By Mark Fong
“The 5-inch Yamamoto Senko is the most versatile bait ever designed,” said Michael Hall. “It will catch bass anywhere. You can adapt the presentation in many ways to match the mood of the fish.” Strong words? Perhaps, but in this case you need to only consider the source. Michael Hall has a long and successful history with the Senko. Long before he became a member of the Yamamoto National Fishing Team, Hall was a strong proponent of the Senko. In 2002, the Senko played a key role in his season including his qualification into the BASS Tour, the predecessor to the Elite Series. A few years later in 2005, Hall captured the top prize at the Potomac River FLW EverStart again on the strength of the Senko.
Today, Hall is a competitor in FLW Tournament events and one of the top guides on the Potomac River. He has fished all over the country with the FLW Tour. Whether it be Pickwick, Kentucky Lake or down in Florida at Lake Toho or up in New York at Lake Champlain, the Senko continues to play an important role in his fishing career. For followers of the Inside Line, Hall shares his “Big Three” rigging configurations that are certain to add to your own Senko success.
Weightless Wacky Rig
“If I was told that I could only have one rig that I could fish all day, it would be a weightless wacky rigged Senko,” said Hall. “It’s just that versatile and effective.”
Hall likes to use the Senko as a search bait, targeting specific pieces of structure such as bushes, docks, weed clumps or boulders. “I will cast it out and let if fall,” he explained. “I’ll move it with the rod, never with the reel, that’s really important. I think when you move it with the rod it makes the Senko appear to be a crayfish. Those two ends will dangle and wobble. I will work it no more than 10’ from the target before I reel it back to make another cast.”
When the water is at its coldest, Hall will drag the Senko very slowly on the bottom. This approach requires a lot of patience but is very effective when the fish are inactive and holding tight to the bottom.
Unlike many anglers, Hall favors the use of a small 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook. Experience has not only taught him that the small hook will hold big fish but has convinced him that the weight of this particular hook makes the fall of the Senko very enticing to the bass. “I will use bigger hooks at times,” he explained. “I think for the number of bites, you can’t beat the 1/0 hook used in the wacky Senko.”
Hall is not a proponent of using a hook with a weedguard. “I think that is a mistake,” he explained. “Let me tell you why, particularly in places with vegetation, you want the Senko to get caught a little bit. You pop it off and a lot of time you can get a reaction bite from the bass. I also prefer not to use an o ring when the money is on the line. It can cause you to lose fish. If it turns the wrong way, sometimes the point of the hook will actually go up into the Senko.”
Weighted Wacky Rig
There are times when adding a small amount of weight to a 5” wacky rigged Senko can pay big dividends. In such instances Hall swaps out his trusty 1/0 Gamakatsu for a 3/32 oz weighted Zappu Inchi Wacky Hook. “On northern lakes like Champlain, Ontario, and St Clair this setup can be money,” explained Hall. “When you are fishing deeper water and the fish are setup in 10’ to 20’ this is really effective combination.”
Hall also relies on the weighted hook configuration when windy conditions make it difficult to fish a standard weightless wacky Senko or when strong current is present in places like the Detroit River or the TVA Lakes.
A 5” Texas-rigged Senko is an important tool to have in your arsenal when targeting submerged grass. Hall recommends Texas rigging the 5” Senko with a sliding 3/16oz tungsten worm weight combined with a 4/0 Gamakatsu Offset Worm Hook. He has found this rig to be exceptional around hydrilla in areas where the grass is too thick for the wacky rig to be effective.
“I’ll make a cast and let the Senko settle to the bottom. Then I’ll move the bait 6” to 12” by lifting the rod tip and taking up the slack with the reel. This makes the Senko hop up over the hydrilla. As the weight slides, it will fall and pull the Senko over the top of the hydrilla and then it will fall back in it again.”
While Hall will employ this technique year round, he favors it starting in the pre-spawn period when the fish begin to stage in the hydrilla and will stay with it until the end of the summer.
The Yamamoto Pro provided some valuable insight as it pertains to color selection. Anytime he is faced with clear water conditions, he relies on a green pumpkin/watermelon laminate Senko (#912). For Florida waters like Toho or Okeechobee, he recommends black with blue flake (021) or watermelon with black and red flake (#208). On his home waters of the Potomac River, fading watermelon with purple flake (#329) has served him well over the years. If pressed to pick just one color, Hall would opt for green pumpkin with black flake (#297).
Hall utilizes spinning gear for all his Senko fishing. In fact, it is common practice for him to have three identically matched rod and reel combos on the deck of his Ranger, one for each of the “Big Three.”
His combo of choice is a 6’6” heavy action Grandt All American Pro Spinning Rod matched to a Lews TLC 2000 reel. When it comes to line, Hall spools up with 14lb Moss Green Gamma copolymer for its castability, strength and invisibility.
After spending just a short time in conversation with Hall, it is clear that his knowledge and insight could fill many pages. “These rigs and techniques will help you be consistently good, whether you fun fish, whether you are big money tournament fishing, or whether you guide,” said Hall. “They are easy to learn. I have taken people who have never been fishing before and taught them these techniques and now they are catching bass.”
If you find yourself in the Washington DC Area and would like your own personal Potomac River Senko seminar, make sure you give Hall a call. He can be reached at 571-236-1918 or visit him on the web at www.mikehallfishing.com.