By Don Iovino
Several years ago I wrote an article about a new bait - the Senko by Gary Yamamoto. And, I have to be honest, when I first saw the bait I thought it was a "used" cigar. I was entirely unimpressed with how it looked. But, the tune began to change the moment I started to fish it. Now, years later, this bait has won a lot of tournament money, and it's definitely a "hot" bait. But, it's amazing how few people around the country really understand or even use this incredible bait. They may have read about it but have no practical knowledge about the bait.
The Senko is probably the easiest bait in the world to fish. In the springtime, throwing it into the tulles or any typed of cover, this bait is always effective, and absolutely deadly. A Senko is generally fished weightless on 5/0 hooks, and a slack line.
On the Columbia River last fall, some of the guys fished Senkos in the mouth of the Yakima River; they used a cinnamon-blue/pepper combination and consistently produced big stringers all three days. Though this bait is effective in the fall, Senkos are most popular in the spring of the year. Just fish it in and around the same structure you'd fish a jig or a jerkbait. Because it's fished weightless and weedless, it can be pitched to even the most difficult areas with ease. In a tournament on the Delta I hammered fish in less than 2 feet of water. The 5-inch version is my personal choice.
The rod used when fishing Senkos should have a medium to medium/heavy tip. You don't want to have a real stiff tip, but you have to be able to set the hook. The rod length should be around 6 feet. I like this length because Senkos are fished with a slack line. If you feel more comfortable with a longer rod, that's fine too.
The line size should be between 12- and 17-pound test. I don't like the real heavy lines. I prefer monofilament to fluorocarbon for this application because the fluorocarbon makes the Senko sink too quickly. There are a lot of great lines out there to use. I also prefer a greenish tint to the line.
A 5/0 hook seems to b the best for fishing these baits. They provide some weight, and allow for good hook penetration on the hookset.
Yamamoto makes almost every color in the universe, but I find watermelon/pepper to be a great catch-them-any- where color.
You can cover a lot of water while throwing Senkos. Many people believe there is some special way you give action to the bait; that you have to fish it very slowly. I don't think that's so. Just throw the bait out, let it sink to the bottom, give it a shake or two, reel it in and make another cast. It's that simple. The motion of the bait as it falls back and forth, is like a Jitter Bug. Bass can't seem to resist that action. The bites will come on the fall, and because Senkos are full of salt, once a fish eats the bait, it won't let go.
I have enough confidence in Senkos that on Clear Lake last year, when I showed up to fish the last day of the tournament with fellow western pro, Dub La Shot, I carried only one rod, three packs of Senkos, a pack of hooks, an apple and a pepsi; we did real well that day.
Many people have asked what forage a Senko imitates? I have no clue. All I know is that they eat it. Because it's a soft bait, when the fish hit, it will be either a tick, or you'll feel pressure. It's amazing how they'll hold on to this bait. When you feel something, set the hook!
Don't get too hung up over all the colors available. I'm sure there are local colors that will perform better than others, but I've always taught to not go crazy with color. Stick to the basics and don't get confused. I gave you the best color I've found - watermelon/pepper. Other than that, black is fine, and in really off-colored water, perhaps chartreuse.
So, if you get a chance, grab yourself a bag of Senkos and go fishing this spring. You'll be glad you did!
Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine