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Umbrella rigs 101 for Stripers and wipers
Umbrella Rigs 101
Mark "Willy" Williams
Of all the trolling rigs in my boat, there is one that my guests really flip out on and that is the umbrella rig used in my trolling spread.
I really don't think they have caught on here in my state of Indiana but I'm sure there are some die hard line draggers out there using them.
It has been a hot rig for stripers on the east coast and a lot of tournaments have been won incorporating them into the trolling arsenal.
Umbrella rigs simulate a small school of baitfish tightly packed together with a trailer or stinger (the weak one) following behind the school.
As you can imagine, the rig gets a lot of attention under the surface, and when they pass by a school of stripers/ wipers, they close in and notice the trailer/stinger away from the school trying to keep up with it.
They zero in and hit the trailer with incredible impact.
Umbrellas are awesome for searching the water for active or even non-active fish. Because your rigs are for the most part in the water 100% of the time, you are always covering and studying lots of water while watching your electronics for schools of baitfish or active stripers or wipers.
Making notes where fish are spotted or “hanging out” that particular part of the day helps if you don't hook them on the rig right away so you can always come back and down line them with live bait or work them with jigs and jigging spoons or other preferred artificials.
While dragging umbrellas, on an average I will usually set out three and run one off starboard and the other off portside dropping them back 100'-300'. I then put one rig off the back of the boat right down the middle. I like to choke up on the line down the middle and run it shallower since it will be the first to grab attention and suck the fish closer or into the trolling spread.
Now, lets talk about some of the rigs. Umbrella rigs come in all kinds of weights and sizes from 4”castable arms to 24”arms and even larger. Some have three, four, six or nine arms for attaching your plastics or blades (ones with blades or spoons are often called chandelier rigs.)
I'm going to concentrate on the smaller three and four 12”-18” arm rigs. These rigs are easier to work and are less expensive than the larger rigs, especially the pre-rigged umbrella's
Smaller umbrella rigs 1/2oz – 1oz, with arm lengths 12”-18” are also easier to crank in and work. I have been using 3 arm umbrella rigs for about a decade with great results. They can give you 7 teasers and one stinger down the center.
Over the last couple of years I have been incorporating four arm rigs because you can add two stinger/trailer. In Indiana you are only allowed two hooked rigs per rod so check your local laws and regulations.
It's cheaper to buy un-rigged umbrellas and rig them yourself. You can attach swim shads (sassy shad baits), twister tails, grubs, plastic worms with curly tails, spinnerbaits, willow leaf spinner bait blades or trolling spoons to make teasers and stingers.
Some trollers like to put a bend in the wires, to form an umbrella, in which the name originated. I run some with bent wires and some I leave flat, which is usually the way they come if you order them or purchase them in a tackle shop.
You really got to experiment a little, as with trial and error you will have it down to science in no time.
It's a good tip to use the same lures and colors on the same rig. SOMETIMES an off color or larger stinger can produce strikes as it can appear to be a sick or injured fish in the school.
Attach soft plastics to your umbrella rigs using crosslock snaps and then attach the crosslock snaps to a split ring on the umbrella arm. For stingers, making mono leaders about 24” with snapswivels on both ends should do the trick.
I prefer no less than 40# fluorocarbon on stripers as they can reek havoc on your leaders. Wire can also be used for leaders and is popular choice.
I also like to pre-make leaders and store them in a plastic baggie labeled with a marker. Remember to experiment. Some trollers like to add 8” leaders on the inside and 12”leaders on the outside arms of the umbrella rig and vice a versa, and then a 24” leader with the stinger down the middle.
With the boat in motion lower the rig into the water off the side of the boat to make sure your rig isn't tangled and is tracking correctly.
Then let the line out slowly keeping some pressure on it so it does not sink too fast or porpoise as it can become tangled.
A line counter reel makes for easy precise rig placement, but not necessary as you can count line passes (about 10' per pass) or do line pulls from reel to first guide (usually 2') and then mark your line with a marker.
I spool up with 80# superline and then add about a 6' to 8' of 50#-80# fluorocarbon leader.
I like a 7' to 7.5'medium heavy action rod/downrigger rod with some good backbone to finish it out. A good guideline to remember while trolling these rigs is that they are speed dependent, and at a trolling speed of 2.5mph to 3.0mph they are CLOSE to a 10:1 line to depth ratio. So for each 100' of line out, you are going to get close to the 10' range which means more depth at slower speeds and shallower at higher speeds.
With the different umbrella sizes, line diameter, trolling weights and different trailers the only way you will be able to nail down accurate trolling depths is going to come with the experience you will get using them on the water. A good way to determine diving depths is to find some water with a flat bottom and free of obstructions. Let your rigs out until you come in contact with the bottom and then make notes as to how much line and the speed you are at the time of contact.
Another tip, make sure to set your turns up as you are going to have to make them wide not to tangle especially when running long leads. When trolling, make large S curves and try not to troll in a straight line for extended amounts of time. Remember to speed up and slow down to simulate a scared school of baitfish. Use your imagination. Be the baitfish.
A great tip I read by Captain Bruce Macomber of Howlin Wolf Charters: ‘When you get a fish to the boat remember to lift the rig and fish out of the water by the rig itself, not by the line and leader. I have seen too many large stripers swimming away with an umbrella rig party hat on!'
And one final note: When using umbrella rigs with double or multiple stingers/hooks, especially in warmer months, multiple hook-ups are common and you can exceed your limits, only to be putting fish back into the water that will die after being released.
All Stripers All The Time!!