Soft. But Not ‘Plastic’

Categories: Fishing

Soft. But Not ‘Plastic’

NPAA Supporting Partner

Press Release Published February 28, 2013

Gulp! is much different than traditional soft-plastics because it’s made with water-based resins and three layers of flavor and scent. Gulp! is much different than traditional soft-plastics because it’s made with water-based resins and three layers of flavor and scent.

While Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! have become overnight sensations and in many cases dominate fishing markets previously ruled by live bait, the development of the two products was anything but fast. For more than 20 years, Gulp! technology has existed in Berkley’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, testing labs. Berkley fish biologist Dr. Keith Jones and chemist John Prochnow devoted two decades to perfecting the baits, waiting until the baits performed up to their rigorous standards before releasing them.

Long known as a company steeped in technology and constant product innovation, Berkley previously revolutionized the softbait market with the development of PowerBait. But now, as the inshore saltwater, coldwater and bass markets are embracing Gulp!, many are asking what is Gulp!, what makes it so effective and what makes it different from PowerBait? While some of that information’s highly guarded, Berkley recently answered some of these questions to help anglers learn more about these advanced softbaits.

Gulp! Isn’t Plastic

Standard soft-plastics (worms, lizards, craws, etc.) are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) the same material used to make pipes and other items. To make a soft-plastic out of PVC, the material must be heated up and combined with an oil-based resin. The more oil-based resin added to the PVC, the softer the bait will be. This is how Berkley PowerBait’s made.

The difference between Gulp! and PowerBait is that Gulp! is made using water-based resins. This allows for much more scent distribution than with oil-based resins. Because oil and water don’t mix, when scent is added to a bait created from PVC and an oil-based resin, the oil literally traps the scent inside the bait. While some of the scent does get out, the oil actually functions as a barrier. However, anglers know that when fish bite PowerBait, they hang on much longer than they do with other baits. By biting the bait, the fish is releasing that scent, which makes them think it’s actually food. This results in more positive hooksets.

“I always tell people to throw a PowerBait worm until it falls off the hook,” Prochnow said. “Once that bait gets chewed and mangled, that’s when the scent’s going to be escaping the most.”

Gulp!, on the other hand, disperses scent as soon as it hits the water because there’s no oil barrier keeping the water out. This allows the bait to disperse scent almost like a blood trail, expanding the strike zone by attracting fish that don’t see the bait. When fishing with Gulp!, it’s important to fish the bait slowly and allow the bait to do what it’s intended to do disperse scent. The scent that’s dispersing comes from the liquid that the bait’s packaged in. Whether it’s the liquid in the bottom of a package of Gulp! or the large volume of liquid found in a pail of Gulp! Alive!, the Gulp! baits soak it up like a sponge. Like with live bait, the fresher the Gulp! bait, the more effective it’ll be.

“Truthfully, you can use a single Gulp! bait all day and it’s still going to be putting out more scent at the end of the day than anything else, but I like to keep mine fresh and full of scent,” Prochnow noted. “That’s why Gulp! Alive! is so effective. If you use a bait for an hour or so you can just drop it back in the juice, and after 15 minutes that bait’s like new. It’s the equivalent of taking a dead shrimp and bringing it back to life.”

More About Scent

Berkley Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! have completely taken over some fisheries previously dominated by live bait.Photo: BassFan Because fish live in water and every part of their anatomy’s designed to work in water, fish can’t smell oily things. But just like the Gulp! baits are water-based, the Gulp! juice is water-based, as well. Not only does the bait release more scent, but the scent’s actually easier for fish to detect. Berkley Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! have completely taken over some fisheries previously dominated by live bait. “When you put on a spray scent and cast it out and see that oily sheen come off in the water, that scent isn’t actually doing anything to attract fish,” Prochnow said. “It’s really just working as a barrier. When a fish eats that lure it doesn’t smell or taste anything. But when a fish eats Gulp!, it picks up all the flavor and scent just like it would if it were eating a living creature. That’s why Gulp! works: The fish actually think it’s real food so they hit harder and hang on longer.”

What About Taste?

While there’s no shortage of so-called “fish attractants” on the market today that imitate the smell of garlic, cheese, shrimp, crawfish and baitfish, the flavor makeup of Gulp! baits is more complicated than simply adding something to the bait that smells like something a fish might want to eat. The actual combination of scents and flavors is a heavily guarded secret, but the results are achieved through a three-layer formula.

Decades of research have shown Jones and Prochnow that fish are somewhat like people in what they eat: Just about anywhere in the world, people eat the staples of meat and potatoes. Fish, research shows, are the same way. Whether it’s a bass, redfish, pike, flounder any species they all consume the same staple diets, much like meat and potatoes. These staples are the base layer for all Gulp! products and contain a formula that Berkley scientists have found to appeal universally to fish.

The second layer of the Gulp! flavor formula is akin to local and regional differences in human diets. In some parts of the world, different spices are used sometimes sauces. Following this analogy, the second layer would be considered the seasoning layer, with each bait “seasoned” to adhere to what flavors research has shown the fish to be attracted to.

Ultimately, the third layer is specific to the style of bait. From shrimp to baitfish, extra ingredients are included so that in the underwater environment of the fish, these baits smell like the bait they represent.

“When a redfish eats a Gulp! Shrimp, it’s actually tasting several different things,” Prochnow said. “He gets the shrimp layer, the seasoning layer and the meat and potatoes. That’s why fish never pass up a Gulp! meal when they can get it.”

In Comparison


Constructed of water-based resins

No oil barrier to keep scent contained in the bait releases scent as soon as it touches water

Absorbs scent of Gulp! liquid from packages and Gulp! Alive! pails

Can be recharged and kept fresh for best performance

Scent is also water based and can be easily detected by fish, expanding the strike zone and attracting fish even when they don’t see the bait

Three-layer flavor formula that offers bait-specific flavors as well as universally appealing “meat and potatoes” and “seasoning” for increased effectiveness

Easily identified as a natural food by fish

Real scent and flavor cause fish to strike harder and hang on longer for more positive hooksets


Constructed of oil-based resins and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Oil-based resins serve as a partial scent barrier, meaning baits are more effective as they get torn up by fish teeth

PowerBait flavor impregnated into baits that’s tasted by fish upon biting bait, making the fish hang on longer for more positive hooksets

Taken from:

“NPAA | Soft. But Not ‘Plastic'” N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <>.
Author: Spencer Deutz

Winner of the 2011 Masters Walleye Circuit Father/Son Team of the Year, qualifying for the Cabelas National Team Championship in 2012 and also qualifying for the Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship in 2012 and 2014

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