Keys to Your Senko Fishing Success
Hi, it's Russ Bassdozer here. I hope you will
enjoy reading this useful online handbook about Senko fishing. In
it you will learn some of the most advanced techniques to fish
for bass with soft plastic Senkos. Here's a quick review of what
you will find in each chapter:
Discusses the dramatic impact that Senkos have made on those who
Teaches you the seven weightless ways to create a successful
Reveals how, by adding a little weight (in a way that still
preserves the Senko's action), you can expand your Senko
presentations beyond weightlessness.
Talks about how Senkos have eliminated a major mind-boggler -
size, color and lure selection decisions - by using Senkos.
Contains a dramatic style of imagery. It's a break from our usual
how-to technique chapters, and I hope you find it enjoyable.
Don't think slight of the Texas Twist tactic however. It is
something you'll want to experiment with. Why? Because it works.
Learn how to make a simpler swimming worm rig for rolling Senkos
in the wind.
Chapters Seven and
Eight Focus on the Senko Shiner color and two top
techniques for July and August. - Russ Bassdozer
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
The Senko Edge
How Long Can It Last?
We have some sad news about an epidemic sweeping
the nation. Unfortunately, there is no cure nor does anyone know
how long this epidemic will last.
HELLO! My name is Bassdozer. I am a Senko-holic!
And I am not alone. There are thousands more like me. Witness
"At first I just thought they were pricey
Yamamoto baits. I had heard good things about them and saw some
good fish taken by a guide on Lake Fork last year. Still, I
continued to hold out with my confidence brand of plastic. That
is, until I broke down and bought myself some 222 Senkos for my
own birthday. The next weekend, we had caught a big nothing, and
a nasty storm was fast approaching. I thought, "Well, it
can't get any worse," so I took off my rigged lizard, and
began randomly tossing an unweighted 222 Senko. On the fourth
pitch, I caught one right after a jig had just been tossed to the
same place. Fishing our way quickly back to the marina, I caught
several more fish while my partner still blanked. Because of the
approaching storm, I had to wait until next time to try the
Senkos again, this time in some of the clearer lakes around here.
Sure enough, they worked well!
After running out of Senkos, I have decided to
subscribe in order to take advantage of the great magazine you
print, and the fact that I get $30 more in free Yamamoto plastics
when I subscribe! I'm hooked. Now I
wonder how I ever went without Yamamoto baits this long?"
- Chris Moore, Paris, Arkansas
Doctors have even coined a term for this
affliction. They call it "Hook and Senko Disease."
There is no known cure. Once you come down with it, you are
doomed to a lifetime of battling bass on Senkos. During 2000,
fishermen afflicted with Senkos won numerous regional, state and
local tournaments across the West and Northeast. Senko madness
has spread further during 2001, affecting tournament and
recreational anglers in the Southeast and Upper Midwest too. At
the moment, it has become a raging plague across North America.
This is no magic bait, but the catches being made
on Senkos are a bit unreal! Even a new world record spotted bass
has been caught on a Senko lately! Not to mention loads of big
largemouth, like the 14 lb. beauty caught in the photo by Don
"On May 1, 2001, I was fishing my local
lake, Kaweah. I pulled into a cove, and threw out a 5"
watermelon Senko. First cast, I caught a 3 lb. bass. Next cast, I
hooked up to a 14 lb. bass and landed it. I couldn't have
caught it without that Senko. A few days prior to this I
caught a 7 lb., 5.5 lb., and 4lb. bass. A
few friends laughed at me when they first saw my Senko. Now they
can't buy enough of them." - Don Nunez, Visalia,
long can it possibly last? Many new lures often gain the
spotlight, become a national or regional fad for a year or
two...then fizzle. Every veteran bass angler has seen it happen
over and over again - the "hot honeymoon period" that
cools off as last year's scorchers become next year's curdled
After you've seen enough of this "boom and
bust" phenomena, you will even expect it to happen. We come
to expect "new" new lures as soon as the
"old" new ones cool down - and manufacturers provide
them. I don't think anything Machevelian is going on here on the
manufacturer's part, just the way the world turns, and it makes
everybody happy, especially us as anglers who are always looking
The "Edge." The Senko is
"IT" right now - no lie. It is "THE
EDGE" we are always looking for - no explanation required.
Not all the time, every day, but if you are not using it now, you
are losing out. I already said there is no magic bait, and I am
not going to repeat myself, but the catches being made on Senkos
are unreal...at the moment. How long will it last? Who cares! It
is happening right now, this very moment, and it may not last
forever because of...
First factor: Imprinting. In order to
survive, all critters reject food that is unpleasant to them.
Birds taste the first Monarch butterfly they ever see and the
unpleasant taste experience imprints so heavily that they'll
never attempt to nip another Monarch again as long as they live -
or other butterflies that impersonate Monarchs in appearance. So
we know this goes on with birds. Now a bass bites your lure and
you pull it in. It's no picnic for the bass - an unpleasant
imprint is registered, and you and your lure are part of it. Bass
won't nip another one - or any other lure that has the
identifiable sight or sound of your lure. Some people say that a
simple lure like a smooth, round straight tail plastic worm has
no identifying mark to leave an imprint. I don't agree. I've seen
bass that have imprinted against my non-descript worms - either
against the shape or color of them.
Don't believe me? I didn't think you
would, so let me tell you about this lab test I heard of where
bass that had never seen a live crayfish before would NOT eat
live crayfish again after one bad encounter...and avoided eating
crayfish in the tank right up to the brink of death by
Second factor: Reinforcement. Now, that's
lab bass. The difference with wild bass is that a fish that's
been eating crayfish all its natural life will probably not stop
eating them after an encounter with one on the end of someone's
hook. That's called "reinforcement" and it's the
opposite of imprinting. Every time a bass eats a crayfish or
shad, it reinforces that crayfish and shad are good to eat. So,
now a lure comes along that triggers the impression of a crayfish
or shad...that's good too!
