The attention this hot new lure is getting is more than enough to wake up any sleepy Louisiana lake.
I picked up the phone and politely said hello. The caller didn’t have time for such pleasantries. Instead, he began panting something into the phone.“Man, we absolutely tore them up,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe… unbelievable… man, I wish you could have… I still can’t believe it… I’ve never seen anything… it was awesome…”
“Whoa there, you’re going to have to slow down a little. I can’t make heads or tails of anything you’re saying,” I snorted. “What’s going on? Why are you so fired up?”
“THE SENKO, MAN. Have you got any yet? If you don’t you’re going to want some after you hear about what we did on them this afternoon. We went down to our pond for just a couple of hours this evening, and we must have caught over 30 fish — big ones too. We couldn’t believe it. I tried throwing some other lures to see if the fish were just eating or if it was the Senko.”
“Well, what was it?” I asked.
“It was the Senko, man,” he said. “They absolutely loved it. They wouldn’t touch anything else. I tried a spinnerbait, I tried a Rogue, heck I tried just about everything else in my box – dang fish wouldn’t touch any of it. But that Senko, man, they couldn’t stop eating it. It was like they were addicted to it. They couldn’t get enough of it.”
Needless to say, I found myself in Toledo Tackle the next day staring at the newly created Senko section.
“Ouch,” I thought to myself, “$5.99 a bag. And there’s only 10 lures in there. Let’s see, that comes out to – oh, my – 60 cents a lure.”
I started looking elsewhere for some regular old plastic lures to add to my box, but I kept coming back to the Senko section. The previous evening’s phone call kept replaying in my head. I finally picked up a bag of purple with green flake; it looked like Junebug to me, and headed to the register.
Later that evening, I walked out to the pond behind my house to test these high-dollar pieces of plastic. I took one out of the bag and held it up for inspection.
“Looks like a stick,” I thought. “Can’t have much action. I sure hope I didn’t waste my money.”
Half an hour and 11 fish later, I went back to the store to pick up another bag. Only this time I shelled out the $5.99 plus tax without any hesitation.
The Senko idea came to professional bass angler Gary Yamamoto a few years back when he began intently studying the new soft plastic jerkbait called the Slug-Go.
“I knew those lures were very popular,” he says, “so I started trying to figure out how to make them better.”
Yamamoto tried several different designs, and finally settled on a lure that looked much like the ballpoint pen he had been carrying in his pocket all along. In fact, the first prototype of the Senko was poured into a mold made from that pen.
After field-testing his new creation, Yamamoto discovered something magical. His version of the soft jerkbait fell horizontally through the water instead of vertically when rigged weightless. And to top it off, the lure quivered in a subtle, shimmering manner that was reminiscent of a gracefully dying shad. The rest is quickly becoming bass-fishing history.
And if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Yamamoto should be quite flattered to have created a lure that sits atop a mountain of similar offerings, like the Stick-O, Whacko, Teezo, Salty Slug, Salty Stix, Salty Sinker, Tiki-Stick, the Flash and countless other variations.
North Louisiana bass pro Curtis Simpson remembers when his love affair with the Senko first began.
“I was fishing a B.A.S.S. event on Sam Rayburn,” he recalled. “I had been hearing a little bit about it, but I hadn’t tried it yet. It didn’t take me long to add it to my ‘must-have lure list’ after watching my partner steadily reeling in fish after fish on the Senko.”
Simpson believes that the same conditions that made the Senko so hot at Rayburn during that tournament are the ones that anglers face all over Louisiana.
“The fish were in shallow pockets with grass in them during that tournament,” he said. “And I don’t know too many lakes in Louisiana where you can’t find a shallow pocket with grass. That has to be the No. 1 situation, in my opinion, where a Senko is most productive.”
Simpson’s magic depth is 6 feet or less, but he readily admits that these lures will work as deep as you have the patience to fish.
“You can get out over those suspended fish at Caney during the summer and strip line off your reel while letting the Senko fall straight down and catch fish,” Simpson says. “In fact, you’d probably be pleasantly surprised at just how well your patience would be rewarded.”
Even though Simpson favors grass when fishing a Senko, he also points out that any shallow pocket or cove would be an excellent place to throw the bait as long as there is some type of shallow cover present.
“I’ve discovered that they are awesome around cypress trees,” Simpson said. “I’ve been fishing them a lot on Lake D’Arbonne recently, and there’s not a hotter lure right now on that lake. I haven’t tried them yet on the cypress tree lakes around Shreveport, but I know guys over there are catching fish at Caddo, Bistineau and Cross Lake. And all those fish are mainly coming from the trees.”
West Monroe angler Kenny Covington has also found out how awesome these baits are around cypress trees.
“I’ll begin throwing a Senko in early spring at Cheniere Lake in West Monroe,” he said. “Those fish just can’t seem to get enough of it. Sometimes it seems like all you’ve got to do is throw up there beside a tree, let it sink then reel in your fish. The fish will also eat it at Bartholomew Bayou and Bayou Desiard from late spring on into the summer.”
Simpson agrees with Covington that the two best times to fish a Senko are during all three phases of the spawn and during the summer.
“You can catch prespawn fish that are staging out on the points or on the outside grass lines,” said Simpson. “You can sight fish with it by actually dragging it into the middle of the beds, and you can catch post-spawn fish that are guarding fry and lounging around in the grass.”
