The umbrella rig: yes or no?

The last few weeks have been crazy busy, which is great! I’ve been working with the media, answering emails, talking to sponsors and putting the finishing touches on my new Phoenix/ Yamaha rig. I’ve been without a boat for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and do some fishing. With the weather getting colder, I’ll definitely be throwing one of my favorite contraptions: the umbrella rig.

Undoubtedly, when it came out a few years ago the umbrella rig changed the way we fish in cold water. It’s the best at catching those hard-to-reach suspended fish that are moving out from the shallows to deeper wintertime spots. The strikes are some of the most vicious there are and while I do love throwing it, I agree 100 percent that it should not be allowed in professional tournaments.

I say that because everyone has to play by the same rules, and being limited to a single bait makes it more of a hunt, if that makes sense. Plus, have you ever tried to keep a couple of rigs organized and untangled in your boat while you’re bouncing around the lake? It’s freaking impossible! But for fun fishing, it’s a great way to catch ’em.

I live here in Guntersville, Ala., the place Paul Elias made the rig famous. I guarantee they are biting it right now. I can’t wait to get out there and lob one around. My favorite one is an Eco Pro Roll Tide Burst rig. I fix them up with Owner Inshore jigheads with either 3 1/2- or 5-inch Berkley Havoc Grass Pigs.

Since so many people will be throwing them right now, I’ll let you in on a couple of things that I think increases the number of bites I get. First, I use 50-pound Trilene Professional Grade Braid as a main line. No shocker there, but I tie that to a 6-foot section of 17-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I like to have the braid to get solid hooksets, because they don’t always hammer it. They might just tick it and be coming at you, and you’d never know with just fluorocarbon. But the other thing that gets me more bites is the titanium coating on the wires of that Roll Tide Burst. It mutes the color and flash and makes it more natural looking. That and the fluorocarbon really camouflage the whole rig in the water. I throw it on a heavy action 7-9 Abu Garcia Veritas 2.0. That rod is perfect because it has just the right action and has big eyes. That way the knot doesn’t get punished cast after cast.

I’ve had some pretty good days throwing an umbrella rig. I’ve caught fish as shallow as 2 feet of water down to 20 feet deep. The best few days I’ve ever had on it was in a three-day derby. I caught 81 pounds and came in third! I’ve had a few triples on it, but no trio of giants. The biggest single fish I’ve caught on it was 8 1/2 pounds. Probably the coolest thing I’ve had happen on it was when the bass were eating really, really small bait and I wasn’t getting bit on anything. So, I actually tied two umbrella rigs end-to-end so I had nine hooks going! I rigged them up with 1 1/2-inch crappie swimbaits and loaded the boat. I caught like 30 fish that day once I figured that out. 

In my opinion, the bottom line on umbrella rigs is this: They’re lots of fun and are a great way to catch those in-between fish, but from a professional standpoint I don’t think they belong in our tournaments.