UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Chickamauga

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

How to Use Umbrella Rigs for Smallies

How to Use Umbrella Rigs for Smallies

Umbrella rigs took the fishing world by storm back in 2011 when Paul Elias won the FLW Tour Open on Guntersville. Though fairly quickly ruled illegal at the top levels, umbrella rigs (also called Alabama rigs or A-rigs) have gained a foothold across the country as effective producers, especially during the cool-weather months in the South.

Over the last few years umbrella rigs have made consistent appearances for smallmouths in the Costa FLW Series as well. In 2017 at the 1,000 Islands, Chris O’Brien and Casey Smith put them to work for top-10 finishes. In the 2016 event at Oneida, top-10 finishers Smith, Kyle Weisenburger, Ian Renfrew, Lawrence Mazur, Jim Vitaro and Cory Johnston all used rigs.

For the last three years, fellow smallmouth hammer Scott Dobson has been fishing the umbrella rig as well, concentrating on St. Clair, but also spreading it around the rest of the Great Lakes region. It’s been a good tournament weapon for him, particularly in the fall, like when he and Kyle Green weighed 30.31 pounds of umbrella rig smallies to win the Cash for Bass Monster Quest event on St. Clair in October 2017.

If you haven’t tried a rig for smallies yet, his tips should give you a good jumping-off point.

 

It just works

Dobson first started throwing the umbrella rig about three years ago, and he’s expanded on it since then.

“When we first got into throwing the rig it was a year when we were catching them on spybaits and jerkbaits and crankbaits,” says Dobson. “I was fishing a spot where I knew there were fish, and I couldn’t catch them on a drop-shot or anything. I had the A-rig tied up for whatever reason, and I bombed it out there and essentially burned it in. I had three fish come up on it, and one ate it, and it was a good one. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I should be throwing this all the time.’”

Dobson’s initial experience with the rig came in late July, and he promptly gave it a tour of St. Clair.

“We went out everywhere we had fish, all over the lake, and for some reason on the Great Lakes with smallmouth, big fish key in on it,” says Dobson. “It works all year round. It works best in the spring and then again in the fall, but you can catch them on it in river situations, out in the lake, and when the water is 50 degrees or all the way to 70 degrees.”

One constant he’s noticed is it gets big bites, despite sometimes not being a numbers bait.

“You’ve got to know that if you commit to it you might only get eight or nine bites on it, but they’re going to be the right ones,” says Dobson.

 

How to fish it

Dobson’s strategy is pretty simple: He casts the rig out, lets the bait sink to the depth he wants it and then slowly winds it in.

“If they’re feeding up, really high or busting on bait you want it higher, but in all my experience it seems to get more bites relatively close to the bottom,” says Dobson. “There are times, especially when it’s cooler, that you want to be dragging it on the bottom, or really close, so it’s ticking the grass or the rocks. That can generate a lot of bites too. But as a rule of thumb, I want to rake the A-rig overtop of the fish, so they’re looking up and can run up and eat it. If I’m fishing in 17 or 18 feet of water, I’m gonna get it down to 15 or 16 feet, and them I’m gonna start winding.”  

Dobson says that the vast majority of his bites come at a few key points in the retrieve.

“If you tick a piece of cabbage or a rock you can give it a pop, and that can sometimes generate bites,” explains Dobson. “But it seems to me they eat it on the initial fall, when you engage the retrieve and on the upswing when it comes back up to the boat. They don’t seem to eat it too much in between.”

Dobson will throw the rig around anything – cabbage, rock, breaks, sand spots, current or wherever else there are fish. His preferred depth range is about 15 to 20 feet, though he has occasionally caught fish shallower than 10 feet. In that case, he’s usually winding it pretty fast. The best indicator that the A-rig will shine is the presence of forage that isn’t pinned to the bottom, be it shad, alewives or perch.

 

Dobson’s rig

There are a lot of permutations out there for umbrella rigs, and personal preference and confidence can have a lot to do with how much success one has. Dobson has a pretty specific setup he likes to use that is designed for imitating shad, alewives and perch and handling a quantity of Great Lakes smallmouths.

His rig of choice is the Shane’s Baits Mini Blades of Glory most of the time. Dobson likes the Shane’s Baits rigs because of the replaceable arms, which means a smallmouth can bust one off and he can be back in action with ease. When he’s dialed in, Dobson replaces the snaps with split rings. Occasionally, even the heavy-duty snaps on the Shane’s Baits rigs will open up, and split rings eliminate that issue.

He mostly uses blades on his rig, but if the fish aren’t biting or it’s cloudy he likes to have a rig without blades handy. Silver is his standard blade color, but he’s currently experimenting with a variety of painted blades as well.

Dobson usually fishes the rig 10 feet or deeper, and his typical setup for that is two screw-locks for dummies on top, a 3/8-ounce head in the middle and two 5/16-ounce heads on the bottom. Dobson likes the Strike King Squadron Head and the YUM YUMbrella Money Head the best because they have very stout hooks. When he’s imitating shad he likes white heads, and he’ll go to brown or green heads when he’s imitating perch.

