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Should 'umbrella rigs' be banned?
Sep 25, 2012 12:00 am
They’re called “umbrella rigs” – a cluster of five baited hooks cast and fished as a single lure – and there’s no denying that they’re effective.
So effective, in fact, that they’re banned for use in most professional tournaments. There is a debate about whether they should likewise be banned for use by non-tournament sport fishermen.
That proposal will be considered when the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission meets next month to set the 2013 fishing regulations.
Are umbrella rigs currently legal in Tennessee? It depends on such details as hook size and exactly how they’re rigged.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency defines an umbrella rig as “an array of three or more artificial lures or baits (with or without hooks) used by a single rod and reel combination. If the hook size is 6 or larger, then only one lure or bait may have a hook and that hook must be a single hook.”
Sound confusing? It is. According to the TWRA definition, the hook size determines whether or not the rig is legal. But a No. 6 treble hook is smaller than a No. 6 single hook. And does a treble hook count as one hook or three hooks? Again, it’s not clear.
It’s so confusing that TWRA Fisheries Chief Bobby Wilson last spring posted a video on the Agency website about umbrella rigs and explaining what’s permissible. But having to study a website video to determine if a lure is legal is not reasonable. The rule should be clear and simple enough for everybody to understand. That’s what the Agency will propose at next month’s meeting.
The umbrella rig exploded onto the fishing scene last year when an angler used one to win a national bass tournament on Guntersville Lake in Alabama. While his rivals were struggling, he used his “secret lure” – dubbed an “Alabama Rig” -- to load the live-well with big bass.
By the end of the tournament his lure wasn’t secret any more. It was a cumbersome-looking array of five plastic jigs arrayed on a wire rig. When pulled through the water it resembled a cluster of bait fish. Bass that ignored a single lure couldn’t resist attacking the “school” when it swam by.
By the next tournament every pro’s tackle box was stocked with similar rigs, and their popularity quickly spread through the amateur ranks. Sporting goods stores couldn’t keep them in stock.
Then came the ethical question: is the lure TOO effective? All the major BASS tournaments felt so, and banned the rig from competition. Now states like Tennessee are confronted with a similar question about whether to ban the lure.
It’s complicated. On one hand the goal of fishing is to catch fish, and if a fisherman has a deadly lure – or combination of lures in this case – what’s wrong with using it?
On the other hand it’s called “fishing” not “catching,” and at what point does technology go too far? The use of explosives and shocking devices is prohibited – even though they’re extremely effective ways to take fish.
We’ve got depth finders and fish finders. We have gadgets that measure water temperature, PH factors and barometric pressure. We’ve got scents and sprays and other attractors. How much more advantage do we need? If we get to the point where we can catch a fish every cast will that take the challenge – and the fun – out of fishing as well as deplete the resource?
That’s the concern raised by the umbrella rig.