While soft plastics like Rage Tail Craws, Brush Hogs, and Flukes are popular, the Senko is legendary. When the bass aren’t biting and the pressure’s on, more anglers reach for a Senko than anything else.
The reason is simple: for finesse techniques, there’s probably no more effective soft plastic than a Senko. And while no one bait can do it all, the Senko comes as close as any.
If you’re new to Senkos, or just want a refresher as spring approaches, we’re here to help.
Want to increase your Senko know-how?
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 What is a Senko?
- 2 Rigging and Fishing a Senko
- 3 Popular Senkos
- 4 Final Thoughts
What is a Senko?
Weedless wacky rigging allows you to really work a Senko through the top of vegetation.
The brainchild of Gary Yamamoto, the Senko is deceptively simple.
The body is nothing more than a relatively thick, ridged stick bait that resembles an especially fat earthworm.
But those subtle ridges trap tiny air bubbles, and in combination with a salt-heavy body, they create everything from an erratic dating motion to gentle flutters, depending on how the Senko is rigged and fished.
It casts well, too, and it’s just the right weight to work well with the medium to medium light spinning tackle that’s preferred for finesse techniques.
Pretty much the only thing anglers don’t like about Sens are their fragility. They’re not tough, and they can’t take a beating. A few hard hits will tear one up, and they can be ripped off a hook in a mean fight.
Rigging and Fishing a Senko
While you can rig a Senko like any other soft bait, using anything from a Texas rig to a simple jig head, this stick bait really shines when applied to finesse techniques.
Let’s cover the most productive.
Drop Shot Rig
Finesse techniques share a common theme: they leave your Senko as free as possible to strut its stuff. And if you’re looking for a rig that allows you to keep your stick bait up and off the bottom, there’s nothing better than the Drop Shot.
It’s easy to assemble, but if you need a refresher, check out this video:
I like to fish my Drop Shot rigs with spinning tackle since there’s not a lot of weight involved. My favorite rod for this technique is the awesome G. Loomis IMX-PRO 820S DSR. Light and sensitive, it casts this rig like a dream, and you can feel every bump and pebble under your weight.
I like to run Seaguar InvizX in an 8-pound test on a really high-end spinning reel, piercing my Senko with a size 1 to 1/0 Gamakatsu drop shot hook. I use as little weight as possible, and I like tungsten cylinder weights because they don’t hang up as often as other shapes do.
I’ll sometimes wacky rig my Senkos to create flutter on both ends, too.
All you want to do with this rig is gently bounce it along the bottom. You want to keep your weight grounded all the time, using a slack line and gentle motions of your rod tip to drag your rig.
Don’t worry about trying to get that Senko to dance. It’ll do fine all on its own!
Wacky rigging is nothing more than placing a hook mid-Senko. And whether you use an O-ring, hook the worm directly, use a jig head rather than a bare hook, add a nail weight, or any of the other options anglers have invented, that hook placement is the same.
And one thing’s for sure: the wacky rig works!
While you can throw a wacky-rigged Senko with a medium power casting rod, I prefer a longish spinning rod in medium to medium light power. For me, a fast action is perfect, and I just love St. Croix’s Avid series of spinning rods for my wacky rigging.
The 6’8” medium power rod with a fast tip is just right for it, and from the well-contoured cork handle to the Fuji Concept guides, this is a rod you’re going to love, too.
A 2000- to 2500-size Shimano, Pflueger, Cadence, or Penn reel makes this a deadly finesse package.
For wacky rigs, I prefer a circle (or octopus) hook or an EWG. Size is up to you, but I’ve seen everything from a 1/0 to a 3/0, and even with some folks stepping up to a 4/0.
Many anglers choose a hi-vis braid color so that their line is easier to watch. That’s something to really consider if you start missing strikes.
And unless the water is as murky as my morning coffee, I always use a 10-pound fluorocarbon or mono leader.
Stren Original is my usual choice, as I like a bit of shock resistance right there where it matters.
I often use a Double Uni, but if you prefer an FG knot, that’s hard to argue with.
Working a wacky-rigged Senko is simple.
Cast and let the Senko sink on a slack line, watching for a strike on the fall. More often than not, that’s where it’ll happen.
When (if!) it hits the bottom, let it rest for a second, twitch it just a little, wait, and then pop your rod tip a few times to lift it. Let it fall again on a slack line and repeat as necessary.
A shaky rigged Senko relies on an asymmetrical jig head, often with a screw lock to keep your stick bait firmly on the jig after a strike. Senkos aren’t cheap, and losing one to every fish gets old fast.
A shaky head forces your Senko into that desirable head-down, tail-up orientation, and like all finesse techniques, it frees your stick bait to really do its thing. Glued to the bottom by your shaky head, your Senko will wriggle an irresistible “come and get me.”
