Hula Swimmer combines two bass favorites

Shooting range included in reopening.

The anticipation and excitement over latest gift to the bass fishing world is building, just like emotions and passions ramp up in the weeks and days leading up to a World Series or the Super Bowl.

The Hula Swimmer, a cross between a Swim Senko and a Hula Grub, is poised to win the hearts of bass fishermen everywhere. It’s catching on and catching bass now on the pro tournament circuits.

“Everybody’s just bragging about them, so excited about them,” said Jim Alphin, manager of the Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits store in Hemphill, Texas, a few long casts from the western shoreline of Toledo Bend. He’s been the manager there since the doors opened in 1999.

At the time, which was the second week of July, the new soft plastic was on the shelves at his business and others for a little more than a month. Luckily for him, he’s been catching bass on the prototypes for about a year, he said.

The Hula Swimmer was several years in the making, according to Gary Yamamoto, the man who made the Hula Grub — as well as the renowned and often-copied Senko — famous all over the United States, Japan, Europe and Africa. Yamamoto, 68, has joined at the head the Hula Grub and the Swim Senko. Thus was born the Hula Swimmer.

Yamamoto was born and raised in Hawaii, lives in Palestine, Texas, and has a camp at Fourchon, where he loves to fish for speckled trout, redfish and flounder.

“It will take off,” he said. “I think it will catch a lot of good fish. People will find out they can use it as a jig, bounce it off the bottom or use it as a swim bait.”

He was impressed by the way his many prototypes increasingly caught bigger bass in the ponds on his property in Texas.

Ben Matsubu, also of Hemphill, a former professional bass angler who works at Midlake Campground on the western side of Toledo Bend, has gotten his hands on the Hula Swimmer. Matsubu said he is certain bass anglers in and around Louisiana sooner or later will be hooked on the Hula Swimmer.

“People down here are used to old-school stuff,” he said. “Show people a Hula Grub and they say ‘Uhhhhh, it doesn’t look like anything.’ Me and a friend (and many others, apparently) like to throw a Hula Grub on this lake.

“They (GYCB) sent me some (Hula Swimmers) about a month ago. I gave some to some friends of mine and they’re catching on it. I know it’s going to work,” Matsubu, an Idaho native who lived in Arizona before moving to Toledo Bend in 2000, said about the Hula Swimmer. “It’s a pretty versatile bait. You can do anything with them. The thing of it is, it’s a skirted Swim Senko.”

One of the interesting aspects about the manufacturing of the Hula Swimmer is that each one is made by hand by the workers who put them together in Page, Ariz., home of GYCB.

“The amazing thing is how they put it together, by hand with a hot knife,” Alphin said.

First, he said, the worker splits a Hula Grub, then attaches one half to the front end of a Swim Senko.

The Hula Swimmer’s soft plastic body is a 4.5-inch-long Swim Senko, which has a distinctive tail that gives it action in the water. While the original hula skirt has 24 tentacles, the Hula Swimmer’s hula skirt has 12. There’s a reason, Yamamoto said.

“I didn’t want a full skirt. It (12-skirt model) gives as much vibration but not as much water resistance,” the 30-year-plus artificial lure manufacturer veteran said, adding the halved hula skirt still flares open well and the angler still can retrieve it a little easier.

“Pull it and stop it; it pulsates. If something blows up on it, stop it, the tentacles work. I’m really looking forward to throwing it next spring,” Alphin said about the hula skirt on the Hula Swimmer.

Obviously, the soft-plastic’s action ratchets up a bass’s excitement and eagerness to bite.

The Hula Swimmer is especially effective in and around grass beds, he said.

Yamamoto, Alphin and Matsubu make it even deadlier by putting it on a special Owner hook designed by Yamamoto. It has a screw lock and a weight on the hook, which comes in two weights. The lead weight “acts as a keel,” the artificial lure manufacturer said, which gives it a natural movement in a straight line and allows the body to swim properly.

When an angler wants more of a stop-and-go action, he can put the Hula Swimmer on a 4/0 or 5/0 wide-gap straight shank hook and a Florida rig screw-in weight, Yamamoto said.

Of the 12 colors available in Hula Swimmers, one of them isn’t red bug, a hue that bass in Louisiana and Texas, particularly at Toledo Bend, love to eat between May and September, Matsubu said.

“The closest color it has to that is 231,” he said.

So Matsubu and Alphin collaborated and a “special shoot” was done at the latter’s fishing tackle store in Hemphill. Alphin pointed out that not only was a red bug product born but also two other colors that are popular at Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend: watermelon/red on one side and green pumpkin on the other, and “magic,” which took the bassin’ world by storm a few years ago.

For more information on the Hula Swimmer, Swim Senko and other Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, call (800) 645-2248 or go to

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About Don Shoopman 484 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.

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