Trade show participants hooked on umbrella rigs

If there was a common focus among the manufacturers’ exhibits at the 2013 edition of ICAST — the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades — it was the umbrella rig, or products like it. From the Booyah Bait Co. to the rod builders at G. Loomis, nearly all the major players and many small companies introduced some product designed either to mimic the umbrella rig design or facilitate its use.

The concept behind the umbrella rig is to give an angler the ability to present a bait, or baits, in a way that represents schooling bait fish. That approach has been proven to catch fish, but one of the challenges facing anglers is finding a way to throw such a hefty rig.

That is where G. Loomis and its new bass rod, the NRX Umbrella Rig, enter the picture. Awarded the title of Best of Show in the Freshwater Rod category at ICAST, the NRX Umbrella Rig was designed to fill what Loomis saw as an empty niche in the market: a rod designed to throw heavy swim baits and umbrella rigs.

The market lacked a rod that worked for casting heavy swim baits and umbrella rigs, said Bruce Holt, communications director for G. Loomis Inc.

“You could use a big swim bait rod and cast it sufficiently, but the problem is the tips fold,” Holt said. “And when you get to that point when that tip wants to snap forward and let go of that bait, because it is so overloaded, it would put slack in the line, and then it’s instant backlash.” To prevent that, “they had to lob cast it. They couldn’t be aggressive, and they couldn’t be as accurate as they wanted. They had to sling it out there and hope it landed close.”

The NRX Umbrella Rig is a 7-foot, 7-inch spinning rod built on a graphite rod blank composed of high density carbon and nano-silica. The rod has a slow taper designed to prevent what Holt described as dramatic tip snap. Instead you get a gradual, progressive load that creates an equally gradual release of energy when you cast heavy baits.

What you won’t find when picking up the NRX Umbrella Rig is something that feels like a telephone pole. This is a well-balanced, lightweight rod that has the power to cast baits that weigh as much as 8 ounces, according to Holt. That kind of power is probably overkill, and for most of us the price might be as well. Anglers can expect to pay about $650 retail for this not-so-little gem, which should begin showing up at retailers later this month.

The Booyah Bait Co. jumped into the umbrella rig market with its new collection of five castable bait rigs called the Boo Series. These are designed to let you fish any type of lure while giving the appearance of a bait chase.

The one that caught my eye is called the Boo Rig, which has four stiff outer arms behind a spinner bait-style head and is fitted with willow leaf blades to represent schooling bait fish. In the center is a flexible wire arm that stretches behind the spinner blades and has a snap swivel at the end. That is where you can connect any type of lure.

Similar to the Boo Rig is the Boo Teaser, which uses curltail grubs in place of the willow blades. The remaining three rigs in the Boo Series are simpler in design, but all five rigs are available in ¼-, 3/8- and ½-ounce models.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at