A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms

Yes, I just used the title of a Hemingway novel, but in this case, I’m referring to the arms of an Umbrella Rig. It wasn’t long ago that the Umbrella Rig generated a tremendous amount of controversy in the professional competitive freshwater bass fishing world. 

As most know the best of the best spoke up, and the vast majority of the Pros didn’t want it. Subsequently, the Umbrella Rig was banned from competition on both the Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour events.

It’s apparent that the upper echelon tournament anglers have a tremendous impact on lure sales. It’s also clear that lure manufacturers, sometimes to a fault, see these anglers as the only source of Pitch Men that matter. So, before I get to the big questions let's review what all the fuss was about.    

This is a partial list of the Umbrella Rig hype.

  • The Umbrella Rig makes catching bass too easy.
  • Now anyone can show up, without the work, dedication, investment, skill, and win, it’s not fair.
  • The umbrella rig is not a lure.
  • The umbrella rig is just like a cast net.
  • I just don’t see why we have to adapt tournaments to the invention of a new way of catching fish, said one touring pro. (A new way of catching fish, someone doesn’t know their fishing history, bass or otherwise.)
  • Sometimes it is too effective and takes away from the skill that is otherwise a traditional tournament.
  • Catching multiple bass with one cast is unsporting.
  • The U-Rig puts the health of the bass at risk with the multiple hooks.
  • “Mark my words this is just the beginning,” they said.  
Paul Elias at Lake Guntersville on his way to making change.

Paul Elias at Lake Guntersville on his way to making change.

In October 2011 Paul Elias dominated an FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville using the Umbrella Rig. Immediately afterward the flimflam started. So many ‘authorities’ have spoken out against the U-Rig, the list of hysteria above is a short one when compared to the actual spewing of propaganda that took place.

It has been almost five years since Elias used this technique to win, using a lure system which has been around an extremely long time. As a result, in 2012, the Bassmaster Elite Rules Committee has banned all multi-rig lures, and in 2013, the FLW followed suit. Those bans have only affected the upper echelon events, all other circuits, including lower tier events of both the FLW and Bassmasters, still allow the U-Rig in competition.

So when we examine actual winning techniques for the Elites Series and Tour Events before the ban and all the other competitive circuits all the way down to regional Pro/Ams and Team Events where the U-Rig is still allowed, why hasn’t the U-Rig dominated? When did Johnny Come Lately pick up a U-Rig and crush the seasoned, proven winners? What happened to all those claims of unfair advantages derived from just casting the U-Rig?   

The results indicate that the U-Rig has a played a minuscule percentage in racking up tournament wins. On any given circuit the dominate anglers are continuing to do what they have always done. Experience based on time on the water, skill, passion, desire, and dedication as always are still the keys to success.

Lake Champlain Vermont Smallmouth Bass

Lake Champlain Vermont Smallmouth Bass

I’ve used the U-Rig all across the nation. I’m very comfortable with this system and the subtle details that can really fine tune this technique. I have had some great days catching both largemouth and especially smallmouth bass using the U-Rig. I can also tell you that I’ve encountered conditions that should have lined up beautifully for the U-Rig and for whatever reason the bass weren’t interested.   

Lake Havasu Arizona Largemouth Bass

Lake Havasu Arizona Largemouth Bass

Unfortunately, many times believe systems supersede fact and reality. For so many, there is a false sense of comfort in the familiar. It’s a big step to engage the unknown, rather than always embrace what we already know. At some point in time, many people have adopted the notion that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I disagree, yes anyone can have an opinion, but the only one you’re entitled to, and the only one that should matter is an informed one. 

Like any technique and their associated lures the U-Rig certainly has it’s place and time. But, it is evident that the sky hasn’t fallen and once again when it comes to fishing, the magic bullet still doesn’t exist.

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