Among the many terms, phrases and just plain “jargon” used in fishing, the terms Attractors, Stimulants and Enhancers within Specimen Angling are often bandied about without the author ever going into any detail, leaving the reader a little vague on what the author was talking about. Sometimes you wonder whether the people writing the article know themselves.
While at first glance may be classed in the same category as flavours, because essentially they are being used for the same purpose, attract the fish to the bait. The term Attractors though refers not only to the bait flavours available but also to the ingredients within the bait, which are attractive to fish.
For instance a fish meal based bait will have a far larger number of attractants naturally occurring within it such as the fish oils and amino’s, which a semolina or soya based bait will be lacking, as will a bait made from milk proteins such as the various casein's. When using either the Soya or Milk protein baits, the angler usually has to add the attractors in manually.
But, how do we know this is all necessary?
As mentioned in earlier articles, we are in a very fortunate position to be able to use the European experiences, test results over the last 20 years and instantly adapt and apply them to our conditions.
It has been repeatedly seen that baits with a High Nutritional Value over the long term catch the better fish. It has also been seen that poor quality baits flavoured with known attractors will fool the fish into taking them, but in the long term the fish wise up and learn to stay away from those baits. Poor quality baits quickly become blown, and newer flavours have to be invented to fool the fish to take the inferior bait.
Fishmeal baits work almost instantly on any water, purely because of its attraction, levels. It is only in latter times that UK companies have begun adding flavour to the plain fishmeal, such as Chocolate, Strawberry and Cream.
The UK bait company, Premier Baits was the first company to really go into fishmeals in a big way, and by the early 1990’s, hardly any water in the UK had not seen fantastic results on fishmeal boilies. Now all the big UK bait companies have a fishmeal boilie/mix in their range, some now offering the alternative Chocolate/Strawberry combination. Thankfully, we are not at that stage yet and fishmeal on its own works very well.
Attractors can come from two sources, naturally either within the bait or from an additive, which increases the attraction of the bait manually.
Some common natural attractors are fishmeals, sweet corn, hemp and other seeds, molasses, yeast, powdered fish and shellfish and seaweed in the form of kelp. These are all naturally occurring, which when added to a bait provide natural forms of attractors.
Other occurring attractors come in the form of artificial or isolated ingredients from another source. These attractors are also very good in there own right, and if combined with a good base will provide good long-term bait. Examples of these include; some essential oils (natural), RH Scopex, (artificial) Liquid Amino Acids (natural), Hemp Oil(natural), * Boilie Flavours etc.
*The term Boilie Flavour is used because these flavours are stronger and survive the boiling process of making the boilie. Heat denatures or destroys weaker flavours.
Stimulants are bait additives, which stimulate the fish into feeding. This is a pretty controversial subject as some anglers believe that it is simply not possible, while others would not make a mix up if it did not contain a stimulant. In a laboratory, results may indicate that it does work but out in the field the shear volume of water and the very little amount of stimulant presented cannot really turn a fish onto feeding if it doesn’t want to, or so they reason.
I was also very sceptical as to some of the claims by manufacturers, but after going into the more practical side of it, it seems that some products do stimulate the fish into feeding. As mentioned in earlier articles, Betaine HCL, which is the most common stimulant within angling baits, is in fish hatcheries to increase the weight of the fish by stimulating them into feeding. Business’s, which rely on the sale of fish by mass, want a quicker return on their investment, so they will certainly see if there has been no significant improvement. They obviously have because Betaine is widely used throughout European hatcheries. Betaine HCL is also found naturally in some fishmeals, Green Lipped Mussels and other shellfish as well as in some trout/fish pellets.
So should your baits or ground feed contain a quantity of Betaine or other stimulant, the receptors of the fish may become triggered into telling the fish to eat. This may compare with the way the smell of fresh coffee; freshly baked bread, cinnamon etc. stimulate our senses. I guess the only way to be truly confident in it, is to try it and if it works then use it.
An enhancer refers to a bait additive, which enhances or modifies the flavour of the bait.
Because the flavour of the baits consists of odour, taste and tactile (mouth feeling) facets, it means that an enhancer or modifier may be any substance which affects one of these sensations within a food/bait.
There are five different types of flavour enhancers or modifiers:
1. Flavour enhancers, that show little or no flavour in there own right Enhances taste impressions
2. Flavour enhancers that show flavour Enhance odour impressions
3. Flavour suppressors that show little or no flavour Mask or suppress odours such as high sulphurous notes
4. Flavour suppressors that have flavour Suppresses unpleasant odours, especially in fruits
5 Other flavour modifiers Sour tasting substances are perceived as sweet tasting for +/- 2 hours
References: Sugita, Y-H Flavour Enhances In: Food additives New York 1990
While the above table may not seen to have much use for anglers it is known that some enhancers work with different flavours so for those wishing to improve a seafood mix, Category 1 modifiers would be the one to use while for fruit flavours a different modifier would be nessacarry.
Some of the secrets within the bait industry are not really, secrets at all but just common sense and logical thinking. For instance one of the Flavour Enhancers or Modifiers is non-other than MSG, a common additive to human foodstuffs and often found in Chinese cooking, is this why it tastes so good?
Use MSG in the following dosage levels 0.1 - 0.6 % of the finished bait.
Humans can detect MSG at a level of 0.01 – 0.03% or 100 – 300 ppm (parts per million) within water, well within that of the fish, so use these levels as a guideline and experiment until you are happy with the results.