One of the most polarizing techniques to come along in recent memory is the castable umbrella rig. With over two years in the spotlight now, the technique has revitalized the tackle industry, been banned from multiple tours, and changed the way all bass fisherman look at bass fishing techniques. No matter where you stand on the issue, the effectiveness cannot be denied. FLW Tour pro Justin Lucas was there from the beginning, having fished the castable umbrella rig’s coming out party at Guntersville during Paul Elias’ win at the 2011 FLW Tour Open and Lucas has experienced two seasons on the FLW Tour throwing “the rig.”
“Just because they banned the rig on the FLW Tour for 2014, it doesn’t mean I won’t be using it when I am out there fun fishing or if the tournament trail allows it. There are times during the year when nothing works better,” Lucas admits.
Rod, Reel and Line
Heavy duty equipment is standard when casting something as bulky as the castable umbrella rig. Lucas opts for a 7’6” Lamiglas Flipping Stick and 6.4:1 Abu Garcia Revo SX. His line of choice is 50lb Spiderwire braid with a 20lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. “Not everyone is throwing it on braid with a leader, but believe it or not I think I get more bites with the fluorocarbon leader. I have noticed I am starting to get lighter bites now that the fish are more used to seeing the rigs,” says Lucas.
The knot he uses to combine the two lines is called an Alberto knot. “I use about 5 feet of a leader for my fluorocarbon and even with that knot having 12 wraps, it’s still a small knot. I can cast it through my guides and not even notice. It doesn’t change my casting at all and I have boat flipped five to six pound fish without any problems,” adds Lucas.
When to use it?
The common thinking is that the castable umbrella rig is best when the water is cold, but FLW Tour Pro Casey Martin proved it can also produce winning bags during the warmer months with his win at the FLW Tour event Chickamauga Lake, TN in June 2013.
“Casey proved it can work pretty much any time. The water was 81 degrees during that tournament, but the ‘money’ temperature for the rig is when the water is from 40 to 55 degrees. It will work other times, but when it’s cold like that, I don’t think there is anything better at catching them,” shares Lucas. The key according Lucas is baitfish. “If the bass are really focused and keyed on shad or schools of baitfish, it will work,” adds the Alabama pro.
This technique is one of the easiest to fish effectively. Simply cast and reel it back to the boat. As with anything however, there are a few tips that the pros have learned to increase the number of bass they get commit. “I will give it three good jerks during each cast. Mostly it is just a cast and reel retrieve, but I will jerk the rod about 2/3’s of the way from the boat, about 1/3 of the way and again right by the boat,” says Lucas. His reasoning is that many fish will follow the rig out of curiosity and when an erratic motion occurs, the change in appearance will trigger a reaction strike.
Swimbait Size and Colors
Lucas pours his own soft swimbaits for his castable umbrella rigs, but says the closest thing to what he makes would be the Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper. “I make my own and use very, very basic colors. Pearl white or pearl with green or black back is about all you need. I use the 3.5” size on lakes like BeaverLake in Arkansas where the fish are generally smaller, and the 5” size if I am on a lake with bigger fish,” explains Lucas.
One of the innovations for the castable umbrella rig is the addition of blades. They add an extra appeal of flash and there are times when they outperform the non-bladed versions. “I like the Eco Pro Tungsten Roll Tide rig because it comes in both versions. If the water is calm and it’s sunny out, a lot of time they seem to bite better on the rig without blades, but if it’s windy or cloudy, the blades definitely get more bites at times,” shares Lucas. To make sure he covers his bases, Lucas will have both versions rigged up at all times. “I will usually go through an area with one version and if I catch a few and it slows down, I’ll go back through the area with the other. There are times when you will pick up a few more fish doing that,” Lucas tips us off.
The wire material is another key difference between different rigs. As the technique has evolved, some companies have begun to experiment with different wires such as titanium, with the biggest reason being for the change in appearance. “The one I use from Eco Pro is titanium-coated and it’s really dark in the water. There are times when it probably doesn’t matter, but the fish are really getting used to seeing these in the water and I know for sure that I will get more bites at times because the dark wires aren’t so visible,” states Lucas.
Evolution and Final Thoughts
The topic of banning the technique among the top levels of bass fishing always draws a heated discussion and Justin Lucas is somewhere in the middle on the topic. “I am all for banning it on the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elites just because of what it shows the general public who may see it on TV because the rig will hook fish on their sides and other places and that’s not really the image we should be showing if we are trying to grow the sport. I love fishing it though and it works,” knows Lucas. The rig did teach Lucas an important lesson about innovation in bass fishing. “I first saw the original Alabama rig six months before Paul Elias won with it and I thought it was the stupidest thing I have ever seen; I didn’t even consider using it. From now on, I will pay a little more attention to new things and give them a chance, because I really missed the boat on that one,” concludes Lucas.
The castable umbrella rig has already come a long way in design over the past two years. The additions of blades, extra baits and titanium-coated wires have all changed the appearance of the rig in the water. This technique has been credited with revitalizing the fishing industry and proves there will always be something new that comes along that catches bass and creates a frenzy among bass anglers. The technique is proven and it is here to stay.