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Senko Soft Jerkbait

By Russ Bassdozer

Today I would like to tell you about the Senko, made by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits.

Senko is hot, hot, hot. I know the word "Senko" must mean something in Japanese, but I haven't got the slightest idea what. Maybe "elephant trunk"? Anyway, my own personal translation for it is "Hot, Hot, Hot!" You won't find that definition in an English-Japanese dictionary, but many anglers who try the new Senko are finding this to be the true meaning of it. I know guys from all over the country who are using it...Maine, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas, Arizona, Washington State, California, Texas...IT CATCHES!!

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It does not look like much... it has less "sex appeal" than most any lure out there. To define it further, the Senko is a SUBSURFACE jerkbait. It has a baitfish appearance - wide middle, tapered head, pointy tail. Because of its thick body and dense plastic formula, it casts well, sinks fast, stays down at the desired level and therefore resembles hard plastic jerkbaits (Rogues, Husky Jerks, etc.) better than other soft stickbaits. Flukes, Slug-gos and other soft jerkbaits tend to plane up towards the surface when there is the slightest line pressure on them. I try not to fight this natural tendency in them. Therefore I use Flukes and Slug-gos in a surface-oriented manner. Not so with Senko. It has a fantastic ability to sink slowly and steadily - and it hunkers down at the level where you want it to catch fish.

Keep the bait weightless. The Senko can be fished in several different ways - each of which will preserve its free-spirited action and weightless appeal to the bass:

1) Jerkbait Rig. This is where the Senko really excels. I believe it comes closer to imitating a hard plastic-lip suspending jerkbait.You can rig it texposed (instructions below) on a Yamamoto Sugoi hook, which is a medium heavy offset rigging hook. Cast it out there and twitch it back in just under the surface (or let it sink a few feet before starting the retrieve). It will flutter and flit around when shaken as it drops, dart and flash when twitched or ripped on the retrieve. This may be a fairly familar to you if you have used other soft stickbaits like Flukes or Slug-gos. Only differences are that the Senko stays down and holds its depth better - also it jerks better meaning more slowly and more like a hard lipped stickbait - and bass seem to belt the Senko more often! As with all soft jerkbaits, use a small, strong swivel and short leader to hold down unwanted line twist. The pointy,  streamlined Super Crane swivels sold by Barlow's Tackle are better quality lighter, stronger, and more weedless than any others in my opinion.

2) Wacky Rig. Gary Yamamoto has an exclusivley-made Gamakatsu hook called the "Split Shot" hook that excels for this. In shallow water (0 to 6' deep) you can rig it "wacky" with the little Split Shot hook in the middle and unweighted. If you want to get deeper than this, stick a small piece of solder or nail weight right in the middle where you put the hook. Keep in mind that all Yamamoto baits are made of denser plastic which is slightly heavier and sinks faster than other plastics. With or without an embedded weight, just let it settle down to the bottom and shake the rod tip slightly from time to time during its descent. Hooked and weighted properly in the midle, the Senko should sort of flutter back and forth as it falls.

3) Split Shot Rig. You can stick the Split Shot hook straight through the nose about 3-4 ribs back, then pinch a few split shot two feet up the line to sink it quickly about 10 to 20 feet deep...then start twitching it back through mid-water for suspended fish. The Senko will flutter and dart along erratically. Along the bottom, you may want to use the texposed Sugoi hook which will snag less if the bottom has wood or weed cover.

4) Carolina Rig. You can go to a full-blown Carolina rig with a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce weight, swivel, 2-3 feet of leader, a wide gap offset shank worm hook like the special Gamakatsu Sugoi hook made exclusively for Gary Yamamoto.

Setting the Hook. According to Jerry Puckett, editor of Inside Line magazine, weightless Senko success often involve using a slack line, either totally slack (jerkbait or wacky) or partially slack (split shot or Carolina). Very often the entire lure will be sucked in by the bass on a slack line. Both the Split Shot hook as well as the Sugoi hook will slip out of the gullet/crusher area and rotate, by design, into the jaw-hinge area, and do so on a slow, steady rod sweep or reel-set pressure - no Herculean hooksets for Jerry on these techniques. Click here to learn more about this by reading Jerry's article, The Split Shot Hook is the Advantage.

