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A Dominating Combination - Ish Monroe's Tatula Elite AGS Equipped Frog Rod

SOLID! The Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcaster


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Fishing the Perfect Storm? Use the Right Tackle (continued)

Rate of Fall: How fast does this rig sink? Fast. Even rigged relatively light, this thing sinks at about a foot per second. There's nothing really to stop it or slow it down. It's just pure, streamlined weight. So be sure to pay attention because once it hits bottom, it is very prone to snagging in whatever structure lies beneath.

Folks, this is what's considered high sticking! Do not try this at home - "professional" tackle tester at work.

Retrieve: Those of you who are familiar with fishing swimbaits will already know the rule here, or maybe not? It's always best to experiment with your retrieve because you never really know when the fish will strike on something different, but we had very good success with this rig retrieved slow, like a typical swimbait retrieve.

Phew... in the boat, picture worthy and the rod didn't break!

The Strike: Now, we've heard stories of violent strikes that threaten to pull your arm out of the socket. Those who have not been peacock bass fishing should refrain from using this description when talking about black bass. Seriously.

An umbrella rig fish courtesy of Cal's Kistler ZBone ZBLE-5H and Chronarch D7

What we experienced were one of two types of strikes. The most common was a feeling of dead weight as you are making our retrieve. Almost like one of the baits got caught up fishing line. Tension increased on the line just increased steadily. The second hit we experienced you could feel but it was a series of bumps like the bass were swiping at the lures trying to injure one of the baitfish before inhaling. In each case the key is to not set hook. That's right, don't swing. Zander swung on a couple and lost them both. What you want to do is just continue reeling in and put tension in your rod and keep that tension going all the way to the boat. Others may disagree, but again, this is what worked for us on the water.

Zander with a Clear Lake fatty

The Controversy: During the winter on Clear Lake, California, Largemouth bass grow inexplicably tight lipped. They are exceedingly difficult to catch this time of year unless you are using live bait. And yes, you can still practice catch and release with live bait.

There's no substitute for having a resource like the knowledgeable staff from a local tackle shop at your disposal

The umbrella rig has changed all of that this year and because of it, the lake has been packed all winter long as if it were a hot spring time bite. It is an extremely effective tool - almost too effective. Almost. It is still not a guarantee of fish. You still have to know how to use it and where to throw it. We've had long stretches of no activity with this rig. We've had periods of fast paced activity. We've heard reports of zero success. We've heard reports of good success. In other words, after all is said and done it's still fishing.

There's little doubt this rig is effective

Our primary concern with this umbrella? When you spread the arms out properly on these rigs the middle arm becomes a trailer. Just about all our fish were caught on this middle trailer. As you're fighting the fish back to the boat, the other two or even four hooked baits are then free swinging. Guess where they end up? Yup, hooked in the fish's side, its head, its belly, just about anywhere the hooks can take hold. It got to the point, after catching a couple of fish on the rig, where we didn't want to fish it much anymore because it was pointless to snag the bass left and right.

Cal trying to figure out a way around unnecessarily snagging a fish once its caught

Conclusion: There's no doubt to this rig's effectiveness and honestly, for those accustomed to tossing swimbaits it's a fun rig to fish. So how do we get past this dilemma of unnecessarily hooking and injuring the fish outside of their mouths? Well, think about it. Just because you can use three or up to five hooked baits on one rig, you don't have to. Considering the great majority of our hits came on the middle bait, why not just enable that one arm and fish decoys on the other four?

Problem solved. Have an issue with all those hooks snagging your catch? Just fish the umbrella rig with one hooked bait in the center!

Mann's version of the umbrella, the one you can legally call the Alabama Rig, features a middle arm that is longer than the others, even better! If you fish this rig in the manner we just suggested, then what you have in effect is an updated version of a spinnerbait with four attractants and one trailing wire with a bait and hook in it. You can have your umbrella and fish it too.

Putting the modified rig to the test... it works!

You may end up missing fish because there will be times they'll strike the decoys, but if your primary objective is to go out there and have some fun fishing, a few missed strikes here and there shouldn't trouble you. If you have no concerns for the fishery, well, we can't help you. This approach may not alleviate everyone's concern with the umbrella, but it may help some who struggle with one of the dilemmas the rigs presents.

Special thanks to Dean and the gang at Hi's Tackle Box.

As with everything, it's important to experience this rig yourself and form a personal opinion on what does or does not work for you. Approaching a new piece of equipment, lure, technique with an open mind is what we try to do everytime we take to the water. We found that we actually enjoy throwing this rig and we think we've found a way to make it work for us. Now it's your turn.

We'd like to extend a special thank you to Jonah Li, Dean Yoshizumi, Michelle Chin, and the entire gang at Hi's Tackle Box for their invaluable contribution to this article and helping us shorten our learning curve with this rig.










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