The Alabama rig is similar to the umbrella rig trolled by striper and hybrid fishermen. A main wire has head on it and four wires extend at angles from the head. At the end of the main wire and the four side arms are clips that allow you to attach baits. Fishing with it means you are fishing five baits at the time. It looks like a school of baitfish coming through the water.
A fisherman in Alabama came up with the idea and design and started marketing them in July. In north Alabama it quickly became a go-to bait for some fishing situations, like fishing for bass in the tail races on Tennessee River lakes. Then in October Paul Elias won a big FLW tournament on Lake Guntersville casting it.
By the end of that tournament it was claimed all of the top ten finishers were throwing it. People went crazy. Stores carrying it sold out immediately and orders poured in to the manufacturer. The rig was offered on the internet for sale for up to $200. Not surprisingly, other lure producers quickly got their versions on the market.
The Alabama rig is not cheap, with the main rig selling for around $25 and then you have to add five baits to it. If you use expensive swimbaits you can have over 100 dollars at the end of your line on each cast.
The Media Bass Tournament Trail immediately banned it in tournaments and BASS followed a few months later. There have been wild claims the rig will "fish out" a lake like a purse seine and decimate bass populations. Many say it should be totally banned.
The hype has been ridiculous. The Alabama rig will catch bass. Is it a magic bait that will allow every fishermen to catch bass like the pros? No. There is no such bait. But if fished right in the right places it can add to your catch.
Troy Morrow is a pro fisherman from Georgia and he finished sixth in the Guntersville tournament won by Elias. He did use the Alabama rig to catch some of his fish but also used other baits. Like all tournament fishermen, Troy is versatile in many baits.
Troy won the All American last year and has done well in many tournaments in the past two years. He is fishing the FLW Tour and Opens as well as the PAA tournaments this year and next. He is sponsored by Ranger and Mercury, Lowrance, Duckett Rods, Zoom, Power Pole, Sori, Gamakatsu, and Swarmin Hornet lures. I got a chance to fish Russell and Hartwell with him the second week in November to learn how to fish the Alabama rig.
The Alabama rig is heavy. The main rig weighs about three eights of an ounce but if you add five quarter ounce jig heads with swimbaits on them you are throwing about two ounces on each cast. It has to be rigged on a heavy action rod. Troy throws his on an extra heavy 7 foot 6 inch or 7 foot 10 inch Duckett Fishing rod. He spools his reel with sixty to eighty pound Sunline Flippin and Froggin Braid.
The strong line is needed to handle the bait, and Troy says it never passed a stump it didn't like. If you hang it up the heavy line allows you to pull is loose by straightening the hook and not lose the whole rig. For that reason he suggest using fairly light wire hooks on the jig heads.
If you hang the rig don't jiggle it trying to get it loose. Troy says that just hangs more hooks. He carries an extendable pole lure retriever to push the bait off what it is hung on, or gets several of the wires in the spiral lure retriever to pull it loose.
Troy likes the Zoom Swimming Fluke, Jr. on his rig but says other baits can be used. The Buckeye JWill Swimbait is a popular choice. He varies the weight of the jig heads from one-eight to one quarter ounce, depending on how deep he wants to fish it. Fluke colors vary but shad colors like the Disco Violet and Disco Green are good in clear water. In lakes with grass he likes some color to the baits, adding a little chartreuse to them with a marker pen.
The swim baits work best in fairly clear water. In stained to muddy water Troy says you can add rattles to the baits, or even throw a small Rat-L-Trap on each arm. You could also put a small spinnerbait on each arm, or add a Fish Head Spin for more flash and noise.
The rig can be fished in many different situations but all the exposed hooks makes it hard to come through wood cover. Troy says it is especially good for suspended bass.
Troy was catching bass on it on Guntersville on grass bed edges. Anywhere you would throw topwater on lakes like Russell and Hartwell is a good place to throw it, as are bridge pilings and riprap, over roadbeds, standing timber and points and even along the bank.
When fishing over brush piles Troy reels it fairly fast, keeping it above the cover. It can be crawled on the bottom on slick points. Around riprap it can be allowed to sink to just above the rocks but will hang if it hits them. Depth can be varied around bridge pilings depending on how deep the bass are holding.
The rig will catch all kinds of fish. Anything that eats baitfish will hit it. We caught largemouth, spots, hybrids and stripers on it at Hartwell and Russell. The hybrids and stripers were schooling and seemed to like it better than other baits we tried. Troy says it is good for numbers of spots but tends to catch bigger largemouth, too.
Pre and post spawn and during the summer and fall will be good times to fish this rig. In the winter you can crawl it along slick bottoms but it will be hard to fish slowly around cover in cold water.
Troy likes some wind putting a chop on the water and current definitely helps. The wires and swivels all make the rig really show up in the water and something to break up its visibility like a chop on the water helps.
You can catch multiple fish on one cast, up to five at a time, another good reason for the heavy tackle. Troy got two keepers on one cast at the Guntersville tournament and showed me a picture of four spots caught on one cast with the rig at West Point in the Highland Marina State Championship where he placed fifth.
Spots especially will chase other hooked fish and try to take the bait away from them, so multiple hook-ups are more likely with them. But single fish are the norm when casting the Alabama rig.
Troy usually reels the rig steadily. He says you can pause it but has not needed to do that to trigger bites. The rig looks like it would tangle on every cast, and sometimes the hooks do get on the wire or another bait, but that does not happen much.
To cast the heavy rig you have to make a lob type cast. Long casts are best and the bait makes a huge splash when it hits. The wires come in different colors and sizes from different manufactures. The original rig has black wire, the Swarmin Hornet "Swarm" version has silver wire as does the Ol Nelle Umbrella.
Both the Alabama Rig and the Swarm have an epoxy head keeping the weight down but others, like the Ol Nelle Umbrella rig, have a lead head.
The good things about the Alabama rig are it catches fish, it gives the bass a different look since it is a new lure, and it will catch multiple fish at one time. It is fairly versatile and you can fish it in a lot of different situations.
But there are plenty of problems, too. It is a heavy, cumbersome rig to throw. It is very visible and makes a lot of noise hitting the water. The wires will break if bent too many times. Troy found this out at Guntersville when he broke off one arm of the only rig he had at the time. It is hard to keep on the deck of a boat since all the hooks tangle in other lures and anything else nearby. And it is expensive.
Is the Alabama Rig a new magic lure for catching bass? It will have a place in the arsenal of most bass fishermen, but it will not be the only bait you ever need. Get one and fish it using Troy's suggestions and you will catch fish on it.
The original Alabama Rig can be found at http://www.thealabamarig.com/thealabamarig.htm Swarmin Hornets Swarm can be found at http://www.sworminghornetlures.com/ and the Ol Nelle Umbrella Rig will be found at http://www.olnelle.com. More information about Troy Morrow can be found at troymorrowfishing.com