Dan Morehead, a member of Team Evinrude, recently won the FLW EverStart Series Championship on Kentucky Lake. When asked what was the one key factor in his win, he said “Without a doubt, the Alabama Rig. The Alabama Rig opens up a whole new world in fall bass fishing.”
Before we get into the what, where, when and how to fish and Alabama Rig, I wanted to talk with Dan some about his win on Kentucky Lake. Dan has fished Kentucky Lake all his life, and admitted that he is very confident here most of the time. However, Dan likes to deer hunt, and come the fall he can be found in the woods instead of on the water. So with all his experience on Kentucky Lake he wasn’t exactly ecstatic with the thought of a fall tournament there. “I only fish Kentucky in the fall when ‘they’ make me”, he said chuckling. The home lake curse is often just that, with local anglers struggling to catch a winning stringer. Dan was able to best the rest of the field by several pounds, begging the question, how did you overcome the home town jinx. Dan was quick to say that over-all there was a home lake advantage; it was not a curse this time. “Once I figured out what was going on, I was able to use my knowledge to duplicate the structure that was producing throughout the lake.” Dan went on to say, “on the last day of practice I figured out what was going on, and because I know this lake so well, I had endless places to fish.”
Conditions for this tournament were typical fall fishing.
Water Temperature: 59-62 Degrees
Water Clarity: 4-5 feet visibility in the areas he was fishing
Water Level: Normal scheduled winter pool
Weather Conditions: Rirst two days were overcast, third day was sunny and no wind, last day sunny with gusts to 15 mph.
Dan had a great pre practice for this event. Pre practice is the time on the water before official cut off. With the help of a local friend, Dan caught 5 fish limits upwards of 25 pounds on a Zara Spook over stump covered flats. Dan told me, “I 100% felt this pattern would hold up through the summer and into fall; bass were there, food was there, all the conditions were right for this to last.” Dan continued, “I spent my first two days of practice working this pattern, trying to force it, make it work; it didn’t.” On his third day of practice, he realized he needed a change. Competitors were catching plenty of fish in the backs of coves. Smaller fish had large balls of bait fish pushed up into the bays. However, this pattern did not have the size to win this event. Dan said, “This tournament was not for points, go big or go home.”
Knowing the lake as he did, along with the fall feeding in the backs of the coves, Dan started working the deeper breaks on the way out from the backs of these coves. “On the third day of practice, I found that there were quality fish hanging on the first deep water breaks as you headed back to the main lake. I was able to catch a couple tournament quality fish on a Zara Spook.” The 4th and final practice day is where it all came together for Dan, “The sun came out, and we had some wind. This is when the Alabama Rig can really shine, and it did.”
Having already ‘spotted’ the rest of the field, of competitors, three days of practice time Dan’s home field advantage began to shine. Because he fought so long to find quality bass, Dan didn’t have much time to duplicate his findings throughout the lake. However, he was confident with his knowledge of the lake and put it to good use, culminating in winning the Championship. I asked Dan what his thoughts were about why many anglers fall to the home town jinx. He replied, “Anglers fish memories and not patterns, you have to stick with the pattern. Use your knowledge of the water to duplicate what you’ve found.” As you have read, Dan almost got caught up in the memory fishing, hitting the flats that he had found bass on prior to cut off. I asked Dan about this, he replied, “that’s a loaded question, yes I was fishing an area I had found fish before; however, this pattern and that area set up right for the fall. The pattern just wasn’t there.”
Okay enough with my personal quest to find out how Dan beat ‘The Curse’, let’s find out about the Alabama Rig. Dan started fishing the Alabama Rig back in May of this year, seeing the potential for catching schooling or suspending fish. Dan told me that he spent many hours on the water learning this bait, from how to cast and retrieve it, to how to maximize its potential.
The Alabama Rig:
Dan caught all his weigh fish on the Alabama rig. Using two different set ups. The first, utilized 4 inch swim baits on the four outside positions, and a 5 1/2 inch swimbait in the middle. After catching his limit, he switched over to an Alabama rig with 5 1/2 inch swimbaits on all positions. “I had three rods on deck, those two Alabama Rigs and a Zara Spook.” Dan said that he used two different swim baits on his Alabama Rig. When it was cloudy he used Netbait’s BK Swimbait and when the sun was out he switched over to the Hollow Belly from Berkley. Every bait was rigged on the 1/8th ounce jig head made for and sold by the Alabama Rig company.
