I’ve been a lifelong fan of Gary Yamamoto and his bait company.  Understand that growing up and fishing out West, Gary Yamamoto and his baits were staples in the desert lake (ie, Mead, Powell, Havasu) fishing scene and the Yamamoto Pro-Staff guys at the time (ie, Ben Matsubu and John Murray) were my idols coming up. I was fishing WON BASS as a AAA (meaning co-angler), and fished the desert lakes like Mead, Havasu, and the lower Colorado River.   So when Gary and Shin Fukae both had solid performances the FLW Eastern Series on Lake Okeechobee in 2009 (my first season on the Big O) I paid really close attention.  I remember going to the final day weigh in, it was cold and windy, and Shin was one of the only guys that caught a limit that final day.   He said ‘Swim Senko‘ and I took note.  This was the event that the late great Jimmy McMillan would win on the Skinny Dipper.   Swimming worms (you can call the Skinny Dipper and Swim Senko swimbaits of course, but from my perspective at the time, it was literally swimming worms) were something I hadn’t been exposed to or had any clue what was going on.

The mighty 5″ Yamamoto Swim Senko and 5/0 Owner Twistlock Open Gap Centering Pin Hook are a staple in my grass and open water fishing. Braid in grass and florocarbon in open water.

So, after that FLW Eastern Series on Okeechobee, about a month later, there was the FLW Stren Series event that I was signed up for.   This was my first months of ‘retirement’ from the corporate life I had just walked away from, so I was well funded and eager to fish, so I fished for about 25 days straight or something crazy on Okeechobee in preparation for the the FLW Stren Series event that was upcoming.  Besides just learning how to run and operate a boat in shallow grass and just get a feel for the Big O, I committed a lot of time to learning this ‘swimming worm’ deal.   It was a couple of things coming together all at once for me:  braided line, Skinny Dippers, 5″ Swim Senkos, Gambler Flapp’n Shads, Speed Worms, and Owner Twistlock Open Gap Centering Pin hooks.

Not sure why Junebug is such a good color in Florida, but it is.

In one month, I had gone from “get me off Okeechobee, this place is going to kill me and ruin all my equipment” to “I love this place, it has made me a much better fisherman.”    I had figured a few things out with the Swim Senko that helped me to a 20th place finish in that 2009 FLW Stren Series event.  The Swim Senko is a much more finesse swimming worm and bait than the Skinny Dipper.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THE SKINNY DIPPER and it has opened up a lot more minds than just my own, but just like everything, there are subtle nuances that baits possess and do that others do not, and the swim senko proved to get way more bites in pressured water for me.   It has a smaller profile and footprint, and because the Skinny Dipper was being thrown by just about every other boat in the Monkey Box (water was high, like 14.50 that year, so you could get WAY into the Box and Harney Pond areas where we haven’t been since), I was catching fish and the boats around me were not.

This was the fish where the light bulb went off in my head, and I understood what I had been missing. Okeechobee, February 2009, expression session.

The Hook:

Owner’s Twistlock Open Gap Centering Pin Hooks were made to be fished with baits like the Swim Senko.   They do an excellent job of holding a bait on and keeping it true as you fish thru heavy grass (your bait doesn’t get pulled down the shank).   They make rigging super easy and give you a lot of life out of your baits.  You don’t have the same issues with the plastic getting worn out like you do when you thread on a worm Texas style.   They definitely are quality built, super sharp needlepoint, and robust enough to handle the rigors of 50-65# braided line, heavy grass and full torque by 8 foot rods and 300 series reels.  I like to fish the 5/0 with the Swim Senko, which might seem like overkill for the little bait, but it gives the bait extra weight for casting and its already an unrefined, unreal style of bait, so realism isn’t the issue, its about hooking ’em in the grass.

Green pumpkin or watermelon colors don’t suck either. The boot tail of the Swim Senko does a whole lot of twisting, which in turn, twists the entire body of the bait. One advantage round baits have vs. flat sided soft baits, is when you are in thick grass, where your bait is actually coming in and out of the water, round baits can fish cleanly upside down and all awkward like, whereas flat sided softbaits will skim across the surface or plane out to the side.

The Swim Senko has subtle things like added weight to the plastic (like the original Senko that has rocked the world, just by adding more salt and fat to their plastic, Yamamoto revolutionized making plastic baits that actually had some weight, so when fished weightless, they would sink and do subtle things that fish noticed and immediately responded to.   The tail of the Swim Senko is booted, but has unique ribs that give it a unique vortex.   The bait can be fished on spinning gear and skipped under trees and docks, or can be fished on 50# braid and light action 8 footers “getting after it” style in the thick grass

I wouldn’t say the Swim Senko is beautiful or gorgeous or has any realism associated with it to speak of. But it is a fish catcher. That is exactly why I like it so much, because it contrasts the “Huddlston Vortex” conversation about realism. You cannot join the realism conversation unless you have committed time and caught fish on both the very real and the very not real. The Swim Senko is Exibit A, the ‘unreal’ swimbait that catches fish. But then again, nobody is talking about 12+ pounders here, are they? We are talking tournament grass swimming baits.  I pin the hookpoint back into the bait, for weedlessness.  Ugly looking bugger, but dang if the fish don’t eat it.

Other Applications

The Swim Senko is a great trailer on your swim jigs and vibrating/chatter style baits.  They also make great trailer on your Fish Head Spins and the underspin style of bait.  They can be fished on light 1/8 and 1/16 tungsten weights with spinning gear and sorta shakey headed/t-rigged around creeks and things where you need to half way be swimming a bait and half way dragging and making bottom contact style bait.   Be sure to notice there is a Jr. or small 4″  sized version of the Swim Senko too, which is awesome to fit smaller profile swim jigs, vibrating jigs and underspins or an even more finesse swimmer in the grass…