Four wire arms rooted in a plastic head and anchored by a center wire. The plastic head has lifelike appeal, which is mainly, to catch the fisherman, and sometimes fooling the fish. You will even see teeth marks on the plastic if you fish it enough. A more subtle approach to your Alabama Rig may give you that extra bite that will put you over the edge in a tournament. This “Rig” has forever changed the way anglers will approach bass fishing. Everyone who follows the tournament trails saw how Paul Elias dominated the competition during the first two days. After Paul revealed which tactic he was using for suspended fish; the Alabama Rig soon dominated the anglers and the fish. Now, if you go fishing on Pickwick, Wilson, Wheeler, or Lake Guntersville you are about guaranteed to see multiple people chunking the A Rig; especially at Guntersville around the bridges. Last time I was there 6 boats, not including me, were huddled around a bridge throwing the infamous Alabama Rig. Now that’s saying something. It is already on the level of the “rattle trap” during the spring on Lake Guntersville.
Fishing the Alabama Rig is more complicated than one would think. Most people are hooking up 5 swimbaits just like Paul; going out, and aimlessly throwing it. Repeating what they read and saw on FLW. I am going to give you an insight on multiple techniques, and how to use your GPS and sonar to catch fish with the Alabama Rig.
I am going to reveal to you the most important word when fishing the Alabama Rig. Vertical. The key here ladies and gentlemen, vertical structure. Shad, algae, and all kinds of critters relate to vertical structure. Vertical Structure is defined as any rock or river bottom that changes and creates a perpendicular edge to the bottom of the lake. This could be shallow, deep, or somewhere in the middle.
This is a common scenario you will see on any of the Tennessee River Systems; especially Pickwick, Guntersville, and Kentucky Lake. This is a ledge that has boulders at the bottom, a mussel bed, and stumps on the lip. Pretty much the perfect situation to be holding bass no matter what time of year it is.
When you are fishing this vertical structure, there is really no wrong way to fish it with the Alabama Rig. As long as you: 1) Match the hatch, 2) Match the depth of the bait, 3) Match your retrieve speed to the activity level of the bass, and lastly have fun!! As long as you have the A Rig in the depth zone of the bait fish; you are doing the right thing.
Your sonar is the best piece of equipment for this technique. Just like “visual” drop shotting, you need to see the bait fish and the bass under them to be successful. Pay attention to the depth that the bass are holding. You are going to want to count down your Alabama Rig to that depth. The rate of fall is going to depend on your jig head weights and lure size. Once you count it down you just want to use a steady retrieve and listen to the bass from there. A lot of times I will cast past the fish let my rig sink deeper than them, and reel up through the fish. This will trigger a lot of strikes because it is a direction change from what they are used to seeing. You will see that a lot of your bites will come when your lure gets close to under the boat; this is when your lure changes from a horizontal presentation to vertical. Just like a deep diving crank bait. A lot of strikes will occur on that direction change.
When you know you are around fish, and not getting bit on the Alabama Rig. This is when you need to make adjustments according to the conditions. If it’s cloudy, you might want to add some flash to your baits using a jighead with a willow leaf spinner blade running under it. Five of those on the Alabama Rig really look’s amazing. I have also noticed that during low light, windy conditions, or when fishing 20+ foot of water, I can get fish to bite the bigger swimbaits better.
I usually have three Alabama Rigs on my deck when I go out. (This is if I’m only fishing open vertical structure, and there is little chance of hanging up). Rig 1: Watermelon Grubs, Rig 2: Swimming Fluke Jr’s, Rig 3: Big swim baits! This way you can fish all the angles with every different presentation to see what they want on that given day. Sometimes they don’t want either of the three, and you have to adjust even further.
Now on to fishing cover with the Alabama Rig; this presentation is not just for suspended bass! You are greatly limiting this bait’s potential if you are only fishing in open water with it. I will go shallow and throw this thing into the thickest cover that I can. The only adjustment is your shad grouping will need to be tighter, and your swimbaits need to be weedless. It surprisingly comes through thick cover quite well. I will treat this Rig just like a square bill crank bait when I’m shallow. Intentionally banging it into stumps, rocks, and tree’s to create a strike. When you fish your tree tops with a jig on your favorite hump. Throw out your weedless Alabama Rig, let it sink to the bottom, and work it through the tree top as you would your jig. This bait has limitless potential. All you have to do is think outside of the box. This coming summer, I personally plan on having a three quarter ounce jig in the center with four quarter ounce jigs around it, then drag it off ledges.
The best rod for this technique really depends on what technique you are using it for. See there are techniques within techniques. Shallow water I like a 7 foot 3 inch medium heavy Duckett for better casting accuracy. You don’t need a heavy rod because you shouldn’t have heavy jigheads and baits on your Alabama Rig. Open water I enjoy using the 7 foot 6 inch Heavy Duckett. It has the back bone you need and the tip action allowing you to really launch the Rig out there. Lastly for my big swimbaits I use the mack daddy flipping stick, 7 foot 11 inch. You still need to find a flipping stick with a fast tip on it to help with casting distances. Whatever hook you use, just make sure that it is a stout one. You will need to be throwing the Alabama Rig on 65lb+ braid, and that will straighten any lesser hook out in a heartbeat.
There is so much to talk about when throwing the Alabama Rig, and this has really only scratched the surface. Next time I will be discussing fishing the Alabama Rig in current. So, next time you’re on the water fishing the Alabama Rig be sure your thinking vertical. Check out “Salzy Bass Fishing” on facebook.
“Salzy Bass Fishing”
aka Ryan Salzman