Love it or hate it, everyone I encounter seems to have a strong opinion about bass fishing with the Alabama Rig (A-Rig). Regardless of how you feel about it, one fact remains the same. The A-Rig has rapidly become a money-making staple in tournament bass fishing and a flat-out fish catcher all around the country. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t crazy about the rig when it first hit the bass fishing scene. They were expensive, bulky, and it appeared to require special gear to be able to effectively throw the rig around all day. Looking back, I really missed out on some big fish and giant limits by not throwing the rig when it first came out but being a few years late to the party didn’t stop me from making up for lost time. Here are a few tips to help you get out and find some success with the A-rig this season.
When: Depending on where you live in the country, you may be right at the start of the A-rig bite or maybe you have already been throwing it for a month or two. Although effective year round, most people think of throwing the A-rig in the spring and fall months. The A-rig is effective during the fall months when the bass (and bait) tend to group up in big schools and congregate around some of the most obvious structure around the lake. If you can locate one of these schools and can get them fired up, you have a real shot at loading the boat with big fish in a short amount of time as all the fish will be in a small area and you can make repeated casts to that area holding the school of fish. The spring bite is usually a little different. In the spring the fish transition from their winter haunts, moving shallow to gorge and sun themselves in preparation for the spawn that is soon to come. Typically, you won’t find the same big schools of fish like you do in the fall and you will have to cover more water to catch your fish but with that said, the spring time is one of the best times of the year to catch your new personal best on the rig. The fish are healthy, loaded full of eggs, and are feeding so heavily, they look like they could pop at any moment.
Where: The A-rig is probably one of the most versatile rigs in bass fishing. You can fish it around grass, wood, rocks, docks, and any other type of structure/cover you may encounter on the water. It can be fished shallow or deep and depending on the rigging, can be fished both in open water for suspended fish and around heavy cover with extreme effectiveness. I know this may sound blatantly obvious but, fish the rig where the fish are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched guys pull up to a spot where all the fish are sitting on the bottom and they chuck and wind their rig in the top 5ft of the water column or vis versa. They then drive off thinking there were either no fish there or they didn’t want to bite. The sad reality is they never actually put a bait in front of the fish. It’s tough to catch a fish that never sees your lure. If the fish are suspended, fish the rig through them at whatever depth they are suspended at. If the fish are on the bottom, fish the rig on the bottom.
Rigging: I personally utilize two styles of hooks. The first being your standard swimbait jig head (Dobyns D-Swim jig head). I use the jig head in a range of sizes from 1/8oz up to 1/2oz depending on depth and speed I want to fish. I prefer to throw the jig head style hooks when fishing high in the water column, around rock, or any other hard structure I can’t bury a hook into. The benefit to the jig head is, due to the open jig hook, it has a lot higher hookup ratio than any other hook style. The downside to the jig head is the vulnerability of being snagged in any submerged log, standing tree, or hidden dock rope that you may or may not now is there. To cut down on snagging in these situations, I utilize the second style of hook, a weighted EWG swimbait hook. This rigging is far more weedless and can be fished through standing timber, around docks, and crisp grass with little issue. The rig can also be crawled across the bottom at an extremely slow pace without much worry of hanging up. As far as hook brand and swimbaits go, use the brand, size, and color you have confidence in. For me, that is either a Keitech (easy shiner and swing impacts) or a Xzone Lures Pro Series Swammer.
Gear: I personally fish braided line (65lb) to about 20ft to 30ft of 20lb fluorocarbon leader paired with a Dobyns 806CB Champion rod and a 200 or 300 size reel in a 6.3:1 gear ratio. The braided line aids in sensitivity, the long fluorocarbon helps fool line shy fish, and possibly the most important part, the rod keeps fish pinned. I’m sure most of you have hooked good A-rig fish just to have them come up, head shake, and spit the rig. Or you get a fish into the net or boat and the hook just falls out of the fish’s mouth. The reason behind this is your rod is too stout and you are ripping a big hole in the fish’s mouth. With jig hooks, fast swimbait style rods, and braided line, something has to give. With a faster rod, when you set the hook or the fish surges during the fight, you run the risk of ripping a big hole in the fish’s mouth and once the hook rips a hole bigger than the diameter of the hook itself, all it takes is a minimal amount of slack and your hook can fall out leaving you wondering what happened. With a slower more parabolic rod, the rod absorbs a lot of the shock of the hookset or any surges during the fight resulting in more fish in the boat.
As I said before, there are many opinions on the Alabama Rig and how to fish it. This is a look into what has consistently worked for me. Take from it what you can and I hope it helps!