5 Scents to Attract Stripers

Performance-enhancing scents will help you catch more stripers.

striper on soft plastic with scent
“Gel” type scents cling to soft plastic lures better than sprays or pastes.

A while back, I sat in on a seminar by a very knowledgeable and young surf fisherman who covered all the finer points of selecting lures for striped bass, demonstrating a vast knowledge of the subject. However, when asked about the use of scent, he shrugged with indifference. This was common, as many anglers I’ve met have the same feeling of indifference about using scent on lures when targeting striped bass. My experience, however, is that on more than one occasion, the use of scent has made the difference between a poor and a good trip.

Store-bought scents come in gel, paste, and spray forms, and they smell like everything from bunker to crawfish and or grapes to garlic. I prefer a gel-type scent for soft baits and a paste scent for hard plastics. I stick to the basic bunker or herring attractants, though I once experimented with my wife’s garlic sauce (having no luck).

I first started “juicing” in the early 1970s, when I replaced a real sandworm with a Mann’s grape-scented Jelly Worm and proceeded to land a 30-pound bass. From that day forward, I was convinced that there was a place for artificial scents when hunting striped bass.

Aquatic Nutrition Mojo Menhaden Oil

Aquatic Nutrition Mojo Menhaden Oil
Aquatic Nutrition Mojo Menhaden Oil

Of course, scent is not a magic cure-all that will miraculously make fish bite at any time. Adding scent to your lure in the middle of a blitz of small fish isn’t going to make a 50-pounder appear. In fact, it probably won’t even make a difference in your catch rate at all.Of course, scent is not a magic cure-all that will miraculously make fish bite at any time. Adding scent to your lure in the middle of a blitz of small fish isn’t going to make a 50-pounder appear. In fact, it probably won’t even make a difference in your catch rate at all.


Pro-Cure Super Gel
Pro-Cure Super Gel Alewife, Bloodworm, Eel, Herring, Menhaden, Mullet, Squid

When fishing for a reactionary strike with fast-moving lures, such as surface plugs, spoons, or swimming plugs, scented and unscented lures work equally well. Lure profile and color are more important to first draw a striper’s attention, but at times when slower presentations are employed, “juicing” it could be the final deciding factor in whether or not a striper strikes.

Atlas Mike’s Lunker Lotion

Atlas Mike’s Lunker Lotion
Atlas Mike’s Lunker Lotion Bunker/Menhaden, Bloodworm, Herring, Alewife

Making a case that fish attractants are important in the pursuit of striped bass requires a brief physiological overview of the fish. It has two pairs of nostrils on each side of its head that allow it to smell constantly as it swims. A striper’s ability to smell is far greater than its ability to see, which biologists have determined is because the cortex in the striper’s brain is smaller for sight than it is for smell. This alone is reason for striper fishermen to add scent. Not using any scent on a lure is ignoring a part of the striper’s brain that could trigger it into striking.


Fin-Essence Shedder Crab, Bunker, Clam

Each spring, schoolie bass up to 12 pounds or so gather at a pond outflow that passes under a strong street light, making a great observation point from above. Waiting on the edge of the outflow under the lights, these fish stack up, waiting on the turn of tide to flush an easy meal from the pond. One evening, I watched bass after bass dart from below to engulf a minnow or shrimp as it drifted out of the drain pipe that emptied water from the pond. Viewing the actively feeding bass, I decided to conduct a small study on scented versus unscented lures.

McCormick Pure Anise Extract

McCormick Spices Pure Anise Extract
McCormick Spices Pure Anise Extract

I first put a soft-plastic shad in the water and held it in the outflow, observing that an average of six fish flashed at the unscented lure for every one that ate it. I then took an identical lure and added a good dab of bunker scent. Immediately, I began hooking one bass for every four that inspected the lure. The following night—same location, same tide stage – I had similar results, but I reversed the testing, starting off with a scented lure, then testing a new unscented lure.

night striper
Slowly retrieving lures after dark is a good time to experiment with adding scent to your offerings.

Another night, a friend and I were catching nice-sized schoolies along a rip caused by a small tidal pond outflow. After five or six fish apiece, the bite slowed—until we juiced our lures. After adding scent, we caught another half-dozen fish before the action slowed once again. Reapplying the scent reignited the bite several times until the bass stopped biting altogether. Without a doubt, the juice made a difference that evening.

We have all had nights when the bite turned off or was nonexistent despite prime conditions. So, would juiced-up lures have made a difference? Scent is not the magical solution every time, but under the correct conditions, especially when slowly working your bait, it should be given as much consideration as the lure itself and its color. It could make the difference between success and failure.

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9 on “5 Scents to Attract Stripers

  1. Banji Jerewski

    This is a good article-
    Ok timers have been knowing this for decades.

    Save some eel jelly in a jar for pegging your plugs

    Menhaden oil is better than pearl scum!

  2. Jeff Eaton

    Great article I’m going to get into testing sent once again for myself.

  3. Dan

    What’s the best scent to use? Which one have you had the best luck with?

  4. Timber .J. Blackmar

    This artical is really good and I will keep it in mind to “juice up” my lure next time the bite slows.

  5. Joe cummings

    When I had a large,70 gallon aquarium just for fun I dropped a rubber worm in it. The large cichlids – 6 inches- showed some interest. Then I added some scent to the worm and dropped it in again. The fish attacked it like it was their last meal. I did not have to do that test twice. You have nothing to lose by using scent.

  6. Derrick Pearcy Sr

    How is fishing in all the waters I’m desperate need help for NJ and Maryland, Massachusetts

  7. ray

    lure juicing works period. just use your imagination “WHEN” to use it.

  8. Vincent Cassara

    For sure scents works. I did a night time plugging trip with this Captain a few years back. I forget what scent he used, but without a doubt after applying the scent our strike ratio increased. Next day I put some on my boat. Between the methods I learned that night and the use of scent my fishing has improved significantly.

  9. Joe Bergen

    I can understand where using scents may be beneficial in scenarios like he described. Like when the fish are stacked in tidal or outflow ponds but the scenarios are very limited like that. Def would not work surfcasting in the waves.

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