By Lawrence Taylor

We’ve all seen the trashy ads with the blaring headlines proclaiming this whiddle-dee-dee or that whumpsit catches so many fish it’s been “Banned From Tournament Fishing.” Usually these ads are accompanied by a picture of a happy older gentleman revealing the secrets of the plastic or wire gizmo and how it turns fish into zombies that just want in your boat.

But, really, only one type of lure has ever been banned from top-level tournaments – the umbrella rig.

Originally only banned from the B.A.S.S. Elite field, the FLW Tour then followed, and in October it was announced that they would now be banned from use during Bassmaster Opens and any other B.A.S.S. event that leads directly to a Classic qualification.
(AT RIGHT - The YUM YUMbrella, a lure truly “Banned For Catching Too Many Bass!”)

Prior to B.A.S.S. banning the rig from the Open class of tournaments, Georgia’s Patrick Bone became the only angler to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic by winning a tournament on the YUM Flash Mob Jr (FMJ). It was the Southern Open April 4-6/2014 on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake where Bone beat 180 pros throwing other types of rig.

“Just about everyone in the tournament was throwing some type of umbrella rig,” Bone said. “I caught every fish I weighed in on the Flash Mob Jr.”

Even the New York Times noticed the rig phenomenon, and published and article on Tuesday (12/2/14) titled “Lure Irresistible to Bass Spurs Backlash From Anglers.” (Anyone else surprised that an editor from this publication was clever enough about fishing to work in the word “Backlash?”)

In that article, B.A.S.S. spokesman David Precht says that the professional anglers feel that “sometimes it can be too effective and takes away some of the skill…” He made sure to make it clear that it was a vote of pro anglers that resulted in the ban.

The YUM YUMbrella and Flash Mob Jr. likely had something to do with some of those feelings. The week after Bone won the event on Douglas Lake with the FMJ, B.A.S.S. Elite Pro and current No. 1 Angler in the World according to the BassFan World Rankings Jason Christie won the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake with the same bait.

Still, Christie’s no fan of the technique. Even though YUM is one of his major sponsors, count him with the group who voted to ban it from top-level tournaments.

“But when everyone else is throwing it, you’d better be, too,” he said. “It’s the best umbrella rig on the market. It’s tough. I used the same one all four days and never broke a wire or anything.”

(AT RIGHT - The YUM Flash Mob Jr, or FMJ, quickly caught on as one of the country's most-effective umbrella rigs. Its lighter weight and willowleaf blades positioned at the halfway point of each of the outer arms score with anglers and the fish they're after.)

In tournaments where the multi-lure rigs are legal and the time is right, most anglers agree that you either throw one or get beat by the crowd who are. Truth is, when the umbrella rig bite is on, few other lures can compete with the size and numbers of big largemouth and smallmouth bass they catch.

Take this into consideration. In a tournament on Lake Austin (Texas), Feb. 22, 2014, two brothers fishing Flash Mob Jrs won a tournament against 137 other teams, outpacing the second-place team by more than 14 pounds. In fact, the brothers put more than 20 pounds of bass in the boat on a single cast (two weighing more than 7-pounds and one over 6). You know what’s even cooler? They culled all three of those fish with bigger ones caught on the FMJ! (See “OMG FMJ Does It Again”) Can you imagine culling two 7s and a 6 on your way to a limit weighing more than 40 pounds?

Even though the umbrella rig has proven so effective that it’s banned from top-level tournaments, bass anglers across the country have learned that just like other lures, there’s a right time and a wrong time to fish it. It’s most effective during colder-water periods, from late fall until prespawn bass invade the shallows during the spring.

The larger, original YUMbrella rig can weigh up to 4-ounces when rigged with jigheads and swimbaits, and is the preferred rig when fishing for big bass late in the season when the baitfish are at their largest. The main issue anglers have with the YUMbrella is that weight. Often requiring longer, stronger rods, expensive braided line and the strength to heave it all day long, the full-size YUMbrella truly is a big-fish bait.

The lighter-weight FMJ is much easier to cast and fish throughout the day, and is capable of fishing in water as shallow as a few feet.
This shallow-water ability makes the FMJ more versatile and effective almost year-round. The Flash Mob Jr can be rigged with 3- or 4-inch curlytail grubs on 1/4-ounce jigheads, or with smaller swimbaits such as the new 2.5-inch Money Minnows.

(AT LEFT - Prolific fishing writer Mike Pehanich shows off a big white bass taken on a YUMbrella rig at Alabama's Lake Guntersville.)

One tip most anglers suggest is to use a swimbait that is slightly longer for the middle bait. It lags a litte behind the rest of the school, and it or the bottom-riding bait is the one that will catch 80 percent of the fish. Some anglers suggest using four of the same color swimbaits around the outer wires, and using a slightly differently colored one for the middle one to call out more attention.

Plus, there is no other bait better at taking advantage of any fish-schooling situation than the FMJ. Try it rigged with white grubs this spring during the white bass run. You’ll out-catch everyone else 10-to-1. Or go after big striped bass, if you dare. Beasts weighing more than 40 pounds have been reported caught on both the YUMbrella and FMJ.