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FLW Fishing Report: All About the Alabama Rig

Scott Ellison says conditions for fishing are improving and shares the history and controversy behind the Alabama Rig. 

Well, the fishing has been as up and down as the stock market over the last few days. It perked up for a while, then got lackluster during the rainy period, and now is improving again. Really, it’s not bad considering how hot it is.

The father south you go, the better the bass fishing is now. Let’s talk shallow first. Good catches of bass have been reported on medium-running squarebill crankbaits along creek ledges and the flats between ledges and shorelines, and especially wherever water is funneled by bridges or narrows. You might even expect a bit of topwater action at first light and just before dark. After dark, try spinnerbaits along willow banks and points.

If you’ve got a Tennessee license, head for the grass beds below Paris Landing, where the lake narrows and the current from Pickwick Dam is much more pronounced because of it. This time of year, current really activates feeding activity. Jigs and various soft plastic creature baits rigged Texas style are working in the weed mats, while crankbaits and worms are producing offshore.

Fishing for bluegills, crappies and catfish isn’t so good now. Give it a rest. However, hungry white bass are starting to roam the middle part and lower lake and are taking metal blade baits and jigging spoons. Fish the ledges in about 20 feet of water. That’s also where you’ll find largemouths now, but fish for them with big plastic worms, jigs and deep-diving crankbaits. If the current’s not running, fish the shoreline for resident bass, but if there is current, get offshore and hit the ledges.

Watch for surface activity. If you see bass busting shad and gulls circling and diving, get to them as quickly as you can and drift through the area casting spoons, white jigs or anything that looks like the small shad that they’re probably after.

Switching subjects, the ICAST Fishing Tackle Show just took place in Orlando and, as you might imagine, the Alabama Rig and all the tackle that it has generated was front and center.

It seems like most rod and reel manufacturers introduced tackle that could be used to cast an Alabama Rig, tackle box companies introduced boxes that could be used to store Alabama Rigs and components, and lure companies introduced a slew of baits that were tailor-made for Alabama Rigs.

Nothing has dominated bass fishing during the last 40 years or so like Alabama Rigs, which mainly are a version of the old umbrella rigs that striper fishermen used to use. But when the Alabama Rig started winning bass tournaments on Kentucky Lake and other Tennessee River impoundments last fall, they got a new lease on life. An Alabama fisherman named Andy Poss reinvented the Alabama Rig for bass fishing, and he sold the name and the rig to Mann’s Bait Company to manufacture. Well, within months there were dozens of knock-offs and many of these were very much in evidence at the Orlando Tackle Show. Mann’s is suing all the copycats for patent infringement, but the defendants claim that the Alabama Rig has been around for years in the form of the umbrella rig, so nothing can be locked up but the name, which is Alabama Rig. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, you’re going to see a lot of lures, lines, rods and reels made expressly for fishing the new, improved umbrella rig. It’s just as red-hot now as it was last winter.

Speaking of umbrellas, you better have a big one in your boat, or else fish the shady side of the lake most of the day. Bass are biting, but the heat is almost unbearable. Remember to drink lots of water and keep the sunscreen handy.

This is Scott Ellison, signing off for FLW.

Scott Ellison is a lifelong fisherman and FLW College Fishing Promotions Manager.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Scott Ellison is a lifelong fisherman and FLW College Fishing Promotions Manager.
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