The castable umbrella fishing rig or Alabama rig is regarded as the secret lure to catching big bass by many in the fishing community. The artificial baits on the rig represents a school of shad, which happens to be a popular baitfish for stripers and bass during the cold water seasons. This rig is so effective that many striped bass tournaments actually ban the use of this equipment. While this lure does produce some exceptional results, it does require a little skill and knowledge when deploying. This guide with discuss my personal experience as well as the best practices when fishing with the umbrella rig. Also, be sure to check out our list on the best fishing reels for striped bass, to maximize your success with an umbrella rig.
For a larger part of my fishing career, I only tried the umbrella rig on one occasion. This experience made me fall in love with this rig. I was fishing on a chartered boat in Cape Cod, Massachusetts with a few other experienced fishermen. We were slowly trolling for stripers with two rods on the back corners of the boat. In this moment, I was finally exposed to my new favorite rig – the umbrella rig.
The umbrella rigs that we used had 4 green shads on the outside and 1 large black shad in the middle. When we started to receive some action on the rods, we allowed the hooked striped bass to take out as much line as needed. Since we hooked a larger striper, we spent about 5-10 minutes battlingwith this beautiful sport fish. We successfully landed the fish and I noticed something interesting. The bass was hooked up on one of the outside green lures, not the large black one. The next few striped bass and bluefish that were hooked all did the same type of thing. These smaller shad truly represent a school of baitfish and attract the attention of these larger fish. The center lure acts as a teaser to the stripers but it also can help directly hook the fish.
From this point on, I wanted to add the umbrella rig to my collection of lures. I promised myself, that the next time I went fishing on my boat in Long Island, New York, I would be ready with this rig. I ordered myself a few different umbrella rigs that resembled different sizes of shad. I wanted to be best prepared for fishing both offshore and inshore. I learned the different challenges that were associated with this rig. It does take some time to learn about the little combinations that impact speed, depth and performance.
How to fish an Umbrella Rig while trolling
- Make sure you have an appropriate rod & reel setup, typically a heavy-duty spinning reel or conventional reel will work. I personally used a spinning reel but it can lead to more tangles if you aren’t careful.
- Also, be sure you have strong enough fishing line. For bass, I recommend test line greater than 20 pounds, either fluorocarbon or braid. My rod has 50 pound test to compete with the largest stripers.
- The next piece is very small, but very important. Since you are trolling, you will need a swivel to avoid the line from tangling up. The way that the umbrella rig moves in the water will cause these tiny tangles in the line that are not seen by the naked eye. The swivel allows the line to rotate and stay untangled. It will preserve your line!
- Then, it is time to add the umbrella rig to the swivel. Depending on the desired depth that you wish to fish, you may need to add additional weight to the rig. I would typically test this out when you first cast your rig.
- Finally, you are ready to start fishing, cast the the rig slowly into the water next to the boat. Slowly release line as the boat maintains a speed of 5-6mph. Try to locate where your line enters the water to confirm that the rig is under the water and not “skipping” at the surface. You also don’t want to have the umbrella rig directly on the bottom of the water. This increases the probably that the rig will get stuck on the bottom and cause you to lose your expensive tackle.
You can deploy several umbrella rigs from different rods at once but be sure to maintain a healthy distance between lines to avoid any tangles. The added use of a fish finder can help locate areas of baitfish which helps the captain find the stripers! Be sure to keep an eye out for schools of baitfish jumping near the surface.
Q: Is fishing with an umbrella rig legal?
A: Outside of the top-level bass tournaments, the umbrella rig is pretty much legal in all waters. However, some states ban rigs with three or more hooks, such as New Hampshire, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont and Maryland. Be sure to confirm your local fishing regulations before using a larger umbrella rig.
Q: Are umbrella rigs heavy?
A: You will feel a considerable amount of extra tension on your line when fishing with the umbrella rig. Adding in the fact that the boat is trolling while you are fishing, the lure can feel pretty heavy at times. To avoid fatigue, I recommend the use of a rod holder to ease the burden on your arms.
Q: How expensive are umbrella rigs?
A: Depending on the brand, umbrella rigs can be expensive. It is important to read the reviews on the individual sellers before buying. The umbrella rig has a small list of sellers so it is important to do the correct amount of research. A good number of experienced fishermen actually build their own umbrella rigs. They purchase the individual parts separately to develop their own rig.
The first time using an umbrella rig or Alabama rig for stripers can be very exciting. However, it is important to note that it does not automatically guarantee more fish. The umbrella rig has been tested to work best during the spring and fall seasons when shad become a more popular fish for striped bass to feed on in cooler waters. With that said, adding a new piece of equipment to your fishing rig strategy only enhances your opportunities to catch more striped bass. The more that you practice with enticing fish to the umbrella rig, the easier it becomes. I plan to continue using the umbrella rig for striped bass fishing in Long Island’s Great South Bay.