“How long till YUMbrella time?” I asked Jimmy Mason while we were fishing together at the end of October.

“It’s pretty much here,” he answered with a knowing smile, pointing out that water temperatures had fallen dramatically over the previous couple of weeks.

Mason knows. A tournament pro and long-time guide on the Tennessee River, he was part of the small group of North Alabama anglers who knew about castable umbrella rigs before the rest of the country learned about them. He had a front-row seat for the crazy first wave and has watched the refinement of rigs and techniques.

Mason, whose rig of choice in most situations is a YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. rigged with YUM Pulse swimbaits, begins throwing YUMbrella Rigs during late autumn and relies them ever more as winter starts displacing fall. At that time, huge schools of shad move the edges of the Tennessee River channel, and bass follow, suspending over structure along those edges.

Mason fishes a variety of ways during the winter, but a YUMbrella becomes his bread and butter on guide trips and in tournaments where they are permitted. “There are some tournaments that time of year where if that’s not what you’re doing, you almost have no chance of winning,” he said.

When bass suspend during the winter and have an endless supply of shad readily available, getting them to bite used to be extremely difficult. Using a Flash Mob Jr., Mason now enjoys some of the year’s finest action on Pickwick and Guntersville during winter. It’s not magic, and the fish definitely have gotten wiser to these rigs than when they first came out. Nevertheless, good presentations to the right spots can produce fabulous bass action some days.

The right spots for Mason are significant structural features like channel confluences, points and the ends of sunken islands that are adjacent to the main river channel. He generally likes a significant current break (although, generally speaking, the more current that’s pushing through the lake, the better), and submerged vegetation over part of the structure never hurts. Shad must be present, but he doesn’t necessarily graph an area upon arrival to look for bait, because time has taught him areas where the shad always congregate under certain conditions.

The basic presentation is simple: Make a long lob of a cast, let the rig sink a bit (sometimes), and then reel back steadily. Keys to success, beyond being around fish, are knowing when to let the rig sink and how far and finding the best retrieve speed. Because the boat is often positioned over much deeper water than where casts land, sometime you have to begin reeling immediately but slow the pace so the rig will start dropping as it gets over deeper water.

Finding the right specific presentation calls for attention to depth breaks and to where baitfish are holding in the water column. It also involves paying attention to details when you get bites. It sounds cliché, but is true: Let the fish dictate the right depth and how fast they want the rig to be moving.

Also, let them show you specific spots. Bass will really gang up at this time, and from the surface the best spot might not look any different from areas just upstream or downstream or closer to the boat or the bank.

A YUMbrella rig is effective enough during the winter that if you stick with it, you’ll probably catch some fish no matter what. However, choosing the right areas, refining presentations and identifying specific key spots can result in the kind of bass fishing day you’ll remember for a long time.