Rig the Sugoi hook as follows on any presentation like we have here that requires a sweep-set or reel-set. The best way depends on how heavy the cover is that you are fishing at any given moment. But you always start out the same. That is, put the bait onto the offset eye portion of the hook as you normally do for Texas or Carolina rigging. Rig the hook so the eye is buried an inch back on the bait if possible (Not always possible on short baits...just leave as much room as you can). Now that you've buried the eye of the hook in the head of the bait, then take the point end of the hook, and do one of the following:

1) Tex-posed. For thin cover, especially where the water is mostly open, with few snags or weed patches, put the point into the bottom of the bait and all the way out the top of the bait. The barb on the Sugoi hook curves downward a bit, so it will lie flat outside of and on top of the bait, and this is called "Texposed", which means it is an exposed point Texas rig.

2) Tex-skin on top. For moderate cover where the texposed hook gets snagged or covered in weeds, first follow the directions for texposing the hook. Then, insert the hook point and barb just under the skin on the plastic bait's back. You kind of have to pull the plastic forward in front of where the hook comes out the top of the bait, and stretch it forward a bit. While it is still stretched, insert the point just under the skin, and then push the stretched plastic back to cover the barb area. The only way to describe it is that the hook point should appear just under the bait's skin exactly as if you got a splinter in your thumb or your big toe, just under your skin.

Glue it. Because you can jerk or rip the Senko surprisingly hard, and because it has a flat head that deflects off cover, you should use a drop of superglue to securely hold the bait's head on the offset shank of the hook - otherwise the bait may pull off and ball up on the hook. Glue is not necessary with the Split Shot hook.

Hook Sizes. On medium heavy rod/reel with 12 to 15 lb. test line, a size 3/0 Sugoi hook is about right for the 5 inch model #9 Senko. You can get away with a 2/0 in the slightly smaller and slimmer size 4 inch 9S Senko. Use a 4/0 in the 6 inch long 9L model. A size 6 Split Shot hook is about right for the smaller #9S Senko, a size 5 for the regular 5 inch #9 Senko, and a size 4 Split Shot hook in the 6 inch #9L Senko.

Colors. Some of the favorites of many Senko anglers across the country seems to be the flashier baitfish color patterns such as 031, 036, 177, 238 and 239. Of course, they are several natural black, watermelon, and smoke patterns plus bold chartreuse and bubblegum patterns as well!

One last rig...Texas jig. I feel that the Senko was designed to be fished weightless, and that's how I have mentioned that you should use it - totally weightless (jerkbait or wacky) or on a trace of line apart from the weight (split shot or Carolina). Although it can be done successfully, I personally don't use the Senko on back of a jig or on a Texas rig. However, I do want to tell you this one last rigging method that's good for ripping the Senko in grass. The WSH model of Charlie Brewer Slider head is my favorite for this! It belongs to a family of jig heads known as "Texas jigs" which are hybrids of lead heads molded onto offset shank rigging hooks. Rig the Senko tex-posed or tex-skinned on the WSH Slider head. Just rip it through weeds or on flats in 4 to 6 depths. Also, parallel cast and rip it fast along bare banks and rocky rip-rap banks. Because of the jig head (superglue it on), this rig holds up in the grass better than an unweighted Senko, and you can more easily control it at mid-depths or work it just above deeply submerged weedtops. Best of all, you can "rip" it viciously, like you would a hard plastic jerkbait! Hold the rod tip down to the side and reel slowly. After a few turns of the reel handle, snap the rod tip back and to the side. Just develop a cadence of reeling in a few turns, then jerking or "ripping" the lure with the rod tip, and then pausing. Bass will often strike as the lure pauses after you rip it or when it tears off weeds.  Occasionally, just let it drop dead to the bottom. Bass will follow it down and suck it up as it lies motionless! If not, just let it lie still for a while, then rip it good - and brace your feet for what happens next! Sounds easy, but there are infinite variations on this technique -- how fast to reel, how hard to jerk, how long to pause, and how to mend SLACK in the line right after you rip -- that makes it a true art!

Hmm...Is it hot in here or is it just me? No, it's just Senko.

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