Alabama Rig Sets Bass Fishing On Fire

This brand-new fishing rig is winning big money in tournaments, and it's already been banned by some. Just how fantastic is the A-rig?

Ronnie Garrison | November 21, 2011

This is a familiar sight to lineside trollers – a rig with multiple lures that looks like a school of baitfish. The A-rig is a smaller version anglers can cast and fish in a variety of situations, from burning at the surface to slow-rolling down deep.

It happens every few years. A new bait hits the bass-fishing world that fishermen go crazy over. Many are fads that fade quickly. Others become a standard in bass boats. The Alabama rig exploded on the scene a few weeks ago. Only time will tell if this is a flash in the pan or becomes a standard bait.

The Alabama rig, or A-rig, is similar to the umbrella rig trolled by striper and hybrid fishermen. A main wire has a head on it, and four wires extend at angles from the head. At the end of the main wire and the four side arms are clips that allow you to attach baits. You are fishing five baits at a time, and it looks like a school of baitfish coming through the water.

A fisherman in Alabama came up with the idea and design and started marketing Alabama rigs in July. In north Alabama on Pickwick, Wheeler and Wilson it quickly became a go-to bait for some fishing situations, like fishing for bass in the tailraces on those Tennessee River lakes. Then in October, Paul Elias won a big FLW tournament on Lake Guntersville by using the A-rig.

By the end of that tournament, it was claimed all of the top-10 anglers were throwing A-rigs. People went crazy. Stores carrying the rigs sold out immediately, and orders poured in to the manufacturer. The rig was offered on the Internet for sale for up to $200. Not surprisingly, other lure producers quickly got their versions on the market.

The Alabama rig is not cheap, with the main rig selling for around $25, and then you have to add five baits to it. If you use expensive swimbaits, you can have more than $100 at the end of your line on each cast.

The Media Bass Tournament Trail immediately banned the A-rig in tournaments, and others may follow. There have been wild claims the rig will “fish out” a lake like a purse seine and decimate bass populations. Some anglers even say it should be totally banned.

The hype has been ridiculous. The Alabama rig will catch bass, no doubt. But is it a magic bait that will allow every fisherman to catch bass like the pros? No. There is no such bait.

Troy Morrow is a pro fisherman from Georgia who finished sixth in the Guntersville tournament won by Elias. Troy did use the Alabama rig to catch some of his fish, but he also used other baits during the tournament. Like all tournament fishermen, Troy is versatile and proficient in using many baits.

Troy won the All American last year and has done particularly well in tournaments the past two years. He is fishing the FLW Tour and Opens as well as the PAA tournaments this year and next. I got a chance to fish Russell and Hartwell with him the second week in November to learn how to fish the Alabama rig.

The Alabama rig is heavy. The main rig weighs about 3/8-oz., but if you add five 1/4-oz. jig heads with swimbaits on them, you are throwing about 2 ounces on each cast. It has to be rigged on a heavy-action rod. Troy throws his on an extra heavy 7-foot, 6-inch or 7-foot, 10-inch Duckett Fishing Rod. He spools his reel with 60- to 80-lb. Sunline Flippin and Froggin Braid.

The strong line is needed to handle the bait, and Troy says it never passed a stump it didn’t like. If you hang it up, the heavy line allows you to pull it loose by straightening the hook so you don’t lose the whole rig. For that reason, he suggests using fairly light-wire hooks on the jig heads.

If you hang the rig, don’t jiggle it trying to get it loose. Troy said that just hangs more hooks. He carries an extendable pole lure retriever to push the bait off what it is hung on, or gets several of the wires in the spiral lure retriever to pull it loose.

Pro angler Troy Morrow placed sixth in the Guntersville FLW tourney last month, an event where all the top pros were throwing A-rigs and which quickly launched incredible hype over the lure. Troy fished with the author last week on Hartwell and Russell, and the A-rig produced bass and linesides.

Troy likes the Zoom Swimming Fluke Jr. on his A-rig, but he said other baits can be used. The Buckeye JWill Swimbait is a popular choice. He varies the weight of the jig heads from 1/8- to 1/4-oz., depending on how deep he wants to fish it. Fluke colors vary, but shad colors like the disco violet and disco green are good in clear water. In lakes with grass, he likes some color to the baits, adding a little chartreuse to them with a marker pen.

