The Alabama Rig is making news in the bass fishing world.
I fished with Jade Keeton at Lake Wilson in Alabama in October for an Alabama Outdoor News article. He introduced me to the "Alabama Rig," a smaller version of the umbrella rig striper fishermen troll. I liked it and thought it would be very effective, and a FLW tournament at Lake Guntersville a few weeks later proved that it is.
The Alabama Rig has four wire arms extending from a central post and each holds a bait. The center of the four arms is a plastic head and a straight wire extends back from it and holds a fifth bait. The arms go out at angles and each has a clip on the end. You can attach a variety of baits to it to resemble a school of baitfish. One of the most common baits to attach is a swimbait on a lead head.
When you cast it the rig resembles a school of shad and schooling bass and bass chasing baitfish and bass can't resist it. Jade was using it in the tailrace of Lake Wheeler at the upper end of Wilson. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, stripers and hybrids congregate there in the fall to feed on shad in the current and all will eat the Alabama Rig.
You need a heavy outfit to cast this rig. The rig itself is not real heavy at about 3/8ths ounce, but by the time you add five baits to it it weighs a lot. A heavy rod like a flipping stick with a big reel loaded with 60 to 80 pound braid is common. The heavy line allows you to pull the rig loose if you hang up by straightening the hook. It also helps if you hook more than one bass at a time, a distinct possibility with the Alabama Rig.
The inventor of the Alabama Rig says you can put any kind of bait on the arms you want to fish, including topwater baits. When fishing swim baits or jigs you can vary the weight of the jig heads to make it sink faster or slower, depending on how deep you want to fish.
This rig is great for any time fish are chasing baitfish. It also offers a different look to highly pressured bass on lakes like Guntersville, and, as always with a new bait, it is really effective.
Tournament rules limit anglers to one rod at a time in use so there is some controversy about this rig. It is legal right now but there is talk of making it illegal in tournaments. Anglers already put more than one bait on a line, like in the double Fluke rig, so it is just a matter of how many baits you can fish at one time. Some anglers also rig a drop shot rig with a jig and pig at the bottom rather than a sinker so you have it and the smaller worm up the line, fishing two baits at a time.
Other rigs use more than one bait. A popping cork is a float with a small fly trailing on a leader and many people put two or three flies behind the cork. Also, a lure called the Front Runner is a small floating bait you tie up the line ahead of a topwater plug, making it look like the bigger lure is a small fish chasing the smaller lure up ahead and it can be very effective.
What is the future of the Alabama Rig? Will it become a mainstay of anglers or be a flash in the pan? Will it remain legal in tournaments? Only time will tell.