Apr 25, 2011

How to Rig and Fish a Senko

After a long winter of funny stuff, it has become time to offer real value to the world. Read this post to the end and you will know one of my best bass fishing secrets. Most of it anyway, some things you'll have to learn on your own. The bait is the almighty Senko - my secret is how to use it. Many seasoned bass anglers know all this, but every day someone new picks up a bass rod. Hopeful by posting this, the new anglers out there will get the bug. More bass anglers can only grow the sport and add opportunity.

Senkos have become my "go-to" bait and I draw a certain pleasure from the technical nature of their use. When a new day dawns, they always gets wet first. It is a numbers bait and will take fish of all sizes - you can plan on some sorting. Don't confuse it for a search bait though, it is most effective along with ample time for cigars, beer and casual conversation.

What is a Senko?

Many years ago I first heard the Senko name. Then I heard it again, and again. Interest piqued and I hit the web. I found a few articles here and there, those laid the groundwork for what I know now. Unfortunately, they didn't tell me where the hell to find them on a store shelf. I went and looked, then I asked for help. The kid looked at me cross-eyed and confused. So I looked some more before giving up and going home for more web work.

I was expecting to see Senko printed in bright bold letters across the bag front, instead I should have been looking for a tiny "Yamasenko" printed near the bottom. Somewhere in the world lives a marketing manager should be fired for bungling that up. For you I'll make it as simple as possible - here is a picture. Now go to the store and find it. Once you know what to look for, they'll jump right out at you.


The original version is sold by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. Today, there are many imitations on the market. The key to this bait's appeal is texture, density and shape...I have never found anything that catches fish like the original.  That is not to say there are no other worms like it, I'm just saying I prefer the the Yamamoto brand. That said, Yamamoto sells the bait under a different brand at Wal-Mart stores. The Wal-Mart version seems to be the same functionally, but the price is less because there are fewer worms per bag. Genuine Senkos cost $6-7 for a bag of ten - at Wal-mart, expect to pay $3-4 for a bag of five.

So Many Colors and Sizes!

If you find Senkos at the store, you will be faced with a huge decision. They offer a gazillion different colors in a few different sizes.  Four and five inch versions are standard, online you will find them as small as two inches and up to seven. I fish the five inchers exclusively, if the fish are interested in smaller offerings I'll dip into the bag for something else. I also have other worms if they happen to be interested in bigger stuff. For color suggestions, I'll give you a peak into my Senko box.

You'll find only dark colors, the darker the better. My experience shows the dark colors are vastly superior to lighter colors. In the past I tried lighter colors but now I don't bother. If bass do not bite a dark Senko go ahead and change to an entirely different lure. Most of my choices have a little sparkle too. My absolute favorite and most productive being black with silver flakes. A close second is black with blue flake or black/blue laminate if I can find it. Another good color is watermelon with red flakes.

How to Rig a Senko

There are a few different ways to rig a Senko. Wacky rigging is the sexiest and garners significant press time but below I will cover my favorite: the classic Texas rig.  If you already know how to Texas rig, don't skip ahead until you read the next sentence. When rigging Senkos, it is of the utmost importance to not use a weight. I will repeat with red text, capitalization and a dramatic pause for the full effect.

DO NOT......use a weight while rigging Senkos.

Got it? Good. A Senko must flutter slowly through the water column in a horizontal orientation. With weight, the bait will plummet quickly to the bottom with no action and no fish appeal. Once you see the bait's weightless action, you will understand. Don't worry about castability - weightless Senkos are heavy enough to throw a country mile with spinning reels. You can cast them effectively with bait casters too, but I recommend spinners to reach out a little farther.

Now, back to the Texas rig:

First, push the hook through the center of the fat end of the worm. Push it in about one half of an inch then bring it back out. You'll need an offset shank wide gap worm hook, for the five inch Senko I prefer a size 3/0.
Slide the worm up to the offset portion of the hook shank. It should cover the entire offset, and ideally also hide the eyelet and knot.
Hold the worm out straight next to the hook and take a mental note as to how far back the hook goes on the worm. This is critical for ensuring the worm sits straight on the hook. I pinch the worm at this point with my thumb to make sure I stab it in the right place.
Push the hook point perpendicularly through the worm at the spot you marked, make sure the worm sits straight and the point of the hook is resting close to the body. If the worm is curved or crooked, pull the hook back out and try again.
Finally and for an extra level of weed resistance, tuck the point of the hook back into the body. Just the point should be hidden. This will shorten the life of the worm but make sure there are no problems with moss and snags. Again, make sure the worm is straight.

How to Fish a Senko

Now it is time to get into the good stuff. Skills I will describe and you will need to practice before fully understanding what you read. This isn't just throwing it out there and reeling it back in.  It isn't even as simple as the bottom bouncing you're probably used to. It doesn't matter how you rig the worm, to fish a Senko properly a slack line must be used. Grab some polarized sunglasses, because you won't feel a single strike...you'll be watching the line for strikes.

