I was at Pickwick Lake on the Mississippi/Alabama/Tennessee border helping with a weigh-in at a cancer benefit when one of the fishermen in that tournament called me over to his boat after the event ended. He showed me a new rig for catching bass, the Alabama rig, that would hold five lures on five wires that came out from the hard-plastic body. He'd used plastic grubs and had another rig with five swim lures on it.
Although this fisherman didn't win the cancer-benefit tournament, he'd won some one-day tournaments with five bass weighing 5 pounds or more each. In April, he won a two-day tournament with 10 bass weighing 57 pounds.
He gave me two of the Alabama rigs, but I never fished them until I reached the FLW Lake Guntersville Tournament.
Why fish the Alabama Rig at Pickwick
Fishing the Alabama rig may be the best way to catch bass on Pickwick Lake this month. The rig works best when there's current. Pickwick fishing in December means you'll find numbers of suspended bass. At the upper end of Pickwick below Wilson Dam, the Alabama rig works well when you fish it around the pilings of the two bridges up there that cross the Tennessee River. On the upper end of the lake, fish all the points, the breaks, the currents and especially the rocky points that break the current up near the dam. The Alabama rig produces largemouths, spotted bass, smallmouths, stripers and a few drum.
How the Alabama rig works
The man who makes the Alabama rig, Andy Poss of Muscle Shoals, Ala., has fished it for about 15 months and has a patent pending. At the top of the Alabama rig is a plastic fish-looking body with five wires coming out of it that are spread out like an umbrella. Four of the wires are 45- or 50-degree angles to the lure's back with the middle (5th) wire coming straight out the back of the lure's body, enabling an angler to put four lures on the outer wires and one lure in the center.
When I fished the Alabama Rig at Lake Guntersville in late October and won $100,000, I used five Mann's HardNose swim baits in the Tennessee shad color, because bass were feeding on large gizzard shad. Before that, I was fishing the grass like the rest of the anglers, but wasn't catching many bass. I'd tested the rig in a pond behind my house, rigged it with the five Mann's HardNose Swimshads, cast it out, reeled it in and learned that the rig resembled a school of shad swimming together.
So I cast the Alabama rig out on a bridge piling at Guntersville, and immediately caught a big largemouth. After casting the Alabama rig on the other side of the piling, I caught an almost 3-pound bass. While bringing that bass in, I spotted four or five more bass following the Alabama rig. I went to another bridge piling, and caught a 4-pound bass.
I thought, "Wow, this Alabama rig has merit, and you need to learn how to fish it, Paul." So I used the Alabama rig the other 2½ days of practice, and learned how to fish it around grass, points, ridges and any other structure I could find, particularly to catch suspended bass.
How to fish the Alabama rig
I caught suspended bass by casting the Alabama rig out and counting it down to the depth where my depth finder showed the suspended bass were holding. Then I started reeling the rig.
Most of the fish I caught were concentrated in 20- to 25-foot-deep water over a 30- to 40-foot-deep bottom. I'd count the rig down about 7 or 8 counts and then reel with a medium retrieve to cause the rig to move through the 20- to 25-foot-deep water where the bass were holding.
I caught bass on nearly every cast, with the biggest bass weighing more than 6 pounds. I doubled (caught two bass or more at the same time) three different times, catching a 4-pounder and a 3¾-pounder on the rig together.
I fished the Alabama rig successfully close to the bottom by Texas-rigging. When fishing the bottom, you need to make the lures weedless. The Alabama rig weighs only about 3/8-ounce. I used 3/8- or 1/2-ounce heads, one on each wire with the Mann's HardNose Swimshad, which enabled me to cast out 3 to 5 ounces of weight every time I threw the rig.
Other anglers used jigs and other bass lures on the Alabama rig's wires to catch bass. The lures' exposed hooks caught suspended bass. I used Gamakatsu No. 6 or 7 wide gap hooks with either a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce weight already attached to the hook.
I fished with one Alabama rig all day long, and the wires never broke, even though I was catching 30 to 40 bass a day. At the end of the tournament, I had brought in 20 bass that weighed 102 pounds. I won the Lake Guntersville tournament by 17 pounds.
You can't buy the Alabama rig in stores at this writing, but you can purchase it at www.thealabamarig.com. You'll need one to have the best December bass fishing in Mississippi.