How to Fish a Senko – and the best rigs you need

If you haven’t heard of Senko Worms, then have a chat to the local bass in a pond near you, because they’ve certainly have.

For 20 years bass of all kinds from everywhere have been dining out on the Garry Yamamoto worm dish like it was their first-ever drive-thru.

The drive-thru analogy is also appropriate for us anglers.

It fits because fishing a Yamamoto Senko Worm is incredibly easy – some would argue the easiest way to hook into bass, trout or crappie, etc.

Bass anglers from all walks of life have discovered that they’re the best baits for catching more bass and better bass more often.

What are Senko Worms?

Man fishing

The Senko worm is so simple in design and construction that it would barely turn any heads sitting on the shelf next to its more elaborate contemporaries.

It looks like a worm – if you squint a bit, and it is made of plastic. Hardly very appetizing. 

Nonetheless, bass love it to pieces and therefore we do too.

Seriously, regardless of the science, or lack thereof, as to why bass attack Senko aggressively and voraciously, it’s incredibly effective across a range of applications and profoundly easy to use.

Let’s look a little closer at the best rigs and techniques for getting the most out of our Senko Worms. 

In doing this, I think we’ll discover that there was a heck of a lot of science that gave us Senko Worms, and that Yamamoto’s design is ingenious.

Action, Buoyancy, Profile n Stuff…

Ultimately, action will depend on how you’re fishing your Senko and how it’s rigged. 

However, thrown unweighted into the water the Senko sinks horizontally, slowly and with a little shimmy that mimics the real thing quite remarkably.

The shape? Well…it’s worm-shaped. Hardly rocket science. It has the appearance of a common garden worm with a touch blood worm somewhere in its heritage.

Even when weighted, the shimmy and action are maintained. There is little effort, if any, required by the angler to impart peak action.

And therein lies the genius of the Senko. It looks like and behaves like a worm that found itself in the water. 

And depending on the technique you are using. It’s an absolute cakewalk to use.

Imitations of Senko Worms

Before we move any further, I feel it prudent to mention Senko Worm imitations. I have certainly had success with soft plastic worms that look a lot like Senko, i.e., Senko rip-offs. 

Truth is, they just don’t have the action and therefore the performance of the genuine Senko. At least that is my experience.

However, if you’re looking for some credibility behind my observations and experience, look no further than the pros.

Pro anglers are looking to win trophies and make a living. They choose Senko, not the imitation. These guys CAN fish, and they know their stuff. 

I tend to think it’s wise to emulate professional habits for better results. Go genuine. Hang the price.

The sinking characteristics of a Senko Worm are the result of an injection of salt into the lure. One can only assume the specific quantity is critical and not easily reproduced.

The salt, plus unique profile details and the construction materials work in concert to deliver the Senko Worm action.

I expect Yamamoto’s Senko design and the formula is not readily available for others to copy.

Hence, copies are just that…copies. And they don’t perform at all like a Senko.

Sizes of Senko

The Senko is available in 3,4,5,6 and 7 inches. For me, this seems a little bit of belts and braces. 

I think the 5 inch will cover every fish in the target range. I’ve seen remarkably little smallmouth monster the 5 inch and monster bass nail it as well.

In a sense, it’s kind of against my theory of biggest baits for biggest fish. 

Nonetheless, the 5 inch grabbed plenty of interest from a range of sizes, small and large.

People will argue this point, and each to their own but there’s enough of a headache sorting through over a hundred colors without adding sizes.

Even if you’re hunting something small in a creek, I wouldn’t feel the need to size down. 

It’s a worm, and even small fish probably don’t feel threatened by a worm half as long as the fish is – in fact, it probably inspires it.

Having just harped on about the 5 inch being the only Senko I need, there is an exception.

In the summer, I would strongly recommend the 7 inch for those hunting a much larger class of bass exclusively.

You will likely get quite a deal less interest, but the strikes you get will be a bigger class of fish. 

Colors of Senko

Colors. Hmmm. Opening a can of worms here. I tend to get a little cynical about the color thing. 

With over 100 Senko Worm colors from which to choose, I can’t help but think this is all about shelf space and moving more product.

Sorry Mr.ga Yamamoto, but I just can’t help thinking that this is overkill on overkill.

There is no good scientific (fish catching) reason that can be put forward for such an outrageous color range other than to lure fisherman.

I choose darker colors for muddy, dirty water and lighter shades for everything else. 

However, I’ve caught plenty using dark colors in clear water. I try to stick to colors that might resemble the real thing, be it an alive, dead or decaying worm.

There is a good reason for using a dark color in muddy waters – the profile can be seen a little easier. Beyond this, the color imperative starts getting really cloudy.

Yes, many anglers have a color selection they swear by, (especially) the pros. But color is often local and subjective.

If you used a red worm and cleaned up over three sessions, of course you’ll swear by it. If you have a fishless session using the green one, of course, you’ll shy from using it.

Problem is, without using a scientific control you cannot attribute your success, or otherwise, solely to the color.

My suggestion is this. Find out a little about the local area you are going to fish from local anglers.

They’ll have favorite colors and suggestions, no doubt. Expect the colors to be seasonal as well. Try their suggestions – happy days!

Short of that, do what I do. Take one dark color, black/blue, then take 2 of whatever color you like. I go for one very natural color and something a little brighter and more visually stimulating.

Simplicity is one of the most compelling features, if not the most compelling feature, of the Senko worm.

Why diminish the joys of simplicity by going nuts over color! Just my opinion.

How To Fish Senko Worms. 2 Rigs for Keeping it Simple.

Man fishing in the evening

Your choice of senko worm rig may simply come down to the way you want to fish. More often than not, however, your choice of the rig will be impacted by local fish behavior and geography.

