By Luke Haman
When running plugs you are going to catch more fish with scent regardless of where you are, be it in Alaska, the Northwest or Great Lakes. Adding scent to plugs is no secret. Anglers have been doing it for decades. I’m simply going to share what I’ve been doing the past 17 years.
Adding scent to plugs is standard practice for guides. Many use filleted sardines, tuna, herring and other cut baits depending upon where you’re fishing. Meanwhile, if you want to stand out you need to do something different, which is why I use the Pautzke Red Nectar on my cut baits. It’s a strong scent that’s been effective for me. I soak the fillets in the Nectar to give them added scent.
Why wrapping your plugs in scented bait works so well is obvious. The scent draws the fish to your plugs. It’s far more effective than a plain plug with no bait. Keep in mind, the scent pulls them to your plug and then they’ll look at your plug. (Don’t get me wrong you will catch salmon with no bait, but for those fish that don’t see or are not attracted to your plug the sent will bring a big majority to it).
Without the scent you won’t draw in those fish that can’t see the plug. With the scent those fish are drawn in to investigate. That doesn’t mean they are going bite, but at least now you have a chance.
Wrapping filleted cut bait on your plugs is vital to success. On the other hand, you don’t want anything to effect the movement of the plug. For example, say you are running a K-13 or K-14 Kwikfish (or any kind of plug). If you put too large of a chunk of bait the plug won’t dive right. You don’t want to use a bait that’s going to bring more drag or weight. You want the plug to dive straight down. This is why I use small pieces, as you’ll see in the step-by-step process detailed below.
It’s important to keep baits fresh. The fresher the bait the better the scent trail it leaves. What I generally do is change my baits (I call them wraps, but it doesn’t really matter) out every pass. The fresher the scent the more fish you are going to catch and the more effective the plug is. When you run your FlatFish or Kwikfish you can tell if that sardine is washed out. If you can compare one that fresh out of the brine it’s like night and day. Keep them fresh and you’ll catch more fish.
How To Fillet Sardines/Anchovies
Step 1: Fillet the sardine (or other cut bait)
Step 2: Trim off the ribcage, which is black on a sardine. All you want is the meat because it absorbs the scent.
Step: 3: Cut chunks of pieces to fit the size of plugs your using.
Step 4: Make a slice in the middle of the upper part of the piece of bait, just enough to slide the upper eye of the plug through.
Step 5: After the cut is made I place them in a Ziploc.
Step 6: Now it’s time to add the scent. Personally, I use Pautzke Red Nectar. Squeeze enough Nectar into the bag to submerge the baits. While you can get away with soaking them for a few hours I soak them overnight. Doing so enables the scent to penetrate the bait and create a stronger scent trail. Make sure to place the Ziploc in the fridge to keep it cool. I honestly think putting them in the fridge speeds the process up. When it’s warm the fillets get mushy. The fridge keeps them nice and firm.
After an overnight soak the baits are ready to wrap on a plug. However, it’s still important to keep them cool or they will get mushy. I keep a cooler with ice block in my boat to keep them cool all day.
Editor’s Note: Alaska based guide Luke Haman operates Kenai River Guides. For more info on his guided Kenai River trips please visit http://www.alaskakenairiverguides.com.