Third factor: Life-like illusion. A tube
bait is a good example here. The Garland Gitzit was invented
20-30 years ago, and has been readily accepted by bass ever
since. It faded in and out of the average anglers attention, but
became mainstream about 3 years ago thanks to Denny Brauer
popularizing it. Yes, I've seen bass imprint against it, but it's
a tough one because a tube bait has such an amazing life-like
illusion when used properly. Used properly, a tube has always
caught and always will! What we call a fiberguard jig 'n pig is
in the same class of "immortal" baits. Pitch or flip it
properly, and something about it gets bit by bass time and again.
So, it's tough for a bass to imprint against a lure that presents
an illusion like everything it's always eaten all its life. Does
the Senko present this illusion? Does it truly imitate life in
the hands of the master puppeteers who pull it's string? Or is it
that the Senko just hasn't made enough negative imprints on the
general population yet? We must wait and see.
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
The Seven Weightless Ways
The seven modules below are discrete building
blocks. On any given day or season, I'll string together any one
or all of these building blocks to create a successful weightless
Senko presentation. You can too.
WAY ONE: THE SPLASH
Make no mistake, an attractive, life-like splash
is as important as anything else you do. The initial splash is an
essential part of the presentation. I have often had fish swim
away and leave my bait as I tried to entice them to hit it,
because my partner cast and splashed his bait 15 feet away,
behind the fish. Apparently, an enticing splash is often of more
interest to a bass than a bait in its face!
Understand this, a bass will come over to
investigate a splash, sight unseen. Also understand there is
nothing more the bass would like to do when he gets there than to
bite your bait as soon as he sees it. I call this phenomena
"love at first sight" and it is purely instinctive.
Upon getting near enough to eyeball the bait closely however,
many bass will turn away from it, and slink back down to the
bottom. This is an indication that something was rejected by the
bass. If bass come up but turn away, change color or size of your
Senko. Change hook weight or line weight. What you want is to get
them to come up on the splash and quickly engulf it or at least
keep from turning away and losing interest in the bait as it
WAY TWO: THE DROP
Ever drop a live earthworm in the water? A worm
rolls in slow motion and both tips squiggle as it half-swims,
half-glides down to the bottom. The worm tries to maintain a
semi-controlled fall and keep some sort of horizontal
equilibrium. A weightless Senko does just that. It swims and
glides to bottom with the body rocking and both tips twitching.
It controls its fall like an earthworm maintaining a horizontal
equilibrium. The Senko maintains this control over itself whether
it is nose-rigged, Texas-rigged or wacky-rigged.
Crayfish do this too. They free-fall to bottom by
spreading their legs out like a parachute to slow their fall and
maintain equilibrium. Injured baitfish also try to maintain some
degree of controlled fall and horizontal equilibrium as they
drift haplessly to bottom.
A weightless Senkos imitate all this, the
parachute-like glide, the horizontal controlled fall, and many
fish hit it on the drop. They rush up and smack it before the
bait reaches protection of the bottom. To most people, this is
the heart and soul of Senko fishing - the drop. If you don't do
anything else discussed in this chapter (the splash, the tip, the
twitch, etc.), concentrate on the drop.
No weight is used, so your hook and your line are
the only variables that affect how much action the Senko has as
it swims and glides on the drop. Experiment with different hooks
(sizes, weights and models), different lines and line weights.
Try it nose-hooked (through the nose like a live minnow),
Texas-rigged ("texposed"), and wacky-rigged exactly in
the middle. Take time out to do this in a pool. Learn what makes
a Senko tick. You cannot easily learn this while out trying to
catch fish at the same time. So take the time off to learn all
the ins and outs of the bait's movements in a pool. You will have
far more confidence and much better Senko presentation skills.
You will know how to work it and how the bait reacts even when
you cannot see it in dingy water. You will catch more fish
because you took time out from fishing!
WAY THREE: THE TWITCH
Many anglers say you should NOT twitch your
Senkos. I think the mistake many anglers make is in the
definition of what's a "twitch". It's not a Herculean
jerk you know! Think of what we mean by a "twitchy trigger
finger" or when we say somebody twitches their nose. In
either of those examples, a "twitch" is a small, hardly
noticeable movement. Twitching Senkos does not need to be much
more than that either.
Make no mistake, a flinching, flickering Senko is
OFTEN highly-desirable to fish. I've often had bass lose interest
in an unadultered drop with the Senko. This happens more in hot
water than cold. At times, fish would watch it and follow it down
for a few seconds as it dropped, then lose interest and swim
away. But twitch it a bit, and those disinterested departing fish
make a beeline straight back to the Senko! If they start swimming
away again, twitch it...they're back again!
In clear water, twitching is easier to pattern
than in dingy or dark water. In clear water, you can observe what
the fish do, how they respond, and adjust the twitch accordingly.
You need to uncover whatever kind of twitching action works
according to what the fish want to hit on any given day.
The visual feedback you get in clear water WORKS
WONDERS for unlocking a twitching pattern. You can also figure
out the twitch pattern in dingy or dirty water, but it is best to
study the nuances of what the fish want in clear water. Then
replicate that when you fish a dingy lake. This works because
there's usually a seasonal aspect to twitching, rather than a
clear vs. dingy distinction.
Personally, I would practice learning all the ins
and outs of the bait's twitch movements in that pool again (which
seems to be a common theme running through this chapter). Then
you will know how to twitch it, and how the bait reacts to a
twitch, even when you cannot see it.
WAY FOUR: THE TIP
Most people tip waiters or waitresses (if the
service is good). I've heard that country boys tip cows, and they
may have heard that city slickers tip taxi drivers. I also tip
The reason I tip them is that sometimes for some
unknown reason (line drag or it just starts to fall wrong), the
wriggly double tip-swimming action of a Senko does not get
started on the drop. In clear water, I can see the action's not
started. In dingy water, I'll just tip them when the rod and line
are in a good position to do it.
