Loutjie Louwies once lead underdog South Africa to four consecutive FIPSed World Championships. They even out-fished England on their home soil! A lot of the credit goes to his invention, now sold as Korda’s Kiana Carp Goo. The theory behind attractants is solid, and there is a lot of research and real-world success. So where does the scepticism come from?
A lot of anglers aren’t sold on attractants because of bad personal experiences. The 1980s market for fish attractants didn’t have scientific rigour. When attractants first floated, small-time companies and hobbyists rushed to make cheap products. Many anglers were disappointed with the results. They were even more disappointed when some stained boat carpets and even dissolved the glue that held them to the floor!
Berkley, Korda and others like them batch test their products in-house and on the bank. The snake oil salesmen back in the day weren’t anywhere near as thorough. Unfortunately, many anglers that remember these products had already sworn off attractants. These tried-and-tested products get painted with the same brush. It's a shame for these companies who have dedicated aquariums to test smells and tastes. Their research can tell us what different species like and dislike.
Sight-based feeders like largemouth bass and pike don’t usually go for scents. They have excellent eyesight, but very few olfactory folds in their nasal passages. However, Bassmaster quotes Berkley scientists who say bass react negatively to some odours. The worst offenders are:
By comparison, smell-feeders, like carp and catfish, hunt almost entirely on scent. Part of Korda’s success with their goo is down to targeting both senses. It makes an enticing looking cloud while dissipating a scent.
Sticky Baits’ Cloudy Bloodworm Liquid is similar. The cloud it produces looks like a freshly harvested bloodworm bed. At the same time, it’s loaded with replicated excretions, pheromones and amino acids.
Also bear in mind, when the water is unclear, even sight-based feeders will fall back on their sense of smell. If nothing else, an attractant can mask the negative scents you’re transmitting. Some people recommend using attractants as a hand lotion for this reason. If you don’t mind the smell, this ought to be fine, as they’re supposed to be handled, so shouldn’t irritate skin. Just make sure you check the label first to be sure.
Fishing is unpredictable, so no attractant or other tool can claim to be a magic bullet. Basically, everything works until it doesn’t. That’s partly why people are so divided on fish attractants. You and your friends’ views tend to come from anecdotal evidence.
Research and fishing competitions seem to favour attractants, but will you? Like the time of day or fishing spot, you have to try everything and stick with what works for you.