Umbrella Rigs For West Point November Hybrids

Chris Brackett says umbrella rigs, better known for catching striped bass, are excellent for catching hybrids, too.

Brad Bailey | November 1, 2005

Chris turned the boat away from the long point at Amity Park on Lake West Point. I had a rod with an umbrella rig on it under my arm, and so did he.

“Put yours out about 60 feet,” he said.

I eased the array of jigs on a wire harness into the lake as we trolled away, made sure the jigs were running right, then released the spool and slowly fed out line until the line counter registered 60. We were on our third pass on the point and had already caught four or five hybrids and a white bass. It only took a minute in the rod holder before one of the rods bounced and bent from a heavy fish hitting, and the line peeled off the reel. I grabbed the rod and watched the line counter run up to 78 feet before the fish stopped. Gradually I worked the fish back to the boat, and Chris grabbed the top of the umbrella rig and swung a fat 5 1/2-or-so-pound hybrid into the boat. Nice fish — and on an umbrella rig, which is unusual tackle on the tree-filled Lake West Point.

Multiple hook-ups are routine when you are fishing nine jigs on an umbrella rig. Chris caught two hybrids at a time on our trip, but he has caught up to nine fish at a time.

Chris Brackett, 22, of LaGrange has been fishing the lake since he was about five. You can usually find him fishing any bass tournament on the lake. He will be participating in the Champion of Champions tournament in November. He works at the West Georgia Sportsman store in LaGrange and runs the West Georgia Sportsman Team Tournament Trail on West Point. Chris was recently elected to the West Point Lake Coalition Board, becoming their youngest member.

Hybrid fishing at West Point and striper fishing on other lakes are his fun fishing, and he is good at it. Chris currently holds the hybrid bass lake record at Bartletts Ferry with a fish caught last April that weighed 9-lbs, 12.8-ozs.

At West Point, Chris and I were fishing with 2-oz. Captain Mack umbrella rigs with nine 1/2-oz. jigs.

“The unbrella rigs come in a lot of variations,” said Chris. “You just have to go with something to match whatʼs in your lake. At Lanier we use bigger jigs.”

The umbrella rig consists of a cross-shaped wire harness about two feet across. On each side of each arm, two jigs dangle on six-inch leaders. The ninth jig hangs from the center of the harness and is on a longer leader than the other jigs. When the rig is pulled through the water the school of fluttering jigs looks like an enticing school of fleeing baitfish.

Chris says the fish usually hit the longer jig in the center. “They think that last one is the dumb one in the group,” he said.

Chris fishes umbrella rigs on 40-lb. test line, and he uses Daiwa Accudepth 57LC reels. The outfit costs only about $75.

The first thing Chris does when he opens a new rig on a trip to West Point is to take scissors and trim the jigs.

“At West Point the hybrids are feeding on shad about two inches long right now. I like the jigs to look a little smaller,” he said. “I like natural-colored jigs, like white with a blue back. But I may put a different color in the center like a bleeding shad color.”

Fishing an umbrella rig is relatively easy: you troll over likely main-lake points and humps and the adjacent flats watching for concentrations of fish on your graph. It is crappie trolling on a grand scale. Chris says the hybrids you catch at West Point will average three- to five-pounds, and multiple hook-ups are common. He has caught as many as nine hybrids on one rig.

“When you get one fish on, it can cause a feeding frenzy with other fish,” he said.

Chris maintains a boat speed of between 3 1/2 and 4 mph. With 50 feet of line out, that puts the rig down about nine feet, according to the manufacturer.

When hybrids are busting on top, Chris likes to cast a 3/8-oz. Fish Head Spin dressed with a pearl-colored fluke.

You have to have a little patience dealing with snags to fish one of these hook-festooned rigs in a lake as timber-infested as is West Point.

“You are going to get hung up,” said Chris. “There arenʼt many people fishing umbrella rigs on this lake because they are afraid of the timber, but it isnʼt as bad as you think.”

When Chris spotted trees on the graph he would nudge the throttle forward to bring the rigs up and away from the timber. During our trip, we hung a rig up only three times. Each time we were able to reverse the boat, pass behind the rig and pull it free. For more stubborn snags, Chris carries something aptly named the Jerry Hester Umbrella Rig Retriever. The industrial-strength stump knocker, designed by Lanier striper guide Jerry Hester, weighs a pound and is equipped with large blunt hooks to catch the umbrella rig. The heavy weight on a rope, attached to your line, drops down and knocks the rig free, then retrieves it on the hooks.

“We sell one of those things with just about every umbrella rig we sell,” said Chris. “You have to have one.”

Chris says it is rare to lose an entire rig, although you may have to replace jigs occasionally. At $22 per rig, breaking off an umbrella rig could ruin your day.

You can also leave your landing net at home when you fish an umbrella rig unless you are a real glutton for punishment. You donʼt want to use a net to scoop up nine flying hooks with two or three flopping fish hanging on. To boat a fish you grab the top of the rig and haul it into the boat.

This time of year, the hybrids will be concentrated down the lake. The areas we fished included the flat across from Glass Bridge Park, and the mouth of Wehadkee Creek. Chris says the humps in the mouth of Wehadkee are well known live-bait areas for hybrids, and are a good area to find fish schooling on top. We also fished the flat between Southern Harbor and Pine Cove Shoals. We had the best luck on the long point jutting out from Amity Park. Chris recommends these places and then hitting other similar main-lake points and the adjacent flats.

While we did not see any surface activity, Chris says they should start schooling any time. He has a 3/8-oz. Fish Head Spin with a fluke for surface fish, and he is also partial to a big chrome-and-blue Red Fin.

Chris does not guide, but he is always up to date on the fishing trends on West Point. You can find him most days at the West Georgia Sportsman store in LaGrange.

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