How I tip them is to sort of roll the rod under
and up in an effort to toss a loop down the line above the
surface. This does not move the Senko forward at all, but causes
it to merely raise its head where the line is tied to it,
effectively standing on its tail. When the tip is done, the Senko
will then shoot backwards like an arrow tail-first, swing forward
and backward like a pendulum a few times, then regain its
equilibrium and exhibit strong tip-swimming action.
Yes, you can maneuver the Senko in under
submerged tree branches, into a rock cut or weed edge like this.
So, the tip can get the Senko a bit back into a hidey-hole, rock
it, then exhibit strong tip-swimming action (just what the bass
doctor ordered). Once you learn how to do it properly (in the
pool again), you'll find situations to tip your Senkos all the
WAY FIVE: THE BOTTOM
You may have attracted a fish with the splash. A
fish may have eyeballed the Senko greedily, rushed it and turned
away on the drop, its heart may have jumped when you twitched it
or tipped it to stimulate better swimming action. You would have
hoped a fish would rush up and smack it before it hits bottom,
and often that's true. Many fish do hit Senkos on the drop, and
there's even a theory that fish should prefer to do that before a
descending bait reaches protection of the bottom.
However, the bottom itself is often the place
where everything comes together! If a fish had been eyeballing
the Senko as it dropped, just let your Senko settle on bottom and
don't move it. Unlike weighted rigs or jigs, the weightless
Senko's horizontal posture and long, stiff body keep it from
delving deeply into weeds or snags. There's no such thing as
leaving it lay motionless too long. The fish knows the Senko is
there and will come over and inhale it...sooner or later. A bass
cannot stand this temptation. However, if the fish eventually
turns away from the Senko, guess what? Twitch it! The fish will
be right back.
Can't see the fish because it's hidden in cover
or the water's dingy? Doesn't matter. Let it lay there for the
longest, then shake the rod tip sideways to make the bait quiver
without moving forward...then let it lay there for the longest
again. Often fish will just sit motionless and watch the Senko in
front of them on the bottom for a long time before inhaling it
WAY SIX: THE LIFT
Next, you may want to work the Senko out over the
bottom. Simply raise your rod tip slowly, pause and lower it
slowly. The Senko will tip up towards you and rise off bottom as
you raise the rod. This is like raising a flag so the bass can
see it. On the horizontal drop they eat it. Then simply hold it
to help the Senko regain horizontal equilibrium and tip-swims
back down to bottom as you follow it down with the rod tip. On
the horizontal drop they eat it. A semi-slack line is always
required whenever the Senko drops. Pause for a pick-up (no such
thing as too long) when you make bottom contact again, and repeat
raising and lowering the rod until you're ready to reel in to
make your next cast.
WAY SEVEN: THE RETRIEVE
Now, those were the slow parts of the
presentation - the splash, the drop, the bottom, etc. If there
have been no takers, next reel in the Senko at a pace that draws
fish up to follow it. This could be slow or moderate pace in cold
water, but more often it's semi-fast reeling with sporadic
twitches in hot water, and always a few long pauses to let the
bait glide or drop back down deeper along the way!
Fish will usually come up to follow the bait as
it's reeled in, then break off the chase and sink deeper when you
pause it. There are two reliable ways to trigger bites (both
First, either twitch it when the fish is behind
it during the reeling phase. Second, let it fall to a depth
somewhat deeper, and twitch it a few times before it fades into
the murkiness. A following fish will often lurk below, stalking
it on the fall, and the twitching triggers the reaction bite.
Keep in mind, twitching Senkos does not need to be much more than
that of a rabbit's nose.
That's all there is to it. Those are your seven
ways to weightless Senko success!
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
(Dare to Weigh in to a Brave New World)
Guys often tell me, "They're not hitting
Senkos right now, but I'm banging them on tube jigs or hula
jigs" or some other kind of deeper diver. I often reply,
"Hey, that's probably not the Senko's fault!"
By adding a little weight (in a way that still
preserves the bait's action), Senkos can get down to the depths
where the fish are! This is especially timely advice for
post-spawn and beyond when many bass are vacating the shallow
nursery grounds and slipping deeper into mid-depth summer haunts.
Anyone who has ever tried it has
proven it to your own self. You don't need me to tell you that
the deceptively simple-looking Senko works well weightless.
It's a simple process.
Crack open a bag. Slip a glistening fresh one on the hook. Now
you're good to go! No fancy rig to tie. No weight or sinker is
required on the line. You see, the density of the plastic
formulation for a 5" inch Senko makes it weigh 3/8 oz. right
out of the bag. It's pre-weighted, so to speak. So, the Senko is
heavy enough to sink all by itself.
At the same time the
plastic formulation is as soft as it is heavy. So, the Senko is
soft enough to create it's own life-like action as it shimmies
and side-shifts on the drop. This action and movement is made
without the angler needing to impart any action, without any
unnatural appendages, without curly tails, without plastic lips,
without diving bills, without metal blades or propellers, without
frilly skirts, rubber legs or chicken feathers. What you see is
what you get - a Senko is simply a perfect natural slender
baitfish profile tapered at the head and tail.
What could be easier?
Simply, let the density of your Senko make it sink on a slightly
slack line. Let the softness of the plastic make your Senko
side-shift and quiver. Then let it lay on the bottom for what
seems like forever until a bass ambles over, procrastinates a
bit, then chomps it up. What could be easier? Living is good, and
catching is fun-tastic with weightless Senkos!
I'm interrupting this program. Excuse
me but I'm going to have to bust up this "beautiful day in
the neighborhood" syndrome that's been happening with
Senkos. You see, if Mr. Rogers himself was fishing shallow water
less than ten feet deep on a calm windless morning, then it's a
beautiful day to use weightless Senkos. But if you've got any
kind of a cross-wind, a cross-current, or water deeper than you
can stand up in....
Welcome to the real world of
bass fishing where you'll need some fries with that
burger, and you will need a weight with those Senkos at times!
