The Alabama Rig - Why It Works

I want to talk a little bit about the Alabama rig and then we'll shift over to talking about this theory of presenting new baits and new actions to the fish to make them bite.

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Hey BassResource Fans. Mike Iaconelli here.  Welcome to a brand new edition of Ike's Bass Class.  We're here today to talk about a brand new rig sweeping the country right now called the Alabama rig.  And of course it's not one of these new techniques.  It's actually an old technique that's come back around like most of these techniques that we're talking about. 

But I've got to be honest with you, when I kind of first heard the rumors of this thing it threw me off guard a little bit.  Because in reality when we say Alabama rig what we're really talking about for all the salt water guys is we're talking about an umbrella rig, you know? 

And an umbrella rig is something that guys use in salt water and on the East Coast where I'm from we've used for stripers for a lot of years.  And it's funny because it defies a lot of the rules of what traditional bass fishing is.  Or what we think about in traditional bass fishing with artificials. 

So for years we've been taught to imitate the forage to a T and to use line that's invisible and to really hone in on the exact size and shape, and to get rid of you know a lot of the terminal stuff.  That's kind of been embedded in my mind in bass fishing, especially in clearer water. 

And then you see a contraption like the Alabama rig, which is essentially kind of, it looks like a crab trap with a bunch of baits hanging from it. And you kind of scratch your head.  But in saying all that, I think we need to look at the bigger picture for what we're seeing about this technique.

And you can learn something bigger from this then just the technique itself.  Which is that when you show the fish something that is so different and so unique, especially in places where there's a lot of pressure.  Heavily pressured situations.  Then a lot of times you have success. 

And so I think that's the bigger moral of this picture.  So we'll talk a little bit about the rig and then I think we'll shift over to talking about this theory of presenting new baits and new actions to the fish to make them bite. So, again, the umbrella rig and its pure essence, the Alabama rig, is basically your line, your main line to a weight and then off of that weight is just basically a four or five wire leaders that keep a snap swivel spread at an even distance apart. 

And on these snaps you can pretty much place anything you want.  Right now the hot baits for this Alabama rig are things like swim bait, the Berkley Hollow Belly swim bait in both sizes, the big size and the little size, on a jig head.  Things like fluke style baits, scrounger heads, spinnerbaits.  I've even seen some e-mails come through already where guys are rigging jigs, brush hogs, shaky heads.  I even had one talk about using frogs on the Alabama rig, so, I think the bait choice can be anything. 

But the theory of this now, especially with, if you can imagine these five swim baits coming through, is to imitate a school of fish, to imitate an actual school of bait fish coming by.  And that's really the key to this Alabama rig or an umbrella rig is you're imitating something that happens really naturally in an environment.  We've all been out there at one time or another and have looked down in the water and have seen a school of shad or alewife or perch or whatever it is, swim by.  And you can see how they kind of swim in unison.  And this rig does a great job of imitating that school.

So in its essence that's what the Alabama rig is.  It's a spreader, a lot of options on what you can put on the back.  You're basically fishing this rig on heavy line, believe it or not, even in clear water.  You're fishing it on 65 or 80 pound braid.  And you're fishing it on a rod with a little bit of tip.  And that throws some people off too. 

When I first heard about it I thought for sure you were throwing it on an eight foot broomstick or something like that.  But you're actually fishing it on the same kind of rod you'd fish a swim bait or a frog on.  So it's a 7, 7 and a half foot rod with a little bit of tip.  So more of a medium heavy action rod.  And action wise, depending on the baits you can do a lot of things with the retrieve. 

But in general you're basically retrieving it a lot like a swim bait.  You're making those baits act like a school, and come through the water column in a motion that an actual school of fish would.  So, that's the Alabama rig.  And I know a lot of you out there are doing the same thing I did when I heard about it, which is you're shaking your head like, they can't be catching them on this thing.  But they are.

And that brings us to our second point of this conversation which is the bigger picture.  Which is the Alabama rig is presenting something that the fish don't see.  You know, so right now as we're taping this interview you've got a Lake Guntersville FLW Tournament going on and the leader is dominating using Alabama rig. In fact I think the top five guys are all throwing Alabama Rig. 

And you know Lake Guntersville.  BassResource fans especially know Lake Guntersville from some of your trips there and it's heavily pressured.  I can tell you that, you know, you can be there on a Monday, on a Tuesday, on a Wednesday on a Thursday from 6 a.m. to dark and there's a hundred boats out there every day of every week.  It's that kind of lake. 

If you can imagine the intense pressure on that lake.  It's every day.  And we've got this tournament going on right now in the Fall which is a tough bite anyway.  Yet these guys are killing them. These guys are bringing in incredible stringers.  And again the essence of what I'm trying to say to you here is, when you show these fish, no matter how pressured they are, something that's truly unique and different, you're going to get a big response from the fish. 

And so the Alabama rig is unique and the bigger picture of this is when you're faced with a situation when you've got heavily pressured fish, they've seen everything in the book.  A lot of times it's a good thing to think outside the box and to show them something they've never seen before.

So, Alabama rig, it's not a joke.  People are fishing it.  Give it a try.  I think it's going to be something that has some success, especially in the short term.  And again, the bigger picture, don't be closed minded.  No matter how much you love to throw your favorite bait, if you get in a place where they've seen every bait in the book, try something different.   Don't be afraid to go outside of the world of bass fishing.  Go to salt water, go to trout fishing.  Go to walleye and try some of the techniques that work in those arenas and you might find a hot bait too.

So that's the Alabama rig.

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