By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Rocking boats all across the South since last fall, the Alabama rig, or umbrella rig configured for bass, has been catching more than its share of notoriety and grabbing the attention of fishing enthusiasts of every stripe due to its effective but unusual methodology.
For many decades fishermen have been using umbrella rigs, or rigs worked via rod and reel that offer an array of baited hooks or lures to saltwater fish and striped bass, but recent innovations by an Alabama inventor that made such a rig castable for largemouth bass, combined with a professional tournament win by Paul Elias in October who used the thing, have prompted a number of agencies to look at limiting where and how the rigs can be used, and have spawned tremendous interest on the part of casual and serious fishermen alike.
Andy Poss, of Muscle Shoals, Ala., introduced and sold the rig online at thealabamarig.com last year. In October, pro Paul Elias fished the rig for three days and won the FLW Tour Open at Lake Guntersville. In November, Poss licensed Mann’s Bait Company to build and distribute the product on his behalf and both the debate and the sales have been off and running ever since.
The rig puts multiple baits, each potentially carrying multiple hooks, in front of suspended fish and simulates a school of baitfish, creating the opportunity for a single-rod feeding frenzy. Opponents say it creates a situation where more fish will be snagged or foul-hooked. Most who’ve fished it say those concerns are unfounded. The one thing all agree on is how exhausting it is to work.
“That Paul Elias, at age 59, could throw it all day long for three days at Guntersville is a testament to his physical conditioning,” Bobby Cleveland, outdoor writer and lifelong fishing enthusiast, said. “And people say fishermen aren’t athletes.”
Cleveland advises those who’ll be trying the rig for the first time to go with a stiff-action rod in the 7-foot 2-inch range and have at it.
Blake Shelby, marketing director for PSE Archery and an avid tournament fisherman in his own right, said it’s an exciting rig to fish once you learn how to cast it.
heavier gear the way to go
“I use 80-pound braid, at least, and cast it with a big looping motion,” Shelby said, noting the goal is to avoid stopping or starting the rig too fast at either end of the cast. Fully loaded, the thing carries quite a bit of kinetic energy downrange. Try to stop it too quickly and it’ll break the line, blessing the bottom of the lake with $40 or $50-worth of rig, bait, hooks and frustration.
“It works best with swim baits,” Shelby said. “That was how it was introduced initially, but you can clip anything you want on it. From spinners to rattlers, it’s all pretty neat. I’ve heard of some guys fishing it with diving lures. The wide range of options is part of what makes it attractive.”
From a legal standpoint, they can be used anywhere in Mississippi except Grenada, Arkabutla, Sardis, and Enid Lakes and their spillways, and the Ross Barnett, Okatibbee and Bluff Lake spillways.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, the rigs are legal there when fished with hooks size 8 or smaller, or when fished with three or fewer lures using hooks size 6 and larger.