The swimbaits work best in fairly clear water. In stained to muddy water, Troy said you can add rattles to the baits, or even throw a small Rat-L-Trap on each arm. You could also put a small spinnerbait on each arm, or add a Fish Head Spin for more flash and noise.

The rig can be fished in many different situations, but all the exposed hooks makes it hard to come through wood cover. Troy said an A-rig is especially good for suspended bass.

Troy was catching bass on it during the Guntersville FLW tournament along grassbed edges. Anywhere you would throw topwater on lakes like Russell and Hartwell is a good place to throw it, as are bridge pilings and rip-rap, over roadbeds, standing timber and points and even along the bank.

When fishing over brushpiles, Troy reels it fairly fast, keeping it above the cover. It can be crawled on the bottom on slick points, but it hangs easily on cover. Around rip-rap, the A-rig can be allowed to sink to just above the rocks, but it will hang if it hits the rocks. Depth can be varied around bridge pilings depending on how deep the bass are holding.

The actual A-rig is only 3/8-oz., but when you add five baits, like swimbaits, you’ll be casting more like 2 to 3 ounces. Troy uses an extra-heavy 7-foot, 6-inch Duckett Fishing Rod.

The A-rig will catch all kinds of fish. Anything that eats baitfish will hit it. Troy and I caught largemouths, spots, hybrids and stripers on it when we fished Hartwell and Russell in mid November. The hybrids and stripers were schooling and seemed to like it better than other baits we tried. Troy said it is good for numbers of spots, and it tends to tempt the bigger largemouths.

Prespawn and postspawn and during the summer and fall will be good times to fish this rig. In the winter, you can crawl it along slick bottoms, but it will be hard to fish slowly around cover in cold water.

Troy likes some wind putting a chop on the water, and current definitely helps. The wires and swivels all make the rig really show up in the water, and something to break up its visibility like a chop on the water helps.

You can catch multiple fish on one cast, up to five at a time — another good reason for fishing it with heavy tackle. Troy got two keepers on one cast at the Guntersville tournament and showed me a picture of four spots he caught on one cast with the A-rig at West Point during the Highland Marina State Championship last month (where he placed fifth).

Spots especially will chase other hooked fish and try to take the bait away from them, so multiple hook-ups are more common with spotted bass. Catching a single fish is by far the norm when casting the Alabama rig.

Troy usually reels the rig steadily. He said you can pause it, but he has not needed to do that to trigger bites. The rig looks like it would tangle on every cast, and sometimes the hooks do get on the wire or another bait, but that does not happen very often. To cast the heavy rig you have to make a lob cast. The bait makes a huge splash when it hits.

The wires come in different colors and sizes from different manufacturers. The original rig has black wire, while the Sworming Hornet “Swarm” version has silver wire, as does the Ol Nelle Umbrella.

Both the Alabama rig and the Swarm have an epoxy head keeping the weight down, while others, like the Ol Nelle Umbrella Rig, have a lead head.

The good things about the Alabama rig are it catches fish, it gives the bass a different look since it is a new lure, and it can at times catch multiple fish on one cast. It is fairly versatile, and you can fish it in a lot of different situations.

But there are negatives, too. It is a heavy, cumbersome rig to throw. It is very visible and makes a lot of noise hitting the water. The wires will break if bent too many times. Troy found this out at Guntersville when he broke off one arm of the only rig he had at the time. It is hard to keep on the deck of a boat since all the hooks tangle in other lures and anything else nearby. And it is expensive.

The original Alabama rig was sold to Mann’s Bait Co. on Nov. 15, and it was on back order as this article was going to press. It can be ordered online at <>, or go to <>. Sworming Hornet Lure’s Swarm can be found at <>, and the Ol Nelle Umbrella Rig will be found at <>. More information about Troy Morrow can be found at <>.

Is the Alabama rig a new magic lure for catching bass? There is no magic lure. The A-rig will have a place in the arsenal of bass fishermen, but it will not be the only bait you ever need.

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