The final piece of the package is the swimbaits, and Dobson pretty much sticks with the Keitech Swing Impact FAT for that. His normal recipe is 3.3-inch baits around the outside and a 3.8- or 4.3-inch bait in the middle. He likes shad colors the best, particularly favoring sexy shad, but likes extra color in the center at all times. Because smallmouths are “really savvy” to chartreuse, he says he often dyes the middle bait’s tail or uses an electric blue and chartreuse-colored swimmer in that spot.

 

The tackle

Dobson has gone through a few different setups to complete his umbrella rig outfit. After a lot of testing he’s settled on 20-pound-test fluorocarbon, a Dobyns Champion XP 806CB and a 5.8:1 Shimano Tranx 300.

The rod that Dobson uses was actually intended for throwing baits like a Strike King 10XD, but he says it’s perfect for his umbrella rig needs.

“I started on a flipping stick, and I deemed that to be too stiff of a rod,” says Dobson. “At the end of last year or early this year I went to that 10XD cranking rod. It was designed for big magnum crankbaits, and it’s got a nice parabolic bend that loads up and really springs off you on the cast. And when a fish hits it just loads up on them.

“When you set the hook and you’re fishing a BFL format or a Costa format with just three hooks, you don’t want to jerk and pull the bait away from the fish if they just hit the dummy. You want to make sure the fish actually eats it. With that rod, if you just lean into them and wait until the fish pulls back, it gets them every time.”

Dobson’s choice of a low gear ratio is worth nothing as well. Because of how he fishes the rig, it’s a perfect match.

“You’re slow-rolling the bait. You’re not usually reeling it really fast,” says Dobson. “Something about the retrieve and how I can feel with the 5.8:1 is really good. I get a natural cranking retrieve, and I’ve gotten used to reeling it with that cadence.”

 

Doubles?

One thing you can do with an A-rig that you can’t with most other baits is actually catch doubles. You have to be patient to do it.

“If you set the hook you’ll never catch a double,” says Dobson. “If you just kind of lean into the fish and let them load up that will give you the opportunity to hook up with number two or number three. I’ve had three on before. I’ve never landed three, but I’ve caught multiple doubles. The only way you can do that is to let the fish swim around down there a little.”

When you do catch a double, it’s pretty great and often pretty awesome. It’s hard to be mad about multiple 4-plus smallmouths thrashing around.

 

Sling it

Most folks think finesse when they think smallmouths. That’s totally valid, but it’s also limiting. If you haven’t at least experimented with an umbrella rig for chasing smallies up north you’re likely missing out. Even if you can’t use them in some tournaments, you can almost certainly use them to catch some big fish. Obviously, umbrella rigs aren’t for everyone, but they can be a ton of fun.

Tags: pro-tips-weekly  jody-white  article 

Darrell Lowrance Part of Fishing’s First Generation of Innovators

Darrell Lowrance Part of Fishing’s First Generation of Innovators

The future of fishing is brighter thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of industry pioneer Darrell Lowrance, who passed away on Saturday at age 80. FLW joins the industry in mourning his loss, and offers its condolences to the Lowrance family. READ MORE »

Setting Up a Slugfest at Chickamauga  

Setting Up a Slugfest at Chickamauga  

The second stop of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division promises much better fishing than the first. Moving north from a cold front-plagued Florida swing, the field will visit Lake Chickamauga for the middle event of the season. The tournament, which is presented by T-H Marine, should feature excellent fishing, as the east Tennessee reservoir pretty much always kicks out giants. READ MORE »

Seminole on YouTube

Seminole on YouTube

The third stop of the FLW Tour season on Lake Seminole was a roaring success. Many pros documented their practice and tournament days to give viewers an inside look at how their event unfolded. READ MORE »

Review: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS

Review: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS

The Lew’s Speed Spool LFS is a re-design of the Speed Spool, and it’s a very affordable casting reel that works quite well. It hit the market in the fall of 2018, and though it doesn’t visually stand out and it’s lacking in nonessential bells and whistles, the reel is more than capable of getting the job done for under $100. READ MORE »

FLW, Abu and Boy Scouts Launch Youth Contingency

FLW, Abu and Boy Scouts Launch Youth Contingency

FLW, along with Abu Garcia and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), recently announced a new contingency program for youth bass anglers who fish the YETI FLW College Fishing and Bass Pro Shops FLW High School Fishing tournament circuits. READ MORE »

President Signs S. 47, Expands Fishing Access

President Signs S. 47, Expands Fishing Access

President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, signed into law S. 47, a package of bills that “sets forth provisions regarding various programs, projects, activities, and studies for the management and conservation of natural resources on federal lands.” READ MORE »

College Open Midday Update — Day 1

College Open Midday Update — Day 1

Kentucky Lake is showing out in a big way on day one of the YETI FLW College Fishing Open. Cool but fairly calm conditions have paved the way for a lot of quality fish and some impressive stringers so far. READ MORE »

