One of the hottest trends to hit fishing in recent years has been the umbrella rig, a.k.a. “Alabama Rig.” While some tournaments have eliminated its use, it remains an exciting tool to experiment with. Best of all, it can really heat up the bass action when fish seem sluggish in late winter and early spring.
Last winter, I did some bass-hopping along the TVA trail with Jimmy Mason. Jimmy, an FLW and former Bassmaster Elite Series angler who guides professionally in northern Alabama, gave me a crash course in multi-rigging on three famous Tennessee River impoundments: Wilson Lake, Pickwick Lake and Lake Guntersville.
Here’s how he rigs and fishes them.
Umbrella Rig –Initially designed for saltwater striped bass, the original umbrella rig consists of four wires that flare “umbrella” style from a foam jighead and a fifth that extends straight back. Mason’s preferred design is the Yumbrella model from the YUM line. He fixes jigs with swimbaits or other tail-active soft plastics to snap swivels at the rear end of each wire. The center wire extends further back than the other four. He varies his offerings on the rig, but he most often begins with four 3.5-inch Yum Money Minnows on the flared arms and a 5-inch Money Minnow in the center. “I will vary my colors and place a slightly different color in the middle,” he explained. “My favorite color is Foxy Shad, because it matches the primary bait in these impoundments so well. I may also throw grubs like the Yum Muy Grub on the outside, but I’ll still put that 5-inch Money Minnow in the center.”
Umbrella with a little flash – Mason’s favorite variation on the basic umbrella rig is the YUM Flash Mob Jr., a slightly smaller umbrella-style rig with lighter wire, shorter arms and a small willowleaf spinner blade to accompany each outside lure. “With these umbrella rigs, you are trying to create the effect of a school of shad,” noted Mason. “But, with this rig, it looks like a school of nine shad because of the extra flash points.” Mason throws the Flash Mob Jr. “at least 50 percent of the time, maybe more” when conditions call for a multi-rig presentation. He showed off a set of teeth marks on his swimbaits to confirm that his initial cast had gained attention.
Umbrella with big flash – In the dirty water conditions so common to the TVA lakes following heavy rains, Mason switches to the YUM Flash Mob, a larger umbrella rig with size #3 or #4 willowleaf blades. When dam operators opened floodgates for an extended period on Pickwick Lake in the winter of 2013, the Flash Mob really shined, according to Mason. In fact, he caught several double-digit bass on the rig that winter. “When I am throwing this rig, I want to create big profile, so I add five 5-inch Money Minnows on 3/8-ounce jigs,” said Mason. “When you are throwing this rig, you definitely feel it! When they are running a lot of water through the dam, this rig will catch you a giant bag!”
Say Boo! – The multi-rig concept has spawned some variations like the Booyah Boo Rig that aren’t really multi-rigs at all! The Boo Rig has only one hook at the end of an extended wire arm. Four umbrella-style arms spread from the rig head, but they feature spinners only – no actual lures or hooks. “Still, you get that same profile of schooling fish with flash coming off at multiple points,” said Mason. “This version actually gives the illusion of the Money Minnow chasing a school of small shad, and you get a competitive reaction from the fish…Another difference on this one is that the head is made from lead, unlike the heads on the other Yum rigs, which are foam.” The rig comes in three sizes: ¼-, 3/8- and ½-ounce.
“I really like fishing this one in the current with a single swimbait,” said Mason. “With a half-ounce jig in back and a half-ounce head in front, I have a balanced rig that doesn’t hang up very much. Best of all, it gives the appearance of a small predator chasing shad.”