A Senko is designed to flutter slowly as it falls and line tension will negatively effect action. Because you won't be in contact with the bait you will need to watch the line. Monofilament and braided line will float on top of the water and act as your bobber. Fluorocarbon line does not float, so it is my strong recommendation to avoid using it; with a slack sunken line you will not feel or see the strike. For braided line, I recommend a 2-3 foot leader of mono or fluorocarbon line.

The most basic instruction I usually give newbies is to watch for unnatural movements of the line. After you cast, most of your line will float on the water surface. As the bait slowly flutters to the bottom the line will make very predictable movements.  Once you know what natural line movement looks like, a strike is easy to see. Here I've broken down the sequence with beautiful hand drawn pictures (click to enlarge).

Click to Enlarge
After you cast to your spot, add slack into the line.  Watch the line at point A (see image) as the worm sinks slowly to the bottom - this will take awhile. As the Senko sinks, points A and B will slowly get closer together.  Once A and B meet, you're out of slack line but go ahead and let it sink all the way to the bottom. 

When the line stops moving, you know the worm has hit bottom. Let it sit there for 5-10 seconds and if nothing happens, slowly reel up the slack until you can just barely feel weight on the line. Be careful because there is probably a bass sitting there looking at the worm. Jiggle your rod tip slightly to make the worm wiggle and then let it sit on bottom for a couple more seconds. Pick up the worm, reel in some line and let it flutter to the bottom again. Rinse and repeat until you are ready to reel in and cast again.

Throughout this process you need to watch the line for unnatural movements. Most likely you see the line "jump" a couple times as the fish picks up the worm but does not swim away. Sometimes the line will move left of right as the fish moves off. If points A and B have joined the line might move away from you (instead of toward you). The hardest strike to detect is when points A and B are moving toward each other more quickly than normal. Throughout this process, you will feel nothing. If you see anything strange in the movement of the line, set the hook with authority- hook sets are free. If there is no fish on, reel in and try again.

It has been my experience eighty-five percent of strikes come on the initial fall - quite often a strike comes almost immediately after splash down. Ten percent happen after the worm first touches bottom. 4 percent happen while the worm jiggles on bottom.  Maybe one percent happens after that. I believe this may be because I've become skilled at picking fishy spots. I will often reel back in after the initial fall and cast to a new spot, not wasting time by fishing the worm all the way back. Someone not skilled at picking spots should probably fish each cast longer to increase their chances at getting into the strike zone.

Pro Tips and Advanced Topics

There are certain tricks I've learned along the way. Here are the ones I'm willing to share...
  • On windy days or choppy water you won't be able to see the floating line. With some skill and practice, you can reduce the amount of slack to almost nothing.  Doing this will let you feel a strike because the fish will remove slack for you when it strikes.
  • Senkos are not very durable: catching more than two fish per worm is a rarity. Once you've worn one out, you can stretch a dollar by rerigging the worm through the tail (the skinny end).
  • Texas rigged Senkos are very easy to skip across the water surface.  This will get you into tight spots below docks and overhanging shrubbery.
  • Just before the worm splashes down, I often pull my rod tip up and back aggressively.  This will slow down the forward velocity of the Senko for a lighter presentation.  If you do this, lowering the rod back down will introduce the slack you need.
  • If you are anal retentive, like me, you will find comfort while rigging if you only pierce the worm at the seams. This ensures the hook passes through the bait in the middle, thus reducing twist.


Have a question? Let me know with a comment or send me an e-mail. Also, I know there are many anglers who fish Senkos regularly. If you have anything to add or would like to disagree, please feel free to leave a comment below.

26 comments:

  1. Great stuff. Perhaps a little weight on a T-rigged Senko can sometimes be a good thing. But not always. Something to try.

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  2. Wow, that is a ridiculously thorough and well put together post...with diagrams no less. Very impressive and reeks of search traffic gold. Plus I think I dun learnt somethin today.

    I don't fish for bass all that often, but when I do a shorty 4, or 5" Senko in green pumpkin is usually my first choice. Glad to find I'm not totally offbase with the way I'm fishing it.

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  3. My memory holds vivid smells of Senkos. Senkos mixed with my childhood cheesy cheeto hands, to be precise. I actually have a jar of these, Senkos that is, not cheetos, in my basement --- leftovers of a practical joke. I'll have to get them out and put them to practical use. ;-)

    I agree with troutrageous -- Diagrams!!! I love it! Great post!

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  4. Every time I've ever used a Senko-type bait I've used flourocarbon, and every time I've never detected a bite. Now I know why. I'm hoping to do an expedition out at Banner sometime in the next week, I'll be sure to take a pole with some mono. Thanks for the info.

    Btw, do you know what they call the Senkos at Wal-mart? I have a giftcard burning a hole in my wallet.

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  5. Mark: Kinami is the company. They are Gary's son's I think.

    I use braid and a fluoro leader for my Senko fishing. I think it is better but that is just me.

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  6. @Jody: I never wacky rig, but can say weight is never good on a texas rig. Maybe some day I try "a little" weight. Are you talking like 1/32oz or so?

