Alabama Rig catches interest of bass anglers

What do you get when you take a hard bait body, add a tie-in point to its front end, a five-arm wire harness to its back end, then attach a swivel at the end of each arm?

Your mental picture might resemble some kind of spider, but what you have is a fish-catching rig that has set the bass fishing world on its ear and given bass bloggers much to talk about.

It’s also the rig that put professional angler Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., on the winner’s platform, where he collected $100,000 in first-place prize money. The win came at the Walmart Forrest L. Wood Tour Open in October on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.

Elias took the tournament with a four-day, 20-fish catch that weighed in at 102 pounds, 8 ounces and bested second-place finisher Robert Behrle of Hoover, Ala., by more than 17 pounds.

Any lure that helps an angler catch that much fish and put $100K in the bank is bound to attract the interest of bass fishermen across the country and perhaps around the world. The concept already has been mimicked in Japan. But I didn’t know that a week ago, when reader Steve Heck wrote and asked if an Alabama Rig was legal to use on Lake Mead. In fact, I didn’t even know what an Alabama Rig was, so I had to do some digging.

It didn’t take my friend Google long to turn up multiple links to Web pages and blogs filled with articles, news releases and discussions about Elias and the amazing “new” Alabama Rig. In reality, the Alabama Rig simply is an umbrella rig in miniature. Umbrella rigs are designed so your swim baits combine to represent a small school of baitfish. As near as I can tell, the big difference between an umbrella rig and an Alabama Rig is the size.

The Alabama Rig is small enough that an angler can cast and retrieve it with a standard casting rod but is large enough to present five soft swim baits. Elias used an 8-foot rod with 65-pound test Spiderwire during the FLW event, and baited up with 5-inch or 6½-inch swim baits on 3/8-ounce and ¾-ounce jigheads.

According to Nevada’s 2011 Fishing Guide, or regulations, “No more than … two lures or plugs irrespective of the number of hooks or attractor blades attached thereto, may be attached to the line.”

Officer Karen Welden, a Nevada game warden, said this applies to traditional umbrella rigs and the Alabama variety. It means that you can use these rigs, but only two of your attached swim baits may have hooks attached. The rest may serve only as attractors.

During his tournament win, Elias focused his efforts on underwater ridges and quick-dropping points near causeways and areas where bass were staging to ambush shad. Doesn’t sound like a bad tactic for Lake Mead, where the fast-reproducing gizzard shad are keeping striper fishermen in bait and striper bellies full.

The Alabama Rig sells for $27.99 and is available only through the Internet at http://thealabamarig.com.

“It’s going to be crucial to practice catch-and-release on these fish, because when you get that bait in your hand, you’re going to catch a lot of fish,” Elias said. “So please take care of your lake.”

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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