PowerBait: From the beginning
Editors note: This is the first column in a two-part series about PowerBait.I received an interesting piece of information from a recent press release regarding Berkleys tremendous bait for trout, PowerBait. I had not realized it was tested in the June Lake area in the central Sierra Nevada.Apparently five men came into Mono County on a secret mission in 1987. They were anglers and what they did led to one of the most successful fishing baits in history.The five were scientists and researchers who came to field test whether the synthetic bait they had concocted in Iowa would catch eastern Sierra trout. What they developed became so successful that it led to a number of other products.On June 28 and 29, Mono County and Berkley will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the product that resulted from those field tests, Berkley PowerBait. The event, sponsored by the June Lake Chamber of Commerce, will include fishing contests on four lakes along the 14-mile June Lake Loop. It will end with a barbecue and music by Lava Moon at Gull Lake Park at June Lake on June 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A nominal fee will be charged to enter.Prizes for the event will be provided by Pure Fishing, developers of Berkley PowerBait, and they will be presented to winners of several age and gender groups who catch fish using Berkley products. Sign up at any June Lake area marina or tackle shop. No entry fee is required.In the 1980s, before the Berkley research team tested PowerBait at June Lake, anglers discovered that liquids, often made from ground fish, would attract fish when applied to a lure or bait. Anyone remember using WD-40 as an attractant? While effective, these early attractants were short-lived once in the water.The Berkley team began their research by setting up a fish laboratory at Sprit Lake, Iowa, containing between 500 and 3,000 live fish in aquaria. Cotton pellets that soaked in a liquid attractant were dropped into the pools and the fishs reactions and how long they would hold on to them were recorded. The concept was that the longer a trout held on, the better the attractant. The team, led by renowned ichthyologist Dr. Keith Jones, and the Berkley R andamp; D team increased the effectiveness of the attractants over time by concentrating them and eventually exaggerating them in synthetic moldable putty and dough, which anglers could form around a hook.After PowerBaits laboratory evaluations were complete, the formulations were brought out to June Lake for testing. Two PowerBait formulations were tested against their leading competitors product and against natural salmon eggs. Some members of the R andamp; D team thought fish would prefer natural salmon eggs, so one formula actually included salmon roe.Next week we will take a look at the results of the field testing that led to PowerBait becoming a huge part of the fishing industry.Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.