Do Berkley Gulp Baits Really Work? And What’s In That Gulp Juice?
By: Joseph Simonds on October 12, 2017
Do you like Berkley Gulp baits?
I’ll be honest, I was really skeptical about GULP! for a long time.
With claims like the ones below, it’s no wonder many anglers like you and I are scratching our heads wondering if Berkley Gulp soft plastic lures catch more fish or just catch more fishermen…
- “Outfishes All Other Bait!”
- “400x More Scent Dispersion”
- “Expands a fish’s strike zone by up to 400X”
- “Gulp! Imitates the natural odor and flavor of live bait.”
- “CATCH MORE FISH!”
Yep, pick up any pack of Berkley Gulp! lures and you’ll see the claims right on the front.
Visit Berkley’s website and you will see them take these claims even farther.
There is even a whole article titled, “Why Berkley Gulp Out Fishes Live and Plastic Baits.” (you can see that article here)
Are these facts, or just a marketing scheme to sell you more baits?
More importantly, can Gulp really out fish live bait?
We’ll do our best to shed some light on these questions.
The History Of Berkley Gulp! Products
To help answer those questions, let’s take a look at the history of Berkley Gulp! and other scented Berkley products.
The history of scented Berkley baits goes all the way back to 1985 when Berkley released its first scent product known as “Strike.”
This formula was actually a spray-on product that was applied to baits and was similar to pro-cure or other modern day scent products applicants.
Funny enough, Berkley actually ran an advertising campaign where they included a scratch-n-sniff to let anglers get a whiff of their new product.
In 1988, John Prochnow developed a formula known as “PowerBait” for Berkley.
This was a scent that was injected to normal soft plastic baits to help make them more attractive to fish.
Finally, in 2003 Berkley released a totally new type of bait known as Gulp!.
And shortly after Gulp Alive was released.
See more at the Berkley Fishing home page here.
So What Is Gulp!?
Sometimes, to understand what something IS, it helps to understand what it is NOT…
Berkley Gulp is not your typical soft plastic.
Normal soft baits are made out of polyvinyl chloride.
Ring a bell?
Polyvinyl chloride is also known as PVC.
That’s right, PVC: the stuff the pipes in your house are made from.
The PVC is heated up, poured into a mold, injected with a scent, and then mixed with an oil-based resin.
Gulp! on the other hand, isn’t a plastic at all.
It is made from water-based resins (which also means that it’s mostly biodegradable).
The formulas that go into Gulp! Products were developed almost 20 years as John Prochnow analyzed the chemical makeup of a variety of creatures fish like to munch on, and then integrated it into the formula for his plastics.
You can hear the Berkley Gulp product engineers talk about their proprietary product here:
As you heard in the video, years of lab and field testing also went into Gulp! products and various different formulas were put in front of lab fish to see how they would react.
Finally, if a formula passed the test in the lab, it would be sent to the field to be tested on wild fish. There is no doubt about it, Gulp has certainly been tested, re-tested, and tested again.
There is no doubt about it, Gulp has certainly been tested, re-tested, and tested again.
Difference Between Gulp And Gulp Alive!
While doing some research on Berkely Gulp products, we found a few questions from anglers wondering what is the difference between “Gulp” and “Gulp Alive?”
From everything we can tell, Gulp is simply the brand name of the bait and Gulp Alive is the special fish scent attractant juice that Berkley Gulps are soaked in.
As it says on the Gulp Alive containers, Alive is what you use to “reCHARGE Bait.”
You can buy packets of Gulp baits or Gulp Alive containers where the Gulp baits are literally soaking in the proprietary Berkley Gulp juice.
How Berkley Gulps “Breathe” In The Water
Gulp! is made of water-based resins which means that it literally “breathes” in the water.
As soon as your bait hits the water it is releasing its scent formula. Standard soft plastics that are made from oil-based resins do not release their scent until the bait has been broken (oil and water DO NOT mix).
Standard soft plastics that are made from oil-based resins do not release their scent until the bait has been broken (oil and water DO NOT mix).
Think of the standard soft plastic lure as a sandwich wrapped in a plastic bag. You may see the sandwich but you can’t really smell it.
Gulp! however, is like a nice steak on a plate.
Before you even see it, you can smell it and tell that its something you want to sink your chompers into!