Especially when bass are spooked, pressured, or heat stressed, that subtle shimmy is the way to go. It won’t run bass off, and that “natural” presentation generates strikes when nothing else will.
But the shaky rig isn’t an all-arounder: it’s a specialty option for relatively open water where the bottom is hard and vegetation is sparse.
This is definitely a technique that’s at its best with spinning tackle. I prefer a 6 ½- to 7-foot rod in medium light to medium power, and the St. Croix Premier is just perfect. Fast actions are ideal as they’ve got the sensitivity at the tip you want to really feel the bottom and detect a soft strike.
That combo is going to provide the best feel for finesse fishing while still allowing great abrasion resistance if a bass decides to tie me up around a stump or downed tree. And that InvizX is going to be very, very hard to see for any spooky bass.
Like the wacky rig, some anglers like to run hi-vis line with their shaky heads so they can maintain the proper slack for the shake, and if that sounds like a good idea to you, go right ahead!
Owner’s Ultrahead is a great shaky head jig that’s available in 1/16-, 3/16-, ⅛-, and ¼-ounce weights.
Another one of my go-to shaky heads is Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten.
It’s available in plenty of color choices and in 3/16-, ⅜-, 1/8 -, ¼-, and 1/2-ounce weights. Keep in mind that you want to keep your shaky heads as light as you can, so start small and move up only if you need a faster fall or to fight a current.
But don’t forget the “old style” shaky head.
If you’re fishing deeper water and want a slow, spiraling descent, the VMC Shaky Head Jig can’t be beat. Offered in ⅛-, 3/16-, and ¼-ounce weights, those heavier sizes reflect its ideal use.
Rigging and working a shaky head is easy.
With a screw-down shaky head, just feed the head of your soft plastic onto the screw, then pass the point in through the body and feed it just out over the skin.
You will get a more secure soft bait this way, and you’ll lose a lot fewer worms during the fight.
With the traditional style shaky head, you run your worm onto the hook about ½ an inch, pull the head up flush, and find the place where the point should pass through the body.
To create that spiraling descent we mentioned above, you need to keep a slight bend in your worm.
Check out 6:42:
As I mentioned above, the shaky head is perfect for hard bottoms with little to no vegetation.
Cast it out and let it settle on a slack line. Give yourself roughly 3 to 4 feet of slack on the surface and twitch your rod tip with a subtle, gentle motion. The idea isn’t to pull, pop, or drag your shaky-headed Senko; you just want to use those tiny motions and your slack line to impart the slightest action to your stick bait.
Every few shakes will pull your Senko just fractions of an inch forward, but you don’t want to really try to get the rig moving. Go as slow as you can with the shake, and only pick up line to keep the right amount of slack.
Look at the technique, starting with 9:52:
The Neko rig is little more than a nail-weighted wacky rig, combining the strong suits of both the wacky and the shaky head. Best used where the bottom is hard and relatively free from vegetation, this is a technique that relies on visibility.
Don’t bury it in a weedbed or toss it into the grass: it’s just not going to deliver in those situations.
But it’s great for riprap, rock piles, humps, and points, and like other finesse techniques, it can really produce when bass aren’t biting anything else due to pressure or stress. It can also be fished deep, hitting bass that are looking for a bit of relief from the summer heat.
As you can guess from the Neko rig’s similarity to the shaky head, I use the same rod, reel, and line.
Hook choice is critical for a Neko rig, and I prefer a long shank hook like the #2 VMC IKE-Approved Neko Hook to protect my point from snags.
And I use Reaction Tackle’s Nail Weights in 1/16- to 1/32-ounce sizes. Again, this is a technique where less is more; start small, and only increase the weight if absolutely necessary.
The Neko rig is pretty easy to set up, but if you need a refresher, check out this video:
It’s easy to work. Cast and let your Senko fall. You’re looking for a bow in your line - semi-slack.
Holding your rod at about 10 o’clock, drag your rig across the bottom, keeping slack in your line.
Weightless senko rig (left) and Texas Rig (right)
The weightless rig is popular in shallow water or high in the water column, where its slow sinking isn't a problem but rather an asset. It consists of just a line, hook, and Senko. That’s all. The most popular ways to rig a weightless Senko is "Texas style," passing the point of the hook through the top or head of the senko before bringing it back into and through the body.
The point is typically left exposed, but flat against the side of the Senko. To make it weedless you can bury the point of the hook just under the top layer of rubber. Take a look at the red hook and how the point is buried.
Now, how would you fish a weightless senko? Your two best options are pitching/flipping and twitching. Here's everything you need to know:
Senkos shine in weightless presentations, and one way to get a strike from bass that have been hit hard and often is to pitch the 5-inch stick bait of your choice into shallow water near enticing cover.
The Senko’s fluttering fall is all you need here, allowing you to work hot spots quickly.
