fish it’s irresistibly good tucker.
However for the majority of anglers who like to smell their baits before buying (as I used to do), you may be a little disappointed with SACTM juice, because they are purposefully designed to be subtle and more attractive to fish olfactory senses than the anglers nose will ever be able to comprehend. Just like a lob worm or snail… they are naturally attractive to fish because of the fishes’ innate abilities/preferences and quite unappealing to humans! Luckily, fishes’ senses are many thousands of times more sensitive than ours (it’s debatable by how much more and varies between species) but if your bait contain what the fish are seeking to feed on in order to sustain themselves properly (real food), then they will certainly come to investigate and they will, if presented right, take your bait without fear.
SACTM juice is suitable for whatever fish you fish for and will “activate” and enhance ANY real food bait item, long-term and HNV type baits and is proven to work in any climate (at extremes of temperature) wherever its possible to wet a line. It will also help hydrate air-dried boilies and replenish and revitalize some of those missing nutrients from processed baits too.
“They know what they want”!
~ Chris Wilson