One - Two Punch for Bass
By Marc Marcantonio
Peanut butter and jelly. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. Let's face it, some things just go together, and when combined are better than either part alone. When it comes to topwater lures and Senkos, catching bass is no different! Each lure works well on its own merits, but when used in tandem bass don't stand a chance.
Topwaters refer to the group of lures that are fished on the water's surface to attract bass and invoke them to bite. Nobody can be sure why a bass would attack anything struggling on the surface, but if you ever watched a trout rise to a mayfly emerging on the surface, you would bet it is to capture an easy meal. Of course, when it comes to a bass, it may strike just to be ornery!
If you like bass fishing, you will love fishing for them with topwaters. Floating lures provide instant visual feedback since an angler not only sees the action of the lure, but also the often explosive strike when a bass blows-up on the lure. Not only is topwater fishing visually stimulating, it often fools the biggest of bass.
If there is one drawback to fishing topwaters, it is the poor "strike to hook-up ratio," compared to other methods. As any experienced angler can attest, bass may strike a surface lure multiple times and never get impaled on a hook. Some believe that bass have difficulty in judging depth perception when charging to the mirrored surface. Others contend that bass don't intend to swallow whatever is making the surface disturbance until they can get a better look at it, so they surmise the surface attack is meant to maim the quarry so it will sink where it is more easily eaten.
I think bass are just plain ornery!
When a bass does attack your topwater, but your rod doesn't bend from the weight of an angry bass due to another unsuccessful hookup, it's time to hit the bass with a one - two punch.
Enter the Senko, a soft plastic bait that is shaped like a Bic retractable pen, with so many salt crystals embedded in the plastic that no additional weight is needed to cast this lure a mile.
Immediately after a retrieve in which a bass strikes and misses your topwater once, or repeatedly, quickly reel in and grab a rod rigged with a Senko. Fire the Senko out to the same spot that the bass attacked your topwater lure, and let the plastic lure wiggle to the bottom.
More often than not, if you keep your eyes focused on the spot where your monofilament line enters the water, you will see your line jump and start to move to the side as a bass swallows the entire Senko. That is how the one - two punch produces a knockout.
Basically there are two types of topwater lures: poppers and walkers, and both have their moment in which they will out-produce the other. I prefer to fish a popper such as Lucky Craft's Gunfish or G-Splash whenever there is some surface disturbance from wind, and the walker whenever the water is as smooth as glass. Since poppers have a dished mouth they attract bass by the sound they make when they are twitched on the surface. Walkers produce very little sound, but instead attract bass visually with their enticing "walk-the-dog" action, so named since the lure sashays back and forth like a dog's wagging tail. Lucky Craft makes the most popular walker on the market, the "Sammy". Use the Size 85 mm for smallmouths, and the 105 mm and larger for largemouth bass and spotted bass.
If you want to combine the best of both worlds, try the Lucky Craft "Gunfish." This beauty can be popped when you want to make some noise to get the attention of a bass, and then walked across the surface like a baitfish trying to flee before it is eaten.
Regardless of the topwater you choose, fish it on monofilament because monofilament floats, which helps keep your topwater on the surface for better action. The larger the diameter of line, the better it will float. Most bass anglers do best with 12 to 17 pound test, and if you are just starting out pick 14-pound test, and be sure to fish it on a fiberglass rod, not graphite. The slower action of fiberglass works as an advantage to keep topwater bass on your hook throughout the fight so you can land more bass. Lamiglas makes a 5-power glass rod that is perfect for the topwater chores.
The Senko is made by Gary Yamamoto Custom Bait Company. If you haven't heard of this popular bait, you haven't picked up any bass magazines in several years. The Senko has produced more tournament dollars in my bank account than any other lure. When you see this bait for the first time, most anglers are immediately disappointed, and wonder what all the fuss is about. I admit, the shape does not get you excited nor give you confidence that the bass will find it any more appealing than you do. But trust me, when a bass spots a Senko slowly falling to the bottom, they attack it like piranhas on fresh meat. Drop one into the same spot where an aggressive bass just blasted your topwater, and it is as much of a guaranteed hook-up as one can get in the world of bass fishing!
Although there are scores of color choices and sizes available, for an effective one - two punch you only need to start with two proven colors, watermelon (color #194J), and blue pearl (color #031). The flashy blue pearl actually looks white with silver metal flake, and excels whenever the sun is shining on the water. When the sun is scarce, use the watermelon color, which is green with black flake. If largemouth or spotted bass are your primary target, use the 5-inch version of the Senko, and for smallmouth bass reach for the 4-inch version. I fish the 5-inch Senko on a graphite baitcasting rod that Lamiglas has specially designed for this lure, and calls their "Senko Special". The four-inch version seems to work better on a spinning rod such as their 3-power. On the baitcaster, use 15-pound test, and on the spinning rod use 8-pound test McCoy Mean Green monofilament.
Rig the Senko in the typical "Texas Rig" using a Gamakatsu 4/0 G-Lock hook for the 5-inch Senko, and a 1/0 G-Lock for the 4-inch Senko, but don't hesitate to experiment with using a wacky rig to see which works best for you. When a bass attacks and misses your topwater, quickly retrieve your topwater and grab your Senko rod, and cast to the same spot. The strike will occur while the Senko is slowly sinking, so you don't need to worry about imparting any action to the Senko. The fall is the action, and when properly rigged a weightless Senko has an enticing wiggle at both ends as it slowly sinks. Once engulfed, bass rarely expel the Senko as the salt and texture convince bass that they ate live bait. Let the bass swim away with the bait before you set the hook using a hard hookset after you have removed all slack in your line, as this will increase your odds of sinking the hook home.
Why a bass attacks a surface lure in the first place, yet alone how it can do so and avoid six hook points may remain a mystery forever, but when you follow-up by dropping a Senko on top of the surface attack, you will become the victor and it will be the bass' turn to wonder what had happened. Ciao, you can reach me at LimitBy9@aol.com.