Do fish formulas actually work?

Written on 06/09/2024
Bud Fields, Outdoors with Bud

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There is always a new concept or idea that surfaces, promising to help you catch more and bigger fish. One item that appeared on the fishing scene a few years ago was fish formula. I have received several questions from readers who wanted my opinion and wanted to know if the formulas actually worked as advertised.

Supposedly, fish formulas were designed to make fish bite and add to your fishing enjoyment and success. Television commercials were filmed showing professional, expert anglers simply applying the product to their artificial lures and casting the lure into the water. The monster fish were standing in line to inhale the lure.

We saw many of the television fishing personalities smiling and holding up monster bass, walleye, and even saltwater species of fish any of us regular anglers could only dream about catching. All you needed to do was shell out some money to purchase the fish formula, and you would become a more successful angler.

Like many of you, I am always seeking ways to improve my fishing success and abilities, and I admit I am gullible and have many times fallen for advertised promises. I have spent a lot of money because “Joe Blow” caught a big bass using a certain fishing rod.

I have gone out searching for an advertised fishing reel that had super speed retrieve gear ratios because a certain angler won a big-time bass tournament using the product. So naturally, when fish formulas appeared on the scene, I had to give them a try.

Being that I was fortunate enough to have the chance to work several boat shows and fishing expos with some great fishing sponsors, I had the opportunity to see many of the new items at these shows, like several manufacturers of fish formulas. I got to see first-hand the actual product and talk with the people behind the experimentation and development of the products.

Some products had countless varieties of scent inhibitors, from anise, garlic, crawdad, and more for bass anglers, and some had special scents for saltwater applications, catfish, walleye, etc. Some scents had added chemicals for making a "popping" sound that used a combination of scent and noise to attract the fish. It was so confusing to determine exactly what you wanted to use.

While working a show in Harrisburg, Penn., I had a manufacturer right next to our booth during the 10-day show. I had the opportunity to discuss his product, and when he discovered I was an outdoor columnist, he spent a lot of time convincing me of the fact he had the best fish formula on the market, and he showed me pictures and videos of some famous television anglers using and endorsing his product.

During the final day of the show, he gave me his business card and a couple sample bottles that he wanted me to try. If I had success and wrote some articles and endorsements, I could be added to the company’s pro staff and receive products for my time and effort.

I told my wife when I began my writing career that I would never endorse any product to try to get people to spend their hard-earned money if I wasn't willing to spend my money on it. I still maintain that philosophy today.

I admit, I have received many products that were sent to me. Some were great, and some were over-rated and over-priced, and I returned them and basically stated, “Thanks, but no thank you!”

Over many years, I have used several different fish formula products, and really, I have had some pretty good results. I would honestly state, yes, fish formulas do work. But they are like any other piece of fishing tackle. They are a tool, and if used correctly, you can and will catch fish using them.

Let me explain a little bit further. Fish formulas can be utilized in a couple different ways. They can be used as a fish attractant that allows the fish to actually smell the product and make them hungry. Just like when I have just finished eating. If I walk across a parking lot and smell pizza from a restaurant, I automatically want to eat some pizza.

Fish formulas can also be used as a cover scent. Many times, I have used fish formulas to help cover the human scent on my hands. I am not a smoker, but I have fished with many anglers who had the smell of nicotine on their hands. When they tied on a lure, that scent was transferred to the lure and fish would not hit the lure.

I am so self-conscious about human scent, I always insisted on filling my truck and boat with fuel a couple days before the actual bass tournament so I would not accidently get any fuel or oil smell on my hands.

I personally prefer to use fish formulas as a cover scent, but I have had great results using it as an attractant scent. If I am fishing close to a riprap bank and I know that crawfish live around these rocks, I have used a fish formula with a crawdad scent.

I have had great results using an anise (black licorice) scent, and I have done quite well using a shad scent because bass like to eat shad. One of my all-time favorites is garlic scent. I have used garlic scent and won several bass tournaments.

One word of caution is fish formulas come in plastic bottles. It is not unusual for the seams on the bottle to start leaking, letting the fish formula leak out. Something in the fish formula can and will dissolve the glue that fastens your boat carpeting to the floor of your boat. I had to replace the carpeting on the front deck of my bass boat. I had no idea the fish formula had leaked out until it was too late.

Other than the leakage situation, I have used fish formulas effectively for many years, caught a huge number of fish, and won a respectable number of tournaments, adding a few extra dollars to my bank account. I would have a tough time recommending a particular manufacturer, but you might try Kick’n Bass. I have seen it on eBay and sometimes Bass Pro Shops.