The most-talked-about bass fishing lure this year is an old rig that is new to many Missouri anglers, called the umbrella or Alabama rig. It’s a hot fish catcher, but using it in Missouri requires extra care to not break the law as set out in Missouri’s Wildlife Code. It can be used in Missouri, but there are limitations that don’t apply in most other states.
Umbrella rigs have been around for a long time, especially in the South, but I have to admit I’d never heard of them until they started making headlines at bass tournaments around the country earlier this year.
Anglers using them have been so successful in bringing in big stringers of fish that there has been considerable discussion about outlawing their use in fishing tournaments. As far as I know this drastic measure hasn’t been done yet.
Umbrella rigs vary in style and the number of lures used, but all are designed to allow multiple lures to be used simultaneously, most using some kind of weighted jig head on five, five-inch wires with swivels on the end. Anglers can then attach lures such as plastic shad imitations, marabou jigs or crank baits to the swivels. They are then cast, lowered or trolled behind a boat. They are so effective because they imitate a school of bait fish, a big meal for a hungry bass or crappie.
The catch for Missouri anglers is this. Under Missouri’s Wildlife Code, no more than three lures or baits with hooks can be used on any one pole and line, so the use of the usual 5 lures would be illegal. Alabama or umbrella rigs can be legal to use in Missouri only if no more than lures or baits “with hooks” are attached to each rig. However, a “three hook” option allows a Missouri angler use an umbrella rig legally.
To make an umbrella rig legal for Missouri use, an angler must modify all but three of the attached lures or baits to remove the hooks, in effect making the modified lures “teasers” that will still attract fish but can’t hook them. If you don’t want to clip the hooks off any of your lures, you can attach spinner blades or marabou streamers with no hooks to all but three of the swivels on your rig.
Modified in this way, umbrella rigs will still catch fish that hit any one of the three lures that have hooks and the hookless ones will attract them. You make get some strikes that you can’t set a hook on since there isn’t one, but the rig will still catch plenty of fish. These lures are effective on any fish that eat other smaller fish, especially bass or crappies that are attracted to schools of baitfish. This gives anglers a successful way to attract and catch largemouth bass that are suspended in open water, ones that are extremely hard to attract to a single lure.
Page 2 of 2 - A potential point of confusion under the Missouri code is in the use of lures with multiple hooks such as crankbaits and many other popular lures. Multiple hooks on one lure are still considered “one hook” as the number of hooks on each lure are not counted, but rather the number of lures with a hook or hooks on the rig. The rig itself is not considered a lure because it is incapable of catching fish unless lures or baits are attached to it. And the 3 hooks on one line doesn’t apply to trot lines, bank lines or jug lines where the Code permits up to 33 hooks to a line, as long as they are spaced at least two feet apart. These are not considered “pole and line” method.