July 08, 2022
Jigs are one of the most versatile and effective bass lures of all time. They can probe the entire water column and produce in any habitat, including heavy cover or snag-laden structures where other baits struggle.
They’re also known for catching big bass. Historically, jigs have done a great job of visually and audibly attracting bass in environments that few other lures can reach. But now with the introduction of Berkley PowerBait Jigs (unveiled at last year’s ICAST Show), which utilize the company’s proprietary infused skirts, anglers can fish jigs that appeal to bass’ sense of smell and taste, too.
I recently visited Berkley’s laboratory in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the development and testing of PowerBait Jigs. Although the chemists and technicians there didn’t reveal any secret formulas, they did shine some light on how science and technology is combined with fishing know-how to create baits that bass like to bite.
While bass certainly use sight to feed, they also have incredibly sensitive olfactory and gustatory (taste) systems. Studies show that bass can detect as little as a few ounces of amino acid mixed into 6,000 gallons of water.
Like other fish, bass have an olfactory system comprising two pairs of nostrils (nares), each with an inlet, an outlet and sensory cells between them to detect water-soluble chemicals and transmit this info to the brain via nerves. In addition, a bass’ mouth is loaded with gustatory chemoreceptors. Located on the tongue and other areas inside the mouth as well as on the lips outside, gustatory chemoreceptors sense whether an item is food and almost instantaneously send this signal to the fish’s brain.
How fast does this happen? Berkley’s research shows that once bass taste and determine an item is not food, they’ll spit it in roughly .25 second. That leaves anglers very little time to set the hook on a strike. Because they have gustatory chemoreceptors on the outside of their lips, bass can “sample” a bait before fully ingesting it. This, too, hampers an angler’s ability to convert bites into hookups.
Developed through extensive research and testing, PowerBait passes this taste test. It’s made up of water-soluble organic and synthetic chemicals that mimic the scent and taste of bass forage. This tricks the bass’ chemoreceptors in the mouth and nares into believing the bait is legitimate prey. The result, as Berkley studies have revealed, is fish hold on to PowerBait 18 times longer than other artificial baits. This gives an angler more time to set the hook before the fish spits the bait—if it ever does.
The skirts of PowerBait Jigs utilize a customized blend of polymers (silicones) that Berkley has engineered for increased water permeability. John Prochnow, Berkley’s director of research and development, explains that the blend permits some PowerBait scent and flavor to “migrate out to the surface of the silicone and not just be locked in,” as with traditional oil-based polymers. The benefit is more of the water-soluble PowerBait attractants are exposed to, and dispersed in, the water. In addition, a PowerBait-infused skirt has 10.4 times the surface area of the average jig trailer, which means it can contain and disperse a lot more scent and flavor than a scented trailer alone.
Still, while some scent and flavor are diffused in the water, the jig skirts are designed more to retain the PowerBait formula and release it when fish strike rather than to leach it during the presentation. PowerBait skirts essentially encase water-soluble chemicals inside a silicone embodiment. Much of the smell and taste remain inside the skirt until the bite from a fish releases them. The more the bait is abused, the more formula enters the water.
This is unlike PowerBait MaxScent, which utilizes a more porous material designed for immediate and maximum scent dispersion without drying out. For a potent combination, anglers can marry one of the new PowerBait Jigs with a MaxScent trailer to add more taste and release a larger scent field.
Infusing PowerBait into silicone jig skirts required years of research and development. While the final PowerBait Jigs took two years to complete, Prochnow says initial attempts at making a PowerBait skirt began with PVC in the early ’90s and included a couple tries with silicone later.
In fact, he feels that it was the early trials and errors—including the work Berkley did with PVC materials and attractants—that ultimately allowed its staff to find success. The big challenge, he adds, was similar to what Berkley faced with original PowerBait: infusing water-soluble attractants into a new oil-based polymer material.
Mark Sexton, Berkley’s manager of fish science and product testing, explains that any time a new or different material is infused with fish-attracting chemicals, the ratios and percentages of what and how much goes in must be balanced. Otherwise, the integrity of the material can be compromised. Too much attractant, and the material falls apart; too little, and the product is not effective. Prochnow says the goal was to retain the physical properties of solid silicone so the skirts don’t fall apart, while introducing water-soluble attractants that can degrade the material if added too liberally.
While this delicate balancing act took time to perfect, now anglers can reap the rewards of Berkley’s efforts. Greater appeal to more of a bass’ senses should bear fruit on the water. Berkley PowerBait Jigs feature ultra-sharp Fusion19 hooks and smart new jighead designs from pro anglers Gary Klein and Bobby Lane. The jigs are available in seven different styles for $4.99 each.