Factors such as season, weather (especially wind), where in the water column you wish to target, and where it is you believe the fish are lurking. 

These aspects plus water depth and water color (or visibility), will push you toward using a particular rig.

Another feature is skill and experience. There are a couple of rigs that are absolutely perfect for the beginner – they’re too easy.

Let’s look at the two rigs you will most often deploy. I rarely (if ever) use anything but the rigs mentioned below. 

Of course, there are others, but the whole point of this is absolute simplicity in both rigging your lure and extracting peak action from your lure.

Senko Wacky Rig

I’m not sure of the origins of the name, but the wacky rig is the simplest of them all, and very effective. 

To be honest, you can use nearly any sort of 1/0 through to 3/0 hook you like – bigger if you’re chasing bigger largemouth. 

Gamakatsu makes these super-cool Wicked Wacky Hooks that have a hand-tied weed guard.

Thing is, if I’m using this rig, I’m often not having any serious issues with weeds in the first place. Save some coin and use a suicide hook that you already have.

There’s a smooth part in the middle of the lure. Put your hook through it. Tied to your leader, you have a wacky rig. Now cast it.

The Senko sinks slowly. Just be aware that a bass strike is highly likely when your line is slack. Watch it sink and have your rod pointed toward the water ready to lift it.

There’s a couple of options for this rig:

1) Add a tiny split shot to increase the sink rate slightly. If the fish are hanging a little deeper in the water column it might save a little time if you add some weight. A little weight will not spoil the action or deter the fish.

2) Instead of penetrating the lure with a hook, tie it on with a small elastic band or an O-ring. There are O-rigs made specifically for the Senko, but other options are far cheaper. I’ve even seen tiny cable ties, but they detract from the simplicity factor.

TIP: Use a double O-ring in an X configuration. Put your hook under the center of the X. This will ensure the point of your hook stays upright – your hook won’t turn over.

The Senko Worm is not the hardiest lure. In fact, you’ll go through a few of them. Putting hooks through them taxes on their longevity significantly, hence the O-ring trick.

This rig also exposes the flanks of your worms to attack. They get bitten off – and the Senko doesn’t work well as a portion of its former self.

Many anglers complain about the higher price relative to the lack of durability. I don’t. Relative to its success, this is not an expensive lure.

Use the Wacky rig wherever it’s practical. Wind will be an issue, as will a strong current and may well force you to change rigs. 

I suggest you fish as light as you dare. In fact, this is a great finesse technique.

Bottom line: If you can cast it there, fish it there. When it gets to the bottom, leave it there for a half a minute. Then retrieve it and do it all again. Expect fish. This is a great rig for the beginner.

Texas Rigged Senko

Depending on conditions, you can tie your Texas weightless or with some led. Again, current and wind coupled with access to your target zone will determine weight.

If I’m using a Texas rig it’s because I’m casting, retrieving and need a little weight. Believe me, it will always be the smallest weight I can get away with.

I’m fishing weedless to get right into the structure whatever it may be, from trees to rocks and weeds, so I may need a little help as I’m casting from as far away as practical.

Small bullet sinkers running down to the hook are the staple for the Texas. However, I have found no issues whatsoever using a ball sinker – and I do.

I use Gamakatsu 3/0 EWG offset worm hooks. Yes, you can use other hooks, but this hook really is brilliantly suited to the task.

In fact, the shape of the hook even makes it easier to rig your worm accurately.

I am prone to get lazy with rigging, and one less knot is great in my books. I will fish mono and tie everything on to my main line.

My only concern about mono is; I must concede that the way largemouth inhales these things can be a little harder at times to feel the bite with slack line. Braids are more sensitive.

However, I’m fishing stupidly light, so it isn’t really a problem.

I strongly recommend those noobs sending worms into the structure fish a little heavier. I know you’ll be fishing weedless, but it’s still easy to get hung up with poorly directed casts. 

Try fishing a little heavier, maybe save a little tackle.

TIP: This is a pretty important tip. If you really need to use significant weight, the Texas rig is not going to suit.

Weight is an action killer, and a big chunk of led is going to hurt your chances if you don’t adjust.

If the fish are really deep, which they are in winter; or if the wind is way up or you have to cast a country mile, that’s your cue to change over to your Carolina rig.

My preference is always to use the Texas. When the fish are deep, I’m just patient. Usually, it is the current or wind that sparks the change.

Casting into structure, under jetties and the like is best tackled with a Texas. It’s these locations I’m usually fishing.

TIP: When your lure hits the bottom, give it a rest before you start your retrieve. The amount of time is a gut feeling – can’t say I’ve ever counted or used a scientific predictable method. 

I get a little nervous when there’s current around a structure. I probably err on the side of caution and retrieve it a little quicker.

Remember. You needn’t be putting any action on the lure. Even at rest, it’s working. Even when it’s dropping it’s working.

Use a simple lift and retrieve, with a reasonable pause. I’m sorry I can’t be more precise than “reasonable.” I’m a ‘feel’ angler and my pause will vary.

Wrapping Up

Senko Worms work. It’s that simple. In fact, so much so that in many ways they have altered the sport forever and in a wonderful way. 

Catching fish with lures is simpler than ever with Senko Worms, successful and rewarding.

As a final tip, I advise you to experiment and focus on learning ‘feel’.

Stay focused, watch and feel. This is the fastest method for developing solid, reliable technique and feel. In a sense, get pragmatic, to better understand the art.

And most importantly, if fishing a Senko Worm is getting technical and difficult…You’re doing it wrong.

It’s as simple as putting a worm on a hook and casting it in the water.

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Picture of Sean Ward

Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’m based in the UK yet I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.

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