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Capt. Gus: Anglers fascinated by Alabama rig

A new rig is taking the bass fishing scene by storm. It began in October, when Paul Elias won $100,000 in a FLW fishing tournament held on Lake Guntersville, Ala.
Elias brought 20 bass to the scales. The catch weighed a total of 102 pounds, all reportedly caught on the Alabama Rig.
So, it is no wonder that the Alabama rig has quickly become as popular to bass fishing as the Sabiki rig is to catching white perch on Lake Norman.
Its design allows an angler to cast multiple lures at the same time, while creating the underwater illusion of a school of small bait fish swimming in formation. Big bass can’t resist taking a swipe at the lure as it passes, while schoolie bass will attack it from all angles, often producing multiple hook ups.
Simply stated, the Alabama rig is a miniature version of the saltwater umbrella rig used by anglers who troll for bluefish and striped bass. Its wire harness design allows the angler to cast five swim baits at the same time. The rig has a snap swivel attached to the terminal end of each of its four arms and a single center wire which makes it easy to change lures when conditions dictate.
A heavy rod and reel combination (loaded with 50- to 100-pound braided line) is required to cast the Alabama rig. Since the rig alone weighs about a half ounce or so, even before attaching five lures to the arms, it can be tiring to cast over the course of a day. For this reason, some non-tournament anglers choose to troll the rig behind a slow moving boat.
Area anglers who target suspended spotted and largemouth bass, should add 3- to 5-inch swim baits with 3/8-ounce jig heads to the Alabama rig, then cast and allow it to sink to the depth of the fish detected on the fish finder screen. One tournament angler suggests that the speed and cadence of the retrieve is critical, so vary it until you find the correct speed for the day. Unlike other lure presentations, a fast- to very-fast retrieve seems to trigger strikes more times than not.
While the Alabama rig is currently allowed on most tournament trails, its multi hook design is under scrutiny. Multi hook rigs are already unlawful in certain states, including Tennessee, so check local fishing regulations and tournament rules before using it.
The Alabama rig’s rapid rise to fame has caused a supply and demand syndrome that has driven its price to more than $100 on eBay and other online sites. But, as more rigs fill the supply line, the price will drop dramatically.
Locally, the Alabama rig can be purchased for a lot less at local bait shops, including Tackle Town (704-483-1007) in Maiden and The Great Outdoors (704-445-8848) in Cherryville. Call ahead to check on availability.
Tips from Capt. Gus:
According to Frank Parsons at Tackle Town, “The Alabama Rig is best used when fished over suspended bass at depths to 30 feet. Deep-water casting requires the use of 1/2-ounce jigs versus the lighter 1/4- and 3/8-ounce versions being used in shallower water.”
Hot Spots of the Week:
Spotted bass fishing is excellent, with some anglers catching 50 or more during a single outing. Soft plastics, fished off channel points, and jigging spoons fished vertically over suspended fish, are the baits of choice. Large schools of white perch are showing up in water 20 to 40 feet deep.
Catfish are still quite active, in spite of cooler water temperatures. Striper fishing remains spotty, but those being caught are hitting live baits and jigging spoons.
The lake level on Lake Norman is down about 4.1 inches from full pond and down 3.1 inches on Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature is in the 50s and low 60s.Capt. Gus Gustafson, licensed by the US Coast Guard, is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a professional sport fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his website at www.FishingWithGus.com , e-mail him at Gus@lakenorman.com or call 704-617-6812.

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