Friday, April 20, 2012

The Umbrella Rig Evolution

We recently received this piece on Spencer Shuffield and his revamped version of the standard umbrella rig from our good friends at FLW Outdoors. With the umbrella rig being such a hot topic these days we wanted to pass it along to you as well. Hope you enjoy:  

Spencer Shuffield's Swin N Frenzy rig (Photo by Rob Newell)

We knew it wouldn’t take long for the top FLW Tour pros to tweak the umbrella rig, we just didn’t know exactly what direction it would go. After witnessing the recent FLW Tour Major on Table Rock Lake, it appears that direction is smaller, flashier and more nimble. Case in point – Spencer Shuffield.

After a frustrating Lake Hartwell event, the younger Shuffield got to thinking on his 12-hour drive home from South Carolina to Arkansas. He knew tons of prespawn bass were staging under the numerous Hartwell docks. But they weren’t eating a spinnerbait and the standard umbrella rig was just too big and heavy to be skipped or pitched. Shuffield took these thoughts and a rough design to Rick Powell, who quickly went to work.

Three weeks later Shuffield brought a revamped version called the Swim N’ Frenzy to the Ozarks. There are presently three sizes of the Swim N’ Frenzy and Shuffield used the smallest one on Table Rock. How small was it? The rig itself was led by a 1/4-ounce hard-lure body and Shuffield used two 1/4-ounce J-Will jigheads with 4 1/2-inch Keitech Swing Impact swimbaits. Keeping in mind Missouri state law only allows three hooks, Shuffield rigged his final bait (a smaller 3 1/2-inch Keitech) with an 1/8-ounce jighead. Each swimbait also had a size 3 silver spinnerbait (willow) blade running in front for extra flash and lift in the water.

Fully rigged, the Swim N’ Frenzy could be fished shallow or deep. Early in the week, the Bismarck, Ark., pro threw it in 8 to 15 feet of water around standing timber with his Spiderwire Ultracast Fluorobraid helping to get it deeper. While we already knew umbrella rigs work out deep on suspended fish, we didn’t know that it could be fished shallow. In fact, the talk before the Table Rock tournament was that umbrella rigs simply don’t work for spawning bass. Shuffield proved that wrong – catching a 22-pounder stringer from the bushes on day four that was full of battle scars and bloody tails.

The 2011 Co-angler of the Year was surprisingly forthcoming with this information. After day two, he flat-out admitted that his dad’s huge comeback was the result of downsizing.

“My success is definitely due to the rig; I promise you that,” he said at the time. “Dad (Ron) threw a bigger one yesterday and caught 11 pounds. He threw the smaller one today in the exact same areas and caught 19 pounds.”

After the tournament Shuffield was even surer about the impact of the new design.

“I know the downsizing made all the difference. I had co-anglers throw the standard version behind me and they weren’t catching nearly the same amount I was.”

There we have it. The umbrella rig can in fact work on spawning bass. And the recent trends point to more compact designs with additional accessories that allow the rig to be fished slower and shallower.

In hindsight, the Swim N’ Frenzy Shuffield threw hardly resembles the original Alabama Rig that Paul Elias used on Guntersville last fall. In fact, it looks more like a 1-ounce spinnerbait and that’s essentially how Shuffield fished it the final day. In the future, I’m guessing we’ll see many more sizes and variations until a standard stable is defined. Perhaps each size will be measured by wire length? Or total weight? Or a combination of both?

Until then, the evolution continues with the next chapter unfolding on Beaver Lake, where the million-dollar question is, “Will the A-rig work on the shad spawn?”

Brett Carlson - Editor