Senkos and Suspended Bass – the El Salto Connection

By Mike Whitten

There may not be, in all of the annals of bass fishing, a more basic lure than the Senko.

It is available in at least 7 sizes, and every one of them will catch fish—quality fish.

Thousands of lines have been written over the years about how Gary first created this salty piece of magic, and how seductively subtle the fall of the lure is.  I’m not going to repeat any of that here.

What I am going to tell you is that I have caught thousands of bass over the past 15 years on 5-, 6- and 7-inch Senkos, including a five fish stringer from a local private lake that average just over 7.75 pounds per fish.

So it was a no-brainer when I packed for my May 2018 trip to Lake El Salto that I added several bags of both 6- and 7-inch Senkos to the tackle bag, at least a dozen of each size in 297, 208 and 912.  Little did I realize that by the end of the third day, I would be scrambling to find more of the salty wonders, in any color I could scrounge.

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El Salto is low this year, lower than I’ve seen it in my previous three trips.  And, because it is low and May is a very popular month for anglers there, the lake is somewhat crowded and the fish are pressured.  So much so, that they were not bunched in the normal places and were not responding to the standard fare of black/blue worms, big crankbaits and swimbaits - at least not for me.

They were however, suspended close to drop offs and main lake ledges, and were perfect targets for 6- and 7-inch Senkos slowly dropping past their nose.  In four days of fishing, my partner and I caught over 250 bass, with 75% coming on the Senko.  Lots of quality fish too, close to the 4-pound average.  I was interesting to me that the 8-inch lizard that is a staple there caught fish, but often 2 pounds or less, while the Senkos caught more quality fish.

Rigging was simple: 4/0 Gamakatsu Skip Gap hooks and 1/8 oz. tungsten slip sinkers on 17- or 20-pound fluorocarbon line.  I rigged the 7-inch unweighted, since this monster is more than heavy enough to cast, and I used the 1/8oz slip weight on the 6-inch, mainly because it was easier for my partner, who was not an experienced angler, to cast accurately.  With either presentation, it was simply a matter of casting parallel to steeper points and bluffs, and letting the lure fall.  There was no need to move the rod tip—just two turns of the reel handle and let the lure drop. I never had to let the lure drop more than three times.  Just let if fall and wait for that single subtle “TAP”.  Some of the fish were as deep as 22’, and were aggressively eating the bait as it fell.

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I’m pretty confident that someone reading this article might be thinking “Hey, its El Salto, they eat anything down there.”  Well, yeah sometimes—but not this past trip in May.  NO OTHER plastic lure—worm, lizard, creature bait—was even close to the Senko for both numbers of bites and quality fish.  I had more than one 10 fish limits over 40 pounds, and that is pretty good fishing anywhere.

One other rigging that has worked very well for me, both at El Salto and in the states, is a 912 (Green Pumpkin/Watermelon  laminate) Senko on a 3/16-5/16oz swivel head jig.  I’m not sure why it works, I just know that it does, and many times even better than the unweighted or Texas options.  Just try it—I promise you it will work.

Senkos - still simple, still deadly, after all these years.