JoBee Pro Hook. The JoBee is a
new Texas jig hook style that's been catching lots of bass this
year. Made by J&J Lures (www.jandjlures.com),
the 1/8 and 3/16 oz. sizes of the JoBee preserve much of the
body-rolling and tail-waggling motion of a 5" or 6"
Senko. The JoBee has a custom-designed variant of the Gamakatsu
EWG hook molded in it. That's one of the best hook styles ever
made for Senkos! With the 5" inch Senko, I favor the action
it gets from the 2/0 hook and the 4/0 version of the JoBee for
the 6" inch Senko.
Charlie Brewer Snagless Slider Head.
The Snagless Slider is one of the very earliest styles of Texas
jig heads. With a thin light wire hook, I prefer the 1/16 and 1/8
oz. versions with the 4" inch Senko, light line and light
tackle. It's suited for river and stream smallies, but works well
in still water anywhere 4" inch Senkos, light lines and bass
get together. I like to use flits and darts, then just kill it
for long pauses (which is when you'll get bit), but a dead drift
works too, as does slow 'n steady reeling! With finger pressure,
I bend the mid-shank of the hook up to put more of a wide gap in
it, to dip the point down a bit to allow me to tex-skin the hook
on top, thereby making it weedless and snagless, also planning
the lead plate up a bit too!
Texas Twist. I've written an
entire chapter about this technique, but it deserves a special
mention now as well. This method of rigging gives Senkos a
rolling, lively twisting motion reminiscent of what's
known to a few old-timers as a "swimming worm" rig.
It's a beauty to throw Senkos any time on 1/8 or 3/16 oz. bullet
sinkers, depending on depth, wind and current. Need a hot tip for
fishing strong winds? Find some wind-blown points. Increase the
sinker weight to 1/4 or 3/8 (as much as required to mitigate line
belly) and swim some brightly-colored Senkos (169, 229, etc.)
high up across wind-swept points at the same speed as a
spinnerbait. My, how you'll slam them!
Florida Rig. Also keep in mind
that Gary Yamamoto himself used a Florida-rigged Senko with 3/16
to 1/4 oz. screw-in weights to fish Senkos down to 20 feet deep,
thereby taking 13th place in the Bassmaster MegaBucks tournament
two weeks ago on Douglas Lake in Sevierville, TN. In so
doing, Gary scored enough cumulative points for the Top 150
tournament season to earn his spot as one of the world's best
bass anglers competing in the Bassmaster Classic competition on
August 2-4 in New Orleans. Weighted Senkos work!
Wacky Pendulum Jig. Can't say I
have ever seen anyone else do this, but watch what happens when
you wacky rig a 5" Senko with our 1/16 or 1/8 oz. series 42
round head jig. The jig head gets a wacky-rigged 5" Senko
down to bass suspended deep in mid-water - or on deep water
structure. With light line, you'll see the round jig head
oscillating back and forth underneath the Senko like a pendulum
on an old-fashioned grandfather clock. The two tips of the Senko
scull back and forth like a hard-training member of an Olympic
rowing team! A pointer from Top 150 pro and Gary's partner, Ben
Matsubu, is to pinch and scruff up the very tips of your Senko to
give them a slightly different color tone than the rest of the
body. Bass like that! You'll get more bites. You can also dip the
tips in a soft plastic bait dye as shown in the photo.
5) Mojo Rig, Carolina
Rig, Splitshot or Dropshot. All these methods add
weight 12" inches or more away from the hook, thereby
preserving some of the weightless action of a Senko. Check out
how to rig Senkos these ways in my handbook, Keys
to Your Soft Plastic Fishing Success.
Add a weight and
enter a brave new world of Senko fishing beyond weightlessness.
As fish go down to depths beyond the shoreline nesting grounds,
send a weighted Senko in after them. Whatever happens, trust the
bait. Remember, the key to a truly great bait is its versatility.
The Senko will not fail you with or without a weight. Just weight
it right - which almost always means to use the lightest weight
possible to accomplish the situation you face - whether it is
increased depth, increased wind or current. Then let that
deceptively simple-looking "something" about the Senko
attract fish for you like magic!
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
Senkos Still in Their Infancy
(and getting smaller)
Prior to writing this chapter, I've been on the
water the last seven out of ten days. The only thing that
prevented me from fishing all ten days is that I plumb wore down
my fishing partners. I just couldn't rouse them out of bed a few
of those off days. Personally, I don't think that's fair to me at
all because I'm 44 and some of these other fellows are in their
early twenties. But whatever your age, I hope you will enjoy the
Senkos were designed and first offered to anglers
by Gary Yamamoto in 1997. That was about five years ago, and the
Senko remained relatively unknown (except to a secretive bunch of
top tournament anglers) until just last spring when a spark of
Senko fever blazed brightly in the West and Northeast.
That fever ignited further in 2001, yet ways to
use Senkos are still in their infancy, and most anglers have yet
to discover ways to fish Senkos other than weightless.
A GROWING FAMILY
Now when I say "Yamamoto Senko", it
means a growing family of nine different sizes and models so far.
Most fellows fish Senkos weightless, not yet having tried other
ways to fish them. Senkos are truly very versatile and can be
fished most ANY way that a soft plastic can be fished. Amazing
results are currently being had by myself and a few of our pro
staff fishing across the country with the smaller sizes of Senkos
(4" and 3") on jig heads (of all things). Pat Xiques
and Mike DelVisco, pro staffers from New York put me on to these
Senko jigs. I'm also Texas-rigging Senkos with a plastic bead and
Lake Fork Tackle's tungsten nickel Mega-Weights; and using Mojo
rig (an elongated sinker you peg to the line one to two feet
ahead of the hook with line-cushioning rubber strands. All three
of these methods (Senko jigs, Texas rigs and Mojo rigs) are
outperforming weightless Senkos for me lately, especially in
water over 15 feet deep where many bass are now.
When it comes to the Senko, I do not think anyone
knows why it works so well...but it does. For the last month or
so, I have not found it necessary to even use any other type of
soft plastic bait such as grubs, lizards, tubes, craws, etc.
