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!
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.|
|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|
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.