Off the Porch: Berkley Gulp, almost as good as live bait
Sometimes, the combination of humidity and temperature reminds me of a truly great outdoor day. There’s just something about the way the air over water in September or late April feels in the predawn darkness. It was too cold for bugs, just cool enough to make a jacket or slicker feel good, not cold enough that the cold works on your fingers or ears. It wasn’t September or October or May for that matter. It was a still, quiet January morning on the Mosquito Lagoon just north of Titusville, Florida. Captain Tom Van Horn, Billy Lagle, and I were going after the redfish and it was the perfect time. There was no wind and little light right now, both were coming soon. The light would come first and provide us with the ability to see schools of redfish, or red drum as we call them here in North Carolina. The wind would come later and take away that ability. We had what you call a window of opportunity.
In 12 inches of water, fish tend to be nervous and Tom knew how to deal with that nervousness. Standing up on the poling platform of the skiff, he spotted schools of approaching reds and silently maneuvered us into their path. As we lined up on the first school, it occurred to me that we would have to cast in front of the fish and then begin to work the lure once they were over it. An artificial shrimp, the size of the ones on the end of my line would surely spook the fish into flight when it slapped onto the calm surface.
Tom said, “Make a long cast out in front of the boat and just let it sit there until they get here.” Billy and I complied. “I’ll tell you when to begin your retrieve.” He scanned the surface of the water ahead. There were ripples, wakes, and an occasional protruding tail that signaled the location of the school and it was almost to my shrimp.
There was a huge swirl over my shrimp and the line immediately came tight, I had a fish on without even moving the lure. He’d just picked the lure up off the bottom and I hadn’t even twitched it. The struggles from my fish made the rest of the school nervous and they suddenly stirred the surface in unison.
“What just happened?” I asked Tom, “I never even moved the shrimp.”
“You’re using Gulp,” Tom replied, smiling. “Neat Huh?”
What I learned was that the shrimp I was using wasn’t plastic at all; I was using Gulp, a biodegradable artificial bait made by Berkley with smell and taste impregnated into it. It comes in all the normal shapes and colors that normal soft plastics come in, it moves like a soft plastic, but it has the added benefit of having the attractant smell impregnated into the lure.
Tom explained how he had had some Berkley reps down recently and the weather had not cooperated with fishing the lagoon. Since the wind was way too high to sight fish for reds, they decided to surf fish for pompano. The Berkley guys just cut the gulp lures into little pieces and used them like cut bait, it worked like magic. They caught pompano as if they were using sand fleas with little pieces of the Gulp.
Gulp comes in well over a dozen shapes and lots of traditional colors. For it to work, it has to stay wet in its own juice and comes in zip lock bags in smaller quantities and pint and quart buckets in larger quantities. It costs about double the price of regular soft plastics but it’s often cheaper than live bait and requires no effort to keep it alive. You can carry a full complement of it on your boat and be prepared for any situation. Gulp has been out for several years now, but I honestly believe that Gulp and other similar products are the most innovative products to come into fishing in decades. Every angler knows that sometimes nothing works like the real thing, and I don’t think most fish can tell this stuff from the real thing.
Since that time, I’ve used Berkley Gulp on almost every fish imaginable. It works in the surf on puppy drum and trout, it works in the river on spawning stripers, Gulp works in the lake on bass, crappie, and catfish. I have some for trout fishing and I plan to try it out one of these days. Since that day on Mosquito Lagoon, Berkley Gulp has been expanded to almost every imaginable color and shape. It’s still the favorite of millions of anglers and will continue to be.