By Ed Nelson
What’s better than catching a limit…? Catching a limit on one cast. That’s the goal of every angler who ties on the Alabama Rig. What is the Alabama Rig and what kind of equipment does it take to throw it? That’s the object of this month’s blog.
First the rig, the Alabama Rig is the hottest thing to hit the tournament fishing scene since the Sexy Shad color pattern. Oddly enough it’s been around for some time but was made famous when on Oct. 23, 2011, at Lake Guntersville, Paul Elias put the finishing touches on an impressive tournament that included 4 consecutive 20lb plus weigh-ins totaling 102lbs 8oz, an incredible 17 pound margin of victory and a check for $100,000. All caught on the Alabama Rig. So what is it? It can best be classified as a castable umbrella rig. It has a light-weight head (in most cases weighing about 3/8 oz.) and 5 wire arms with swivels for attaching baits. It is designed to resemble a school of shad and that makes some sort of soft plastic swimbait the most common bait of choice. That’s not to say other baits can’t be used. Just keep in mind that the Alabama Rig is designed for a horizontal presentation so the baits you choose should meet that criteria. Anything from soft plastics like worms, lizards, tubes and grubs to hard baits like spinnerbaits, jigs and in-line spinners can be rigged.
The original Alabama Rig is currently being produced by Mann’s Bait Company. There are also a number of other companies producing similar rigs including, Yum Baits making “The Yumbrella”, Swarming Hornet Lures making “The Swarm” and Bass Pro Shops making “The Deadly 5 Shad Rig”. Regardless of the name on the package, they are all pretty much similar in their rigging and presentation. Simply hang your choice of 5 baits then cast and retrieve. Just keep varying your depth and speed and maybe add in a few pauses or twitches until you start getting bites. There’s also something else these rigs have in common; “Go Big or Go Home!!”
This brings me to the most important part of this article, the tackle. This is no finesse technique. It requires you to break out the big guns. Your usual fishing tackle is not going to work here. You need a 7’ or longer heavy or extra heavy action rod. No less than 65lb braided line and a 6.4:1 gear ratio reel. I guess a lot of you are asking: why do I need that kind of beef for a 3/8 oz. rig? Excellent question, to answer it lets look at each component individually.
- 7’ or longer heavy or extra heavy action rod - Even though your rig starts out at about 3/8 oz. by the time you add in the 5 swimbaits and weighted hooks your rig can easily top out at 2, 3 or even 4 oz. Most medium or medium heavy action rods are not capable of handling that kind of weight. I’ve been throwing my rigs on a Bass Pro Shops 7’ 6” Heavy action Graphite Series Rod. It rates out for 3/8 oz to 2 oz lures and handles the job remarkably well. As far as the rod length goes, I recommend the longer rods for 2 reasons. First, when you cast this rig, you don’t really cast it, you lob it. It’s the same way you would cast a Carolina Rig. When it hits the water it’s anything but stealthy. So the fish in the immediate area of “splash down” are probably going to be spooked. The longer rod gives me a longer cast and the further I can get the rig away from the boat the more fish I can show the rig to on each cast. Second, the longer rod allows me to take up more line on the hook-set, especially on those long casts.
- No less than 65lb braided line - With a rig that weighs in at somewhere between 2 and 4 oz. there is an incredible amount of stress being placed on the line with every cast. Weaker lines are just not going to be able to handle the workload. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I could stomach having to watch $30 to $50 worth of rig and baits flying freely through the air because my line broke on the cast. Now, let’s say you make a good cast but this time you hang that same $30 to $50 worth of rig and baits on a log. There’s nothing on the bait to break free. Your hooks are attached to snap swivels, swivels to wire, wire to eye and eye to line. You better have a line with enough strength to straighten out a hook or your line will break and again $50 lost. My line of choice is either BPS Excel 65lb braid or 65lb Magibraid both in green. A lot of manufactures are recommending 80-100lb braid.
- 6.4:1 gear ratio reel - The first reason I like a 6.4:1 gear ratio is for its versatility. I can speed up my presentation when I want to yet I’m still able to slow down when I have to. The second reason and probably the most important is multiple fish. Doubles and even triples are not uncommon on this rig. When you have multiple fish on you do not want them to swim around each other as they fight with the rig. This will twist up the wires and can cause you to not only loose the fish but can also lead to wire breakage. The 6.4:1 gear ratio allows me a slow enough retrieve to keep my bait down but when I get a double on I have enough speed to keep the fish behind the rig and coming to me. My choice here is the Johnny Morris Signature Series JMX10HD Baitcast Reel. I’ve been throwing the Alabama Rig for about 3 months now and my Johnny Morris has handled the excessive workload with ease.
There is little doubt that the Alabama Rig is not a fluke. It has proven itself at the highest levels of tournament fishing. I have personally used it in three tournaments to date and have a 1st place finish and 2 top 10’s. It does require some special tackle but its worth it in the long run. One last point, the Alabama Rig is not legal in every state. PLEASE, before you use it check with the local DNR office. I have checked with North Carolina and South Carolina DNR offices. Both North Carolina and South Carolina have told me it is legal to use but South Carolina did specify that it was illegal for use in saltwater. I don’t know about North Carolina saltwater. When in doubt, ASK!
For a more in-depth discussion of the Alabama Rig or any other bass fishing questions drop me a comment on my blog at basspro.com or Bass Pro Shops Facebook page. You can also find me on YouTube at fyafishing or as always feel free to come visit me at Bass Pro Shop. Just ask for Ed.
Tight lines to all and to my bass fishing brethren “See you at the scales”