Sure, these other varieties of baits will all work, but the point
is they have not worked better than just fishing Senkos all day
every day for me lately. I've proven this day in and day out
until it just did not make much sense to use other soft plastics
except Senkos for me lately.
ELIMINATING A MAJOR MIND-BOGGLER
Now, don't get me wrong, I like using other soft
baits - but I like pulling fish into the boat with no nonsense
better! In a certain sense, you may think this seems monotonous
to just use Senkos - but I do not see it that way. In fact, I'm
really pumped about this since it is allowing me (at least for
the moment) to totally eliminate one major mind-boggler we all
"Am I using the right bait right now?"
Well, right now I have a rare opportunity to just
use Yamamoto Senkos to knuckle down and concentrate exclusively
on presentation skills (the essence of fishing). I like that!
DOES COLOR MATTER?
Another thing I am enjoying lately is that color
does NOT really seem to matter as much with Senkos as with other
lures. Personally, I have been using lots of 240 smoke pearl
blue, the 031, 036 and 300 whites, 907 watermelon shiner (field
test color), 229 bubblegum, and 169 chartreuse in
about that order of productivity the last few weeks. However,
other guys I am fishing with (when I can get them out of bed) are
using several other colors with success.
I cannot say I have ever eliminated the color
conundrum when fishing other soft bait styles, but with Senkos
lately, I just don't worry too much about whether I've got on the
right color. I like that! The only exception I'd say is I
sometimes worry with the unadulterated chartreuse baits.
Chartreuse is awesome on smallmouth most of the time, but my
experience has rarely found chartreuse soft baits to work equally
well for largemouth (except early and late season cold water).
Now, bubblegum (229) is also a bright, bold color, but largemouth
do not act as mealy-mouthed about chewing bubblegum as they do
about pure strains of chartreuse soft stuff. Keep it in mind,
fellows. Especially when you're fishing locations with potential
to produce a handsome largemouth among the smallmouth, go light
on the unadulterated chartreuse most of the time. Except early or
late in the cold part of the season, when largemouth whack
DOES SIZE MATTER?
As I say, I've been using the smaller 3" and
4" Senkos (9S, 9J, 9B). Heck, I'll spill the milk and spill
the beans by saying that we're whomping them bad on a new fatter
3" Senko that looks a lot like you cut 3" off the back
of the 5" series 9 Yamamoto Senko. Oh yeah, the new fat
3" Senko also looks much like the shape of a young-of-year
shad or young-of-year crawdad in late autumn.
Now, please don't flood our telemarketing staff
(that'd be Geoff, Jeremy, Kay and Terri at the 800 number) with
phone calls for these fat new 3" inchers. They are currently
not in production at this time.
A PREDICTION FOR 2002
These smaller 3" and 4" Senkos (9S, 9J,
9B) will become increasingly important to anglers. That's my
prediction for 2002. (Miss Cleo eat your Tarot-telling heart
Whether a sport fisherman or serious tournament
angler, you can rely on these small series of Senkos to
accomplish the job of several other baits. For example, the small
Senkos are suited for:
- The dropshot style of fishing
- The "French Fry" style of Carolina rigging
- The "Reaper" style of splitshot or mini-Carolina
Small Yamamoto Senkos sure seem to be viable
alternatives to tube baits on jig heads too. At least I've caught
more fish on Senko jigs versus tube jigs this fall. A Senko jig
has the same "spiral of death" fall on the drop with a
hovering, gliding, puppy dog waggling tail action on the
Plus, now that the new 3" fat Senko is
coming out in the Holiday Kits, I'm fearful for the future of all
the 3" Texas-rigged crawdads I used to know and love! So,
what I am saying here is that small Senkos have potential to do
the job as good or better than a number of other genres of small
soft baits. That is, if you build up the the confidence and
commensurate skill to sweep the other baits under the rug?
My second prediction is about that Mojo rig that
I mentioned above. I predict you've just got to try them when you
get the chance! I've been using the same single Mojo weight for a
few weeks now in a rock-infested lake that used to chow down
pounds of my jigs, Texas weights, Carolina sinkers, splitshots
and dropshots daily. Not any more! That Mojo's put the lake
bottom on a lead-free diet.
Th-Tha-That-That's All For Now, Folks!
I hope I've got your gears turning about the
oh-so-pervasive impact that both weightless and weighted Yamamoto
Senkos have had on bass fishing for me and I know also for many
of you this past season! When the Senkos are working, they have
awesome potential to reduce perplexing on-the-water decisions,
and they can reduce a lot of trial-and-error fishing with
different baits and different colors.
Well, as Porky the Pig used to say at the end of
his cartoon show, "Th-Tha-That-That's all for now,
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
Texas Twist Senkos
What is prespawn? Prespawn is the time of
year when winter insists it will still confound and confuse what
could otherwise be a pleasant spring. It is a time when chilly
days follow warm days. Colder nights follow hot spells.
Following four windy, wintry days and
nights in the low forties, Monday night last week stayed above 60
degrees for the first time this year. Tuesday was 85 degrees at
noon, sun burning and windless as Chris Cliburn pumped fuel into
his Ranger bass boat. Chris, Kasia (his brown Lab), and I planned
to make a long distance run far up into Lake Powell's riverine
headwaters where neither of us had been since last season. It
would be as much traveling time as fishing to get there and back
the same afternoon, but we just had to find out what was
happening with the fish up there. Besides, we had fished the
lower lake fairly into submission since about Valentine's Day.
