The umbrella-rig craze that swept the bass fishing world a couple of years ago seems to have subsided some, but that's not because the rigs are no longer working.
In fact, umbrella rigs are still a hot bait, and fall is one of the best times to fish them.
If you are not familiar with what an umbrella rig is, it's a fishing bait with multiple lures. They look like an umbrella. Missouri limits the number of hooks allowed on an umbrella rig to three on public waters. You can fish full rigs on private waters, but when fishing public water, make sure you have no more than three hooks. You can use rigs with more lures, but only three lures can have hooks. Just clips the hooks off the others.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, "Each angler using the pole and line method may have no more than three lures or natural baits with hooks on each line. Alabama or umbrella rigs are legal to use in Missouri, but only if no more than three lures or baits with hooks are attached to each rig."
As water temperatures cool in the fall, large schools of baitfish leave the deep main lake channels and seek the warmth of shallow water bays. These large clusters of baitfish prime bass for umbrella rig action. Some umbrella rigs are tough to throw, but smaller castable umbrella rigs (CURs) can be thrown with ease.
"The bait-school look is a natural in the fall as shad and other forage come together," Lawrence Taylor, PR manager for Pradco Fishing, said. "Schooling baitfish is what bass are feeding on. Mimicking a school is easy, but fishing shallow with a CUR is a new technique for bass anglers. Most rigs are big, heavy and nearly impossible to fish in water less than 6 feet deep without snagging on bottom, but several downsized, lightweight versions stack up shallow water bass."
CURs provide anglers the opportunity to throw a bait that mimics a school of fish. A bass is more likely to target numerous baitfish, as opposed to a single small fish. Aren't you more excited about a pizza buffet than you are about a single piece of pizza?
"Bass feeding on baitfish during fall may be holding in 20 feet of water, but when they've got the baitfish pinned against the surface, the bass are only a few feet under the surface," Taylor said. "Run a lure under the fish and you might as well be fishing on the moon. Any time you see schooling activity you can catch those fish with a lightweight CUR fished just below the surface."
Zell Rowland, a B.A.S.S. Elite pro, uses CURs when fish are in shallow shoreline weeds. He likes to keep the rig just a foot or so deep.
"A lot of times in this situation I'll go to a YUM Money Minnow on an unweighted or very slightly weighted Texas rig," Rowland said, "especially if there's any "gunk' up there with the weeds. If it was just clean weeds I'd throw a spinnerbait, but any moss fouls the bait."
To keep the rig shallow, and out of the weeds which will foul its swimming action, start reeling immediately once the CUR hits the water. Fishing a heavy monofilament line and keeping your rod tip pointed skyward helps keep the CUR closer to the surface.
"Several factors affect the depth any given CUR will run: overall weight, the resistance it creates when retrieved, and external factors like line size and type, retrieve speed, and the angle you hold the rod," Taylor said. "In general, the lighter the overall package, the shallower it is capable of running. Resistance refers to how easily the rig cuts through the water, and the pull created by any spinning blades and the swimming motion of multiple swimbaits. The more resistance from blades and baits, the higher in the water column the rig will run."
For fall bass fishing, a shallow running castable umbrella rig just might mean the difference between a livewell full of keepers and day without much action.
Remember although most umbrellas rigs come with five lures on them, Missouri only allows three lures with hooks to be fished on a single rig. You can clip two hooks off and be legal with three.
See you down the trail ...
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.