2011 will go down in fishing history as the year that fresh water bass anglers discovered (or accepted) the umbrella rig, which has been a salt water staple for decades. To be more accurate, it’s the year that a castable version of what had been strictly a trolling rig won a couple big scale bass tournaments, then became widely available, and subsequently, wildly popular.
It’s also the year that inland and inshore saltwater striper fishermen looked at this bass fishing adaptation of their saltwater standard, and saw plenty of use for a castable gang bait rig in striper and other saltwater fishing situations, too.
For me, the rub is that I find the concept of a rig designed specifically to allow (perhaps even promote) the catching of multiple fish on a single cast offensive. I love the idea of bringing into play the triggers that a small school of baitfish presents. And make no mistake about it, this thing does get bit when a single bait isn’t getting touched. I suspect that it doesn’t demand as precise a degree of depth control as a the same swimbait all by itself does. The fish seem way more willing to move up 10 to 15 feet in the water column for it.
But I won’t use, and really don’t need, multiple hooks to take advantage of that factor.
A gang of smaller, hookless teasers a few inches ahead of a larger, hook equipped lure, does the same job as far as instigating strikes, and in my experience, they will hit the money lure nearly every time. In the fish’s world, swimming past a larger meal to get to a smaller one is a self-defeating waste of energy.
In my earliest adaptations of the rig, I balanced the frame with heavier (e.g. 1/4 oz) hookless jigheads on two adjacent wires, and lighter (e.g. 1/8 oz) heads on the other two outside wires. All of those outside wires carried 3″ to 4″ baits — usually 3.75″ SwimFish — and the longer, center wire carried the money bait — invariably 5″ SwimFish impaled on a 3/8 or 1/2 oz head — which of course hadn’t had its 2/0 hook clipped off.
I built the first half-dozen of these on very light spring wire. They flexed all over the place, and looked like flying chaos on the cast. If there were hooks on all the baits, it would have constantly been a tangled mess. But with no hooks on four of the five baits, it rarely tangled, and when it did, a couple shakes of the rod tip usually straightened it right out.
Is it as much fun to fish as a single bait on a single head? No. It’s more work tossing more weight and retrieving that much water resistance. And you’re necessarily using heavier tackle than you need to fish a half-ounce head. But bottom line, it’s more fun to catch fish than not catch them, and there are going to be times you’re not going to catch much of anything if you’re not ganging up on them!
Over the years, I switched to somewhat heavier (but not as heavy as most of the commercially available rigs) wire to make a more durable rig, and eliminated the jigheads entirely on the teaser arms. The bottom arm (or two arms) are weighted, and all of the teaser arms carry HitchHikers to attach the hookless plastics to the rig.