Beginner’s Guide to SenkosBeginner’s Guide to Senkos This bait has the ability to help you put a lot of bass in the boat no matter what time of year you are fishing.
By M.L. Anderson
For a bait that looks like nothing, a Yamamoto Senko sure does a lot. Many pro fishermen will tell you that a Senko is one of their top money-makers. Senkos come in a variety of sizes and colors, and can be rigged and fished in many ways. Here are some tips to get you started with this fantastic bait. Note that although there are plenty of knock-offs and cheaper versions, only a Yamamoto Senko has that texture and saltiness and jiggle that made it such a famous bait.
WACKY RIG SHALLOW
Wacky rig just means that you stick the hook through the middle of the bait instead of the end. So rather than sticking the hook in, turning it around, and re-inserting it like you would a Texas rig, you just stab the hook through the middle of the bait and leave it exposed, with the tail and head of the Senko dangling. There are several ways to rig a Senko wacky that don’t involve stabbing it through the center – mostly developed in an attempt to make the bait last longer. There are silicone bands like the ones made by G7, which require a special pair of pliers that hold the band open while you slip the bait it. You slip the hook under the band with these, and the Senko doesn’t get a hole in it. There are also rubber O-rings with or without a secondary ring for the hook. These both work better on the shorter Senkos, because with the longer baits the ends sometimes flop over and get caught on the hook.
Most anglers fish a wacky-rigged Senko on spinning gear with braid and a mono or fluorocarbon leader. There are lots of special wacky rig hooks made, but honestly almost any hook will work, although the rounded hooks like drop shot hooks are favored. Just make sure the hook bend is large enough to go through the bait and still have enough out to hook the bass.
To fish a wacky-rigged Senko you simply cast it out to shore and twitch it a bit as it falls. If you reel it back in before it actually hits bottom you’ll get a lot fewer snags. This technique is dynamite in ten feet or less – if you want to go heavier, you can put a nail weight in one end or even both ends to make it get down a little quicker. I’ve known guys who will target very deep fish with a wacky Senko. See it on the graph, and drop down to it. For some reason, in Arizona at least, the bass seem to just love it when the water rises up and floods the cockleburs. You can fish a Senko in those things and catch fish all day long. Of course, you also snag a lot of cockleburs, but it sure is fun.
You don’t have to waste a lot of time in one spot – the action that the wacky-rigged Senko creates will draw fish, so if you don’t get bit, just move on. Once you start shaking the Senko down, you’ll learn what it feels like in a very short time. When it feels solid instead of twitchy, just set gently by tugging the rod to the side while reeling.
Bed fish are often pressured and savvy. Fishermen race to the beds and sit there for long periods of time, trying to temp a fish into biting. If a storm moves in, they’re toast. A Senko fisherman, on the other hand, can just run down the bank and throw onto flats and the backs of coves and never be seen by the fish. You aren’t targeting bedding fish, but you’ll catch some. I’ve never been a huge fan of bed fishing, but I never mind running the banks with a Senko. Just wacky rig it and fish it shallow.
An old friend of mine named Jim Furr got drawn in a tournament with Skeet Reese one spring years ago and Skeet was bed fishing. Furr caught sixteen pounds while Skeet was working on one bed fish. When it was his turn to take the front, he went to the tules and caught a six-, a five-, and a four-pounder while the cameras were rolling. He said they had guys begging them for baits. He was just pitching the Senkos to holes in the tules and letting it sink. The line would feel heavy, and boom – another bass. Jim says he had a limit in 40 minutes every day and he was the only guy in 12 tournaments to make Skeet take the back of the boat. He says Fish Fishbourne was interviewing him on stage and said, “I’m not even gonna ask you what you’re fishing, does it start with an ‘S’”? Seriously, Senkos are that good.
