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Fish Attractants: Are They Worth It?

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Fish attractants, also known as fish scents, have been a big point of contention amongst the fishing community for quite some time. Do they really work, and are they worth using? The short answer: it depends. But we’re assuming you came here for the long answer. Let’s look at some factors that will determine whether you should bother using attractants on your next fishing trip.

What species are you fishing for?

Not all fish are created equally. Some fish possess an extremely fine-tuned sense of smell, surpassing our own 1,000 times over. Others…well, let’s just say they seem to be in a state of perpetual sinus congestion. These fish will simply not be able to detect attractants, rendering them pretty much useless. However, the opposite is true when used on fish with sensitive sniffers.

  • Catfish

  • Shark

  • Carp

  • Walleye

  • Muskie

  • Salmon

  • Trout

  • Pike

What and how many other scents are present?

Just as certain smells act as fish attractants, others act as fish repellants. Some of these scents include:

  • Cigar/Cigarette Smoke

  • Petroleum Distillates (Gasoline, Diesel, Motor Oil, Reel Oil, Marine Grease, etc.)

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray

  • Scented perfumes, colognes, and soaps

  • Human skin oils

Keep in mind, because some fish have such good senses of smell, it doesn’t take much of any of these substances to keep them at bay. Simply fueling your vehicle’s gas or having a quick smoke before your fishing trip may leave enough residual odor on your hands to keep fish at bay. So, if too many of these smells are present while trying to reel one in, attractants will probably not be able to offset their effects. But, if these other scents are minimal, using attractants may coerce fish into ignoring these not-so-pleasant odors, and biting your line.

What type of attractants are you planning on using?

The list of different scents used in attractants is never-ending, and honestly bizarre in some cases. Some of the most effective scents used as attractants don’t even occur naturally in marine environments. For this reason, and because some fish have such an acute sense of smell, it’s very important to know what aromas are worth investing in. Some of the most effective fish scents include:

  • Garlic

  • Fish Slime

  • Fish Oil

  • Fish Pheromones

  • Salt

Other common scents used for attractants include cheese and other milk products, coffee, olive oil, alcohol, and even imitation human saliva. However, these scents seem to be more hit or miss, and so it might be best to invest in more tried and true scents, especially if your experience with fish attractants is limited.

And so, the age-old question of whether using attractants prompts an answer that is a bit more complicated than most may realize. Fishing for fish “x”? Your answer is yes. Fishing for fish “y”? Your answer is no. Going light on the sunscreen and bug spray? Yes. Planning on emptying both full bottles on yourself, smoking 2 packs of cigarettes and giving your car an oil change before your trip? No. It’s important to keep all these factors in mind before deciding. However, when the circumstances are right, attractants can indeed be an effective tool in your fishing arsenal.


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