What was the impact of the hottest rig in bass fishing in 2012 – the umbrella rig, aka the Alabama Rig? The answer depends on how you look at it.
First of all, the umbrella rig single-handedly blew up – in a good way – the tackle biz this year. No doubt. Tackle buyers for retailers were offering cash in advance (never happens!), and lots of it, to get to the front of the line for some of the ultra-hot umbrella rigs.
That money trickles down everywhere, so that type of impact is a good thing. And all that buying also was matched on the retail side, meaning a lot of folks bought umbrella rigs – which means the rigs were fished.
For sure hundreds of thousands of bass anglers were heaving and winding the hottest bait/rig to come around in years. But what about tournaments. What kind of impact did it have there?
We all know B.A.S.S. banned the rig from the Elite Series, so that was that: Umbrella rigs couldn't account for any high finishes and thus high dollar amounts there. In the Opens, the highest Bassmaster Open umbrella rig finish was Josh Bertrand, who finished second in a fish-off to Brent Chapman at Lake Lewisville, Texas.
But the rig did figure in one major FLW Tour win (David Dudley at Beaver Lake, Ark.) and two EverStart wins (Shasta, Calif. and Guntersville, Ala.), as well as at least one other regional win.
Note that these were all spring tournaments, with Guntersville the latest, in May. It's possible that the U-rig figured into a few more wins here and there, but through the end of the year no other national or regional tournaments we're aware of were won with this "rig to end all rigs."
If that doesn't look like the Alabama Rig had much of a tournament impact in 2012, consider these points:
> In 2011 it won one tour-level event – on its debut. In 2012 that number doubled, and it won a few major triple-A events.
> It accounted for roughly $100,000 in winnings in 2011, when Paul Elias first brought it to national attention, and in 2012 accounted for at least double that. Not bad.
On the other hand, consider this: The Strike King 6XD crankbait was a key factor in three major B.A.S.S. wins this year: Brandon Palaniuk at the Bull Shoals Elite, Jeremy Starks at the Douglas Lake Elite, and Elite pro Casey Scanlon at the Table Rock Open.
That bait's been around for a year or two, but it's had a tournament impact similar to the umbrella rig, which sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?
So did the umbrella rig change bass fishing as many thought, assumed or feared, or did it just get added to the arsenals of non-Elite anglers? It really depends on your perspective.
My opinion: It did blow up bass fishing, in a good way. It helped a lot of tackle companies, and accounted for multiple major wins (we had to add "Umbrella Rig" to the bait/lure categories in BassGold) in what was still its first 6 months of existence. But ultimately it's just another bait to be added to the box.