A casual stroll through any sports store’s fishing section will uncover a variety of baits and lures claiming to be the only option you’ll ever need for catching those PB monsters. Some seem preposterous. Others are plausible. But, what do you actually invest your hard-earned money into? The best way to know those distinctions will be to understand the differences and similarities between these unique baits as a new angler.
Homemade Dough Baits can be the most cost-effective option
In one recipe you need flour, cornmeal, a tin of sardines, and anise extract. Now, for most of us, you’re already going to have half or more of the ingredients in your cabinet, so you’re already eliminating the cost of that store trip. Most of us are still going to need the Anise and sardines.
You’re looking at about $4 for the anise and $1 for the sardines. When all is said and done you’re looking at probably spending about $5 for the extras you’ll need to make your own bait. Not bad in the expenses department…
The true cost is in your time and senses. You mix the dry ingredients, add the sardines, mash everything together, add the anise, mix again, add water…Lots of steps here. Once the dough balls are formed, cooked, and dried you’ll need to bag them and store them in the freezer.
Premade Doughs can simplify your life, but will they draw in the fish?
You can get baits “designed” for just about every species of fish known to the fishing world. Berkley PowerBait, Catfish Charlie Dough Bait, Fire Bait Glitter, Gulp Crappie Nibbles, and Magic Bait Carp Bait are just a few of the dough baits on today’s market. But what makes them so appealing to anglers?
You’re not making dough. There’s no smelly bait being stored in the refrigerator that you might forget when heading out at 5 in the morning. And there is almost unlimited selection in color, texture, smell, and consistency.
Modern technology has allowed manufacturers to produce these dough baits at a much faster, cheaper rate than past production allowed. The advancements have reduced the cost of these doughs while allowing the manufacturers to produce products that are “environmentally safer” and yet more durable than homemade doughs.
Have I mentioned all the options on the market these days? Take, for instance, Berkley PowerBait. Go to a large chain store like Bass Pro and you’ll see almost an entire aisle dedicated to dough baits. At Bass Pro, just looking at these Berkley baits, you’re likely to find over 60 options between the Glitter Trout Bait, Natural Scent Trout Bait, Trout Nibbles, Crappie Nibbles, Biodegradable Trout Bait, Trout Nuggets, Magnum Floating Power Eggs, Crappie Sparkle Nibbles, Turbo Dough Trout Bait, Glitter Chroma-Glow Dough, Chromo-Glow Crappie Nibbles, and Natural Scent Glitter Trout Bait.
— Remember, this is just trout and crappie bait.–
Now add the other dough balls, dough pastes, etc. that are competing with Berkley’s PowerBait. You could literally fish an entire year without repeating a dough bait option if you were so inclined.
So, the core question still remains: are they worth the investment?
I have been to fisheries where every seasoned angler lining the banks swore the only thing you can catch a trout on is PowerBait. I’ve seen trout anglers haul fish after fish in with nothing but corn attached to their hooks. So, should the answer be yes or no…?
Personally, AJ and I have had tremendous success on some of the manufactured dough baits: One day, we were specifically fishing for bluegill that we would need for the next week’s catfishing trip. We spent two hours fishing with worms only to have 3 bluegills in the Livewell. We switched to the white PowerBait Crappie Nibbles and suddenly found ourselves holding 20 bluegills in a matter of one hour.
As a side note, those bluegills caught us a couple of limits of cats three days later.
We were so happy with the results that we went back to the same fishing hole the next week in preparation for another catfishing trip. We barely caught 5 bluegills that time. Why am I describing this in such detail? I want you to understand the truth behind these doughs. It’s a truth that holds fast no matter what kind of bait you are using on your target fish. Just like we discussed in “the Golden Rule of Fishing,” there are always going to be variables. Just because something worked today, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work tomorrow.
So, ultimately: Yes, manufactured dough baits can work very well for fishing…under certain circumstances, when presented to the right target fish in an ideal manner.
In addition to --or instead of-- these dough baits, consider fish attractants.
No, this isn’t complicated. When I was first learning to fish, I was overwhelmed by all these options and combinations that exist. I’m sure you’re brain is starting to get a bit of that floating feeling as well. Step back for a minute, and look at the big picture.
Dough baits are simply another option for your fishing methods.
What do you do if you’ve been out all morning fishing and the bite is starting to drop off? Maybe you’ve still got a couple of shad swimming around your Livewell bucket or half a carp is still chilling in your ice chest. You don’t want to pack it up for the day, you’re only two fish shy of your limit and you’re not going to get another chance to go fishing for the next couple of weeks.
This is where the fish attractants will serve a good purpose for you.
Rather than changing your fishing style, consider boosting your current game strategy.
You could always switch over to that bag of fiber nuggets in the bottom of your tackle bag, but then you’ve got these fish you sacrifice for your fishing trip that you don’t want to let go to waste. Alternately, you can consider adding the attractant. Pautzke Fire Gel Garlic, Spike-It Gamefish Dip-N-Glow, or Pro-Cure Catfish Candy are liquids that can be poured over part or all of your bait. They have a dye quality that will highlight your bait like you colored it with a high-lighter. It’ll also put off an irresistible fish scent that permeates the water around your bait. Many of your target fish will sense the attractant in the water column and come to investigate the source. Sometimes, all it takes is to give your target fish a little nudge and the bite will be back on. Along the same lines are some spray-on formulas such as Bang Fish Attractants or waxy, roll-on/draw-on, type attractants like Baitwas Get Real or FishSticks Catfish Candy.
Now here’s the best part: these fish attractants aren’t just for your live/cut bait!
Your dough baits can be dipped in it to alter the smell they’re putting off. Plastic baits, like craws and worms, can be sprayed or dipped to alter the color pattern and provide an extra layer of taste the target fish will smell in the water column. Even your hard baits (that we’ll be discussing soon) can be treated with many of these fish attractants.
Even within fish attractants, you’ve got plenty of options.
Different brands will create different odors. We humans aren’t always the best at identifying the subtle differences between these smells, but I can assure you the fish will notice a difference. You might have bass in your local pond that just can’t get enough of the Spike-It Shad scent while the bass at your nearby lake will only eat the Bang Garlic spray. It’ll be up to you to experiment to find what works for your selected fishery. And, just like everything else in fishing, there will be variables that make the fish not want to bite no matter how many methods you throw at them, but I can assure you that these added bait scents can definitely help.
You will notice after fishing with a scented plastic finesse worm for even 20 minutes, it’ll lose its scent. Now, all you have is a plastic worm floating through the water. The plastic is still good and strong. The motion is still spot on. But if the fish can only smell plastic, he’s not as likely to take a bite. Especially in the summer, this will be some of the best times to add a little of that attractant you’ve got stashed in the pocket of your tackle bag. The warm waters of summer will give an extra boost to that scent’s travel capabilities.
Before you give up on your newfound techniques, experiment with variations in the methods you’re currently perfecting. Switch up the weight, the depth your bait’s at, the size of the bobber if you’re using one. Even the color of the bobber can make a difference if the fish happen to see it floating above. But, you must remember, the fish are looking for food. The more you make your bait resemble the food they want today, the more likely they’ll be to take a bite.