Fishermen are always looking for an edge, a secret lure that never fails. Some say that quest has now gone too far.
Professional bass fisherman Paul Elias recently captured a $100,000 payday for winning an FLW event on Lake Guntersville in Alabama using what is now the hottest presentation in the bass world -- the "Alabama" rig.
The Alabama rig is basically a jig head with five trailing leads, each of which has a snap attached to the end. Anglers can attach whatever they wish to the snaps, be it swimbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms or live bait. The idea is for the presentation to imitate a school of baitfish that bass, or any other fish, can't resist.
Submitted Photo - - Alabama rigs, sometimes called umbrella rigs, have proven successful for bass fishermen. Multiple catches on a single cast are common. Pictured here is a “swarm.” The rig is not legal in North Dakota.
Elias didn't just win the Guntersville FLW event, he totally blew away the competition and nearly established a new all-time tour weight record. According to Elias, "I would throw everything a bass pro would throw at these fish and I wouldn't get a bite. Then I'd throw the Alabama rig and I'd catch one immediately."
The Alabama rig is not only effective, it is the most controversial item to hit the fishing world in a long time. Companies that make the rig, or knock-offs, are only accepting back orders now because of the sudden surge in demand. Two companies, Alabama Rig and Sworming Hornet, say they are selling all the castable umbrella rigs they can manufacture. They are also promising future umbrella-style rigs for other species of fish as well.
The rig has proven so effective that catching two, three or four bass at a time is common. Manufacturers are recommending fishermen use 80- to 100-pound test line with the Alabama rig even though the whole contraption, without any lures attached, weighs less than ounce. With lures on each of the five strands the weight easily can reach four ounces or more. Crank it past a school of fish and the weight can be expected to go up considerably.
Now hold on a minute! Before you reach for that credit card and pull out your computer keyboard there's a few things you should know. First of all, putting that many hooks in the water on a single line is illegal in most states, including North Dakota. Also, use of the Alabama rig results in an increase in the number of foul-hooked fish which, in North Dakota and many other states, must be released.
North Dakota's regulation regarding multiple-hook presentations is pretty clear -- "A lure may not contain more than three hooks and the maximum distance between any hooks on a lure may not exceed 10 inches. A single hook may not include more than three points, barbed or otherwise. Spinners and other live bait rigs and harnesses are considered a lure and are legal. Hookless dodgers or attractors used ahead of a lure or bait are legal."
Because almost every bass fisherman practices catch-and-release, some may argue that use of the Alabama rig shouldn't cause any problems with the resource. But where do you draw the line? When is enough, enough? And what's to keep walleye and northern pike and perch fishermen from creating a similar rig? Four or five bobbers on a single line? Somebody somewhere is ready to try it.
North Dakota's regulations includes the "10 inch" requirement. That means fishermen who are using a jig as a dropper on a three-way with a crankbait or spinner on a snell, are breaking regulations.
I would expect the issue of new fishing methods, such as the Alabama rig, will be a topic for consideration at the upcoming Game and Fish Advisory Board Meetings. There's other issues too, such as kites being used by muskie fishermen and remote controlled miniature boats equipped for fishing. As more and more fishermen from out of state come to North Dakota to work, they'll undoubtedly bring new fishing techniques with them as well. It will be interesting to hear what other fishermen have to say about all this.