At first, it might strike you as funny to see somebody out fishing wearing purple nitrile gloves with a bottle of dish soap and a small scrub brush in hand, appearing just as though they may start doing household cleaning at any moment. To many people who do not fish, there is something seemingly contradictory about a man out in the elements, doing a “manly-man” activity, all the while wearing protective, colored gloves. However, whenever someone notices them in a picture, or asks me about them on the water, my answer is simple: I wear gloves because I don’t want my bait or lures to smell like me, and I don’t want my hands to smell like my bait. Making certain that when your bait presentation hits the water, it does so holding only the smells and oils that fish prefer, is a specific detail that might be the difference between catching fish and not catching fish on a slow day.
At least in the Pacific Northwest, the fact that most fish species avoid the scents and oils of humans is becoming common knowledge. How long such scents last in the water, and to what extent they detour fish from biting is hard to determine exactly. I figure that paying attention to small details like gear and bait cleanliness ends up increasing my catch rate by perhaps twenty percent. That is, it is possible that if I was fishing next to someone who handled their bait without gloves and did not make sure their gear had been properly cleaned, we might each catch seven or eight fish. However, I think that close attention to details leads to catching another one or two fish that more lazy or negligent anglers don’t catch. Equipping your boat with a few new items and spending a couple extra minutes each fishing trip doing some cleaning could help raise your success rate considerably.
Any time I head out fishing I make sure I have three things: a bottle of Lemon Joy dish detergent, a scrub brush or tooth brush, and enough nitrile gloves to last a day. Lemon Joy seems to be many anglers’ choice of detergents or soaps for cleaning lures and fishing gear. However, others prefer toothpaste, other scents and brands of dish soap, or soaps specifically made and sold for fishing purposes. I use Lemon Joy because I can pick up a year’s supply at a discount store for a couple bucks. Plus, I have seen multiple fishermen catch fish on baits that had been dipped in the lemon flavored soap only minutes before- proof positive that if nothing else, the fish aren’t turned away by it. After putting on a pair of nitrile gloves, I use a cheap brush and the Lemon Joy to scrub clean the lures I plan to use. Cleaning the lures not only removes human oils and smells from the surface, but also gets rid of any residual bait or fish smells that may have been left to fester from your last fishing outing. It is easy enough for me to smell the difference between a nice and clean lure, and one that has been in the tackle box for weeks with even a small amount of fish-attracting scent left on it. When I consider that a salmon or steelhead can smell something in the water down to parts-per-tens of thousands, it is easy to understand why a clean lure, not an old funky one, would produce better results.
There are a variety of different gloves you can wear on the water. I use nitrile gloves because they are a little tougher than latex. They come in a variety of colors, including blue, purple, gray, and white. I order gloves by the thousand pair online, since I use almost that many in a year. The simple fact is, even if you didn’t care about your scent getting on your bait, if you fish on a regular basis, you must protect your hands. Many baits and brines contain high amounts of salt, chemicals, and dyes, all of which do bad things to your hands with continued exposure. It is also surprising how many minor nicks and cuts from fish teeth and other sharp objects can be avoided just by wearing some thin nitrile gloves. All fishing benefits aside, I don’t even want to think about what my hands used to look like after fishing for just 10 days straight back when I didn’t wear the gloves. Any time I am using any kind of bait- salmon eggs, shrimp, prawns, sardines, worms, or herring, I make sure I am wearing gloves when I handle it. Sometimes when fishing with lures or “hardware,” such as spinners, plugs, jigs, or spoons, I don’t wear the gloves. I still try to soap up the gear every trip or two, and use attractive scents that can be bought at your local fishing store to mask any scent or oil I leave on the gear.
So, before your next fishing trip, do yourself a favor and go buy a 40 pack of nitrile gloves and a $2 bottle of Lemon Joy. Try it for a few trips, and even if it doesn’t appear to increase your catch rate instantly, hopefully your hands will thank me. Add it to your growing repertoire of the small details you pay attention to, and I guarantee you will eventually see your catch rates increase.