But let’s be honest, the Gulp juice smells horrible!
Gulp Juice = Stinky Sauce
Open up a pack of Gulp!, take a sniff, and prepare your nostrils for a boxing match.
That stuff stinks!
Don’t believe me?
Then try coming home after a long day of using Gulps out on the water and asking your wife or girlfriend if you smell bad… ask me how I know…
So why does Gulp! smell so potent?
The answer is all in the fish attractant formula they use.
John Prochnow and Dr. Keith Jones (the chemist) worked for decades on perfecting a scent that would naturally appeal to fish and apparently he realized that predator fish prefer it stinky and potent.
One Article, “Soft But Not ‘Plastic’ What Exactly Is Gulp!?” did a great job highlighting exactly how the scent works.
Essentially, there is a three-step approach to scenting Gulp! baits. First, all Gulp! has a standard formula that will universally stimulate all carnivorous fish. Second, the baits are “seasoned” with more specific formulas based on more specific diets of fish. Third, the final layer is forage-specific. This means that shrimp Gulp! will have traces of shrimp scent and baitfish-style Gulp! will have traces of baitfish in them.
One final word of advice on the scent of Gulp! is that it is hard to get out of clothes and other fabrics.
I would recommend being very careful when opening it in the house!
Don’t spill it!
What’s In The Secret Berkley Gulp Recipe?
Want to know what’s in the secret Berkley Gulp juice?
So does everyone else!
Even though the exact “Gulp Recipe” is a heavily guarded secret at Berkley, here is what we do know:
The Berkley Gulp recipe is a THREE-layer formula.
Here’s what was published from BassBuzz.com:
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.”
What Are Anglers Saying About Gulp Baits?
It is one thing to hear claims from Berkley about their products, but it is another to hear what anglers actually have to say about the Gulp! A quick google search
A quick Google search of “does Berkley Gulp! really work” will bring up pages of forums and message boards filled with the opinions of keyboard warriors across the country.
After doing some pretty extensive research and reading seemingly every message board discussing Gulp! on the internet, I will say the overwhelming majority of anglers claim they work.
The few people that are against Gulp! have the same few issues. It isn’t so much that they don’t work as much as they are either:
- Gulp baits are too costly
- Gulp baits fall apart too easily
Here are a few quotes from anglers on either side of the argument (finding negative ones were tough):
Angler’s who love Gulp baits:
- “I use the saltwater series and they have become a go-to bait for me. I have seen them out fish bucktails, crankbaits, deep drop jigs and have even seen them out fish live bait on flounder. My first choice is a 1-ounce white bucktail tipped with a chartreuse 4-inch swimming mullet.” (GGMack, Field and Stream Message Boards )
- “They are excellent baits. I usually use the GULP shrimp in new penny, and have caught reds, trout, and numerous other species including a small shark. They do dry out if left on the hook.” (naples34, The Hull Truth)
- “I have tried gulp alive! swimming mullet, and hooked needlefish, caught yellowtail snapper and tarpon with them. It was dark when I got the tarpon so I know they have some scent qualities that fish like.” (Van Wildon, Stripers Online)
- “Two words. Gulp works!” (Spigola, Stripers Online)
Anglers against Gulp baits:
- “I’ve tried it but not to the extent that I can say if it really is better. What I can say is that it’s way more expensive… where I live it’s thirty or forty times more expensive by the pound than real bait…” (Despierto, Survivalist Boards)
- “Gulp works well for bait stealers and hardheads. They luv to eat the tails off of the swimming mullet. Difficult to get the package to seal after opening and all the juice will leak out. I now have four pack’s with no juice, tail less and a stinking tackle box. Gulp hasn’t increased my catch but in muddy water under a cork might be the only choice to use.” (oldsalt, Texas Kayak Fisherman)
As was mentioned earlier, people are saying that Gulp! baits are known to fall apart quickly.
This can be a big problem when fishing flats with lots of puffer and pinfish.
Some people claim that they changed their formula a few years back and made the baits less durable.
I wasn’t able to find any hard proof that they did, but I do know from personal experience that Gulp! products do fall apart much more quickly than other soft plastics.
2coolfishing.com has an entire thread full of anglers who claim that Gulp! lures aren’t near as strong as they once were and that they aren’t durable enough.
