By Pete Robbins
May 17, 2012
While the Senko was his brainchild, and has been his tournament bread-and-butter for quite a while, Gary Yamamoto is constantly looking for ways to improve its effectiveness. Over the course of the past year, he seems to have reached a point where he’s able to catch fish seemingly at will by rigging it “backward.”
“The image people have of the Senko is that you fish it slow, cast it out and let it sit,” he said. “But that’s not the case here. With a #8 by one-inch screw in the head and the hook in the tail, you can fish it pretty fast with a yo-yo presentation. Cast it out, let it fall to the bottom, then pick it up and do it again.”
The proof, as they say, is in the livewell and Yamamoto utilized the technique to notch a 2nd place finish in last week’s PAA event on Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake. That’s his second runner-up finish on the rig in less than a year – he came in second to Dave Wolak in an FLW Tour Open on Lake Champlain last year using the same presentation.
Last year, during the Porter Wagoner Memorial Artists and Anglers Fishing Tournament on Old Hickory, Yamamoto located fish with the Senko in large marinas, suspended under floating docks. This time he couldn’t get that pattern to go, so instead he borrowed a page out of his Beaver Lake playbook. When he’d been there at the end of April, he’d targeted bass relating to bluff walls, particularly wherever there was downed wood. He found a similar stretch at Old Hickory and doted on it for much of the tournament.
He thought he’d found a reliable topwater bite on his company’s Sugoi Splash popper, but it proved to be a frustrating exercise: “I’d get them on and they got off,” he recalled. “I missed a few good fish.” Fortunately, he then abandoned that technique temporarily, headed to the bluff walls, and salvaged his first day of competition to the tune of 13.54 pounds, enough to have him comfortably in 5th place, but still almost four pounds off the lead.
“On the second day, it got even worse,” he said. “I missed the topwater fish and broke off a 3 ½ pound bass at the boat when it wrapped around a log.” Nevertheless, he had almost 10 pounds, which kept him inside the cut in 8th place.
“That third day I did some things backward,” he said. “I started with topwater and didn’t get a bite, so I went right to some docks I liked. I had caught a 4 ½ on Day One on one of them and quickly caught one about a pound and three quarters, just a keeper. I hoped they weren’t all going to be that way.”
On Day Three, his years of experience on the water and tinkering with tackle paid off. First, he realized that he’d been fishing the popper on a rod that was too light. He went to a stiffer model and proceeded to atone for past mistakes. Perhaps more importantly, he recognized that the water had gone up four or five inches overnight, which “gave the shoreline grass some depth,” and inspired him to stick with the topwater. “Fortunately, I didn’t miss any more,” he added
He spent the rest of the day mixing it up between the docks and the topwater. Even with the Senko, he maximized his effectiveness by using two different rod and reel combos: when pitching it to the grass and bluffs, he used a baitcasting rod spooled with 20 lb. Power Pro braid and a 16 lb. Sugoi fluorocarbon leader. When he skipped it under docks, he switched to a spinning rod with 15 lb. Power Pro and the same 16 lb. leader. He used a 2/0 Owner worm hook (not wide gap) under docks and a 1/0 version around the bluffs and grass.
By 10am, he had four fish in his livewell when he skipped the Senko up under a dock and tied into a six-pound kicker which he recalled “put up quite a fight” on his light tackle. With that fish in the boat, he had a limit and a kicker, and eventually culled up to 17.73 pounds, the biggest limit of the tournament.
Unfortunately, despite the big bag and the monster comeback, it was not enough to make up his ten-plus pound deficit to Steve Kennedy. Yamamoto fell just under two and a half pounds short, and while he has no regrets – “I performed quite well,” he said – he also noted that if he’d caught all of the topwater fish that bit “it would have been close.”
With two bridesmaid finishes in recent months, the most recent one to a fellow Yamamoto pro, Yamamoto was even-keeled about his fate as he moved directly on to the next event, an FLW Tour tournament on the Potomac.
“The competition keeps me going,” he said. “It’s what helps me develop new lures and techniques. And maybe one of these days I’ll win one on it.”
He may not back into a title, but no one should be surprised if the backwards Senko plays a role when he does claim the hard-earned trophy.