    @T-Rage: Search traffic gold? The original title was "Naked College Girls Doing Dirty Things." I changed it at the last minute.

    @EE-EM-DEE: I am having difficulty imagining a practical joke involving Senkos...but I am thoroughly intrigued. Do tell!

    @Mark: Floating line and good eyes are important. See the comment from Jody about Wally's brand.

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  7. @ Clif- Even with a TX rig I'l put on like 3/16 or 1/4 when I pitch them around stuff. totally different then weightless fishing.

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  8. You just hit the advice right on the head! Now I only wish I could have read this 4 years ago when I started fishing the Senko.

    When fishing a Senko with other guys, also using Senkos, patience is always the deciding factor of who catches more fish. You must be patient and let that worm get down to the bottom.

    One thing than can help with the patience part, other than a drink of ice cold beer, is lighter test. I usually fish 6lb test. As an added bonus for more worm action, I also use a light action rod. The light action rod, will help with slow real/tapping part. Every once in a while when tapped, the Senko will dart towards the bottom.

    My best luck as far as worm color comes with the Black/Blue fleck with the Blue tipped tail.

    The last bit of advice that has worked when nothing else does, is the wacky rig. In fact, I had a package of tack nails and put nail one in each end of the worm, to give some more weight. Hit a few.

    Kyle W.

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    1. I like your comment about fishing with others, and patience being important. Solid advice.

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  9. This is funny. I kept reading about Senkos, and I search online stores and worms came up. So today I went to the store and looked around for senkos on the pkg or sign and NOTHING! so I went ahead and bought Yamamoto worms and some others. Then I read this article. Wish I had read it first. but I will try the no weight option. Hadn't tried that yet.

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    1. Yea, they really don't make it easy to find.

      Weightless is important, but you can't be in a hurry.

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  10. Man, just went and got some wacky rigging stuff today including some yamamoto senkos. Solid day of fishing after a thunderstorm, landed a 3lber almost right away. then proceeded to catch ten more fish over the next two hours. Such good advice, especially the bit about keeping it slack.

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  11. Fishing wacky rig only with Circle Hook please.

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  12. Great article. One thing, I have been fishing Senkos for years and seem to detect a "tap tap" bite about 70% of the time. I keep a relatively slack line and either feel the tap or see the line taking off. When I fish them in grass I "pop" them every few seconds to make them jump around a lot. I don't really have a preference between mono and fluro lines. I use both. Around heavy cover I prefer the fluro. For rods, I really love the Falcon Weightless Worm rod. It is my favorite. I have two of them.

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  13. What kind of hook? Gammi, owner, mustad?

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    1. Whatever brand is cheap and pointy on one end. :)

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  14. Spot on advice in the blog! Ive taught myy wife and 11 yr old daughter the same technique and they usually out fish me when they come along. Ha! Oh well, its fun to see them get excited. Guess I should teach them to drive the boat , so i can get the first casts into the sweetspots. Good blog !

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  15. I went out on Lake Shasta located in Redding Ca. on 'of all days 4th of July. I had a friend come visit so thought what the heck? Lake full of vacation people boats going all over the lake water craft wakes not a good time to fish. ''Best'' day of large fish I caught all year :Caught (2) 5 pound Large mouth bass in the mud lines created by all the boat traffic .Caught them on senko 5'' watermelon with black flake' whacky stile no weights.

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  16. senko's work no doubt but they are idiot proof baits, great for amateurs almost similar to live bait bobber fishing. I'll put it up against a jig any day!!! I like to fool fish with my skills not the skill of a bait.

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  17. Man, am I late... just wanted to add for anyone that runs upon this post like I did that Walmart does carry original senkos now AND I find that adding a nail weight to either the head OR the tail changes the action in a good way! Also lightly scraping the surface of a senko lengthwise with a thumbnail to expose the salt seems to get more bites!

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  18. The author states that "hook sets are free." Well, not exactly because every time you set the hook with authority and nothing is there it rips the Senko after about 3-5 free hook sets you will need to change to a new Senko. At $1.00 each, they aren't free. Senkos are my go to bait for bedding fish and they are not idiot proof baits. Mr. Anonymous, it takes a lot of skill to cast and fish them in the right place and the right way. I'll put my skill and Senko up against your jig any time when fishing bedding fish. I caught 7 fish in the back of a very small bay this morning weighing 2 1/2 - 6 lbs. All on a Senko and no other bait would even draw a bump.

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  19. Just started useing senkos this year ,have been very productuvd for me especially when bass are finicky ,I have used the strike king version in green pumpkin and now I'm using the bass pro series u get 16 in a bag for like 6dollars and work just as good as the originals ,also outfished everyone at a local pond using a greenpumkin black sapphire in dingy water and was even nailing monster bluegill wacky style .....great lure !

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  20. I've only caught 1 Bass on a senko wacky rig and I'm disgusted. I keep trying though.....

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  21. What do you think of " strike king" worms? They look a lot like the "senkos"...

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