"Match-the-hatch," a phrase that originated with fly fishermen many moons ago, is now a concept adapted by anglers of all types all over the world. It's simply matching the size and type of lure to the size and type of live food a particular fish is eating.
Bass anglers are keenly aware of matching the size of baitfish bass are feeding on. Many bass tournaments are won by focusing on baitfish spawns and downsizing presentations to match the fry. It's amazing that a 4-pound bass may be so selective that it actively engulfs two dozen 1-inch fry but ignores a 2-inch Pop-R or other bait, but as many frustrated anglers have learned, it happens quite often.
Anglers can even get the size right but miss with color pattern. A silver/black back popper in the right size can go ignored during the bluegill spawn, or a bluegill-colored one disdained during the shad spawn. One option B.A.S.S. Elite pro Matt Reed uses is to go with a clear lure and work it quickly, giving fish less time to observe the bait. But can the same be done with multi-lure rigs like the YUMbrella and others?
Multi-lure rigs exploded during a time of year when baitfish were of substantial size, and through the winter and very early spring anglers caught big largemouth, smallmouth, striped bass and other fish on rigs with 3 ½- to 6-inch swimbaits. Then the spawns came and these bigger offerings often went untouched. Some anglers used it as proof that multi-lure rigs were just what they thought they were - flashes in the pan - gimmicks that already went out of style.
Then a few smaller multi-lure rig versions appeared, and a few anglers gave them a shot, often using smaller 3- and 4-inch grubs instead of the bigger-bodied swimbaits. The results show the learning curve of these rigs is continuing to evolve. These smaller versions with more petite caught plenty of fish, and in fact still are right now.
Chris Elder, a guide on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs, was one of those anglers who had put the YUMbrella away in favor of traditional lures this spring. When the YUM company received early samples of a small version of its Flash Mob, the Flash Mob Junior, Elder was one of the first to receive a couple for testing. The regular-sized Flash Mob features No. 4 willow blades, while the Flash Mob Junior has much smaller No. 3s. He rigged the Flash Mob Junior with 3-inch grubs and lightweight jigheads and hit the water.
"It was unreal - the bite was back on," he said. "They'd quit the bigger versions - I'd quit fishing them. But downsizing like that was just perfect. The fish were feeding on smaller baitfish so looking back, it's kind of a no-brainer."
Anglers often develop a belief about a lure or technique and are hard-put to step outside that box. Bass jigs are to be flipped into cover, twitched a couple times and then flipped again. Or ledges should be cranked with a deep-running crankbait or worked with a flutter spoon. When an angler wins a tournament using a lure in an unusual manner, it comes as a huge revelation. Multi-lure rigs are for big fish, and should be rigged with big, fat swimbaits. That's the belief, but new, smaller versions are changing that.
Elder fished with YUM General Manager Bruce Stanton for a video shoot in mid-May and the Junior-bite was still on. The pair fished a half day and landed fish all morning, including doubles on largemouth and spotted bass, a channel catfish, and even a pair of walleyes.
Anglers also should not scoff at using the smaller baits with the thought that they only catch small fish. Sure, these rigs are smaller and can be cast on any type of equipment, but they catch fish of all sizes. Even giant striped bass will take a small grub at the right time of year.
"I'd only caught a couple of fish on this type of lure - the full-sized versions," he said. "Throwing these smaller ones with these 4-inch grubs...it was amazing - and exciting. It also doesn't wear you out like throwing the big ones. You could use these on spinning gear with no problems."
When he and his guide simultaneously hooked up with big stripers, the dance was on. The pair worked the big stripers to the boat one weighed in at almost 13 pounds and the other close to 20. In half a day of fishing, they boated a dozen striped bass, a big spotted bass, a largemouth bass, a white bass and lost several other, bigger fish.
Even with the larger sizes of multi-lure rigs, smaller grubs can be effective on a variety of predator fish.
"I've used grubs on the standards sizes, and caught a lot of bass that way lately, but I haven't had the chance to use the smaller versions yet," said Jimmy Mason. Mason helped develop and test the original YUMbrella as a guide and tournament angler on Alabama's Lake Guntersville and Wheeler.
"Right now there are a lot of white bass biting, and this rig is perfect for families on vacation," he said. "When I'm out to catch white bass or 'whatever bites,' I'll use Cordell Gay Blades or even crappie jigs on the rig. The Gay Blades really put off a lot of vibration and flash - perfect for white bass or hybrids."
When doing the "family thing," the rigs can even be trolled to make it easier, especially when younger kids are involved. (Really, do you want a 6-year-old casting something with basically 20 treble hooks around your family?)
Multi-lure rigs like the YUMbrella shine in fall and winter when baitfish are bigger, but anglers shouldn't shun them during the spring and early summer. Simply downsize the offering to match the current hatch and continue to catch fish.