Do Fishing Scents and Attractants Actually Work?

Do fishing scent and attractants actually work? Ask several fishermen and you would have different answers because some like to use them and others figure they are a pain to deal with. As to if and how they work, there is scientific research done that shows fish are attracted to chemical sources. Whether they will be attracted to the ones you use, that is a maybe. You may have to try several before you find one that will attract the fish.

Can Fish Smell in the Water?

Yes, fish have sensory organs that will allow them to process chemical signatures in the water they are in. Catfish can recognize stink bait so other fish can identify scents in the water. Their chemoreception ability will give the fish a sense of what is around them. It also acts as a warning system for danger more than a system to find food. Make sure that your hands are free of heavy odors like gas or other scents.

When fish are swimming around, the flow of water goes through their nasal cavity, which not only helps them find food, it helps them find their mates, and find the way back to their birthplace.

What Are They Made Of?

Most of the recipes listed on them say they consist of salt and garlic but they are just the primary ingredients. Every company makes these for different fish species so what else is added depends on the fish species.

When Fishing Scents Work and Do Not Work


If the fish are non-aggressive it can help and it does work. It will help if you are working a jig, worm, or tube slowly for fish that are not biting in a fury, the fishing attractant will work. They have found that bass will hold the soft plastic lure a few seconds longer to give you time to set the hook if it has an attractant or fishing scent on it.

Example: if you add some crawdad scent to a Smallie Spin Hair jig it will give it that little pop it needs to be productive if the conditions cause slow fishing conditions like late fall. 

Do Not Work

One reason that it might not work is that many times the chemicals have to be dissolved in the water to attract the fish. With the fishing scents and attractants, they are oil-based so the fish’s nose is not likely to pick up the scent. If the fish are aggressive, they could care less about the scent nor do they have the time to pick up on the scent. They just want to get at the bait. If you are using crankbait, twitching a fluke scent, or spinnerbait, it does not matter if you use scent or not.

Three Reasons to Use Fishing Scents and Attractants

Fish are Turned Off by Foreign Odors

This is the main reason to use fishing scents and attractants. Most lures have a foreign smell to the lure, and not just from the material it is made from either. For example, on the way to where you fish, you stop to fill up with gas, and when you handle the lure your hand still has that gas smell which is transferred to the lure. When you smoke a cigarette the strong smell will get on your lure. These odors will drive fish away, especially bass. Some fishermen will wash their hands before handling the lure and then put some of the fishing scent and attractants on their hands so when they handle the lure that scent is transferred to the lure so the fish will not turn away from the lure.

To Give Lures a Natural Taste

Once you have the fish to attack your lure and have a bite, you want to make sure that you have it hooked. If you do not have it hooked, wait for the fish to take another bite or to swallow the lure. If the lure does not taste natural, they will spit it out and you have lost your fish. Using fishing scent and attractant will make the lure taste more natural so they will either take another bite or swallow it and you have your fish hooked.

To Give Lures a Natural Smell

Even if your hands are clean when you handle the lure, it still has a funky, strange odor to the fish of metal, plastic, and silicone so those are going to turn fish away. This is why adding it directly to the lure will help. One example is catfish, which eat at night. They use the sense of smell to find food and if your lure has a natural smell it will attract them to your lure. Smallmouth bass feeds usually by their eye of sight and will attack your lure if it smells natural when water is not as clear. The natural smell will make your fish want to take time to examine your lure before they bite. If you can see fish hanging around your lure, move it so the fish will think its meal is getting away and it will attack the lure.


The fish that uses their sense of smell the most to find food is catfish with carp in second place and trout and salmon are third. As you can see, fishing scent and attractant does work but you must have the right scent for the fish you are fishing for. You want the lure to taste and smell naturally for that particular fish. What would work for catfish would probably not work for a trout. This is the main reason that some say they do not work. They had the wrong scent for the fish they were trying to catch.

When using the fishing scent or attractant, be careful because they can be messy. Some can even stain the carpet in your boat. It is best if you put the fishing scent in something with a lid that you can screw on and will not leak and then dip your lure into it.

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