By Mark Fong
When I first saw the Yamamoto California Roll, it immediately brought to mind the hand poured spade tail worms that I had fished years ago. But this visual remembrance was where the similarities ended. To say that I was intrigued was an understatement. The California Roll measures 5” in length and features a cylindrical body reminiscent of a Senko that transitions into a thin, flat spade tail. The body is thinner in diameter than a 5” #9 Senko and is similar to that of the #9M Thin Senko. Configured as such, the California Roll is an extremely versatile and productive finesse offering.
For a long time my work horse finesse worm has been the venerable Kut Tail Worm. With the introduction of the California Roll, I now have the ideal 1 to 2 punch. As an admitted light line junkie, the California Roll fits in perfectly with my style of fishing. The California Roll is so versatile that it can be fished in so many different ways. Weightless, drop shot, jig head, wacky jig head, or split shot to name a few. Let me share with you three of my favorite applications for the California Roll.
The California Roll fishes great on the back of a jig head whether it be a darter, aspirin, mushroom, ball or shakey head. On the clear water foothill reservoirs of Northern California it has traditionally been my preference to pair a finesse worm with a 1/16 to 3/16 oz. darter head. In true west coast style, this is just how we typically fish our jig head worms. Jig head selection seems to have as much to do with application as it does with regional preferences. In other parts of the country anglers rely on different style heads. Don't be afraid to try something new. More recently I have been experimenting with both the aspirin head and mushroom head styles with good results.
Match the California Roll to the appropriate jig head and you have a combination that can be fished in deep open water, outside of weed lines or around boat docks.
Drop shotting is a staple in most bass angler’s arsenals and if it isn’t, it certainly should be. It is an extremely versatile technique. It can be fished in both shallow and deep water and it can be fished on the end of a long cast or vertically, directly under the boat. I love fishing a drop shot in deep water for roaming schools of fish. Sometimes the fish will relate to the bottom and at other times they will suspend. When targeting these fish, I rely on my electronics. This is video game fishing at its most fun. The Cali Roll is excellent when rigged on a drop shot. I like to nose hook it with a size #1 Gamakatsu G Finesse Drop shot hook. You can change the action of the worm by wacky rigging it as well. Shaking the bait on slack line is a great way to trigger bites. When the fishing gets tough, I like to dead stick my drop shot. Less can be more. Just the slight motion of the boat moving with the waves is all it takes to impart movement to the California Roll's ultra-thin tail.
There is no denying that one of the best ways to tempt finicky bass is with a Neko rig. In fact, it is so successful that in my boat, I always keep a Neko rigged Senko at the ready. When I pulled that very first California Roll from the package, it just screamed 'Neko rig'. The thin spade tail creates an amazing triggering action when the worm is shaken in place on slack line. The Cali Roll has a different look and moves more water than a standard straight tail worm. In my rod locker I now carry an additional rod with a Neko rigged California Roll.
Rigging is simple, start by sliding a rubber O ring onto the bait and position it between the head of the bait and the non-ribbed section of the worm. Next insert a small nail weight into the head of the bait and run a size #1 Gamakatsu Drop Shot Hook under the bottom of the O ring so that the hook point faces upwards - simple as that.
Finesse offerings are tailor made for spinning tackle. I like a rod with a light tip that allows me to make long distance casts and to easily manipulate the action of the bait. In addition, the ideal finesse rod should smoothly transition into a strong lower end, with sufficient back bone to combat hard pulling fish. My preference is a 7'2” medium light action Cousins Tackle Raze Series Spinning Rod matched to a 2500 series spinning reel. To complete my setup I spool up with 10lb Sunline SX 1 Braid mainline connected via a modified Albright Knot to a length of 7lb Sniper FC Fluorocarbon leader. I am careful to make sure that my connection knot lies between the last guide and the reel spool when I go to make a cast.
As for color, I have always been partial to shades of green and brown. The California Roll is available in 10 of Yamamoto's top colors and for good reason, they all catch em'. If I had to choose I would say that you can never go wrong with Green Pumpkin (297) or Watermelon with Red Flake (208).
The California Roll has become a valuable addition to my finesse arsenal. Give it a try and see if you don't agree as well.
Need even more tips on this awesome, little finesse bait? Click below to watch a short video with Western Pro Bub Tosh on how he utilizes the Cali Roll.