By Marc Marcantonio
Success on the water depends on finding bass, enticing them to bite, hooking them, and landing them. Paying attention to details is the best advice if you want to improve your success at catching any fish, especially bass.
Often the most overlooked detail is hook selection. Both size and style matters. Choosing the right hook can increase your bites, your ability to hook the bass, and getting it into the boat. This multi-part article will focus on helping you choose the best hook to succeed with different Yamamoto soft plastic lures. All the hooks mentioned are made by Gamakatsu, my preferred brand, because of their manufacturing attention to detail, and the plethora of models to match every bait and technique. Knowing different ways to rig each bait is important to your success.
Yamamoto soft plastics are unique in having the perfect blend of weight, softness, and shape to be used without weight. Of course, they are also deadly when used with weight. First let’s discuss how a hook can increase your bites.
5” Senko Texas Rigged
When the water is clear and bites are tough, I will use a Gamakatsu G-Lock Worm Hook in size 3/0 when Texas-rigging a 5-inch Senko. At first glance some might suspect the hook is too small, but its wide gap and small diameter wire with a sharp point will easily stick and hold the biggest bass. Of course, the 4/0 size does all of this even better, so why go with the smaller 3/0 size? A Texas-rigged Senko will wiggle much wider and faster as it sinks due to the lighter and shorter hook. This is what I mean by saying the hook can help attract more bites. When bass are aggressive they race competing bass to the bait, so the extra wiggle is not necessary. At those times I will upsize to the 4/0 G-Lock to improve my hookup ratio.
The G-Lock hook style has three distinct but subtle differences from other wide-gap hooks, which are important details that help you land more bass. First the hook is shorter and lighter, which allows a Senko (and other models) to have more movement. Second, the bend just below the hook eye more securely holds soft plastics and keeps them from slipping and tearing. Third, is a distinction I designed for this hook to increase quick hook-ups and land more bass. The hook point is higher than the hook eye compared to other extra wide-gap models, which allows the point to stick earlier in the hook set process.
5” Senko Wacky Rigged
Here are two examples of my favorite ways to wacky rig the same 5” Senko, depending upon whether I am fishing for largemouth bass or smallmouth bass. Smallmouths are generally found in crystal clear, open water, so I prefer to wacky rig them with a Gamakatsu G-Finesse Drop Shot Hook in size 1/0. Because it is light in weight and uses small diameter wire that is extremely strong, you get solid hooksets even on light line. This hook does not spook wary smallies due to its size, and it lets the Senko fall with an enticing flutter. Most times I run the hook under an O-ring placed in the center of the Senko.
For wacky rigging largemouth bass, I vary between three different hook models. Most often I use a 1/0 size Gamakatsu Weedless Split Shot/Drop Shot hook. The plastic weed guard is very effective in preventing snags in wood cover where largemouths are often found, yet still allows solid hookups without affecting the action of the Senko.
I usually fish this rig on a spinning reel with 15lb braid main line and 10lb test Sugoi Gray line for my leader. Run the hook point under an O-ring slipped over the center of the Senko. This allows you to make a hard cast for distance without breaking the Senko in half, and also allows more freedom of movement as the Senko sinks.
When snags are not a concern, my preferred wacky hook is the G-Finesse Stinger designed by Brent Ehrler, in size 1/0. Like all G-Finesse model hooks, this hook sports a slick nano coating on its tournament grade wire. The larger eye on the Stinger allows the use of both light and heavier line to cover a variety of conditions. A new version of this same hook is the G-Finesse Weedless Stinger, which sports a titanium wire weed guard. I just started to use this new hook, and so far, my results have been great. The titanium wire is well-positioned and its memory allows the wire to return to the proper shape after Mama Pesce crushes the wire on the strike and fight.
A wacky rigged Senko is deadly for smallmouth bass when naturally drifting in river current. This is where the G-Finesse Jig Head Wacky is a great hook choice. Its weight gets the Senko down to the bottom in the current and sports a nickel-titanium weed guard that lets the Senko drift over rocks and boulders without snagging. The weight of the jig head causes the Senko to collapse in the middle when it sinks, and each time you twitch your rod tip. A sudden twitch can turn a follower into a biter.
