Remember back in ’88 when a new trout dough called PowerBait showed up? Know anyone that still swears by the original Power Worm? Well, John Prochnow (photo) developed them both, along with thousands of other scented plastics for Berkley. He is, you could say, the king of fish-friendly fragrance. Prochnow actually started his career developing scents for soap and shampoo and other things that your wife doesn’t mind, unlike the Gulp! juice I spilled in the closet the other day. Yes, Gulp! is Prochnow’s baby, too.
Last night I had a rare chance to sit and talk with him, and I wondered, given that he is the brains behind an innovative bait line that garners both high praise and skepticism, which questions anglers ask most about Gulp! So here are the queries you, the angling public, fire at Prochnow on a regular basis. - Joe Cermele Q: So what are Gulp! baits made of anyway?
A: “Gulp! is made of a water-based polymer, unlike many other soft-plastics that are oil-based PVC. That allows us to use a wider variety of smells, because our attractant is also water based, and oil and water don’t mix. Naturally, fish can smell water-soluble liquids better than anything else, and the material allows the baits to hold and release much more scent. I liken Gulp! and other scented plastics to eating lunch on a fishing trip. You have a ham and cheese sandwich in a plastic bag. You take it out and eat it and it’s good. Now, if you were to bite it through the bag, all the ingredients would be the same, but you’re going to taste the bag, too.” Q: Hey, is there really a difference between Gulp! and Gulp! Alive? A: “Yes. The liquid in a bucket of Gulp! Alive has a high level of hydrating modifiers…a fancy term for chemicals that allow the juice to get absorbed faster. We say that Gulp! Alive baits are rechargeable because those modifiers are always trying to maintain equilibrium. So if you put a bait back in that’s full of water, the chemicals want to get back into that bait and equalize.” Q: OK. Then can I put regular Gulp! baits in my Gulp! Alive bucket? A: “Sure you can. It may make them a little bit softer, but the Gulp! Alive liquid will get absorbed the same way.”
Q: I think Gulp! baits are too soft. What can I do?” A: “Rig a bait and let it air-dry for 15 to 30 minutes. It’ll firm up, and though you might be sacrificing some action, you’ll have a very durable bait. Just be careful not to dry it too long.”
Q: I like lots of action. Any way to give Gulp! Alive baits more of it? A: “Put the bucket in the sun. As the liquid warms, the baits will absorb even more and get softer. But just let the bucket warm. If you leave it for hours in 110-degree heat, the baits will get mushy.” Q: Should I just toss Gulps! that have dried to rock-hardness? A: “Well, if they’re completely dry, they’ll never get back to 100% flexibility no matter how long you soak them. But they will rejuvenate enough to be used as chum pieces or dead-stick cut baits for, say, catfish.”
Q: So your baits are biodegradable. How long do they really stick around? A: “That all depends on the environment. In a well-run landfill, a Gulp! bait will be gone in 8 to 10 months. In saltwater, they generally last one to two years, and about the same or a little less in fresh, again depending on current, water clarity and temperature.” Q: You invented these things, what’s your favorite? A: “Easy. The 3-inch Gulp! Minnow in smelt color. It just catches everything that swims in freshwater. A Native American friend of mine helped develop the shape. We actually copied the bodies of smelts caught in my home waters, the Missouri River in South Dakota. That same pattern also happens to be our top seller.”