Card's Catch - Senko Time at Cayuga Lake

By Brandon Card

The Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Cayuga Lake, NY will be my third trip to this lake. Each of the two tournaments I fished here have been dominated by the Senko - this type of lake really sets up perfectly for it. There are several productive ways to fish the Senko here and all will play a big role in the event, I’m sure of it.

About Cayuga

Cayuga is part of the Finger Lakes in NY and is a long, thin lake that is nearly 40 miles long. It has grass just circling just about the entire lake, several areas with rock and many docks to fish. Unlike many of the northern lakes we visit, largemouth is the dominant species here and smallmouth play a small role in our strategy.

photo by James Overstreet - courtesy of BASSMASTER.com

photo by James Overstreet - courtesy of BASSMASTER.com

The first tournament I fished here was the 2012 B.A.S.S. Northern Open and it was won by Pete Gluszek with a three day total of 56 lbs. That is a good average for any lake and especially in the northern states. He won it with a Senko, fishing grasslines and docks, two patterns I plan to use during this event.

Two years later I finished 20th at the Elite Series event on Cayuga. Greg Hackney won with 85lbs over four days fishing a jig, but many of the top finishers did what I did then and plan to do this week, fishing a Senko.

Pitching Grasslines

Since the whole lake is full of grass from one end to another, there is no shortage of places to pitch a Senko. I like to fish the deeper edges of milfoil here and the key depth ranges are 10-14 feet of water. With this depth, a 5” Senko with a 1/2oz tungsten worm weight is the way to go. This gives you the fast fall needed to get down to the bottom quickly to trigger a reaction bite. Northern largemouth are usually pretty aggressive and this is a technique I use often when fishing grass up north.

My setup is pretty simple: I’ll use a 7’6 Heavy Abu Garcia Veracity rod, Revo Rocket reel and 20lb test Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line. A 4/0 straight shank Gamakatsu hook is the final piece to my gear and it works great with the 5” Senko.

Dock Fishing

The dock bite is something that really helped me the last time I fished Cayuga. I use a few different rigs for the Senko around docks: a standard weightless Texas-rig, a weightless wacky-rig and then a nail-weighted version of both are the four ways I will rig up for docks. I will vary based on what the fish are biting best and will also experiment with different rigs on different docks to show them something different. This is really important if you are fishing behind someone who is also fishing a Senko.

Spinning tackle is my go-to for skipping docks. I can skip well with a baitcaster, but a spinning reel allows you to get much more distance. I have found the fish on northern lakes to be aggressive yet boat shy at the same time. Keeping a little more distance between you and the fish really helps to get more bites.

Typically I will use the same rod, reel and line for all of these rigs. A 7” Medium Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 rod, Revo MGX Size 30 reel, and 10lb Berkley Fireline with a 8-10lb Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon leader. I’ll use the 8lb leader if the docks have a rocky bottom and move up to 10lb if there is grass around the docks.

The hooks and the tail weights I use for these techniques is another key to getting the most out of your Senko. If I am wacky-rigging, I’ll use a 2/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot Hook and for a Texas-rig I will use a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG for the weightless version and 3/0 for the non-weighted. The slight change in hook sizes on the Texas-rig will really affect how fast it falls. For the weights inserted into the tail of the Senko, you can use just about anything. I use the lead versions, tungsten versions and even screws. I remember reading about the use of the screw from an FLW Tour event on Lake Champlain and the one who was doing it was none other than Gary Yamamoto.

Go Shallow

Another thing I have learned from fishing Cayuga and other natural northern lakes is to fish very shallow. Often there are small undercut banks in water less than a foot deep and the bass will hide under these banks as well as shoreline bushes and logs.

The bass like to get into the shade here and on a calm day skipping this shallow cover is a great way to catch them. I’ll still use a spinning setup and a Texas-rigged Senko, but will bump my line up to a 15lb fluorocarbon leader because the cover can be very thick.

Color Selection

On clear natural lakes like Oneida, any natural color will do for your Senko. All of the watermelons and green pumpkin colors are a good choice. The other one of my favorites is solid black, which is another very natural color.

The Senko works everywhere I go, but Cayuga Lake and other lakes like it are made for a Senko.