A Rig for Bass Fishing
After Paul Elias won the FLW Lake Guntersville Bass Tournament in 2011 using the Alabama Rig, it gained nationwide attention; and I, like many anglers, took immediate interest. As a competitive tournament bass angler, I’m always looking for a better mouse trap in my efforts to put more and bigger bass in the boat.
At the time I’d heard the going price on E-bay was around $45, and I thought that was a tad steep, so I made my own out of a head scratcher my wife bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond. We won’t discuss the moment she realized where my materials came from, but suffice it to say the device worked as intended. However, I’ve since bought a couple of commercially produced rigs.
Winning Major Tournaments
In mid October of 2011, I fished a local team bass tournament on Oneida Lake with Mike Cusano from Clay, NY. During this eight hour event, I used the alabama rig to land several fish. Two were key fish that increased our tournament limit and secured the victory along with big bass honors.
The following weekend Cusano fished another team event on Oneida Lake, and on 12 consecutive casts he landed 12 smallmouth bass and finished in second place in that tournament and again took big bass honors. I was very excited to say the least, but that was only two events. This being my first time using the rig I knew there was so much more to learn about it.
Alabama Rigs Bring in Hungry Fish
I can say that in my willingness to learn I’ve thrown the rig for six to seven hours at a time and landed as many as 35-40 fish on it over the course of the day. In my assessment, it’s absolutely worth throwing any time the bass are chasing or herding baitfish of any kind. The bass fisherman need only mimic our trout fishing brethren and simply match the hatch. If the forage is two to three inches long, then don’t use minnow imitators that are five or six inches long. Instead, get as close to the real deal as you can.
When to Use the Alabama Rig
I started using the alabama rig the second week in October on Oneida Lake, and I continued to use it through the late fall, until the bass season closed in December. The water temperature was 64 degrees, and I successfully used umbrella rigs until the water reached the 36 degree range.
I rigged mine with Strike King Shadalicious minnow baits 4.5 inch and small 3.5 inch swimbaits by Keitech. Both plastic minnow body types were rigged on 1/4 ounce ball head jig with 2/0 & 3/0 hooks and each one performed well. During the transition from fall (warm water) to winter (cold water), the rig consistently produced and not only on smallmouth bass, but walleye and pickerel too.
This spring I continued my research, very eager to see how well the rig would work going from cold to warmer water. To date I’ve not enjoyed the same level of success that I experienced during the fall to winter transition period. I’ve had numerous bass, pickerel and pike chase the rig to the boat but not commit to it.
Not a Sure Thing
Fishing the annual walleye opener on Oneida Lake, I’d cast the alabama rig out and see pickerel or walleye follow it back to the boat only to turn away at the last second. Meanwhile, Cusano was casting a rattle bait and landing a fish on every other cast. After he’d landed 15 fish, I decided the rig wasn’t going to produce, so I picked up the rattle bait and I too enjoyed a great day of fishing.
Having said all of that, here’s my takeaway so far. The umbrella rig is not the magic bullet when it comes to catching fish of any species. If I had not logged well over 200 hours fishing with this device, I’d be reluctant to offer my opinion to other anglers; but I’m very confident in saying this. If you fish waters that have pods or schools of roaming baitfish as the primary forage base you ought to get a couple of these rigs and give them a try because under these circumstances it will produce fish when nothing else will.
The Best Setup for The Alabama Rig
You don’t need heavy flipping sticks or muskie-grade tackle to cast this rig. For the Alabama rig rod and reel combo, I started out with a Extra Heavy action 7′ 6” rod rigged with braided line, and each trip I tried lighter and lighter gear. Now I use a TFO GTS 735-1, Medium Heavy 7′ 3″ rod paired with a US Reel 810 spooled with 15 lb mono or 14 lb fluorocarbon.
Alabama Rig Technique
I simply cast it out, count it down to the desired depth, usually a foot or two above where I mark most of the fish, and bring it back on a steady retrieve. This medium heavy tackle performs well. I can cast it all day long, and I don’t feel nearly as fatigued when compared to using the heavy stuff.
I think the mindset of heavy tackle originated down South where striped bass are common, and those anglers are fishing for six to eight pound largemouth. We don’t have those kinds of fish up here, so to me it made better sense to scale down to a balanced setup that allowed me to fish the rig for longer periods of time with less fatigue.
A Great Addition To Your Tackle Box
As with any new angling tool, there’s still so much more to learn about this rig; but when targeting game fish feeding on pods of roaming bait fish, this rig is certainly worth adding to your bag of tricks. I’ve yet to land more than one fish at a time on the alabama rig, but I imagine if I throw it long enough it will likely happen sooner or later.
Be sure to check the angling regulations for the waters you fish and to read comments our NY DEC has made concerning this angling tool on www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/81765.html.
Original Article By Burnie Haney
About The Author
Burnie Haney is the Garrison Chief of Operations at Fort Drum NY, Chairman of the Jefferson County Sport Fish Advisory Board, B.A.S.S. Life Member, Public Relations Officer and Sponsor Product Coordinator for the NY BASS Chapter Federation. He is a member FLW and Pro Staff member for Bass Pro Shops Nitro Boats, US Reel, Temple Fork Outfitter Rods, Lucky Craft Lures and VRX Fishing Products. Haney holds three National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Line Class World Records (carp, steelhead, Chinook salmon) and one IGFA NY State Line Class Record (walleye). Get in touch with Burnie at burniehaney.com.