Justin Lucas, who co-designed the Berkley Maxscent Flat Worm, used it to dropshot like a million lbs of smallmouths at the Sturgeon Bay Bass Pro Tour derby, which he won. Josh Bertrand (3rd) and Jordan Lee (4th) also used that bait — guess your first name had to start with J and be sponsored by Berkley to have a good shot of doing well in that deal lol.
The week after that, the Elitists were at the St. Lwarence River/Lake Ontario, and 3 guys who are NOT sponsored by Berkley and whose names don’t start with J also finished in the top 5 using the Maxcent Flat Worm. That was winner Chris Johnston, almost-winner Paul Mueller and Chad Morgenthaler (4th).
MLF did a couple deals on the Maxscent, includin’ havin’ Berkley scentmaster Mark Sexton on their Live, which I thought was cool. I wanted to see what was up with this Maxscent stuff too, so I got with Mark — here’s our Q&A:
What exactly is Maxscent, and how is it different from regular PowerBait and Gulp?
> “PowerBait is PVC plastic [like I believe all soft-plastics]. We learned how to flavor PVC plastic in the ’80s and it turned out to be really good. Gulp is a water-based material…literally dissolves in the water. If you leave it in long enough…it’s gone.
> “Maxscent is a type of PVC very similar to PowerBait, but it can accept some liquid [scent] and doesn’t dry out like Gulp. …[scent] put into Maxscent isn’t that different than PowerBait [but how Maxscent baits are made] puts it into the water so much faster…draws fish.
> “Remember those pieces of gum where you bite it and you get quick shot of liquid in your mouth? It’s like that…a way better tool.”
Okay that sounds like Maxscent is similar to PowerBait and similar to Gulp. So why is it so good — or better?
> “Maxscent allows attractants to come out of the bait way faster. We figured out a way to make the construction [of the Maxscent baits] different to make the flavorants come out of the bait faster.”
What are the flavorants designed to do?
> “We’ve gone through 50,000 different chemicals and mixtures of all of them, and we’ve figured out what [bass are] actually attracted to.
> “Can they sense it — do they notice flavor in the water, if so do they find it positive, neutral, or negative. The first thing is smell. It has to attract them, and when they taste it that has to be positive. If it’s negative, you’re done — they spit it out and you don’t catch them.
> “Over the years we’ve plodded our way through…we’ve figured out what they like. It’s like grandma making the best cornbread on Earth — over the years she perfects it. That’s what we’ve done.”
How does the scent disperse and what is the pattern?
> “It depends on water temperature, depth and salinity…how far the smell will go. If you have any current or moving water, that scent will travel a long way. …fish can smell better than any bird dog: If 2 molecules hit their nose 100 yards away, they go seeking. All they do is swim and eat.
> “We study all 5 senses, and smell is the first thing they rely on. Bass chasing a school of shad…they can smell them before they can feel or see them.
> “…fish secrete all sorts of stuff. Bass get used to associating that [scent] with food. Smells get the bass close to the bait — then it uses other senses to finish the deal. And we understand all of that.
> “[Maxscent] forms a giant scent field.”
Does it work better on smallmouths than largemouths or does it just seem that way?
> “No. The only reason for that [right now] is that [pros] are using it on smallmouth fisheries. In largemouth fisheries it’s a secret.
> “[Elite pro] John Cox loves Maxscent. He thinks they pound it way more than regular plastic and he’s been pretty successful the last couple years.
> “If you flip a jig in there and you’re soaking it, you’re creating a scent field. A fish on the other side of the brushpile will swim through the brushpile to get it….”
You guys seem to have gotten the PowerBait colors to be much better.
> “We took a lot more time in studying colors and how to make the baits look more vibrant. PowerBait traditionally didn’t offer a lot of colors compared to lot of companies. We believed scent and flavor would overstep those, but [realized] you need both.
> “We don’t put a lot of stock in color — when you put [a bait] underwater it tends to take a lot of that coloration out — but the angler does. So we jumped into that…make a conscious effort to make better-looking colors. Anglers and pros wanted it so we did it.”
Were the “matte finish” colors some pros have mentioned an accident or was it done on purpose?
> “At first…thought might be a problem. The funny thing is, the fish didn’t care…seemed to get better.
> “…junebug — when an angler picks up a junebug worm, they expect that color. We did everything we did to match that color knowing it will fade a little, but we didn’t worry about it because the fish-catching efficiency of the bait never dropped. But we now have a lot of matte finishes on his baits now…just want them to look more natural.”
How many times have you guys put formulations in front of bass over the years and is it still fun to do?
> “I’ve been here 22 years…have a big lab facility where we test basically the scent of things every single day. I don’t know the exact number, but it’s gotta be half a million…unbelievable.
> “When we find a good formulation, we put it into Maxscent, PowerBait or Gulp, then jump in the boat and field-test for week — that part never gets old. 95% of the time we find in field-testing exactly what happens in the lab.
> “Fish are very simple animals. Their brains are small, but a large portion is for smell and taste.”
Here’s Mark doing some field-testing:
Do you improve these formulas over time?
> “Every single year we try to beat our formulations. We build for a lot of different species, and every year we select some formulations [to] try to outdo ourselves.
> “I think in my 22 years we had like 4 different package changes in PowerBait but very slight…maybe 1/2 a percent.”
Is there anything else important to know?
> “Durability. …Gulp is quite a bit softer and gets softer when it absorbs water. PowerBait is way more durable. The beauty of Maxscent is it fishes like PowerBait but puts scent in the water like Gulp.
> “It’s an easy test. Find a technique where you’re soaking baits, and it’ll be real obvious real quick.”