We soared full speed well over an hour,
barely touching water as we planed above the top of the wide
expanses of endless lake. We pounded the boat's bottom fast and
hard through the choppy narrow necks. Chris never slowed down as
he drove. In the passenger seat, I tied rigs to Texas twist
Senkos as we sped in the warm afternoon. Hot air hit us hard as
we raced through it. We tuned our bodies and minds to become
acclimatized to the air rushing at us, letting it pass through us
without resistance as if we were part of it. The wind blew the
city and the job out of us. We used the wind to make our spirits
become part of the outdoors again.
pulled into a spot that was half a mile across at the
mouth, about one half mile gouged back into the shore like
someone scooped out a giant-sized tea cup. The three sides of the
tea cup were ringed with cliffs several hundred feet high, with
shallow rock slides and sand beaches at the base. As we sped into
the back where four or five scraggly feeder arms fingered into
it, the cliffs were glistening on all three sides of us baking in
the full sun and reflecting the heat down on us. The heavy sweet
melon smell of fish percolated up from the water's surface all
around us. Chris cut the motor, and silence poured into our ears,
filling the tea cup.
There is no name that anyone knows for this
particular place, and we simply refer to it as "the spot
where we had them the last time." In the silence of this
place with no name, the sound of black crow wings was heavy and
noisy. The crows flew low over the sandy rim of the tea cup
looking for luck to wash up some fresh morsel for them to eat. I
said to Chris, "They do not fly easily without the
wind." Indeed, it took strong effort from them to beat their
heavy black wings above us. Below us, hundreds of silver and
black carp flew out of the warm shallow sand and rock jumbles.
Wave after wave of carp rushing through the clear green water all
around us, more graceful flyers than the crows in the windless
Suspended on the water's surface between the
crows and the carp, we hefted long casts with twelve pound test
and Texas-rigged Senkos. The heavy, lumbersome Senkos whistled
noisily as they whipped through the air, splatting down far ahead
of us. We threw 159 Senkos at every rock and jut of land,
catching and releasing many large-bellied prespawn largemouth and
smallmouth. We Texas-rigged them on 1/8 or 3/16 oz. bullet
sinkers with beads and 2/0 or 3/0 EWG hooks.
"When a day like this happens in spring, you
must put aside whatever it is you are doing, and go
fishing," declared Chris as we Texas-twisted fat bass after
bass with the Senkos.
We both knew the time had surely passed
when last light would allow us to reach the safe haven of the
distant marina so far away. We did not care. We baited with 169
chartreuse, 229 bubblegum Senkos and merthiolate Senko Lites to
match the deepening pinkness of twilight blushing the Western
sky. "Fishing will be even better for us tomorrow," I
read aloud as I interpreted the sky. We switched to bright white
pearl and fluorescent lemon yellow Senko Lites on the Texas rigs,
continuing to catch fish into the night's young darkness, until
bold bites dwindled to mere half-pecks and disinterested bumps as
bass batted the bothersome baits away from their resting spots.
Unplanned but not unwelcome, we prepared
to wait the night in a sheltered rock cove with a sandy spit to
beach the boat. We gathered dried tamarisk wood to spark a
campfire which lasted a few hours until our exuberance wore off
and tiredness overtook us. With only low embers left, Chris, I
and his Lab, Kasia, retreated silently in the darkness back to
the bass boat, to sleep out of reach of the many scorpions and
rattlesnakes common in this remote area of the desert.
Sleep was sweet under the stars. The warm
wind wrote dreams over us in the darkness of how many bass were
to be caught in the morning.
the first light of sunrise, we used the fast boat to journey
further. The towering red rock cliffs of the desert giant began
to lower their crowns and crumble into a different land, another
place where black eagles ruled the air in front of the few
remaining chalky promontories, ready to hurtle down with their
talons on any sign of life that barely flinched below them.
The lake became a river as we fished on
into its source. The chalky cliffs seeped spring water out of
every crack now, staining the walls with dark beards dripping of
watermarks. Trellises of hanging vegetation trailed off every
wind-scooped depression and ridge in the tropical desert walls.
As we stopped along the way, the fish we caught became
increasingly bigger. They also grew predominantly more golden in
color. Fine golden-flanked largemouths, glistening orange-eyed
smallmouth, rogue stripers running down Senkos like lone wolves,
stone-eyed walleyes, warmouth and bull 'gills. They all craved
the Texas-rigged Senkos. Chris switched between the smaller 9S
series as well as the 9, whereas I stuck to the 5" series 9
the whole time. Chris started at dawn with 229 bubblegum until
the fish chewed that all up. Meanwhile, I quickly went through
the last remnants of 159 from the prior day. I caught on a bagful
of 208, then caught a few of my bigger fish on 213 during a
relatively slower mid-morning period, then flew through a couple
bags of 215 noticeably faster. I wished I had just one more bag
of that 215 while Chris got pretty hot with 042 till he ran out
of that, then caught on with 194. Whenever we wanted, we slipped
on some 169 or some white, lemon or merthiolate Senko Lites in
between bags of regular Senkos. We both cracked open 297 as our
last picks of what we had left by the end of the second day.
I use Senkos as if they are the closest thing to
live minnows or nightcrawlers. Just add water, and Senkos come
alive. I would no more expect to use the same shiner or earthworm
to catch several fish as I would use the same Senko. They're
fragile like live bait, and you can go through them just as
back to the Texas Twist as I call it, it's simply an unpegged
1/8 to 3/16 oz bullet sinker, a bead, and a light 2/0 to 3/0
hook. This is definitely not a new rig, but it's definitely not
what most guys do with Senkos. Most guys will deadstick
weightless Senkos or wacky rig them. Most of the season,
deadsticking is fine, especially when dropping casts down next to
fish-holding cover. Right now however, meaning late prespawn and
post spawn, you can light their pants on fire with the "Texas
Twist". It covers more water quicker, and the rig
stimulates even more of that incredible life-like Senko action.
The sliding bullet sinker and bead will recoil
and shoot back up the line when you twitch the rod tip, or as the
rig rumbles over naturally-rugged terrain. When the weight
recoils, the Senko will kick out as far as the line will allow
it, like a bull barreling out of the chute, rolling its body from
side-to-side and tail-waggling the whole time. On a steady draw
with the rod tip, the Senko tail will flutter more than a
weightless Senko, and the body will flex, roll and squirm
uncontrollably as it swims along.