And since this rig is weedless, you just don’t get hung up much at all.
Pros like Kevin Hawk love this technique, and they prefer standard pitching tackle to a finesse setup. Hawk recommends a medium-heavy to heavy rod like the Dobyns Fury FR 734C or iRod Air 703. These rods have the backbone you need for heavy cover and the sensitivity you want to detect that gentle suck that means a bass has taken your Senko.
Hawk likes 17- to 20-pound Seaguar InvizX, and it’s hard to disagree with him. This line is very abrasion resistant and denser than mono, transferring vibration better.
He likes a straight-shank 4/0 hook, as he’s lost too many bass on EWG alternatives. I really like VMC’s Heavy Duty Flippin' Hook, as it holds my Senkos in place.
The trick when pitching a Senko in shallow water is to try to find cover that’s likely to hold bass. Whether that’s the edge of lily pads, a dock, or a downed tree, look for shadows and work that shady side.
Pitch your Senko and let it flutter to the bottom: that’s all it takes!
But pitching isn’t the only way to work a weightless Senko. With a 5/0 EWG hook, you can keep that Senko flat and level, burying your hook in the unribbed section separating the two ribbed portions.
Can you tell which of these Senkos is rigged properly?
That summons some real magic. All you do is cast your Senko, let it flutter to the bottom, and twitch your rod tip. That’ll bring your stick bait to life, sending it darting and turning like a jerkbait, but with an additional fluttering fall that attracts as much attention as a gold-plated Mazerati in your neighbor’s driveway.
A wide range of Senkos and Senko clones are available. Here are some of our favorites.
The original and still unmatched Senko is Gary Yamamoto’s own. And while 3-, 4-, 6-, 7-, and 8-inch lengths are also available, the most popular size is undisputedly the 5-inch.
That length seems to be the sweet spot, and whether you’re fishing for numbers or looking for a lunker, the 5-inch just gets bit more often than the others.
Don’t take our word for it: ask a friend.
Offered in a wide range of deadly colors, the only draw-back to Yamamoto’s Senko is that it’s a bit more expensive than its competitors. Nevertheless, I don’t know a single bass angler who doesn’t have (at least) several packs of these.
They cast well, sink fast, and work like nothing else.
For head-down presentations like the Neko rig, you really want a long, wriggling tail. It certainly doesn’t hurt on a Drop Shot or standard jig head either, and the 5-inch Pro Senko is a dinner-bell ringing super stick bait.
Weightless, it’s killer, too, and that long tail just does something special.
This would also be my pick for a Senko to rig Texas or Carolina style, competing neck and neck with ribbon-tail designs.
Available in four colors, it’s a great option if head-down presentations are your go-to technique.
The YUM Dinger is a Senko in all but name, offering excellent performance at a slightly lower price point than the original by Gary Yamamoto.
Available in a rainbow of colors, lengths include 3, 4, 5, and 6 inches.
Bass anglers have strong opinions, but most agree that the Yamamoto Senko is a tad softer, just a touch heavier, and sinks faster. Many agree as well that the original sports a slightly better action.
That said, the YUM Dinger has earned a reputation on small ponds and tournament lakes across the country.
Chompers takes the salty stick bait and adds garlic to the mix, creating a very effective Senko clone. Available in 11 colors and just one length - 5 inches - these stick baits have proven themselves again and again.
On a slow-moving river where the scent can disperse, these are lethal on smallmouth.
Go ahead - ask me how I know!
If scent and taste are important to you, and you want a split second more time to set your hook, Chompers might be the way to go.
Bass Pro Shops offers its own version of the Senko, and it has proven remarkably popular with anglers everywhere. Chalk that up to attention to details like a conical, wriggling tail available in contrasting colors, as well as color choices that are impressively broad.
Available in two lengths, a 4 ½ inch and a 6 inch, you won’t be disappointed by the Stik-O Worm.
Since many finesse presentations rely on sight, that contrasting tail can really up-the-ante on attention, and these fat Senko-clones are popular for a reason.
Strike King’s line of KVD lures and baits are top-notch, and their Perfect Plastics Ocho is a great stick bait.
Rather than the typical round shape, the Ocho has eight sides, creating long ridges from head to tail. That, in conjunction with a nice air-trapping texture and plenty of heft and motion, make this a hard stick bait to beat.
Offered in 4-, 5-, and 6-inch lengths, the Ocho is available in 19 colors.
The Senko has earned its reputation as a bass magnet. And whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned veteran, this is one bait that you ignore to your detriment.
Rigged for pretty much any finesse technique, the simple Senko will deliver bites when nothing else is getting any attention. For me, that makes it a go-to on crowded, pressured lakes and ponds, and when you’re fighting for every bite, you’ll come to love these little devils.
As always, we hope you learned something from this article, and of course, we’re here to field any questions you might have.
Please leave a comment below.