Once you start getting into stuff like submerged or emergent trees and brush, a wacky rig can start to hang up almost constantly. There are weedless wacky rig hooks made, but I find it easier to simply rig the Senko Texas with no weight. Senkos are pretty weighty all by themselves, and using an additional weight changes the action. If you are having a hard time getting it to fall through the branches, try using a nail weight in the end. Pitch or flip the Senko and let it fall. I usually start on the outside of the cover, and if I don’t get bit I move inside. The bite can be a big tug, a little twitch, or simply a heaviness when you try to retrieve the bait. If you do this enough, you’ll get the feel for it. It’s easier to get the lure back if they’re biting on the outside, but they don’t always cooperate. Another way to get a Senko to fall through more easily is to use a Sinkerstopper. These are made to keep sinkers and bobbers in place, but putting one in front of your hook also helps guard the knot and allows the bait to fall a bit better without getting hung up as much.
When bass are deeper, or they are moving from deep to shallow and back, one productive way to fish a Senko is to Carolina rig it. You can wacky rig the Senko or you can rig it Texas and weedless. You need a long stout rod with some give in the tip for slinging the bait out. I like to use braid for Carolina rigging, because often you have a lot of line out and it’s just easier to set the hook with braid. But if you’re fishing clear water you’ll probably want to use a fluorocarbon leader. You’re going to have a leader in any case unless you use a rubber worm to peg a sinker on your line. So slip a nice heavy sinker onto your main line – I usually use a ¾-ounce egg sinker – then a bead to protect the knot from the sinker. They can get some sharp edges around the hole. Then tie on a good swivel. Attach your leader to the other end of the swivel. The rule of thumb is that the slower the bite, the longer the leader. I usually use about a 4-foot leader with a Senko, shorter if the fish are active. If you use tungsten weights with fluorocarbon you can feel things a lot better in deep water.
This is a slow way to fish. Find a nice channel or a ditch in a boat lane – those little cuts are the best and fish feed there, particularly in the fall. Motor around and look for even a small sloping break, then fish the Senko along it lengthwise. Let the weight fall to the bottom, then wait a bit while the bait itself falls. You’ve seen how it falls up shallow, so you know how long it’s going to take. Twitch it a bit – the Senko will dart up from the bottom and then start going back down. It seems to take forever, but it’s a great technique for when the bite is tough. Once you’ve let it fall, jerk the whole rig up about four feet, then let the weight fall again and start all over. Make sure you reel up just enough to keep the line taut. When you go to rip the rig up, if it feels heavy, set the hook hard by swinging your rod quickly to the side while reeling. A fast reel is helpful.
Don’t get too hung up on colors. You should be able to find a Senko that approximates the color of the main baitfish in your area, and that will most likely be your go-to bait. Use a darker one in low light and a lighter one in full sun and for clear water. I really love the laminate ones – my favorite is green pumpkin on one side and white on the other. That way I don’t have to make up my mind. The holo baits are great in clear water as well. Remember that when you are fishing deeper it’s going to be darker down there. The main thing is to pick a color that the fish can see. I honestly have not found a Senko that the fish won’t bite.
One last tip: never buy just a single bag of Senkos. They get torn up and you’ll go through a bag fairly quickly. Try a Wormizer or a ProWeld Wormizer if you want to make them last longer. You can get these at Iovino.com and they literally weld your plastics back together. It takes time, but you can recoup the initial investment fairly quickly. The Wormizer is around $30 and the ProWeld Wormizer is $60. That buddy of mine I mentioned before – Jim Furr? He said when he had the front of the boat, he’d throw his broken Senkos on the floor of the boat and his non-boater welded them together with a Wormizer and caught limits on them every day.
Because it looks so simple, you might be fooled into thinking that you have to be some kind of artist with a lure to make a Senko work for you. But looks are deceiving. This bait has tons of action all on its own, and the ability to help you put a lot of bass in the boat no matter what time of year you are fishing. You owe it to yourself to get a few bags and start throwing them. All you have to do it let it fall.
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