Fine Tuning the Alabama Rig

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When you think an Alabama Rig is too expensive to throw, remind yourself that largemouth bass anglers cast $500 Hinkle Trouts….

The Alabama Rig, A-Rig, is the technique that shares no commonality with finesse fishing. With 5 thick metal wires, extra large swivels, heavy leader material, and heavy rod and reel combos, you must know that the fish see all of the components with great clarity. Predatory fish like bass seem to shed all their fear of being caught by anglers in hopes of taking on a school of easy meals.

In the playbook of fishing techniques, there is no castable technique that mimics a school of bait fish better than the A-Rig. The spinnerbait is the predecessor of the A-Rig featuring a wire with a molded fish shaped jig head, and one or two spinning blades. Even in it’s similarity it is a far cry from the 5 wired behemoth. The shear bulk of the rig draws in fish because they simply cannot ignore the size of this presentation. With five hooked lures in saltwater and three hooked lures in freshwater, there is plenty of opportunity for a fish to get stung.

Let’s go over the legal amount of hooks you can use on an A-Rig in California. Below is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Regulations that cover the number of hooks allowed on one rod at a time. There are different regulations for saltwater and freshwater.

General Ocean Fishing Regulations 28.65.
Except as provided in this article, fin fish may be taken only on hook-and-line or by hand. Any number of hooks and lines may be used in all ocean waters and bays except:
(a) San Francisco Bay, as described in Section 27.00, where only one line with not more than three hooks may be used.
(c) When rockfish (genus Sebastes), California scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata), lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), or kelp or rock greenlings (Hexagrammos decagrammus and Hexagrammos lagocephalus) are aboard or in possession, where only one line with not more than two hooks may be used pursuant to Sections 28.55, 28.27, 28.28 or 28.29, respectively.

California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations
Chapter 2, Article 1. Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions. Fishing Methods – General.
(a) Except as otherwise authorized, all fish may be taken only by angling with one closely attended rod and line or one hand line with not more than three hooks nor more than three artificial lures (each lure may have three hooks attached) attached thereto. Anglers in possession of a valid two-rod stamp and anglers under 16 years of age may use up to two rods in inland waters which regulations provide for the taking of fish by angling, except those waters in which only artificial lures or barbless hooks may be used. See District Trout, Salmon and Special regulations for exceptions.

To summarize, anglers are allowed to use any number of hooks in ocean waters and bays except for anglers fishing in San Francisco Bay (3 Hooks max) and when fishing for rockfish (2 hooks max). You cannot have an A-Rig with more than two hooks tied on when you have any rockfish even if you are not actively fishing for them at the time you are casting the A-Rig. In freshwater, you are allowed to use three hooks at one time on one line.

The A-Rig in saltwater is phenomenal! When it comes to fishing harbors and inshore kelp beds, this technique gets crushed by the bass species; calico bass, barred sand bass, spotted sand bass. It is not uncommon to have multiple fish connected on one A-Rig at a time. There is no right or wrong way to fish the A-Rig and everyone will have a different way of rigging their own. We do have some great recommendations to help you have better experiences throwing the A-Rig.

The first step is to establish the depth that you are going to have the A-Rig maintain depth at. The table below illustrates the starting point of the lure weight to use on the two bottom arms of the A-Rig. We do recommend that you use the Warbaits Neck Breakers for all weights 1/4-3/4 oz to avoid catching grass and other obstructions. Weights 1-2 oz, Warbaits underspins without weedguards are the better option to get down deep and the additional spinner blade gives off more flash and vibration.

Bottom Lures ->3/8 oz 1/2 oz 3/4 oz 1 oz 1.5 & 2 oz
0-5 ftx
5-8 ftx
8-12 ftx
12-20 ftx
20-40 ftx
Weight to depth table

You still have three arms without a lure option. These are going to vary based on each anglers own taste and the depth you want to maintain on the retrieve, but no matter what you put on the other three arms the weight of those lures need to weigh less than the two bottom lures. Here is an example: 5 Arm Warbaits A Rig with two 1/2 oz Neckbreakers on the bottom and three 1/4 oz Neck Breakers on the middle and top arms. With this prescribed weighting of the A-Rig, the complete rig will rotate underwater after the cast is made. The heaviest weighted lures on the bottom arms will act as a keel. This will keep the A-Rig in the upright orientation to best present the lures. Sometimes you may not have a weighted head on the middle and top arms to avoid having the A-Rig bog down into the grass or structure.

A great starting set up is the Warbaits 5 Arm A Rig paired with Warbaits Neck Breakers and Kicker 5″ Picklekicks. This specific A-Rig is very weedless and can be worked in and over eel grass and yes also through kelp. There are very few options that will offer a weedless option when using the A-Rig which can drive anglers crazy. Even one blade of grass can throw off the presentation and give you less confidence.

The Warbaits Neckbreaker A Rig is the best option for heavy cover including kelp, grass and trees.

Reels choices are specific and you will want to have a dedicated A-Rig set up. A reel with a one sided power handle will give the angler the torque needed to turn the handle with the amount of drag created by the bulky A-Rig. A 300 or 400 size reel with a custom power handle ranging 75-95 mm is ideal. A power knob is an added bonus though most after market power handles comes with the power knob. The ideal gear ratio is 7.1:1. We would not recommend going with any ratio slower than 6.3:1 and no faster than a 7:1 gear ratio. Too slow and you will not have enough speed to retrieve the lure through the water column and too fast you will lose the torque needed to wind the heavy rig all day.

Rods are heavy swimbait rods. You can find many options, and they share the similarities of small to heavy swimbait rods. The length of the rod should be 8′ – 8’6″. Heavy to Extra Heavy power with fast actions are a must to hold up to the weight of the rig while casting the A-Rig. These rods will have lure weight ratings 2-8 oz, 4-10oz, possibly 5-12 oz. The rod should be decided on the weight of the A-Rig you will be using. The middle of the rating spectrum will give you the most flexibility with A-Rig weights. The best advice is to not be underpowered and have a crazy amount of bend in your rod before you even cast. You will not be able to cast very far if your rod is underpowered.

Braided line is great, but it lacks shock absorption. If you choose braided line, you will want to use a monofilament leader to take on the shock of a potential backlash. If you run straight braid, you are probably going to lose some A-Rigs. There is not enough shock absorbing power to prevent the straight braided line to lure connection from breaking during a backlash. If you are not comfortable tying strong braid to leader knots, then you should run straight mono, copolymer or fluorocarbon as it has substantially more stretch than braided line. 40-65 lb braided line with 30-40 lb mono leader is great for the harbors and for freshwater. 50-80 lb braided line with 40-60 lb mono leader is great for the kelp and inshore areas or heavier A-Rigs. Straight mono, copolymer, and fluorocarbon options would range from 25-40 lb depending on spool capacity and A-Rig total weight.

A-Rigs provide great coverage over structure and drawing power to bring in fish from longer distances. The added benefit of catching multiple fish on one A-Rig makes fishing with them spontaneously exciting. You never know when you will have all five arms loaded with bass or a nice halibut trying to crash the lure party. Make a big splash on the water with this heavy rig and catch the big bass you have been wanting. Visit your local Fishing_Reps dealer to get more information and to purchase products we covered in this article.

Warbaits 5 Arm A Rig with Neck Breakers and Kicker Fishing 5″ Picklekicks.

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