Story by Russ Bassdozer
For many years, we've often been asked, "What are the best Yamamoto baits to take on a trip to Mexico?"
Now we have published this article to assist you with the answer!
A lure that has revolutionized soft bait fishing is Gary Yamamoto's Senko. You can't beat it in Mexico. When the Senko bite is on, you should have three rods rigged and ready with Senkos:
"So many guys use a weightless Senko only," says Gary Yamamoto, "but as for me, I fish one rod with a Senko with no weight, and I use at least one other rod with an 1/8 or 3/16 oz screw-in sinker screwed into the head of a Senko."
"The weightless Senko can be used for casting into more open water areas. The Senko with a sinker gives a different presentation. It's still the same idea, same shape and salty softness, same quivering Senko action that can't be imitated - but a different fall with a sinker versus a weightless free fall. It's two different presentations, and when everyone else is primarily using a weightless Senko and all the fish are seeing are weightless Senkos - you can often get more fish by using the weighted Senko," says Gary. "With the weighted Senko, you can flip it next to brush and deep into any other cover, in order to get it to go down into the cover, not swing out from it. Whereas a weightless Senko would pendulum swing out away from the cover, the weighted Senko sinks right into the cover," says Gary.
What is common for some Mexican lakes is that their bass populations cycle between periods of incredible 'numbers' of smaller fish (under 10 pounds) and 'trophy' periods with less bass overall (but more over 10 pounds).
Terry Hollan who hosts lodges on Lake Baccarac (www.lakebaccaraclodge.com) and Lake Huites (www.lakehuiteslodge.com) describes how this cyclicality is occurring right now on those two lakes.
"To summarize the fishing between Huites and Baccarac right now, there have been tremendous numbers of good bass on Huites. If you want to get 200 fish per day up to 9 pounds, go to Lake Huites Lodge, and we do better using the 5-inch Senko for those sheer numbers there. It's not that the 7-inch Senko wouldn't work for Huites - it does, but you'd catch less numbers of fish on the 7-inch than with the 5-inch Senko there."
"Getting back to Baccarac, the fish are so gigantic there now that anglers in many groups are each getting ten pounders - and going home disappointed for not getting 13-pounders. Baccarac's not producing 200 fish a day like Huites, but the double-digit (10 pounds and up) quality is there (on Baccarac) and thosee quality bass prefer the 7-inch Senko. The objective is to just provide bulk - that is the name of the game. The 7-inch Senko adds bulk and a lot of movement for trophy bass."
That applies to wherever you may fish in Mexico - use the 5" Senko in Mexico for numbers of small to average fish, and use the 7" Senko for trophy bass. The 6" Senko falls between the two.
Dr. Rogelio Villarreal, a renowned Mexican trophy bass hunter fishes mainly with the wacky rigged 7-inch Senko for trophies. Rogelio advises that, "Traditional Texas-rigged Senkos (either weightless or weighted) produce huge amount of good quality bass, but it's the wacky presentation that tends to produce the true giants."
"There are 'wacky tools' on the market which are devices to place a rubber O-ring around the middle of a Senko so you do not impale the hook directly to the lure, and this makes the Senko last much longer. Problem is, these devices are too small to use with the bigger 7-inch Senko or the big Kut Tails. But the resourceful Mexican anglers have found a simpler, adjustable cable tie-wrap works superbly, and they only cost pennies apiece," reveals Rogelio.
"With the hook in the middle, both ends of the Senko seem to have increased action when you shake your rod tip. This is usually a weightless technique, and it can be deadly," says Gary Yamamoto.
Jig Head Wacky Rig. One tactic that is super-secret (well, it won't be after this) for fishing wacky-rigged Senkos in dense Mexican brush is to use Yamamoto's Flippin' Jig in the lightest 1/4 oz size for a slow fall. Now wacky rig the Senko on the bend of the Flippin' Jig hook, and flip it right into the heart of the brush. The brush fiberguard on the jig will make it snagless, and it has a heavy duty 4/0 Gamakatsu hook that is ideal for making solid hooksets.
Benefits that anglers can get from using the jig head wacky rig are you get more accuracy when flipping. The wacky Senko falls quicker, with more end tip vibration and more directly down into the cover. You can keep in better contact with the wacky Senko, especially when it is windy. You can shake it as it falls or after it comes to rest on the bottom, creating an irregular wiggling action that bass cannot resist
One group of anglers who rely heavily on 7-inch Senkos are the guests who visit Terry Hollan's fishing lodge in Mexico at Lake Baccarac.
"In terms of Mexican trophy bass, no other lake has the size of bass found in Baccarac today," says Terry, "and several methods of using 7-inch Senkos rank high among the best ways to catch them."
One of the most productive yet unorthodox ways that Terry Hollan's guides and clients rig the 7-inch Senko on Lake Baccarac, something not used at all in the USA, and not even used on other lakes in Mexico, is as a big jig trailer.
"Quite simply, big bass want a big bulk. The more bulk and the more movement, the bigger the bite," explained Terry.
