By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
When my Grandaddy saw what my Dad and I brought home from a fishing trip off Ft. Walton Beach, it set off a small feeding frenzy on dry land.
We’d been on a party charter targeting red and mingo snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The charter boat supplied the rods, reels and rigging, and an interesting part of the rigging included a ring with swivels spaced about it. The main line attached to one swivel and leaders attached to the rest, allowing several baited and weighted hooks to be put in front of the fish at a time by each fisherman.
After we left the boat that afternoon we stopped in a tackle store at the marina and bought a bag of the things, and when Grandaddy saw them, they sparked a wave of innovation in his fishing technique.
Grandaddy and Uncle Buddy, collectively two thirds of my Old Men, were the opposite of trophy fishermen – if there was such a thing in those days.
Good numbers and nonstop action are what excited them. We fished trotlines together as long as they were able, then they migrated to pole fishing from a pontoon boat once the long line work got to be too much. They attached a phalanx of rod holders to a pontoon’s deck rail and gave it their all, but the quantities were never there. Sitting and waiting for something to happen was never quite their line.
What our swivel presented couldn’t be called an “umbrella rig,” unless you want to visualize it as a closed umbrella, but it made two old men very happy because it answered their need to have many, many baited hooks in the water at once, and to give them something to constantly do at the same time. They caught a lot of fish this way, but the main thing they caught was the hooks and lines on their own adjoining rigs. Checking to see if they were still baited sparked a slow-motion line tangling routine that would have made Abbott and Costello proud.
The real winner of the whole era was when one of them hit on the idea to drop other swivel rings from leaders on the first swivel ring and expand the number of baits presented geometrically. For people who love chaos, this was the set for them. Not surprisingly, the first time I saw a picture of an Alabama rig, it occurred to me you could alternate baits and other Alabama rigs swivel to swivel and really get something going. The first time you clipped a weed patch, you could stand on the front of your boat and reel in the aquatic equivalent of the White House Christmas tree. And, somewhere, my Grandaddy would smile.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.