KHSAA Region 2 Tournament Moved

KHSAA Region 2 Tournament Moved

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) Region 2 bass tournament originally scheduled on Lake Cumberland out of General Burnside Island State Park has been moved to Halcomb’s Landing. READ MORE »

AOY Update: Lake Seminole

AOY Update: Lake Seminole

Bryan Thrift’s bomb at the third stop of the FLW Tour on Seminole may ripple through the minds of fans for a while, but the other contenders for Angler of the Year pretty much stayed on fire. In the lead, Terry Bolton banked his second top 10 of the year and padded his lead. Behind him, Scott Martin earned his second top 10 in a row to push him into the runner-up spot as he pursues his second AOY title on Tour. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Seminole

Top 10 Baits from Lake Seminole

Vibrating jigs and Texas-rigged soft-plastic creature baits, along with a few finesse baits, were the primary tools used to catch prespawn bass from hydrilla beds on Lake Seminole in March. Learn how to put more early spring fish in the boat with the lures used by the top 10 pros. READ MORE »

FLW, Kayak Bass Fishing Join Forces

FLW, Kayak Bass Fishing Join Forces

FLW announced today that it has partnered with Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF), LLC, the nation's foremost organization supporting kayak bass anglers, to hold two kayak bass-fishing tournaments in 2019. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The two events will be held in conjunction with FLW Tour events – the FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga and the FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton – on nearby fisheries to offer kayak anglers and Tour pros separate fisheries for competition. KBF will manage operation of the two events, and the winners will be recognized on the FLW Tour stage and featured in FLW’s media outlets. READ MORE »

Polaris Named Title Sponsor of ROY Award

Polaris Named Title Sponsor of ROY Award

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that Polaris, the leading global powersports manufacturer, has been named the presenting sponsor for the coveted Polaris FLW Tour Rookie of the Year (ROY) award. The award is given to the highest-ranked first-year angler on the prestigious Tour, which features some of the top anglers in professional bass fishing. READ MORE »

Britt’s Final Practice Day on Seminole

Britt’s Final Practice Day on Seminole

Fishing his third year on the FLW Tour, Aaron Britt is off to his best start yet, sitting at 26th in the points and fresh off a top 10 at Toho. As is the case for many of his peers, Britt has never fished Lake Seminole, the site of the third stop of the FLW Tour presented by Costa. READ MORE »

FLW Kayak Fishing

READ MORE »

Get to Know Lake Seminole

Get to Know Lake Seminole

The site of the third stop of the 2019 FLW Tour is Lake Seminole, a bass fishing gem sprawled through the pines and swamps of north Florida and south Georgia. Anglers will take off out of Bainbridge, Ga., in this tournament, which is presented by Costa, and should enjoy some really phenomenal fishing. READ MORE »

First Look at Seminole with Upshaw

First Look at Seminole with Upshaw

Stop No. 3 of the 2019 FLW Tour takes place at Lake Seminole and is presented by Costa. Though Seminole is a historic lake that is well-trafficked by the Costa FLW Series, the Tour hasn’t been here since 1996. It’s relatively unfamiliar for many pros, and Andrew Upshaw is one of them. In his eighth year on Tour, Upshaw has qualified for the FLW Cup in back-to-back years, and he’s off to a great start in 2019, sitting at 15th in the points through the first two events. READ MORE »

Co-angler Parks Nearly Goes Wire-to-Wire

Co-angler Parks Nearly Goes Wire-to-Wire

Jesse Parks came within 1 pound, 6 ounces of running wire-to-wire for the co-angler win in the Costa FLW Series Western Division Opener presented by Ranger Boats. He finished day one in fourth place with 10-9, but a 9-4 day-two effort (on a day that stumped most of the field) and two more fish for 3-11 on day three were plenty to claim the lead and never relinquish it. READ MORE »

Lake Mead Midday Update – Day 2

Lake Mead Midday Update – Day 2

It’s hard to get a read on how well Mead is fishing on day two of the Costa FLW Series Western Division opener presented by Ranger Boats. By some accounts, calmer conditions and cloudy skies have made the bite pick up in some key areas of the lake. On the other hand, the Overton Arm area is much slower today than it was on Thursday, and it's an area of the lake that produced for many anglers atop the day-one leaderboard. READ MORE »

Lake Mead Midday Update – Day 1

Lake Mead Midday Update – Day 1

As expected, the fishing has been pretty slow so far on day one of the Costa FLW Series Western Division opener, presented by Ranger Boats. On the bright side, it seems like the bite has picked up between 10 and 1 o’clock during practice this week, so we should be seeing more fish in livewells across the tournament field in the next couple hours. READ MORE »

2019 Lake Seminole Preview

2019 Lake Seminole Preview

Lake Seminole was created after the completion of the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam back in 1952. It backed up the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers and created more than 37,000 acres of prime bass habitat. The Flint River and Spring Creek sections of the lake are entirely in Georgia, but the Chattahoochee arm runs along the border between Florida and Georgia. READ MORE »