Captain Dencil Powell is a familiar figure on Florida’s west coast. For decades, he’s plied the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico in search of redfish, snook, tarpon and every sport fish in between.
After a boating accident on Toledo Bend derailed his nine year run on the pro bass fishing circuit, it was the Gulf that Powell turned to for a living, guiding travelers away from the beaches and into the waiting schools of fish out at sea.
For decades, Powell has made a living from the water. And for decades, he says he’s never endorsed a product.
Powell’s base in Brooksville, Florida puts him in a prime position. He’s an hour north of Tampa with quick access to Hernando Beach and Bayport Landing—fertile fishing grounds for charters brimming with live bait and terminal tackle. But Powell’s approach to offshore fishing is different. He is one of the few area guides to shun live bait in favor of plastics. It’s a practice that saves him time, he says, but without the natural scent of live shrimp and fish, he’s always looking for a competitive edge, for a way to level the playing field.
And his search has taken product testing to an extreme.
In a very reel way, Powell has refined the process down to a science. He’s constructed a 40-foot long, 3 foot deep testing tank in his garage; the tank is fully equipped with buoys and pulleys to provide constants in his lure tests.
“I can put certain baits or scents or anything in there, and I can actually pull them across at speed to see how the lures run or how quickly the scents dissipate,” he says. It’s in large part because of this dedication to his craft that people in Florida trust Powell when it comes to fishing. “I get stuff sent to me all the time…spinnerbaits, crankbaits, scents. If they don’t run I box them up and send them back.”
At 56 years of age, Powell has seen almost every trick in the book. But now, he says, he’s got a new trick up his sleeve—a trick that’s finally given him a level playing field with his live-bait brethren.
New fish attractants are a dime a dozen, so when Rage Fish Attractants sent FTR a batch of their new Liquid Mayhem, claiming it to be a revolution in scents, we were skeptical. Rage promised an all natural, long-lasting solution to the oily mess that usually accompanies bait scents. It promised to catch more fish. “Okay,” we said, “it’s worth a shot.”
The packaging was nice—clean and simple white tubes filled with a product more like a gel than a liquid. It came in an easy-to-digest three flavors: crawfish for bass, garlic minnow for walleye, and panfish for muskie and pike. Each flavor is all-natural and safe for the environment, and according to the packaging, made from real, fresh bait. That’s simple enough. Still, packaging only gets you so far. Before we could put any ink together on Rage Fish, we had to know if it actually worked.
But the problem with testing new fishing products is this: everybody’s product claims to help you catch more fish, and as we all know, fishing is still not an exact science. Despite all of the marine electronics, advanced carbon rods, high-test line and even electronic lures, fishing is still a hunting game. It’s almost always a waiting game. And sometimes, when the wait ends, it’s hard to tell why.
Liquid Mayhem indeed lived up to its billing throughout a month of FTR field tests. The largemouth bass surrounding our Southeastern offices fell victim time and time again to soft plastics tossed into their fold by our senior field correspondent Joe Sills, Sr. “Yep, I caught ’em again,” he would exclaim.
However, it’s well-known around FTR that handing baits over to Senior is sort of like handing an unlabeled can of vegetables over to Popeye. He can tell you whether it works or not. He will let you know if that can is filled with spinach. But if it is, he can’t tell you the exact science behind it. After a month of testing, we were sure that Liquid Mayhem was indeed some form of metaphorical fish spinach, but to discover the science, we needed Captain Dencil Powell.
To truly validate Liquid Mayhem, we contacted Powell, who—in full disclosure—had been fishing with the product since Spring. He was one of the first American guides to independently test the new product from Ontario.
Powell was an unpaid analyst and an expert. He had already put Liquid Mayhem through the ringer.
That ringer included the 40 foot tank. It also included dozens of guided trips and a bizarre fishing contest in which the old salty dog challenged three other guides using only a bare hook coated with Liquid Mayhem. It’s safe to say the product didn’t come back to Canada in a box.
“We put it on pulleys and ran it through the water just like continuous casts,” said Powell. “We tried all the products. Most went 15-17 casts. Liquid Mayhem stayed around 21-22. Everybody says their product goes 30 casts, but that varies with water conditions. We tested it three times and each time it came up with the same amount of scent still on it. It really sticks.”
It sticks, that’s for sure. Liquid Mayhem’s founders say that’s because the scent is not primarily oil-based, like most attractants on the market. And Powell’s statement ran hand-in-hand with our own field tests. But the friendly Captain from the Gulf discovered something in saltwater that Joe, Sr. might have never found in Tennessee. “I never really was big on scents,” he said. “But fish hold on longer. For an attractant to do that, that’s a big deal. Most of my clients can barely cast and they don’t know how to work lures, so this really gives them an extra positive note, because even though they don’t know what they are doing, a fish will grab it and hold on.”
Powell books anywhere from 15 to 25 charters per month, and he estimates that his catch has gone up just over 20% from his pre-Liquid Mayhem days. Though the product only comes in three flavors, Powell says he uses them for everything. “The bass Mayhem I use for speckled trout, redfish and grouper. The walleye scent for all three.” He’s also big on the tube—it’s a big change from messy attractants that leave an oil slick on your hand.
Powell has been on the water for 56 years. And despite his new fascination with Liquid Mayhem, he’s still not on the company’s payroll. In 56 years, he may not have endorsed a product, but “Now,” he says, “I never leave the dock without it.”