I favor the smallest hooks which will still not
miss bites. I feel small hooks give more action to the Texas
Twist Senko. With 12 to 14 lb. test, small may mean 2/0 with a
"normal" gap to grab most snappers. Some days, you may
want the widest gap you've got on a 3/0 to snare them.
Still, we traveled further, until the
cliffs and promontories wore themselves down, ran out and were no
more. Circling round a great bend in the river that was teeming
with fish, we reached the end. There was no more water that would
float us, just a thin curtain of aqua that covered shoals of
loose sand shifting in the wind. Beyond the great bend, a stark
panorama came into our sight. Morbid-looking mounds and upheaved
piles of loose brown dirt were all we could see now. Flying along
the barren horizon behind them, black vultures coursed along with
barely a wingbeat, like undertakers waiting in the sky. It was
the place where stragglers would have to make it out of the dry
wastelands to reach the waters of life.
Beyond here, there were no more fish to be
caught. Chris turned the boat around. We traveled back into the
familiar. Back home, and back into four windy, wintry days and
cold nights that followed the hot spell we spent catching
prespawn bass on the San Juan River.
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
The Simpler Swimming Worm
Weightless worms or Senkos are not good karma in a wind...at
least not for me! I usually won't try worms weightless in a wind,
you see, since I have something better, a weighted Roller Rig
for worming in the wind. However, some guys will insist on
throwing worms weightless in gusts, rifling casts either
directly upwind or directly downwind (usually upwind is better).
Then let the wind force impart all the action to the line (NOT to
the lure) while the angler, with rod pointed directly up or
downwind, maintains barely any tension for some "feel"
on the line to detect a bite (which may include inching in slack
to barely keep tension for the "feel"). That's called
"fishing the line" - an advanced procedure with any
form of light lure in the wind, and one that requires a lot of
concentration and the skill of an expert angler.
Rather than worms, my first choice for fishing in wind would
be a double-bladed willow spinnerbait. A small white front blade,
big hot chartreuse back blade (both with "diamond dust"
clear coats) and a chartreuse/white or fire tiger skirt! I just
love to launch such big brightly-colored, gaudy spinnerbaits in
the wind. They're like cop cars speeding down the highway with
the sirens and cherries turned up high. But even still, you
"fish the line" in the wind when using a big
spinnerbait, you don't fish the lure!
Now, about that weighted Roller Rig? Ah, yes. I've caught bass
after bass on it some windy days when spinnerbaits went hitless!
Sometimes I don't try to figure out why...it just works!
Roller Rig starts out as a Texas Twist rig, and I've
written an entire chapter about the Texas Twist technique, but it
deserves a separate discussion here now as well. This method of
rigging gives worms a rolling, lively twisting motion
reminiscent of what's known to a few old-timers as a
"swimming worm" rig. It's a beauty to throw Senkos any
time on light 1/8 or 3/16 oz. bullet sinkers, under any
general wind and water conditions or depth. Texas Twist Senkos
roll and kick, as you can read all about it in that book. But
when it gets windy, find yourself some wind-blown points.
Increase the sinker weight of a Texas Twist rig up to 1/4 or 3/8
(as much as required to mitigate line belly) and swim some
brightly-colored Senkos (169, 229, etc.) high up across
wind-swept points at the same speed as a spinnerbait. My, how
you'll slam them!
What really makes a worm "roll" like a corkscrew and
what defines a Roller Rig is to put a bend in the worm.
Sometimes, just a pronounced lumpy "hump" where you
tuck the hook point back under the skin is enough to make a Senko
roll, and I tend to do that trick with an ordinary Texas Twist
rig. However, the photo below shows two better and oh-so-simple
ways to effect a full-blown Roller Rig:
- Either put the hook bend back through the worm a little
"too far" back,
- And/or roll the worm head about 90 degrees between your
fingertips before you re-insert the hook back into it.
you see, I fancy a bead, believing it serves some as a ball
bearing. The powerful swivels I choose are by SPRO, tied in about
12 inches above the worm. Use an 1/8 or 3/16 oz. bullet sinker
depending on depth, wind and current. I fancy smaller tungsten
sinkers with slick Teflon line tubes helps the whole rolling
motion. In increasingly stronger cross-winds, amp up the sinker
size to 1/4 (or as much as required to mitigate line belly). Keep
your rod tip low to the water, start reeling before the bait even
hits the water, and burn some brightly-colored Senkos (169, 229,
etc.) at the same speed as a spinnerbait. Work them high up in
the water column across wind-swept points - or swim them in the
waves slapping against shoreline boulders and shoals. Bass will
rocket up from underwater lairs to blast the Roller Rig riding
below the surface. Sometimes suddenly killing the bait so often
triggers bass that may be swimming unseen stalking below and
behind it. Other times, stopping the bait causes trailing bass to
turn away. If you see bass break off the chase when you stop it,
try this instead - a sharp twitch and long jerk with increased
reeling speed to trigger the bite! Each day is different, and
constant close observation plus diligent retrieval
trial-and-error pays off!
When else to use it? I may regret telling you this but here
goes. The Roller Rig is a good one to try in perfectly flat, dead
calm water on dark cloudy days just before a rain hits!
The wind is our friend
The Roller Rig allows an aggressive use of the Senko or worm
-- for when wind or pre-frontal calm makes bass suddenly active.
Many days, I have gone from rather reluctant, disinterested
fish - only to have a sudden wind rise up, and have their
aggressive feeding fervor light up! In some places and seasons,
these winds are predictable. For example, a seasonal
"brunch" wind that always seems to gust daily about 11
in the morning. In other locales, there may be a stiff late
afternoon wind, depending on season.
So understand when your winds come by day and by season. When
they do, it pays to be positioned on some shoreline spot that
will be downwind of the prevailing direction of the wind.