Dan told me that the key to his pattern was finding bank lines that sloped at about a 45 degree angle. Keeping the boat in about ten feet of water Dan would cast to the bank, “the bass were either on the bank or suspended in about 5 feet of water. “I would cast to the bank and high rod the bait a few feet until I couldn’t see the bottom, then use a slow and steady retrieve letting the Alabama Rig follow the contour of the bank.” Dan continued, “I would either get bites right away or about halfway back to the boat. Bass were positioned just like you would expect in the spring, but then we’d go after then with jerk baits.”
Dan’s daily weights varied but on the last day he weighed the biggest stringer. I asked Dan whether this was fish management, or, just better feeding conditions. “On the last day we had plenty of sun and the wind got up. These are great conditions for the Alabama Rig to excel. Also because of other competitors, our event and another 200 boat event, I wasn’t able to fish some key areas that I wanted to the previous 3 days. On the last day, it worked out that I had these areas to myself and could really work them.” Dan went on to say that the first three days of the tournament he ran and covered a lot of water; on the last day he had it dialed in where bigger fish were feeding and committed more time to them. Dan commented, “I caught 4 good fish in one area in 35 minutes of fishing, so I did saturate that area some.”
Dan was using an American Rodsmith 7 foot 4 inch swimbait rod paired with a Shimano Calais spooled with 65 pound stealth braid. Dan pointed out, “All the components of the Alabama Rig are rated at 120 pounds, Alabama Rig recommends at least 80 pound braid when fishing it. I used the 65 pound because I was fishing shallow and if I got it hung up I could easily retrieve it. The lighter braid allowed me to cast it a little farther.” Dan commented here that there is no easy way to cast this rig and that it’s going to hit the water like a ton of bricks, “The best way to cast the Alabama Rig, is with something similar to a round-house cast, and definitely with the wind.” Dan also said that, “A good rod with a lot of back bone yet a soft tip is a must when using the Alabama Rig.”
Dan has been using the Alabama Rig for several months now, so I pried some to see if there were other baits that he has used with the Alabama Rig. “I’ve used small swimbaits and grubs, to be honest I haven’t experimented much with it because it works just as advertised. Although, with that said the sky’s the limit with this rig. I have heard anglers are using everything from crank baits to cane toads on the surface.” I continued to press Dan about how to use the Alabama Rig. He said you can throw it anywhere, but his perfect scenario is, windy, sunny days, when you have some schooling activity or suspended bass. You can work bank lines as he did to win this championship, or fish open water. Dan said, “The sky is the limit with the Alabama Rig; I’m very excited to see what becomes of the Alabama Rig once more folks are using it and experimenting with it.”
I see the Alabama rig as a great search bait; however, Dan said he found it to be a better follow up or mop up bait. “If you get a strike on a Zara Spook or crank bait from a ledge or point, you can throw the Alabama Rig back across it and really pick off the fish. I’ve caught up to 3 at a time. I like to work the Alabama Rig slow and steady, which is not the best search bait.”
With so much chatter about this rig on the internet and throughout bass fishing circles across the country, I cornered Dan as to what his thoughts on the legalities of this rig were. He replied, “If it’s legal in the state your fishing, then it’s a tool that you better be ready to use, because your competitor will. It’s important to know the laws on the waters your fishing so that you can stay within regulations.” We talked some on the implications of foul hooking bass with the rig. Dan was quick to say, “I’ve foul hooked bass on Zara Spooks, crank baits, and rattle traps. The Alabama Rig, in my experience, hasn’t fouled any more bass than other baits. So, it’s not an issue for me.” I asked Dan if he foresaw B.A.S.S. or FLW eventually banning this rig from tournament fishing just to prevent any possible errors or infractions of regulations, “Most definitely not, I can’t speak for B.A.S.S. as I don’t currently fish with them; however, I was recently with some senior officials in FLW and I can assure you there is no concern about the Alabama Rig and banning it is not a consideration.” Dan continued to say, “Many tournament officials and state regulators are excited about the Alabama Rig, it’s putting more folks back on the water in the fall. The possibility to catch 3-5 bass in one cast is exciting, and anglers want to try.”
Since Dan won the EverStart Championship I was curious to know what helped him throughout the season, was a bait, was it confidence in waters, was it a network of anglers that helped each other. So I asked him straight up. Without hesitation, Dan replied, “My equipment, if you can’t get there and back, the baits can’t catch bass.” He went on to say, “I have been with Evinrude for 25 years and am very passionate about their motors; however, this last generation of motors is amazing. I have not had a single failure in the last 4 years, not one. So to say what it takes to make and win a championship, sure it’s about baits, confidence, and catching them; but if you can’t get to them and then get back to the scales none of that matters. My Evinrude, Ranger Boat, Lowrance electronics, and Power Poles have really helped me get to this point; I can’t say enough good about them!”
To read more about Dan Morehead’s victory check out Evinrude’s E-NATION site.