Senko, I Love You!
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
Have you ever noticed that very often the best looking baits, you know things like swimbaits and crankbaits with fancy paint jobs and seductive actions rarely catch bass, while simple ugly lures that seem to have little action at all catch fish consistently?
I’ve seen this scenario played out time and time again and this brings us to Gary Yamamoto’s Senko. If there is a more unlikely looking bass catcher than the Senko, I don’t know what it is, but catch bass it does! Big bass, small bass, largemouths, smallmouths and spots…the ungainly cigar shaped Senko will put them all in the boat, often at times when virtually nothing else is working.
Over my 30 plus years on the water I’ve seen dozen if not hundreds of new “must have” baits storm onto the fishing scene. Some of these baits lived up to the hype and have become staples, but most of them don’t and are quickly relegated to the dusty garage shelf of history.
With this in mind, and having purchased a set of “Flying Lures” while watching late night TV way back when, I was extremely skeptical about all the fantastic claims that accompanied the arrival of the Senko. I figured they were just another plastic worm, no better or worse than the rest and hardly worth the high price that they demanded. Still stinging from my “Flying Lure” experience, I stubbornly refused to give Senkos a try for a long time.
Don Paganelli of Paganelli’s Bass Fishing Experience was the person that formally introduced me to the virtues of Yamamoto’s portly piece of plastic. Don is a great bass angler and a great instructor. It didn’t take me long to notice that when the going gets tough, Don reaches for a Senko and seldom fails to catch bass. Clearly Senkos did catch fish and if Don was willing to lay out twice as much cash for Senkos as he’d pay for any number of other soft plastics that was all I needed to know!
Don most often fishes his Senkos wacky style, but he doesn’t leave the hook point exposed like many anglers do. He employs a sort of modified Texas rig, dubbed the “Pag Rig” by the Fish Sniffer’s Sheldon Bright.
I can never remember exactly how Don hooks his Senko’s, but I came up with a similar method of my own and immediately started catching fish. Certainly I catch fish using a lot of different lures, but what quickly became apparent about Senkos was that I was catching fish on them that I couldn’t catching using other baits, as a result Senkos quickly moved to the top of my list of go to baits.
Okay, I’ve droned on enough. Let’s take a look at how the Senko can help you catch more bass. I’m far from a Senko fishing expert, in fact I don’t think all the possible ways of fishing Senkos have been explored, but I’ll share my approaches to Senko fishing and if you’ve never tried these fantastic baits my experience will establish a starting point for you and something to build on.
Before we get into rigs and technique we need to first consider both the bass and the Senko. For bass and other gamefish, there is nothing as attractive as a forage item that is nearly dead. Ocean salmon provide a great example of what I’m talking about. One of the most effective ways to tempt ocean kings feeding on schools of anchovies is to mooch a dead anchovy right under a ball of live anchovies.
Now you’d think that you’d do well by “matching the hatch” and fishing a live bait, but that isn’t the case. The salmon mistake your frozen long dead anchovy for a nearly dead or freshly killed bait that can’t escape and they’ll gobble it up with enthusiasm.
Black bass are the same way. They will chase healthy baitfish and crawfish when they are actively feeding, but anytime they come across a dying baitfish or crawfish that they know they can catch with little effort, it’s game on.
Senkos are heavy and bulky. They sink and glide with a lethargic defenseless action that closely mimics a prey item that is in trouble. When bass see a Senko it looks like a substantial meal that can’t easily escape and once the bass suck it in they won’t spit it out because of the Senkos natural feel and salty flavor.
There are a number of ways to fish Senkos with and without added weight. Weightless applications are my favorite and among the most effective, so that’s where I’ll begin.
In reservoirs, wacky rigged Senkos in the 4 to 5 inch size range work very well. For most reservoir fishing I like to fish my wacky rigged Senkos on a fast action spinning rod spooled with 8 pound fluorocarbon line. To the end of the line I attach a light wire No. 2 Owner Mosquito hook. At this point you can simply pin the hook through the middle of the Senko and fish the bait with an exposed hook point or you can do as I do and make the bait weedless by drawing the hook upward and lightly insert the hook point in the side of the bait.