One of the neat things about the Senko, according to Simpson, is that it has such a natural looking slow fall the fish don’t seem to get conditioned to it.
“Fish get pounded during the spring by Brush Hogs and jigs,” he said. “Those two lures are big and bulky, and the bass quickly turn off of them if they’re seeing a bunch of them. But you can fish a Senko behind somebody throwing one of those other two lures and catch the fish that they’re missing.”
Simpson also says that these lures are great during the summer when fishing around matted grass, but he admits to tinkering with a Senko on a Carolina rig.
“Everybody knows the fish get on the channel ledges during the summer on lakes like D’Arbonne and Toledo Bend,” he says. “And just like those shallow springtime fish, these fish are seeing lots of Carolina-rigged lizards and centipedes. The Senko has such a different action it’s worth giving it a try on a Carolina rig before leaving a channel hole.”
This different action Simpson keeps referring to is one that must be seen to be believed, and even when you see it working in the lake, a full understanding of what a Senko can do won’t be realized until you see it working in the clear waters of a pool or a tank like the traveling Hawg Trough that makes annual appearances at outdoor shows.
“We were playing around with a Senko on the Hawg Trough at the KNOE TV8 Boating and Outdoor Show back in January,” said Simpson. “When you watch that thing falling down through the water from the side of the tank you gain a real appreciation of just what makes this lure so effective.”
Simpson says that as the Senko is falling through the water, the tail of the lure tightly quivers back and forth.
“It looks very similar to a shad that is dying and sinking to the bottom,” he said.
“It’s a very natural-looking motion, and one that I believe is capable of triggering an instinctive reflex action in any nearby fish. But to top it off, the lure glides to one side or the other as it is sinking, and sometimes it even backs up as it glides to the bottom. It’s an entirely random action. It seems like it never does the same thing twice during a retrieve. I’d say it sashays even more than those New Orleans ladies.
“I could get away with saying throw it out, let it sink and reel it in because that’s all you really have to do, but if you want to maximize your Senko time on the water, there are a few things you can do to your benefit.”
Simpson said the first thing to do is to make sure you fish the Senko on well-balanced gear.
“I’ve been throwing them on baitcasting tackle with monofilament,” he said. “But I know some guys are fishing them on spinning gear with braided or fused line.”
According to Simpson, a sensitive rod is a must.
“I like a 6-foot, 6-inch All Star Titanium medium-heavy rod,” he says. “That particular rod, and any comparable to it, is really sensitive because it is so light. It also has a quick tip, which allows me to make long casts with the Senko. The lure isn’t particularly light, but too heavy a rod might overpower it.”
Another important part of Simpson’s Senko gear is his line.
“A sensitive, low-stretch line is important,” he says. “A lot of anglers are going with the new fluorocarbon lines for Senko fishing. You’ve got to understand that you won’t be able to maintain constant contact with your lure when it is sinking because, in my opinion, it’s best to let it sink on a slack line. The fluorocarbon line has very little stretch, so you can detect strikes a little better with it than you can regular monofilament.”
Simpson said to fish the Senko correctly an angler should make a cast right up to the edge of whatever cover he is fishing.
“That’s particularly important on the edges of the grass beds,” he said. “Bass will suspend just underneath the mat and face out into the open water. And if you can get your lure to sink right in front of their face, you’ll get them the majority of the time.”
Since the Senko’s action is built into the lure, Simpson said very little rod-tip action is needed to make it work.
“In fact,” he added, “the less you move it the better it is. I think that’s why we’re hearing so many reports of kids catching fish with it. All you need to do is concentrate on how many drops you are making with the lure, and the action will take care of itself.”
To ensure proper action, Simpson says all an angler needs to do is Texas rig the Senko without any weight.
“A hook with a big bite like a 4/0 Mustad Wide Gap hook allows you to run the hook all the way back through the lure and skin hook it along the back,” said Simpson.
Rigging a Senko like this is important so that it maintains its natural straight line.
“You can also try wacky rigging it,” Simpson suggested. “Hook it through the middle and toss it out. The bait falls a little slower when rigged like this, and both ends have that quivering motion so it’s a good technique to use on heavily pressured fish.”
Simpson says that since you are fishing the Senko on a slack line, it can be a little difficult to detect strikes.
“Thankfully, though,” he says, “a bass holds onto a Senko long enough for you to set the hook. In fact, once they get it in their mouth they don’t seem to want to let it go.”
According to Simpson, strike detection is made easier by keeping a sharp eye on the spot where you’re line enters the water.
“You’ll see it jump to the side a little when a fish bites,” he said. “That’s the best way to detect a strike if they’re just sucking it in and sitting still. Sometimes you may feel a small tick, much like a crappie bite or a plastic worm bite.
“However you detect a strike you should then drop your rod tip, reel up slack and make a sweeping hook set to the side. If you’re having trouble hooking the fish, let them run with it a little bit. They rarely drop it thanks to its high salt content, and by waiting a bit the fish will be able to get the bait entirely in its mouth before you set the hook.”
No matter how you rig it or how you fish it, the Senko is sure to put fish in your boat this year. Simpson said if they aren’t eating it weightless or wacky style, try to experiment with it a little.
“You can add a weight and fish it like a worm,” he said. “You can put it on a jig. You can jerk it over grass mats like a frog, and you can punch the grass by using a heavy sinker. It will catch fish all those ways, and probably some ways we don’t even know about yet.”