Try Umbrella Rigs: They Can be Deadly

What we are looking at here is the umbrella rig, Alabama Rig or “A-Rig.” In the last few years umbrella rigs have become one of the deadliest devices for big bass and other gamefish. It is not a lure, but a wire harness by which multiple lures can be delivered on a single cast, creating the illusion of a school of baitfish.

But umbrella rigs have been around for decades. Heavily weighted umbrella rigs are trolled for salt water striped bass. The castable A-Rig came to national attention in 2011 when Elite Series bass pro Paul Elias of Mississippi used one to win a major bass tournament.

To further prove the effectiveness of the rigs, they have been banned by several tournament organizations including B.A.S.S.

Let’s take a closer look at these big bass rigs and what makes them so productive.

Description

An umbrella rig has a number of wire arms that extend from a central head. On a five-wire rig, four wires spread out to the sides with equal spacing between each wire, much like the spokes of an umbrella. The fifth wire is usually longer than the other four and also extends straight back. Most anglers use a different, larger lure or a different color for this center wire than the others, giving larger predators a point of attack. The center lure, extending farther back than the others, looks vulnerable to a predator fish and usually attracts the strike. Each wire arm has a snap on the end to easily attach your lures.

Lure Options and Rigs

Soft plastic paddletail swimbaits in the 3- to 5-inch sizes are popular lures for this illusion. Good choices include Berkley’s Hollow Belly, Yum’s Money Minnow and the Berkley Havoc Sick Fish. Another option would be curly-tail grubs from Berkley, Kalins or Mr. Twister.

Each of these lures is used with a 1/8- to 1/2-ounce jig head and attached to the rig via the snap swivels on the end of each wire arm. Determine jig weight based upon the depth of water that you wish to cover.

Elias used the Alabama Rig from Mann’s Bait Company to score his victory, but the choices in rigs seems endless. The 3-wire and 5-wire YUMbrella Rigs from Pradco are also good options. Pradco also offers the YUMbrella Flash Mob Rig, adding four no. 4 counter-rotating willowleaf blades midway down each outer arm to produce flash and vibration, and create the image of a bigger school of baitfish.

A great idea from Berkley is their Schooling Rig Kit, containing everything you need to start fishing. It has a 5-wire umbrella rig and comes with five Berkley Powerbait soft paddletail swimbaits and five jig heads, all in one neat package for a reasonable price.

Tackle and Storage Considerations

Obviously with three or five lures with jig heads and the rig, it can be an awkward and heavy offering to cast. A “lob” would be better suited in this case.

Heavy-duty tackle is best considering the weight of the rig, the resistance of multiple lures on the retrieve and the fact that you may have a predator fish or two (hopefully) to bring in. Yes, occasionally the rig may catch more than one fish on a single cast, especially when you hit upon a school and competition is fierce. A heavy, 7 1/2- to 8-foot casting rod with a long handle will provide casting leverage. Couple this with a sturdy casting reel with plenty of torque and low-speed to minimize arm fatigue. Most anglers choose a braided line in 30 to 65 lb. test, like Spiderwire Stealth. This is not a presentation for a wimpy outfit!

Storing these rigs with multiple wire arms can be a problem, but the folks at Plano have come up with a neat solution. Their Alabama Rig Box, no. 3708 can hold up to five rigs; keeping them tangle-free and easily accessible.

Legal Issues

Regulations on umbrella rigs may differ in each state and on some lakes. This is why it’s important to consult the rule book before fishing a different state, or even a different body of water. Some states allow the 5 hook rigs while others only allow 3 lures with hooks in them. Some states permit only one hook per rig; others ban umbrella rigs completely.

Indiana allows hooks or lures on only three wire arms. Just use a three-wire rig or “doctor up” a five-wire rig to be legal. You can use a five-wire rig with 5 lures with jig heads if you cut off the hook point on 2 of the baits and bend the remaining shank towards the head of the jig. Another option is to use two willowleaf spinner blades on two arms for added attraction. You can also use a Hitchhiker, a small wire clip that screws into the head of the plastic bait and attaches to the snap swivel at the end of the wire arm to eliminate hooks on two arms and be legal.

Umbrella rigs are versatile. The castable rigs were originally thought to be productive for suspending fish primarily. As the years have passed since Elias’ tournament win, anglers have found them to be fish catchers on structure, in deep or shallow water near cover.

Bass fishing may have “introduced” the umbrella rigs to the masses, but they are not limited to only largemouth and smallmouth bass. They are even being used successfully for freshwater striped bass, hybrid stripers, crappies and even muskies.