A bizarre multi-lure rig scores big.
It looks like a lure-maker’s bad dream. It casts like a brick. It isn’t even legal in at least a dozen states and several Canadian provinces.
And yet, the Alabama Rig was the biggest bass fishing story of 2011. After pro anglers won two major big-money tournaments on the rigs, anglers went into a buying frenzy; some of the $28 contraptions sold for over $200 on the internet, and the inventor, Andy Poss of Muscle Shoals, had an instant backorder crisis that would have taken him several years to fill had he not come to a rapid agreement with Mann’s Bait Company to meet the incredible demand.
The Alabama Rig is a freshwater version of the “umbrella rig” that’s popular among New England bluefish anglers and suggestive of the dredge teasers used by Florida sailfish captains. Wire spreaders allow presentation of multiple lures on a single line, creating the illusion of a school of baitfish darting along inches apart.
Poss’s eureka moment was when he realized he could make one of these small and light enough to be castable—sort of. At a weight over 4 ounces when loaded with five lures on the wire arms, the ‘Bama Rig separates the men from the boys when it comes to all-day casting.
“My back and shoulders were killing me at the end of the tournament,” said pro angler Paul Elias, who won a truckload of FLW money with the rig at Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama, a win which let the cat out of the bag. “If you can throw it, you can murder the fish, but it is tough to keep going all day long.”
Elias and others using the rig sometimes catch two and even three or four bass on a single cast. Which of course begs the question, is it sporting or even legal?
In Florida, it appears to be so—FWC sources indicate that hook-and-line tackle is defined as 10 or fewer hooks.
Even in those states where only three hooks per rod are permitted, however, it is legal to fish the Alabama Rig and its imitators by simply using hooks on three of the lures, hookless teasers on the other
Andy Poss says he’s had the most success fishing 5-inch Mann’s swimbait tails on 1⁄8- to 3⁄16-ounce jigheads with oversize hooks. But he also says that creature baits, weedless frogs and other lures can be attached to the swivel-snaps on the end of the five-armed bandit.
The rigs work best, not surprisingly, when fished around shad schools in open water. They do not work, at all, in weedy or snag-filled water because of the multiple hooks—and you DO NOT want to lose one, considering that the rig itself costs 28 bucks and you’ve got it dressed with another $12 worth of swimbaits or more!
Standard procedure is to find shad on the depthfinder in open water, cast the ‘Bama rig near them, and crank it back steadily. Most anglers use powerful 7- to 8-foot baitcasting rods and 85- to 100-pound-test braid to stand the rigor of repeated casts with the heavy rig.
When one bass latches on, it’s often just seconds until a second attacks and occasionally even more—the thing sometimes comes up looking like a Sabiki rig for bass!
Anglers who use the rigs a lot say that they often work when a single lure of the same type does nothing; apparently the appearance of a school of bait turns the fish on.
There are no reports of anyone using the rigs in salt water yet, but it’s likely they would be killers for Spanish mackerel and blues, trolled as well as cast. They might even work for trout over deeper flats.
Are they sporting? Well, if you’re going to release the fish anyway, what’s the harm? And if you’re not, does it really matter if you catch your limit on 100 casts—or just one?
For details on the rig, visit www.thealabamarig.com FS