With the Senko on the hook it’s time to present the bait. All you want to do is cast the Senko into a likely looking area and allow it to sink on a semi slack line. Follow the progress of the bait as it drops to the bottom. If the line stops prematurely or twitches a fish has likely taken the bait. React by gently raising the rod tip, if you feel resistance, reel down and sweep the hook home.
Most of the strikes will occur on the initial drop. If the bait reaches the bottom without being hit, you’ve got options. You can reel it in immediately and cast to another spot or you can work the bait a bit. To work the bait you’ll want to sweep it off the bottom and then let it fall again. At that point let the bait rest on the bottom for several seconds. If that fails to tempt a strike reel the bait toward you several feet, stop reeling and let it fall. If no strikes occur at that point it’s time to reel in and start over.
Dead dropping a wacky rigged Senko works great for bass that are cruising or relating to structure. While you can effectively work a wacky rigged Senko along the bottom, the wacky rig is at its best when used with a vertical deadstick presentation. If you want to cover more ground and work the bottom more effectively a weightless Texas rigged Senko does a better job.
A Senko is Texas rigged just like any other plastic worm, with one important difference. Rather than imbedding the point of the worm hook in the Senko’s body, rig it such that the hook point passes completely through the bait, riding along the top of the Senko. At that point lightly pin the hook point into the Senko’s back to render the bait weedless and you’re ready to fish.
To fish your Texas rigged Senko cast it into an area you believe holds bass and let it sink all the way to the bottom. After allowing the bait to lie still for several seconds it’s time to start working it. Rather than dragging it like you’d work a traditional worm, twitch the bait and then allow it to rest. This will cause the bait to surge forward erratically, before settling back to the bottom. Most of the time the strike will occur as the bait settles or sits on the bottom.
You’ll want to experiment with the twitch to determine what the bass want. Sometimes they only want the bait to move forward a foot or so. At other times they respond better to a bait that surges forward several feet. The most important factor is to make sure that the bait doesn’t move steadily. It’s the movement combined with periods of inactivity that prompts the bass to hit.
So far we’ve discussed a couple of basic weightless presentations. Most anglers prefer to fish Senkos without additional weight, but the fact is they work well when teamed with weight. In general you can fish Senkos in the same ways as you fish any other plastic worm. They’ll catch bass when pinned on a dropshot rig, Carolina Rig or when rigged in traditional Texas rig style with a bullet weight riding flush against the bait’s nose. Since Senkos cost more than traditional worms, I prefer to give my wallet a break and use traditional worms for these traditional weighed approaches.
When I team a Senko with weight I nearly always employ a jig head ranging from 1/8 to 3/8 of an ounce. Now you are probably visualizing a Senko pinned on a jig head in a traditional manner, but that isn’t the way I do it. Instead I wacky rig the bait on the jig with an exposed hook point. I utilize Senkos rigged like this to reach fish residing in water that is 20 or more feet deep. I fish it just like I’d fish a weightless wacky rigged Senko, but the weight helps to get the bait into the strike zone quicker. Since the weight makes the bait fall faster it’s ends wiggle fairly vigorously against the resistance of the water putting out a good deal of vibration.
In closing, I should discuss color selection since Senkos are available in a wide range of solid and compound colors. Since Senkos are fairly pricey, I tend to use a limited color range. My favorites are watermelon, pumpkinseed and pearl. These colors have proven to be effective in most situations and I have a lot of confidence in them. The important thing for you to do is to experiment and come up with a few colors that work for you. Confidence means a lot.
As long as we are on the subject of experimenting, I think that’s the one thing every angler interested in fishing Senkos should do. The Senko is such a versatile bait with a unique action. Go to a swimming pool or a lake that features exceptionally clear water and simply experiment. Vary the ways you hook the bait, try teaming Senkos with weights and jig heads, observe what the bait does when you manipulate it with various movements of the rod.
I firmly believe Senkos are to bass fishing as Power Bait is to the trout angler. Senkos are one of those game changing baits, that have the capacity to out fish most other offerings most of the time. Thus far anglers have only scratched the surface when it comes rigging and fishing them. Experiment and you might be the angler that comes up with a whole new technique.