Gulp! Nothing artificial about this bait's appeal
Mike Norris Outdoors - June 21, 2003

The words on the package that caught my attention said "Gulp! Fish Eat It!"

My first thought: What were the scientists at Berkley up to now?

The first packages of Berkley's new natural live bait taste soft Gulp lures arrived in the Geneva Gander Mountain store last March. I was on hand for their grand opening celebration.

The baits resembled other soft plastic minnow and worm imitation lures, but after reading the information on the packaging I soon learned they contained no plastic at all.

"All other plastic baits are oil based," said John Prochnow, Berkley's chemical engineer. "As such, oil based worms masks many of the very scents fish detect as food."

Dr. Keith Jones, an aquatic biologist and expert in the field of bass behavior, writes in his book Knowing Bass that when it comes to sorting out taste and smells, bass have to sort out natural chemicals in water.

Bass don't simply respond to the presence of important odors, they respond to changes in the odor pattern, especially rapid increases in odor concentration, writes Jones. The substances that signal food to a bass' brain are always present in the water in some degree. Given enough time, even the most effective feeding stimuli will be ignored if the bass is constantly exposed to them. Only when the bass detects a sharp rise in concentration does its brain interpret the neural message as signaling nearby food.

And that is what Berkley's scientists keyed in on.

"With Gulp!, we used only water soluble natural ingredients and more of the scents and flavors we've found in our research that are favored by game fish," Prochnow said. "What it all comes down to is Gulp! is water soluble, and the scents and flavors are released into the water 412 times faster than oil based plastic baits."

For bass and walleye anglers there is a 6-inch nightcrawler suitable rigging or for crawler harnesses, along with three sizes (4, 7, and 10-inch) of swimming worms; 2 and 3-inch grubs; and 4 and 7-inch minnow worms.

Joey Anderson, a 17-year old angler from Hammond, Ind. reports using the 7-inch black turtle back worm for largemouth bass.

"I've been Carolina-rigging the bait and fishing small ponds," says Anderson. "The bass I'm catching are holding on to this bait much longer than any other conventional plastic worm imitation I've used in the past. I'm also catching jumbo Lake Michigan perch on the 2-inch Gulp! minnow bait in the chartreuse color."

Capt. Bob Andrewski, a southern Lake Michigan bass tournament angler, and his fishing partner heard of Anderson's success and cashed a check for $3,500 with a 15.7 pound five-fish limit of smallmouth bass in winning the Chicagoland Bass 1st Annual Fish the Magnificient Mile tournament held on Lake Michigan last week.

"We rigged black 3-inch Gulp! minnow grubs on a small darter head jig and the smallmouth bass ate them up," said Andrewski. "We fished a little with other plastic-based twister tails, but it was evident early on that the bass where attracted to the natural flavors of the Berkley Gulp! bait."

"Because Gulp! is made from all natural ingredients, the bait is 100-percent biodegradable," said Prochnow. "Anglers get the shape, action and color advantages of plastic baits with the super intense scent of the chemicals that fish desire in a bait and it totally dissolves in just 90 days."

One caveat - Gulp! baits are water-soluble and must be kept and sealed in their original packaging to keep them from shriveling in the sun like a real worm. And once water activates the ingredients in the bait, the used baits should not be mixed with non-used baits.

"West suburban anglers are having success with Gulp! baits but are tight-lipped about them," said Tony Kosi from Water Werks II on Route 59, just south of Route 56 in Naperville.

"We've got them in stock and anglers are buying them for use at Silver Lake in the Blackwell Forest Preserve and the Fox River. None of them want to let out their little secret though."

Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at