The ability to naturally mimic the appearance and irresistible swimming action of a small school of baitfish can dramatically increase your strike-to-catch ratio on the water. This is exactly why the Alabama Rig, or A-Rig for short, is so deadly, especially when it comes to catching super-size lunkers.
Editor’s Note: Alabama Rig is Mann’s Bait Company’s branded version of the umbrella rig. However, many bass anglers refer to the umbrella rig as the Alabama Rig.
The truth is, it’s simply coded deep within the DNA of bass to absolutely clobber and destroy vulnerable schools of baitfish. It’s basically like dangling an all-you-can-eat swimming buffet right in front of their noses. With that being said, here are several high-impact A-Rig fishing strategies that will enable you to put bigger bass in your boat this spring.
Know Your A-Rigs
The basic Alabama Rig consists of five wires and swivels connected to a hard-plastic baitfish body or head. These wires can be spread out like an umbrella and rigged with a variety of swim-baits to simulate a school of minnows or shad. You can also choose modified A-rigs that come equipped with multiple willow-leaf or Colorado blades to add some extra flash and PIZZAZ to the equation.
Several companies have also introduced smaller A-rig versions that are more compact and easier to cast. These lures have two to three wires and swivels instead of five and are designed to accommodate smaller swimbaits and lighter weights. With these options, you can tweak and customize your A-Rigs to tackle a variety of fishing conditions and situations. As we all know, the ability to adapt and adjust on the fly can make or break you on the water and dictate your overall success.
Match the Hatch
When it comes to lure selection, it’s always important to closely match the size of the prey bass are currently feeding on. If you’re lucky, you might actually see bass busting a school of baitfish near the surface or catch a bass that spits up a shad during the fight. Pay close attention to the length and overall size of the baitfish and match your lures as closely as possible. In most situations, it’s the little things like this that make the biggest differences. This is especially true when fishing areas that generally receive intense fishing pressure on a daily basis, and the bass are highly educated.
Customize Your Presentation
How you fish your A-Rig should depend on the current fishing situation and mood of the bass. For example, aggressively feeding fish may prefer a fast or semi-fast presentation. Sometimes a steady and moderately quick retrieve back to the boat will be all it takes to generate strikes. Other situations may call for a faster more assertive retrieve that skims the surface and creates a noticeable V-wave. This technique usually produces best when bass are located in shallow water or busting shad on top in open water. Customized A-Rigs with willow leaf blades are ideally suited for these scenarios.
If the fast and furious techniques aren’t producing, then switch over to a slow-rolling presentation and cover different water depths. The bass you’re targeting might be hanging deep and clinging to tightly to structure or suspended somewhere between the bottom and the surface. For deep-water presentations, go with a heavier rig that does not include willow or Colorado blades. A-Rigs without added spinnerbait blades have far less lift, which enables you to effectively fish the rig much deeper.
Another deadly presentation is to vary your retrieve speed and every few seconds momentarily pause or stop the rig. These short pauses allow the A-Rig to drop deeper and flutter on the fall. In many cases, the strike will occur during the fall and this technique really produces well when fishing offshore ledges, points, and above submerged humps or islands. The trick is to let the current behavior and mood of the bass have complete control relating to how you fish the A-Rig on any given day.
Target Key Structure and Cover
If bass seem to be feeding near or on the surface, paralleling weed-beds, long stretches of riprap, boat docks and steep river bluff banks can generate some intense action in a hurry. Focusing on main-lake points, secondary points and the mouths of creek channels are also hotspot locations to work an A-Rig. Offshore ledges, submerged humps and isolated islands are also killer places, especially when bass are suspended off the bottom or beneath schools of shad.
When you have nearly $30 invested in one A-Rig, it can be really easy to fish too conservatively and shy away from cover. This is a major mistake, because big bass are very cover oriented. Sometimes you’ve just got to roll the dice and not be afraid to probe submerged brush, stumps and rock-piles. Running an A-rig directly over or beside these key ambush points can get your arm broken by a monster bass and that’s why it’s worth the risk of occasionally losing some money.