In some cases, these spots will be funnels, shoals, or points
that channel the wind-blown water currents -- or
catch-basins that bear the full force and brunt of the wind
pounding their shores. In other cases, the spots will be
"wind lanes" that develop along lateral sides of
islands or shoals that "lay" the same way as the
prevailing winds. So with a wind from the southwest, an island or
shoal that generates a wind lane would lay canted from southwest
to northeast. Hard to describe these areas in writing, but I've
given it a shot in my article, Fetch
Me a Breeze Please. When you do find these spots of your own,
and then look how they're positioned on a map, you will KNOW why
bass come up into these spots on a wind! Trust me, all the
resident bass KNOW to rise up in these areas with the wind too!
I'd like to say my discovery of the Roller Rig was something
wise. Truth is it was more serendipity than smartness. It was a
fortunate discovery made by accident one stifling hot, windless
day when fishing results could be best described as tepid. But
torpid bass became fired torpedos as suddenly a strong wind wall
hit! If we didn't stick them, the bass would pull our Senkos down
the hook on every cast. All balled up in a bunch, we'd wind in
rapidly to re-straighten them. Twirling like corkscrews, there
was just no way to keep the bass off them. The Roller Rig was
born. Since that first day, it has matured into a reliable
technique I've been glad to share with you today.
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
Larval Baitfish in July Equals Senko Shiner
July is the time of season when regardless of
where you are located or what bait species you have there,
cohesive schools of miniature young-of-year of all species are
abundant. Not just larval shad but larval bluegills, crappies,
minnows and all species swarm in dense schools, dimpling the
surface in big sheets of life in July.
When bass are feeding on these tiny larval
baitfish clouds, it can be very frustrating to anglers. Fussy
eaters that they are, bass can dial into this abundant early
summer food source almost exclusively - and tune out larger
baits, much to our frustration.
Remember: Senko means Flash! Whether
clear or dark water, preyfish always have reflective sides
that flash light...and that's just what the Senko Shiner does!
The Senko Shiner features flashing gold and silver scales in a
translucent baitfish body. Sparse black spots breathe life into
This is the situation - bass feeding on larval
shad clouds and ignoring other offerings - that prompted me three
seasons ago (July, 2001) to produce the Senko Shiner color # 905
(clear with gold, silver & black flakes) to imitate these
flashing schools of larval baitfish in early summer.
I do feel bass mistake this Senko Shiner to be a
flashing school of larval bait, not an individual adult baitfish.
It is the primordial instinctive perception by the bass of the
"larval cloud" contained within the flickering gold,
silver and black flakes that matters here. To attempt to prove
this point, I've even rigged the Senko Shiner in a circular
"doughnut" shape on the hook, which is no less
effective in these larval shad feeding situations than a
straightly-rigged Senko. In fact, I often watch bass jump from
one side to the other of the Senko Shiner as it falls, seeming to
use the sides of their bodies as if trying to herd and ball my
Senko into a tighter cluster before slurping down the
During this time of year, look for clouds of
larval baitfish in your area. You'll know the bass are keying on
them when you see sheets of fry sprinkling out of the surface by
the hundreds in unison. These dense larval clusters drift in
clouds since they are too tiny to maneuver under their own power.
At this size, they really haven't any worthwhile swimming power
yet. They can't outswim predators.
When bass are doting on tiny larval shad or other
larval species, it is more of a slow-swimming, mouth-open
leisurely feeding pace since the small fry with tiny fins do not
swim well. They flit and flash about in perfect unison, using the
dense school as their only protection, which is not much.
Toss the Senko Shiner into this situation. It was
designed to imitate a helpless drifting school of larval baitfish
in early summer. It has proven effective at that for me these
past three July seasons and can work for you too this glorious
month of July, 2003. Please enjoy.
Keys to Your Senko Fishing
Fast-Moving Mojo Senko Shiners
I'm coming at you a bit late with this chapter.
You see, it's mid-August and I've been on the water 14 or more
hours a day for the last five days straight. Vinny from San Diego
came up for the week. In all my 44 years, I've never known anyone
to fish as hard as Vinny - except for myself. Put us together,
and we put 900 miles on the water in our quest for the very
biggest and most bass the distant headwaters of Lake Powell had
to offer us last week.
We caught bass on almost every lure we threw at
them from surface to bottom and back again. You name it, it
caught them. Of course, some lures worked better than others!
What worked best for us was a Mojo weight about 12" inches
ahead of the 4" inch series 9S Baby Senko Shiner color 905.
Best was a 1/0 thin yet strong wire series 63
Gamakatsu EWG hook to give a flighty wavering movement to the
stick-like Senko bait.
the Mojo rig is a thin pencil lead type of sinker with a
line-hole to thread the line through it. It comes with these
black rubber strands and a threader tool you pull through the
hole also. The rubber strands snub up the line inside the sinker
and it keeps the weight in place. You clip off the rubber tag
ends. Quite snagless!
Best of all, as the 4" Baby Senko drops off
a shady ledge, rock or into a bush or tree, the Mojo rig imparts
the coolest dying flutter of a mortally-wounded baitfish that's
lost all control as it careens to the bottom in a zigzag
When you rip it or retrieve it quickly, that Baby
Senko Shiner just flits and darts all over behind that Mojo rig!
Lifting and ripping it high up into the water column above
structure definitely attracted these summer bass to the
fast-moving reaction baits. They would belt the baits as they
flip-flopped or gyrated recklessly back down behind the Mojo - or
whack them after the active baits settled to their final resting
spots on bottom.
I am not saying that the Mojo rig Senko has BETTER action than
the weightless Senko. But I am saying it caught more and bigger
bass for Vinny and I than the slow-falling weightless stereotype
in the deeper summer waters we fished this past week.
Second best baits for us were shad-colored
Yamamoto Hula jigs (168, 187, 237) Again, a quick reaction type
bite induced by up to 5/8 oz. of fast-dropped, snap-jigged
weight. Best was to get the jig right up against the edge of some
form of shade - a rock or stairstep ledge, and just bang the jig
up against the side of it.
Give the fast-moving Mojo Senko Shiners and Hula
shad jigs a whirl! It couldn't hurt to try. It just may get you a
cool reaction bite from hot summer bass like Vinny and I had all