"A few years back when you can say we first discovered a big jig bite on Baccarac, we had just a naked jig for starters, and we did get some fish. What we found was the more bulk, the more and bigger we could make the jig with a trailer, the bigger the bite. Well, it wasn't long before we amped up to tipping the big jigs with the big 7-inch Senko, and that is the best trailer choice we've found so far for trophy bass," admits Hollan.
"Today, you can't get one of my guides on Baccarac to toss a jig unless it has a 7-inch Senko trailer. No guide here is going to fish a jig here without a 7-inch Senko on it."
"That big Senko trailer has become the 'trademark' of how big jigs are fished on Baccarac," says Hollan.
By big, Hollan refers to one ounce rubber-skirted jigs.
"We use these big jigs both shallow and deep. By that I mean there are so many humps and hills and slow rolls on the lake bottom, that shallow and deep water are practically synonymous. On this kind of rising and falling structure, you can be fishing both shallow on top on the structure and deep at the base of the structure on each cast."
Hollan notes, "However, most of the big bass on Baccarac come from the deep sections of these structures. By deep, I mean anything over 18 feet is deep."
"The big one ounce jigs get down fast, they stir up the bottom, and with the 7-inch Senko, you have the added visibility of that big, long trailing bulk with movement. It's hard for fish not to see that big, waving Senko tail sticking up, and they react to it."
Gary Yamamoto says, "With the Swim Senko concept, I wanted a swim type bait or a reaction type bait that I could put to use where reaction baits like crankbaits or spinnerbaits were working... and you know the Senko is a good product but it has no action to compare with when a crankbait, spinnerbait or reaction bite is going on. So I put the swim tail on the Senko to make it effective under such conditions. You can cover a lot more water with the Swim Senko and it's best to use the heavier weights of my Swim Jig Head (1/4 oz and up) to get the Swim Senko's tail to paddle strongly."
The Senko and many other innovative Yamamoto lures were designed and developed in Mexico by Gary Yamamoto on Lake Baccarac during dozens of trips that Yamamoto made there in the early nineties.
Gary and Beverly Yamamoto (shown here on Baccarac) are veterans of many trips to Mexico. In Gary's case, he's made more than fifty trips spanning two decades. Yamamoto originally designed the world-famous Senko during fishing trips to Mexico in the early 1990's. Other legendary Yamamoto baits that resulted from Gary's trips to Mexico during that period include:
• the original Senko concept was prototyped in Mexico
• 8" Single Tail Grub. 10-Series.
• 10" Single Tail Grub. 100-Series.
• 7" Double Tail Grub. 17-Series.
• 6" Double Tail Hula Grub. 99-Series.
All these lures were not only originally designed and developed in Mexico - they are still some of the very best to take on a trip to Mexico for Mexican trophy bass!
Match the Hatch? No, Match the Quarry! We often hear the term, "Match the Hatch" which means to use an artificial lure that matches what fish eat. But what in the watery world does a 10-inch grub match? Often times, it matches nothing. Usually, fish will take whatever feeding opportunity wiggles by, provided the fish can subdue and swallow it. This means big fish like to tackle vulnerable-looking big baits like the 10-inch grub, whereas small fish prefer to attack proportionally smaller baits. This "rule" is not always true, but it is good enough most times to simply match the size of your bait to the size of your quarry! In the case of bass in Mexico, that means big bass love the big grub! So have confidence in it.
Gary Yamamoto originally designed his big fat 8" single tail grubs for the giant bass at Lake Bacarrac, Mexico. The shapes and sizes of these jumbo grubs are relatively unique. There aren't many other grubs of such huge proportions on the market. These grubs are longer, wider, stronger than the average grub, and the plastic formulation is dense. Yet despite their bigness, the curly tail is made thin enough to produce strong vibrations at slow retrieves.
Gary's top pattern whenever he is in Mexico is to pitch the big grub to flooded brush. The most important part is to flip or pitch it right into the center of a bush or right beside a tree trunk. Most people cast, but pitching or flipping is preferred, and afterward you lean the rod forward to let slack line sink the bait perfectly straight down. Envision in your mind any critter that the big grub may mimic. Most critters will swim straight down head first toward the base of the brush every time. So you want the big grub to do the same thing. You want the big grub to swim straight down headfirst to where the bass is at the base of the brush or stump.
At times, Gary will flip or pitch the big grub behind the target brush or stump so that it will fall within inches behind the base of the target. Gary allows the bait to swim down toward the base of the brush or stump. If there is no pick-up on the drop, Gary may jig it a couple of times, hop it, then he employs a swimming-and-gliding presentation if he didn't get bit yet. What that means is he will swim the big grub through the brushy areas, just above bottom, much as you'd slow-roll a big spinnerbait.
You've got to get the big grub's tail paddling strongly. Key is to use enough weight (the bullet sinker) to generate a strong vibration. Too little weight will result in a weak vibration, and too much weight robs some of the "life" out of the presentation. Depending on depth, any wind or current. pound test and type of line used, if you get it just right, a slowly swimming, strongly beating grub will pull fish out of cover for you like a magnet. This is one of the most powerful attractions of the big grub. Thanks to its beating tail, it can pull fish out of brushy cover as the big grub swims past or away from the cover.
