(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Whether you think it should be allowed in tournament situations or not, there’s no denying that the castable umbrella rig catches bass, often several at a time. In fact, said Mark Zona, under the right circumstances, “It catches the biggest ones that swim in your lake.” He’s spent a lot of time experimenting with it and honing his presentations, and has gotten over the initial shock of seeing the odd rig.
“I remember the first time I saw it,” he said. “I was like ‘There’s no way. There’s no way bass bite that thing.’” He was quickly disavowed of that belief as they started biting the “goth contraption.” While it’s super-effective, that doesn’t mean you just throw it out and reel it back in. You have to use the right gear in the right place for it to be effective.
First, you have to have the right pelagic forage base – shad, alewives, emerald shiners, etc. If the primary forage is bluegill, Zona won’t use it. Water temperature is less of a factor. He likes it from the high 30s and low 40s all the way up into the 80s, tailoring the speed of his retrieve to the temps. The colder it is, generally the slower he’ll go.
As for the rig itself, he said “I keep it very, very, very simple.” He uses a titanium version from Strike King and never uses blades. He exclusively puts 3/16-ounce heads on the back of it and controls depth with reel speed. The heads all have light-wire hooks because he’s fishing around rocks and brush and doesn’t want to lose the entire rig if one gets hung up. Instead, he straightens it out and either bends it back or replaces it. His lure of choice is always a Strike King Rage Swimmer, in either the 3.25”- or 3.75-inch size.
He throws the rig on a Daiwa Tatula Ish Monroe frog rod, which has plenty of backbone but the right rip to make long casts. He pairs it with a high-speed reel, no matter the season, and never uses braid. Instead he prefers straight 20-pound Seaugar AbrazX.
After making a long cast, he’ll let the rig fall to or near the bottom, and when it gets there and he starts to pick up line he’ll keep the rod in the 4 o’clock position, ready to strike. This is the key juncture. He never retrieves it straight. Instead, he’ll make three or four turns, then jolt the reel so that the rig flares. Reel, flare, reel, flare – you constantly want to be doing something different to make it “look chaotic.”
Be ready for vicious strikes. “I’ve never thrown anything in bass fishing that scares me as much as when one bites this,” he said. Resist the urge to cross their eyes, though. The fish generally get hooked on their own, and if you keep reeling, that’s often the best way to fool doubles, triples or even the rare quad.
The biggest mistake that you can make is to throw it a few times and just put it down. This is a commitment.
“You have to hunt with this thing,” Zona concluded.
If you want to learn some of Zona’s additional tips for maximizing your umbrella-rig effectiveness, including his surprising thoughts about what to do if a Rage Swimmer’s tail gets caught on the hook point, check out his full on-the-water video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.