Gary Dobyns: Senkos
If I had to choose one technique for bass fishing in the majority of scenarios I encounter, it would be a wacky-rigged Senko and, more specifically, the nail-weighted rig. This is a go-to technique for me year-round, although I don't throw it as much in summer and early fall because of my love of topwater fishing. Nevertheless, it's always on the deck, rigged and ready.
My son Richard and I catch lots of big ones with this technique. The 9-pound 5-ounce largemouth we used on our banners for years I caught on a nail-weighted Senko during an FLW tournament at Clear Lake. I've really worked on refining my tactics, so let me offer a handful of tips for nail-weighting success.
First of all, anglers need to pitch this bait into clear water and watch it fall. A small weight will make this bait fall headfirst and fall fast. Once you watch how this bait falls and how the nail weight makes the bait stand up in clear water, you'll instantly know why bass eat it so well.
So, when do I use the nail-weighted Senko? Really, I throw it just about everywhere:
I fish it from a foot to 50 feet deep.
I use it on spotted and smallmouth bass fisheries, as well as largemouth fisheries.
I fish it on 8-pound test line on spinning gear and baitcasters with 55-pound braid and a 30-pound leader.
I fish this bait fast and shallow to cover water, or deep and slow for lethargic winter fish.
So, for a single bait to fish all year and on all different types of waters, no hesitation here; a Senko is the only bait that I'd feel confident with. This is coming from a power fisherman – the Senko may be the simplest looking but best fish catching bait of all time
This nail-weighted Senko rig has almost replaced my jig fishing because I believe that most times a fish would swim past a jig to eat the Senko. This is a huge confidence bait for me. It not only gets bit all the time, it catches BIG ones too!
The 5-inch Senko is by far the most popular bait for the nail-weighted technique. I'd guess I fish it 90% of the time, but don't overlook the 6-inch Senko. I really like the 6-inch bait around cover or if the wind starts blowing. This bigger bait really fishes better in the wind. I also like it in our fisheries that have big largemouth like our California Delta or Clear Lake.
For my nail- weighting, I use a 3/64-ounce weight and a Gamakatsu splitshot/dropshot hook with a weed guard. I use sizes 1/0 to 3/0 in this hook depending on the size of the Senko (1/0 or 2/0 for 5-inch baits, 3/0 for 6-inch baits). I do prefer the O-Ring on the bait when rigging wacky style with a nail weight.
The weed guard on the splitshot/dropshot hook is light so if the cover is too heavy, I Texas rig the bait weightless or with a small bullet weight. When doing this I prefer a Gamakatsu Superline EWG hook.
I'm not really picky on colors but I love green pumpkin, baby bass, natural shad, and my number one favorite – watermelon/green pumpkin laminate. These are just confidence colors with me. In really clear water, I go to the baby bass or shad color. Early in the year when we're getting runoff from storms, I like the darker colors like green pumpkin or the laminate.
Whatever your favorite color – use it. I've netted a ton of fish for partners who were using some pretty wild colors like rainbow trout and hot pink. I think you can catch fish on a Senko of just about any color.
TACKLE AND PRESENTATION
We make several rods that work well with the nail-weighted Senko. I prefer the DX 743 SF. It's a very fast action rod with some power to it. This really helps ensure good hookups when fishing deep water. Some anglers drop down to a Champion 702 SF or 703 SF model and many use a DX 742 SF. I prefer more power and length with the DX 743 SF.
If I'm fishing shallow or on a body of water with really big fish or heavy cover, I'll go with a casting rod. For pitching this bait to docks, reeds, and grass lines and to any visible cover, I prefer a Champion 735C. Our most popular rods for this are the Champion 733C and 734C but I like the faster and more powerful 735C.
I like spinning reels for light line and deep water. I use a Daiwa Certate a lot but also use Procyon and Excellor reels, too. The really big deal to me is the reel size and I prefer the 2500. If you're using fluorocarbon or a stiff mono the bigger spool really helps with line release. I use 8-pound P-Line fluorocarbon on my spinning reels. Many guys drop to 6-pound and that also works well but I just like to pull a little harder on them at times.
I'm using a Daiwa Tatula for a casting reel. My line size will vary depending on the cover I'm fishing but I use a lot of 10- to 12-pound CXX PLine. I'll also pitch into heavy cover with straight 55-pound braid when I can get away with it.
I always believe when fishing spinning gear with lighter line that it's really important to have the right rod-reel-and line. We're using this rig somewhat as a finesse technique and the right rod will help detect light bites and pressure bites.
When switching to casting gear and heavier line, I believe there is a wider margin and it depends on the cover and the angler. Some anglers like a softer tip and lighter action. Some anglers, like myself, like the soft tip but quick power and backbone. I get great hook penetration but then I can pull them away from cover. I build a "little" tip action into all our rods just for this reason. I also will pitch and flip a Senko on a flippin' stick if needed. That's a lesson I learned the hard way on Lake Amistad in Texas.
I prefer to make firm sweeps for hook sets. When you sweep hard and really load the rod, you just land more fish. I really don't like the snap hook sets on this technique. When fishing really deep, a firm sweep is the only way you'll consistently get solid hookups.
A big mistake anglers make is not fishing the nail-weighted Senko enough. Many anglers don't look at it as a big-fish technique and this is a huge mistake.
Another mistake is using too light of a rod. There is some weight to a 5-inch Senko and you can fish it better (get more action out of your bait when shaking it) with a medium or medium/heavy spinning rod.
By far, the biggest mistake I see anglers make is their hook sets when fishing in deep water. This is a mistake not limited to Senkos. When fishing deep (30-50 feet or more), your hookup and landing percentage will skyrocket if you'll quickly reel down a couple of turns and make a firm sweeping hook set that really loads the rod. Then reel hard and really load the rod. Snap hook sets are really ineffective with the nail-weighted technique in deep water, but if you'll work on perfecting the sweeping hook set, you'll land more fish with this incredibly effective technique.
When I'm fishing for suspended fish I like to rig Senkos wacky style with no weight. This is what makes the nail-weighted rig so special. You can grab the nail, pull it out and cast for a suspended fish on your graph or any working fish you see. A Senko rigged wacky with no weight is a great bait for a quick cast to moments of opportunity. After that moment has past, just reinsert the nail weight and continue with a weighted presentation.