Alabama Rig Guide: How to Setup, When & How to Use
The Alabama rig took the fishing industry by storm in 2011 when Paul Elias won an FLW Tour derby by over 17lbs. Ever since then the Alabama rig has been extremely effective at catching monster bass.
It is so effective that it has been banned from both B.A.S.S and FLW tournaments. Along with being banned from major tournaments, many states have passed regulations limiting the number of hooks allowed to be fished at once.
What is an Alabama Rig?
An Alabama rig, also known as an umbrella rig or a-rig is a device that allows you to use multiple baits at once. This design makes it perfect for mimicking a small school of baitfish.
Alabama rigs have a swimbait style head with thin wires branching out similar to an umbrella. The number of wires differs from rig to rig but the most popular variation is 5 wires. These wires have swivels and snaps on the end that allow you to rig hooks on the end of each wire.
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How to Setup and Modify an Alabama Rig
The first thing to do when considering fishing an A-rig is to look up your state’s Alabama rig hook laws. Most states allow 3 or 5 hooks while some have no restrictions at all. Your state’s limit will determine how you set up your umbrella rig. You can find your state’s laws by following the link above.
The most common a-rig setup for bass is 5 wires. With 5 wired setups the top two wires should be bent up and out. The middle wire stays straight and the bottom 2 wires should bend down and out.
A common mistake anglers make when bending their rigs is they start the bend directly at the head. This won’t affect the action of the rig but it will greatly reduce durability and lifespan. Instead, you should start the bend a thumbs width or 1/4″ away from the head. To improve the lifespan even more you can do a gradual bend throughout the entire wire. This makes it so there isn’t one point that kinks. Each time you bend a wire in one spot that spot gets weaker and weaker.
When bending out your wires it is important that all sides match. All bends should start and end in the same place. Each outer wire should mirror the other 3. If they don’t match, the rig could roll and not perform properly. This is extra important on rigs limited on hooks.
The next thing I do is remove all the stock snaps. Stock snaps tend to be weak and a common point of failure. Alabama rigs often draw in giant bass so I remove the stock snaps so I never have to worry about losing a fish of a lifetime due to weak hardware.
After bending out all the wires and removing the stock snaps you can start modifying and adding hooks based on your state’s laws.
5 Hook or No Restriction A-Rig Setup
In states that allow 5 hooks, I keep all 5 swivels and add strong split rings (size 4). These split rings are incredibly strong and have essentially a 0% chance of failing. With the split rings added I then add my 5 swimbait heads and swimbaits. And that’s it, you are ready to go fish your Alabama rig.
Trailer Size and Arrangement
- Outer hooks – 3.8″ swimbaits
- Middle hook – 4.3″ swimbaits
3 Hook Limit A-Rig Setup
If your state only allows 3 hooks don’t worry you can still fish an a-rig but you will have to do a little extra modifying. With only 3 hooks it is vital to arrange them where you are going to get the most strikes. Bass are ambush predators so they almost always strike from below or from behind. Because of this, we want to put our hooks on the two bottom wires as well as the middle wire which is slightly further back.
For the top two wires, you want to remove the swivels and add centering pin springs (medium size). These springs allow you to attach any soft plastic without needing a hook. This is where you will put your 2 dummy baits to complete your school of baitfish.
The hook arrangement will go a long way in ensuring that bass strike at a hooked bait but sizing down your dummy baits will increase your odds even more.
Trailer Size and Arrangement
- Top two dummy baits – 3.5″ swimbaits
- Middle hook – 4.3″ swimbaits
- Two Bottom hooks – 3.8″ swimbaits
This arrangement will ensure that 95%+ of your strikes are at one of your 3 hooks. When putting on the swimbaits it is really important to put them on straight. Any variation and the rig could become unbalanced and roll.
How to Fish an Alabama Rig
When fishing an Alabama rig a simple steady retrieve will catch fish but adding some variation will increase your success greatly.
As you are reeling in add two-rod pumps or two quick reel turns every couple of feet. These occasional bursts of speed will get the wires to pulse out and in. This pulse of movement mimics baitfish in a school panicking and darting away but then coming back for safety in numbers. This action triggers bass that are following to decide quickly whether to strike or not because they have been spotted.
How to Target any Depth With an Umbrella Rig
The most important thing to figure out when fishing an umbrella rig is the depth bass are holding at. A fish finder can make this easier but it can also be determined by trying different depths and figuring out a pattern.
Umbrella rigs can be fished at just about any depth by counting down and letting them sink each cast. To do this you need to determine the rate of fall for your rig. The easiest way to do this is to this is putting your rod vertical and allow enough line out so your bait is hanging right at the end of your rod handle. This way you know exactly how much line you have out, it will be the exact length of your rod.
With this information, you can put your rod tip at water level and count how long it takes the bait to fall to that depth. From there it is simple math. If it took 6 seconds to drop 8ft and you want to target 20ft down then you need to let it sink for about 13-15 seconds. This allows you to better target certain depths while also helping prevent you from getting hung up on the bottom or cover.
Where to Throw an Alabama Rig
A-rigs are big and bulky which makes them super easy to get hung up. With so many components they are also quite expensive. Because of this Alabama rigs are typically fished in open water, either near or above cover.
Since umbrella rigs are designed to mimic schooling baitfish the best place to throw an a-rig are areas where baitfish are holding in your lake. The great thing about a-rigs is they will still work even if you can’t find baitfish on your lake.
They are great to fish along or above deep grass lines, along points, docks, and offshore rock piles.
Lifespan of an A-Rig
Like all wired baits, A-rigs will eventually break. The more you flex and bend the wire the weaker it will become until it eventually breaks. This happens on the cheapest and the highest-end rigs. Eventually, all wire baits will wear out. The better the components the long they will last. As you fish an a-rig you should pay attention to its shape so you can replace it before it breaks and costs you a giant fish. To extend the life of your A-rigs avoid bending the wire directly at the connection. Starting your bend 1/4″ down will greatly increase its lifespan.