For Neko Rigging a Senko for largemouth bass, I follow Brent Ehrler’s lead and use the G-Finesse Stinger hook under an O-ring. Who can argue with success? The angle of the hook eye is on the same plane as the hook shank. This improves the action of the Neko Rig and entices more strikes and better hook-ups.
6” 9L Senko Texas Rig & Wacky Rig
The G-Lock Hook in 5/0 is my workhorse when fishing a Texas-Rigged 9L Senko. I have been fishing this rig on the Lamiglas 7-foot 5-power baitcasters for years and cashed many checks with this setup because bass never seem to learn to avoid a Senko. Most often I am using 16-pound test Sugoi fluorocarbon line and making long casts next to weed lines and other cover to avoid spooking bass. With the fluorocarbon, sharp hook, and soft Senko you will rarely lose bass despite a long cast. After trying to pick off the cruising bass with the stealthy approach, it is always good to move into the cover and pitch or flip within the cover to give a more vertical presentation.
When I fish the 6” Senko by pitching or flipping using 16-20lb Sugoi Fluorocarbon, I will often fish it wacky style. The Senko maintains a horizontal attitude when vertically sinking next to cover, and each end will wiggle side to side as it sinks. Since the 9L Senko has considerable bulk, I prefer a little known but deadly hook by Gamakatsu in a 1/0 size named the Wicked Wacky Hook. This Kahle style hook sports a split plastic weed guard that helps keep it from hanging up.
Since I do pay attention to details, I perform a slight modification to the hook when using this in very clear water. The Wicked Wacky hook comes with a plastic tube wrapped to the hook shank in case you want to dropshot it. I take a razor blade and slice this off, and then add clear lacquer to the threads to keep them from unraveling. This makes the hook less obtrusive to wary bass in high visibility situations, allowing them to focus their attention on the Senko instead of the hook.
4” Senko (9S) Texas Rig
This is one of my favorite smallmouth bass lures but it also works great for spotted and largemouth bass, particularly when clear water and highly pressured situations require light line techniques. The 9S Senko is great for fan casting to expansive flats in search of bass. Most times the strikes occur during the fall, but this rig is also effective slowly crawling it across the bottom. When using 8lb test Sugoi Fluorocarbon I rig the 9S Senko Texas rig style, using a G-Lock 1/0 hook. The extremely sharp point and small diameter wire allows good hooksets even with light line. I will often add a tiny pinch-on lead weight to the nose, which I think improves the balance and action of the 9S Senko while sinking.
4” Slim Senko (9J) Dropshot & Ned Rig
The Slim Senko is a great dropshot bait when nose-hooked with a G-Finesse #2 Dropshot Hook. The weight of the Senko makes it perfect for fishing a dropshot in the wind, which many fail to try. It also catches better than average size bass. I often reach for this rig when trying to upsize my limit in an otherwise tough tournament.
Nose-hooking the Slim Senko with this small hook provides more freedom of movement and is less noticeable, which adds attraction to the deadly Slim Senko when dropshotted. Whether fishing for smallmouth or largemouth bass over rocky flats or ridges, be sure to try this rig with QuickDrops dropshot weights. I designed and manufacture QuickDrops, and they are available at most west coast tackle stores or on-line at TackleWarehouse.com. You can’t find a better dropshot weight, and it will cast farther and sink straighter with less line twist and less snags than any other style weight.
The Ned Rig (pictured here in the 9J but this also works great for the 3-inch Senkos and the 9S) is certainly gaining popularity across the bass fishing world, and the Slim Senko is one of my favorite lures when Ned Rig fishing. Gamakatsu has a new entry into this scene with the Finesse Jig Head. This small jig sports a light-wire sharp hook with a spring keeper around the shank that holds the soft Senko securely. This allows multiple catches before needing to change out the Senko.
Hopefully you take the opportunity to give these rigs a try. The Senko is probably the single best lure ever invented. It isn’t exotic, or even flashy, but the attention to detail translates into a fish-catching machine. It deserves the right hook for the conditions and situation. Paying attention to these details will put more bass in your boat.