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It's Giant Time

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It's Giant Time

The Umbrella Rig is ideal when the water temperature drops into the upper 50° F (15° C) range in the fall and gets even better as the water chills down. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Learn why you should plan a fall fishing trip for bass in Northern Ontario



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If you love fishing for big, burly bass in Northern Ontario, then you know why I refer to October as "Giant Time".

It is my favourite month of the year to catch the biggest, baddest behemoth bass in the lake, river, reservoir, pit or pond that I am fishing.

And the action is so hot, from Fort Frances, Kenora, Dryden and Sioux Lookout in the Northwest, clear across to Sault Ste. Marie, Blind River, North Bay and Temagami in the Northeast, that some days you can barely touch your rod.

Oh, yes, and if you hear me humming, Oh Susanna, while I am casting, you'll have a pretty good idea how I am catching the fish and the arrangement that I am throwing.

It is called an Umbrella Rig - or Alabama Rig -- and it is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood fishing systems to come along in the last half-century of bass fishing.

Indeed, the first thing you notice when you look at an Umbrella Rig is the three or four relatively thick wire arms that splay out and terminate with a rather crude looking snap swivel. Imagine the wire frame of an umbrella, minus the fabric, and you'll understand how the rig got its name.

Now, attach a 1/8th- to 3/8th-ounce jig head and a 4-, 5- or 6-inch soft plastic swimbait to each of the snaps and you'll appreciate the Umbrella Rig's attraction. In the water, it looks for all the world like a school of gleaming, glistening, iridescent baitfish.

Indeed, Alabama rigs were the talk of the town just a couple of years ago when Bassmaster Elite pro Paul Elias stunned the big cast-for-cash tournament world by winning a major league event with one. 

Catching multiple bass on a single cast isn’t the primary purpose of the Umbrella rig, but when it happens, few anglers complain
Catching multiple bass on a single cast isn’t the primary purpose of the Umbrella Rig, but when it happens, few anglers complain.

It spurred so many other anglers to start throwing the rig that tournament after tournament was quickly being won, often by a rookie, upstart or relative unknown angler. As a result, the two major professional bass circuits in the United States banned the rig from their competitions.

Seems the Umbrella Rig evened the playing field just a little too much for some folks' liking.

Of course, none of that matters in the least when you're bass fishing for fun in Northern Ontario. And I'll let you in on a little secret. As good as the Umbrella Rig smallmouth fishing is right now - and trust me, it is very good -- it is only going to get better in the days ahead.

That is because the Umbrella Rig is ideal when the water temperature drops into the upper 50° F (15° C) range, as it has now across Northern Ontario. But, it gets even better when the water chills down into the 40s.

You wouldn't think that would be the case with the multi wire arm arrangement, but Umbrella Rigs strike to the core of the competitive nature of smallmouth bass. When they see what they suspect is a school of ciscoes, smelts or shiners swimming in the clear water above their heads, they just have to give chase.

And if you feel a smallmouth smack the living daylights out of one of the swimbaits on your Umbrella Rig as you retrieve it, don't be surprised if a second, third and even a fourth bass hits one of the other baits.

Catching multiple bass on a single cast isn't the primary purpose of the Umbrella Rig, but when it happens, I have yet to hear an angler utter a word of complaint.

You'd also think that, with so many wires hanging off the rigs they would spook the smallmouth, especially in the clear, cold water where they are most efficient. But the fish are so spellbound by the multiple baits that they throw all caution to the wind and seem to loose track of everything else.

The attraction of the Umbrella rig is that it looks like a school of iridescent baitfish swimming through the water
The attraction of the Umbrella Rig is that it looks like a school of iridescent baitfish swimming through the water.

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The fact that you're often the only one out on the water these days, and the fish are totally at ease, doesn't hurt matters either.

Couple of important presentation details: while you can fish an umbrella rig many ways, including slow rolling it close to the bottom and swimming it through the middle of the water column, I like to work it off the edges of structures like underwater points, rock piles and sunken humps, especially, a structure where I've marked a school of baitfish on my sonar unit.

I'll cast out the rig using a 7' 2" to 7' 10" medium heavy action baitcasting rod and relatively fast 6:1 to 7:1 retrieve ratio reel spooled with 50- to 65-pound test Sufix braided line. I'll count it down at the rate of about a foot a second and when I suspect the rig is close to the bottom, I'll start reeling it back to the boat, so that I swim it out and off the edge of the structure.

If there is a big, burly bass anywhere in the vicinity, then hold onto your rod and you will know why October is "Giant Time" in Northern Ontario.

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