How to Fish the Swim Senko

By: Russ Bassdozer

The tips below from Gary Yamamoto describe the types of fishing situations for which Gary designed the Swim Senko.

"The idea came to me while trying to solve a situation where fish were following conventional swimbaits, but really not hitting them, just following. Yet you could cast back at these bass that had followed the swimbait, you could cast back at them with a Senko, and get them to bite the Senko," observed Gary Yamamoto. That was at the FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee, Florida in January 2006. Both Shin Fukae and Gary Yamamoto had found fish following but not hitting swimbaits. It was a little frustrating, yet both pros cast back at these followers with a Senko to catch them. Shin Fukae won that event and $100,000 with the swimbait-plus-Senko one-two punch, and Gary Yamamoto pocketed a tidy $11,500 for eleventh place finish, using the swimbait to flush out followers, and the Senko to throw back on them to get them to bite.

The one-two approach was effective, but it got Yamamoto thinking to combine both baits into one. "Rather than use one lure to get fish to follow, and then use another lure to catch them, I just combined the swimbait and Senko into the Swimming Senko. It's a fantastic lure with the best properties of both those baits," says Gary.

Swimming Senko

Since the FLW season opener in January on Okeechobee, Gary's been successful with the Swimming Senko all season on the FLW Pro Tour. Indeed everywhere Yamamoto's fished across the nation, the Swimming Senko has been successful. In May 2006, Yamamoto flipped the Swimming Senko to earn $25,000 and third place at the FLW event on Kentucky Lake (Benton, KY). Plus Yamamoto earned $17,000 for a 15th place finish in the FLW Tour Championship on Logan Martin Lake (Birmingham, AL) in August.

Gary Yamamoto has been successful using the new Swim Senko in the following three ways, and you can too.

Weightless Texas Rig

"First and foremost, it can be used weightless. As the name says, this is a Swim Senko. When rigged weightless, just cast and swim it along... steadily... in shallow water from one to a few feet deep. Shallow water swimming is what the Swim Senko is designed for," says Gary Yamamoto.

"The Swim Senko works best with a heavier hook in the 5/0 size range. An extra wide gap hook style with an offset bend in the neck works fine for weightless rigging," says Gary.

Weightless Rig

Yamamoto likes to use a heavy baitcasting rod and reel with fluorocarbon line from 16 to 20 lb test. On this gear, the big heavy 5/0 hook is ideal for Yamamoto. The heavier hook works like a counterbalance to help keep the Swim Senko from twisting the line.

"You don't want it to twist or spin. If it's twisting, slow down on the retrieve. You can never go too slow. When swimming correctly with the heavy 5/0 hook, the tail beats and the entire body has a slight wobble," says Yamamoto.

However, a 5/0 may be just too much hook for some set-ups. So Yamamoto adds this caveat to hook size selection: "Hook size (and your ability to set the hook) is really going to depend on your rod, reel and line strength. Always opt for the heaviest hook you can - but you must still be able to set it when you get a bite," says Gary.

Screw-in Sinker for Casting/Swimming Rig

As useful as weightless rigging is in shallow water, weightless is not as effective in deeper water. And when it is windy, weightless rigging gets difficult. That's why Gary often prefers to rig the Swim Senko with a screw-in bullet weight screwed into the nose.

Casting/Swimming Rig

"Actually, a screw-in weight works better than weightless," reveals Gary Yamamoto. "When weightless, the nose of the Swim Senko tends to wiggle too much. With a screw-in sinker, the weight holds the nose steady, and all the wiggle comes from the swimming tail section."

"I use a screw-in bullet weight exclusively. If you just let the sinker slide loose on the line (unpegged) or if you peg the sinker some way to the line, both those methods still cause the lure to expend a lot of wasted energy through the Swim Senko's head movements. Only with the screw-in bullet weight, do you retain all the lure's energy in its tail, and maximize the movement and energy expressed in the tail beat."

"If you had to pick one weight to start, a 1/4 ounce works swell, but try a little lighter or a bit heavier screw-in sinkers also. Use the same size hook (5/0) you used for weightless rigging, and the same method of swimming it along steadily. In deeper water, stop and let is sink every so often to keep it near the bottom" says Yamamoto.

"Keep it moving because it has no action in the tail unless you are swimming it along, causing the tail to beat. The way the Swim Senko was designed, its tail is not vibrating if you just deadstick it (allow it to fall and lie motionless). I'm not saying it won't work when deadsticked, however it's designed to be a moving, swimming, tail-beating bait," explains Gary.

Flipping Rig

Flipping Rig

"I tend to use the 1/4 ounce (and lighter) sinker sizes for swimming the Swim Senko over a distance. By that, I don't mean open water, but swimming it through and past shallow heavy cover. The beating tail is like a drum that calls fish holed up in the shallow cover to come out to the edge of the cover, and when they see the Swimming Senko, they barrel out and blast it. On the other hand, when fish are sulking and just won't come out to the edge of cover to chase, I flip the Swimming Senko right into the densest part of the cover. That's where the fish are when they won't chase. In this case I opt for at least a 3/8 ounce (or heavier) sinker to flip or drop the Swim Senko directly into cover like log jams, weedbeds, down the shady side or boulders or stumps," says Gary. "Fish are often holding tight to such spots. When you flip, your presentation is really only the distance that the lure drops (depth of the water), and that may only be a few feet. so you want the heavier sinker to move the tail, to make the tail beat for the brief few seconds that it drops into the cover. The reason to start off with a heavier (3/8 oz) sinker when you flip directly into cover is that you want the tail to move (to vibrate rapidly) in a very short distance. You'll often get bit right away, before the bait reaches the bottom" explains Gary.

"With the flipping rig, you are not casting far (just flipping it into nearby cover). So you may want to try a straight-shank 5/0 hook. Since you are not casting far, the force of flipping is not enough to slide the bait out of place down the straight-shank hook. Without the offset neck, I get far better hooksets with a straight shank hook while flipping into nearby cover."

"Those are three of the best methods for which I designed the Swim Senko," says Gary. "I've had great success using these methods and hope you will too. Thank you and good luck fishing," from Gary Yamamoto.