If you enjoy striped bass fishing and trolling is a tactic you’ll employ, no matter where you wet your lines there are two must-haves that are considered by many anglers the best way to catch striped bass: umbrella rigs and mojo rigs. Yes, there are others that can be more or less effective at different times in different places. Some people swear by bunker spoons rigged with long leaders and weights, others like towing rigs with big lipped plugs, and still others favor surgical-hose rigs that mimic eels. But if you could look beneath the wakes of the trollers plying bays, rivers and ocean along the Atlantic coast, you’d be hard-pressed to find any boats that didn’t have both umbrellas and mojos in the spread.
Striped Bass Umbrella Rigs
Umbrella rigs consist of metal crossbars, usually weighted in the center, with either four or six arms. There are loops at the ends of the arms and often in the middle of each arm as well, to which you attach a swivel with clips at both ends. Then teasers, usually paddle-tail soft-plastic shad, are attached to the other end of the swivel clips. The net result? A single umbrella rig has between four and 12 teasers. None of these have hooks; they’re merely meant to create the illusion of a school of baitfish. Then a leader of between 2 and 3 feet long is attached to the middle of the umbrella rig, and a hook-bait tied on. Alternatively, some umbrellas use a pair of hook-baits, run from the ends of two opposite arms.
Hook baits are commonly “parachute” style lures, similar to mojos – we’ll talk more about those in a moment. Parachutes are essentially bucktails tied with synthetic hair that face forward and away from the hook. As they’re pulled through the water, the synthetic hairs are drawn back by water pressure and create a parachute-shaped profile. The hook of the lure is then dressed with a soft-plastic paddle-tail shad similar to the teasers. In most cases, however, the teaser shad are a size smaller than hook baits. When large fish are in the area, a striped bass umbrella rig might commonly use 6-inch teasers and a parachute with a 9-inch shad, for example. But if an angler is trolling for school-sized stripers, the umbrella rig might have 4-inch teasers and a 6-inch shad dressing the hook.
There are also some outliers that striped bass anglers should be aware of. Some umbrellas are created with spoons instead of plastic shad as the teasers. These are commonly called “spoonbrellas.” You’ll also see umbrella rigs with twister-tails on occasion. And you’ll even run across some that have just two arms which are bent into a “V” shape, with teasers in the middle and hook baits on either end (usually referred to as “Vbrellas” or in some areas, “BillyBars”).
A striped bass umbrella rig can be clipped directly to the main line and trolled without weight, or lead can be added to take it deep. In many cases, a boat will have them deployed both ways to cover different parts of the water column.
Striped Bass Mojo Rigs
Mojos are a type of parachute lure, as we described earlier. The key difference in terminology does vary by region – in northern latitudes you’re likely to see all sorts of parachute rigs labeled as “striped bass mojo rigs.” But in Mid-Atlantic and southern areas, people usually refer to most styles of these as parachutes and only use the term “mojo” when the lure includes a large round lead-head. And when we say large, we mean large: An 8-ounce mojo is considered tiny; some weigh as much as 2 pounds or even more. Anglers who want to probe the depths without having to add extra in-line weights are particularly likely to be pulling mojo rigs.
While these lures can certainly be trolled alone, most striped bass mojo rigs are created by tying two of these lures together, in tandem. Leaders of two different lengths are joined at a triple-swivel, which is then clipped to the mainline. Sometimes mojos of different sizes are tied to both leaders, and in other cases anglers may choose to use a mojo along with a smaller, lighter parachute lure, allowing them to present baits of different sizes and colors way down deep.
Mojos are also used by some striper anglers to anchor daisy-chain-style rigs. These commonly have the large, heavy Mojo at the end, with 5 to 10 unweighted (headless) parachute-style lures, or in some cases shad bodies, inline or on short droppers every foot or two going up the line.
In all of these cases, as with those striped bass umbrella rigs, the hook of the mojo generally gets some added attraction by dressing it with a plastic shad. In some cases, large twister tails or other soft plastic teasers may be employed.
So, are umbrellas and mojos really the best rigs for striped bass? If you enjoy trolling and you also enjoy catching lots of fish, the answer is an unqualified “yes.” While there will be certain times and places where other striped bass trolling rigs out-catch either, as a general rule of thumb, striped bass umbrella rigs and striped bass mojo rigs are top producers, across the board.