Here are a few quotes:
- “Screwlock hook or not these new baits only hold up against one or two fish at best. It’s an “engineered failure” by the manufacturer to sell more baits…..” (Miles2Fish, 2coolfishing)
- “I do not buy gulps anymore. The new formula is horrible and all of my friends and fellow fisherman agree… Buy a 100 pack of mister twister curl tails for $12 and some dead shrimp or mullet for $2 and tip the bait. One plastic on a screw-lock will last you several trips…” (STRIKEHOOK, 2coolfishing)
Joe Cermele of Field and Stream magazine had a great interview with John Prochnow where he had some responses to concerns that anglers had shown over the durability of the baits.
His solution to the lack of durability of baits was this, “Rig a bait and let it air-dry for 15 to 30 minutes. It’ll firm up, and although you might be sacrificing some action, you’ll have a very durable bait. Just be careful not to dry it too long” (Dr. Gulp’s Most Frequently-Asked Questions).
However, this plays into the other flaw with Gulp!.
Some people like such as Metal Man-Victory on 2coolfishing.com claim that they don’t have enough action to begin with:
“The action on the Gulp curly and paddle tails are bad… Letting the baits dry out for a few minutes before fishing with them would take even more action away.”
An important thing to remember when fishing with Gulp! baits is that they will shrink up and turn into a rock if you leave them exposed to air for too long.
Don’t be like George Costanza and have an amazing day ruined due to shrinkage…
Not to mention, I have ruined countless hooks by leaving my Gulp! on jig heads.
We did a YouTube Video discussing how to maintain your Gulp! baits so they are always in prime condition to catch those lunkers.
There are a lot of really good tips and tricks that Luke discusses in the video.
Alternatives To Berkley Gulp Products
So let’s say you don’t want to use Gulp! products.
There are certainly alternative brands that offer great products for catching inshore fish.
Here are a couple of our other favorites in the for inshore saltwater fishing.
DOA lures have been around forever and offer some really affordable, quality products that have been catching fish for years. My favorite DOA lure has to be their shrimp. The action they have is almost unparalleled. DOA is built out of PVC like older soft plastics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work.
Z-man is another top-notch soft plastic company who also has a really unique plastic structure. They are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Gulp!. Whereas Gulp! gets chewed up by pinfish and puffer fish, Z-man plastics are built so strong that they will hold up to those “trash fish” that roam the flats.
Related Post: The Quick & Easy Way To Rig Z-man Jerkbaits (see it here now)
Do Berkley Gulp Baits Work?
Personally, I was very skeptical about Gulp baits for a long time.
They are expensive, they don’t last very long compared to more durable soft plastics, and the claims seemed pretty outrageous when they were first making a big scene in the fishing world.
But they do work.
In fact, they are one of the few soft plastics that actually catch loads of fish even while dead-sticking the bait (literally leaving it on the bottom for the fish to find via the scent).
And the Gulp baits certainly have their pros and cons as you saw above (just like any fishing lure on the market).
Overall, Gulp! seems to be the best scented soft plastic on the market, however, it is not the most durable (and it shrinks when left out of the water or it’s Gulp Alive juice), and it doesn’t have the best action when compared to other plastics.
Also, it’s a bit pricey considering it doesn’t last that long…
However, even after your bait has been “ruined” and won’t stay on the hook anymore, there are still more uses for it.
Note: to learn a great trick for using Gulp! baits after they’ve been fished, check out this blog post: https://www.saltstrong.com/articles/how-to-catch-pinfish/.
Ultimately though, as with any lure, a Gulp bait is only as good as the fisherman…
There does NOT exist a magic bait that can draw fish in from across the bay, lake, grass flat, etc.
No bait on the market will catch fish for you…
As an angler, you still have to do the work of finding the right spots.
However, if you can identify when and where the fish are feeding, I can almost guarantee they will hit a Berkley Gulp! bait if you make the right cast and retrieve.
Note: If you need help finding where the fish are feeding, you’ve got to see this free webinar on finding feeding zones in your area.
Hope you enjoyed the blog and I would definitely recommend giving Berkley Gulp! a shot on your next fishing outing (regardless if it’s saltwater fishing or freshwater fishing).
Related Post: How To Retrieve A Gulp Shrimp For More Bites (see it here now)
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