Tackle & Techniques – Alabama Rig

Tackle & Techniques – Alabama Rig

May 22, 2012

Gary Klein and his Sweet Rig, Alabama!

By Mike Pehanich

They call it the “A-Rig,” “The Alabama Rig,” an “Umbrella Rig,” the “Striper harness” and more. But whatever you choose to call it, it is a fish-catching contraption that has caught the fishing world – and the tackle industry – by storm.

As “new” as it is to mainstream bass fishermen, the truth is that the multi-rig has been around for many years. Saltwater anglers in the Northeast have used it for striped bass in the ocean with tremendous success. Why it took the rest of us to make the connection to the black bass fishermen is anyone’s guess!

Gary Klein unhooks a smallmouth that fell prey to his Alabama Rig's twistertail jigs at Table Rock Lake.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gary Klein is one of the legends of fishing and truly one of the most knowledgeable students of bass fishing that has ever lived. He is intrigued by techniques and baits, old and new, and has become a veritable encyclopedia of fishing knowledge during a pro bass fishing career that started in the 1970s.

Gary and I fished Table Rock Lake last week. He quickly picked up several nice fish on spinnerbaits, then a few more on a Wiggle Wart.

Then he noticed baitfish on his sonar unit, and suddenly his fishing ground to a hault.

Out from hiding

Klein sorted through a tackle bag, and pulled out a contraption that I recognized immediately. It was the aforementioned umbrella rig, better known these days as an “Alabama rig,” a terminal rig consisting of a central jighead and multiple wires – usually five – that flare out with snaps or snap swivels to attach jigheads and multiple soft plastic lures.


It’s the ultimate “multi-rig,” and it fires bass into a feeding frenzy just like the sight of a small school of nervous fleeing baitfish.

Most guys are fishing shad-tail-type swimbaits, solid or hollow-bellied, on the Alabama rig, but not all. Some are working grubs or mixing plastic baits with spinners. Even crappie fishermen are getting into the game with downsized A-Rigs!

Three jigs with hooks and two decoys comprise this umbrella rig arrangement that Klein put together for Table Rock bass.

Klein opted for a rig that was noticeably smaller than most of the A-Rigs that have hit the market so far. It was one of three different sizes that he designed himself and markets today through his Internet company, Boss Outdoors (www.fishboss.com)

Instead of swimbaits, he opted for twistertail grubs – in this case, gray-silver grubs with silver fleck on small 3/16-ounce jigheads.

We were fishing in Missouri, which allow only three hooks per line. So instead of three jigs, Gary substituted “decoys” – twisters without any type of hook – for two of the jigs.

Klein can’t use the rig in Bassmaster Elite Series, due to a recent rule that barred it from Elite competition but still permits their use in the Opens. But that hasn’t affected the rest of the anglers across the country who are buying them up as if they were the last jugs of water on earth!

Ever since veteran angler Paul Elias won an FLW event on Lake Guntersville last October on the Alabama Rig, bass fishermen have been in a buzz.

The rig has sparked a tremendous surge in fishing tackle sales, too.

“You can’t find wire. You can’t find swivels,” said one pro. “The industry has bought them all up and turned them into umbrella rigs.”

Jigs are in short supply, too.

And soft plastic swimbaits, paddletail grubs, twistertail grubs and other baits that look like they might look just great swimming with their clones are flying off the tackle store pegboards.

“They’re buying up the Sweet Swimmer from Gene Larew as fast as we can put them out there,” notes Gary Dollahon, longtime industry figure who currently handles media relations for Gene Larew Lures  (www.genelarew.com )

Riggin’ “with Klein

Despite the work he had put into the design of his rigs, Gary had had only brief on-the-water experience with it.

That made little difference.

He had a hit on his second cast, and then he landed a fish a cast later.

Largemouth, smallmouth, spotted bass…it didn’t seem to matter. All three got into the act in the relatively short time he put it to work.

His preferred choice in tackle for the A-Rig during this experimental stage is a 7-foot, 6-inch Quantum EXO rod, one of the new Quantum EXO 300 reels and 20-pound Berkley 100% fluorocarbon. (Most anglers are using heavier braid for the rig, but Gary was using a downsized rig with light jigs on this day.)  Casting the rig was a challenge at times, and Klein made several reel adjustments to fine-tune for the clumsy but deadly contraption.

The twistertails looked wildly attractive in the water.  The action of those wiggling tails more than made up for the small size of the baits.

“It’s like any tool,” said Klein. “You have to learn where and how to work it and spend time with it on the water.

I’m just very intrigued by it.

“Will I fish it more? You bet!”

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