How to swim it is simply raise the rod tip slowly and lower it slowly. The grub will paddle towards you coming off bottom as you raise the tip, and paddle back down to bottom as you follow it down with the rod tip. Pause for a pick-up and repeat. The same effect works to pull fish off open structure in deeper water, and by ticking the tops of submerged treetops. If you think of places and ways that you'd slow roll a spinnerbait, you've got the right idea for swimming the big grubs.
Nice one for Dr. Rogelio Villarreal on GYB's big single tail grub.
What is common for some Mexican lakes is the daily cycle that can be followed on many trips. What this means is that, in the mornings, you can have a real solid shallow water bite to start each day. Most mornings, you can have until about 9 o'clock for this. So basically, you have about 2 to 2-1/2 hours of good shallow water fishing in the mornings. This is a great time for not only casting weightless Senkos but also the Swim Senkos on Gary's Jig Head as well as crankbaits, spinnerbaits or topwater lures to attract shallow, roaming bass.
Some time around 9 o'clock each day, the fish tend to stop roaming the shallows and will begin to tuck up into the cover, especially if the sun pokes out. So by late morning, fish really aren't roaming any longer, but tucked up into cover, and you have to flip right into the densest part of cover with weighted soft baits that are going to get down to the base of the cover to where the fish are holed up but still willing to bite, in shallow water. This late morning flipping right into dense cover is where the 7", 8" and 10" single and double tail grubs on Flippin' jigs or with heavy bullet sinkers can be most useful.
After noon, a lot of the shallow bite dries up or has been picked over by anglers, and that's when many Mexican anglers move offshore after lunch to fish deep structure for the rest of the afternoon. This is when Carolina-rigged lizards or weedless foootball jigs get soak time.
It's interesting for readers to note that, until recently, jigs have not been widely-used in Mexico. Only within the past few years have jigs been tried, due in part to top US pros proving jigs effective to win events on shared border waters such as Amistad and Falcon lakes. Since then, the jig has caught on across Mexico for deep water structure fishing. Keep in mind, Mexican anglers mainly use 50-65 lb braid tied direct, without any leader. However Gary's weedless football jigs are heavy duty to withstand heavy tackle, 50-65 lb braid and big bass.
The lowly lizard goes great on Carolina rigs, and can be used to prospect for deeper bass that are holding on the bottom in open water away from cover.
When bass are not in dense cover, they often hug bottom on structure where the Carolina rig works best, and wide-bodied baits like lizards are better for the conditions where a Carolina operates. The wide body, front and rear side legs serve as bumper points that deflect the hook away from snags before they happen. Compared to all the bumper points on a lizard, you can see where a featureless slender bait like a Senko is going to get itself pulled into more snags but... many times bass crave the Senko on a Carolina rig. Although the Senko will snag more and will pull down the hook more than a lizard, you must also try the Senko when you are Carolina rigging.
Another good set-up for fishing deep offshore structure or plumbing the outside edges of weedlines, brushlines or treelines.
Chunky lobina landed on GYB 5" Swimbait on GYB Swimbait Jig Head by Dr. Rogelio Villarreal.
You can consider the 6-1/2 Kut Tail as your finesse worm for Mexico for whenever the fishing temporarily gets slow, as can happen anywhere due to weather changes, cold fronts or whatever shuts fish down.
Try them on medium heavy tackle, say 20-30 lb braid using the lightest sizes of Gary's Jig Head.
A tip with these Kut Tails is to rig so the tail's flat sideways, not pointing up or down. You get better tail-paddling action when its ridded sideways.
This new lure has just hit the market, and it has Mexico written all over it! Give it a try soon south of the border, and let us know how you made out.
"Lobinas Trofeo Fishing Team is a club of avid anglers and friends who are professionals (doctors, lawyers, economists, executives, etc.) and who share the passion for lobinas muy grande (very large bass) fishing. We have been fishing trophy bass lakes in Mexico together for the last 12 years. We believe Lake Baccarac (Bacurato) is the best lake in Mexico for lobinas trofeo," says Dr. Rogelio Villarreal.
"I am not sure how old is the Yamamoto Senko but I think we have been using the Senko at Bacurato for the past 12 years with success," recalls Rogelio. "In the first years, we started fishing Senkos weightless in white color. Then we evolved to other presentations, such as the wacky rig and explored other colors."
All the fish in the photos below were caught on wacky rigged seven-inch Yamamoto Senkos, mostly watermelon color, during one trip that the Lobinas Trofeo Team made to Baccarac in 2008.
One Fish. Two Senkos. This photos shows one hungry bass, and it also shows how most Mexican anglers use 50 to 65 lb braid tied direct without any leader.
Many Mexican guides, however, use 20 lb. test mono all the time, simply since mono is the least expensive line.
Ruben Zuno is considered by many to be the #1 independent guide serving Baccarac. He operates his own independent guide service (not through a lodge). With forty years bass fishing experience in Mexico overall, Ruben has recently been going to Bacurato more frequently and has acquired superb knowledge about the lake and its lobinas grandes. The one he's holding hit a wacky-rigged 7-inch Senko.