Fishing Lines: Super-bait that may not be such good news after all

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The Independent Online
PROFESSOR John Caprio of Louisiana State University is in for a nasty shock when he tries to bring his wacky invention over here. The prof may be able to sucker gullible Yanks with his 'infallible' Gotta Bite, but he won't find British anglers such an easy market.

If you believe in fairies, you will see nothing odd in his claim to have discovered a potion irresistible to fish. Caprio says the mixture only works on catfish so far, but slight adaptations will have anything from sprats to sharks jumping into your net.

He reckons to have identified the amino acids that spark uncontrollable feeding. Catfish are said to snap involuntarily as soon as they sniff a few drops of Gotta Bite.

'They start biting and looking for food straight away,' Caprio says. The American fishing public are said to be behaving in similar fashion and clamouring for a few drops of the wonderbait, which Caprio has licensed to a commercial company.

Now I don't want to be a party pooper about this, but I can't help thinking of those travelling salesmen in the old West, selling potions that would cure anything from warts to your kids not refilling the car with petrol when they borrow it. Gotta Bite, you will be surprised to hear, is colourless and odourless. That sounds like it will be pretty expensive to produce, doesn't it?

Of course, a colourless, odourless liquid (let's call it, say, water, for want of a better word) doesn't stay on a hook too long. And when it goes into a river or pond it disappears, so you have to buy some more. Pretty good invention, eh?

Additives that enhance a bait are nothing new. Back in 1653 Walton advised adding honey or sugar to bread paste for catching carp. It's a little more sophisticated now but the principle is just the same. In the world angling championships, competitors add as many as 30 special ingredients, from molasses and vanilla essence to the droppings of pigeons fed exclusively on hemp.

Walk into any tackle shop and you can buy bait flavourings of rhubarb and custard, lobster thermidor, tomato puree and bramble jelly, to name but a few. It's not enough to dip your bait in these. Nowadays you need to understand things like fish metabolism, HNV (high nutritional value) baits and the amounts of amino acids in certain proteins.

Now I'm on dodgy ground myself here, because I can't understand much of what books such as A Simple Guide to Baits are talking about when they say things like, 'The amino acids from the donor are reassembled by the metabolic system of the acceptor,' and accompany it with a table showing typical intakes of valine, lysine, threonine and so on for everything from chinook salmon to Japanese eels.

It may have something to do with fishing, but I'm not sure. In any case, dipping bread paste in honey generally works just as well. But it shows that all this Caprio guff about amino acids triggering taste receptors is nothing new.

Anyway, his 'infallible attractor' appears to be of very limited use, because so far it only works with catfish, a fish about as popular as Saddam Hussein with most Americans. Huckleberry Finn was the last person deliberately to fish for them. They live in only about three waters in the British Isles and anyone who fished for them would shine out as a fruitcake even in a Mr Kipling factory.

In any case, the idea of someone producing a bait that catches everything is an angling nightmare, not a dream. No bad days, no excuses for buying expensive new rods, no long conversations about intricate fishing tactics. Worst of all, what would I be able to write about?