By Nick Simonson
For some, the scent of summer is that of hamburgers on the grill, floating into the evening air between houses and through yards, ringing the mental bell of Pavlov’s dog in even the most civilized of us. For others, it’s the smell of freshly opened lilacs, a sweet fragrance which industry has tried for decades to duplicate in candles, bathroom deodorizers and laundry detergent, but never has quite captured in a way that elicits the accompanying sigh that signals summer. There are a hundred different olfactory cues, from cut grass to a thunderstorm on approach, which signify summer and put any other season out of mind, at least for a couple months.
The one that does it for me is garlic, and while strange, it’s not just any garlic. While others may tie garlic to autumn family feasts of pasta around the table with the football game on in the living room, garlic in my bass-centered mind, is as much a summer smell as searing beef, blooming flowers, or a freshly cut lawn. This garlic scent, however, comes from a bag of four-inch plastic bass tubes, usually watermelon with red flake, and each time the zip top of a freshly torn-open pouch is separated, with a deep inhale, I take in what my set of synapses has tied to the season of summer after nearly two decades of fishing with the trademark soft plastics.
I’ve never really been a scent guy when it comes to angling, and I’m pretty sure that in the grand equation of those molded offerings of plastisol, the addition of garlic is secondary in the scheme of fooling fish. Between looking like something edible, likely a crayfish or a baitfish, with the streamlined body and waving tentacles, and also having a healthy dose of salt molded into the plastic and sprinkled outside, the profile and movement of the bait, along with an allegedly more natural taste from the salt are what likely generate bites. The garlic scent may be more of a feature to hook anglers rather than fish. But, interestingly enough, in its addition to the lure it has become a go-to in my arsenal and a scent cue that screams “summer is here, and it’s time to get casting!”
On a tip from a friend while still in school, my trip up the bass fishing learning curve was aided by these tubes, once readily available in retail in our region but now shrinking to the point they’re only available online. Late this winter while reviewing my stock, I placed my order and 10 pouches arrived in a white USPS box on my snow-covered doorstep. I couldn’t help but rip open the carboard in a rush and crack the seal on a bag, just to relive the feeling of summer I knew the scent within would generate. Instantly the pungent garlic aroma transported me to moments of standing barefoot on the bow of my puddle jumper, rod in hand floating over a calm backwater bay or wading into the warm shallows around a summertime dock at the lake and readying a sidearm cast for the bass that lurked below it.
Our senses tell us so much and transport us to points in our lives, whether outdoors or in. A certain song reminds me of that one summer when fishing was great, Fridays were packed with bonfire fun, and takes me back now from middle age to what it was like to be young. The taste of the right chocolate chip cookies drops me onto the seat cushion of the wooden chairs in grandma’s kitchen as a kid. Even a brief sighting of a flash of a lightsaber on TV, whether in a new streaming series or from one of the older films, puts me on the couch during a blizzard, watching as many Star Wars movies as I could cram into a snow day.
But the scent of garlic always reminds me of summer fishing for smallmouth on my home flow and largemouth on my favorite lake, surrounded by the sights, sounds and of course other pleasant smells, which the season brings. Whether it’s getting ready for this weekend’s fishing trip or working my way through the misery of a long winter, it’s good to know I have an easy way to place myself back where I want to be in memory, in reality, and…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: Garlic-scented tubes trigger in the author memories and excitement for summer outings to come chasing largemouth bass. Simonson Photo.