Umbrellas for Fall Bass Feasting

It’s the timeless dilemma of sandlot football—you’re picking players for your team and there he stands, that one kid with huge talent eclipsed only by his huge ego. You don’t want to pick him, but you know you have to.

That’s how a lot of bass anglers feel about umbrella rigs—those multi-armed contraptions designed to present the image of a baitfish cluster. No denying their bass appeal, but still there remains a subtle—sometimes not-so-subtle—disdain for the flying egg beater.

The craze that Paul Elias ignited after a dominant 2011 FLW Tour win on Lake Guntersville has spawned countless models from major tackle brands, down to the mom-and-pop level. There’s even a subset of spinoff versions like the YUM Boo Rig and miniature 3-arm rigs that take the bait cluster façade to crappie and panfish efforts.

Valid or not, the basic objection seems to be the diminished sporting value of tempting a fish with multiple baits—sometimes augmented with spinner blades—as opposed to a single lure. Each to his own, but if you don’t have one handy in the fall, you’re greatly limiting yourself.

Sure, you plenty of viable fall options. Topwaters, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs – they’ll all catch bass. But, when fall finds bass eager to pack their bellies—largely with schooling baitfish like threadfin shad—the umbrella rig presents an appealing offer.

Case in point: During a recent outing on Lake Chickamauga, I fished a current seam at the Watts Bar Dam with FLW Tour pro Wesley Strader. In the roiling water, loads of bass were popping disoriented shad, but ignoring our crankbaits.

Begrudgingly, Strader reached into his rod locker and pulled out an umbrella rig. Five casts later, he set the hook on a green football the nearly jolted the rod out of his hands.

“Man, he smashed that rig,” Strader said of the 5-pound largemouth’s incredibly violent strike. “I don’t think I would have caught that fish if I wasn’t throwing that (umbrella rig.)”

I could tell that it really pained Strader to have to admit that, but I didn’t sense any remorse over lipping a nice kicker.

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