Alabama Rigs: “Match The Hatch”
As the weather starts to cool down from late summer throughout the fall season, it’s time to gear up for some intense striper fishing. Bait fish begin migrating to shallow waters as the temperature cools and the fish follow along with a big appetite. Set down your bait rods and pick up lures instead for some amazing days out on the water. If you haven’t done so already, fishing Alabama Rigs for striper (a.k.a. A-Rigs or Umbrella Rigs) will absolutely change the number and quality of fish you put in the boat. Here’s everything you need to know to throw an A-Rig.
This is simple. Follow the source of food and you will find the fish nearby. Roam around the lake in shallower water and search for large bait balls of shad or other baitfish that are present. Once again keep in mind that the bait are moving into shallower waters so you will most likely find them further down creeks or suspended on open shallow flats.
Another key feature is to look for birds. If you locate a large concentration of fish-eating birds chances are there is a decent bait ball underneath them. If the birds are actively diving for bait it’s time to move over to where they are as soon as you can.
This is obviously a no-brainer but sometimes you’ll see schools of striper busting on the surface chasing bait. This awesome phenomenon usually happens early in the morning and right when the sun is about to set. Make sure to turn your big motor off and maneuver quietly as the vibration and noise will cause the striper to quickly shift locations.
Alabama Rig Gear
It’s crucial to have the proper rod and reel setup for throwing an A-Rig. These rigs can be quite heavy depending on how you customize them, often exceeding 2 ounces. Having a proper, designated Alabama Rig setup will not only allow you to fish the rig correctly but it also takes a lot of strain off of your wrist and arm. Throwing this hefty rig for hours on end can be stressful so every bit of leverage counts.
I have found the most success with round casting reels as they are able to hold enough heavy line and withstand the strain of weight that would usually wear down a smaller, low-profile casting reel.
- Shimano Cardiff 300/301A – This reel is definitely a bang-for-your-buck round reel. The 300 size is perfect for any hand size and holds plenty of 20-25lb test. The 400 size is also great but a bit too large for my hands personally.
- Shimano Curado 300/301E – Shimano hasn’t changed this reel for years, simply because it is perfect the way it always has been. The Curado 300E offers ample line capacity and a low-profile body for a much more comfortable feel, not to mention it is an absolute workhorse that will last you a lifetime.
- Daiwa Lexa 300 – This is similar to the Curado 300E but for a fraction of the price. Same low-profile body shape and enough line capacity, making it perfect for throwing A-Rigs.
A Proper Alabama Rig Rod
It’s important to choose the right rod for your A-Rig, and I strongly believe that having the right rod is even more important than a proper reel in this case. Your rod needs to load up properly to cast the rig correctly and provide enough backbone to set hook with enough force.
- Powell Max 3D 795 – The perfect combo of backbone and tip action allows you to chuck your rig with ease.
- Daiwa DXSB 8’ Heavy – The DXSB series offer perfect rods for throwing large swimbaits or hefty A-Rigs. I personally own the 8’ Heavy and absolutely love it for launching my rig out there.
- Phenix M1 Inshore Series 7’11 Medium-Heavy (SMX-711MH) – This lightweight rod balances well with most reels. The extra lifting power makes for powerful hooksets and helps you feel in control.
Which Line Should You Use?
Line choice can be a bit confusing for some people, but I choose to keep things simple and logical at the same time. Yes, Alabama Rigs are quite heavy but that doesn’t mean you have to use enormous line to handle them! There have been times where even 17lb fluorocarbon line has been strong enough to toss my A-Rig weighing close to 2 ounces.
A typical rule of thumb is to stick to thicker monofilament line, but if you want to spend the extra few bucks on quality fluorocarbon it may be worth the money especially if the water is super clear. Fluorocarbon is stiffer, meaning it gives better hooksets and is more sensitive. I tend to stay away from braided line since I would have to tie a leader and it just becomes a hassle when I have to re-tie on the water. Here are a few line choices that I’ve found works best for me.
Monofilament Line (20-25lb)
- Berkley Trilene Big Game Ultra Clear
- Yo-Zuri Hybrid
- Maxima Ultragreen
Fluorocarbon Line (20-25lb)
- Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon
- Sunline FC Sniper
- P-Line 100 Fluorocarbon
Setting Up Your Alabama Rig
There are hundreds of different A-Rigs/Umbrella Rigs out there so it’s hard to break down the types completely, so instead I’ll show you which ones have worked for me specifically. I work at a tackle shop so I also have personal knowledge of a few A-Rigs that my customers swear by.
Remember to check your State’s fish and game rules and regulations. A fully-rigged Alabama Rig may be illegal in certain States. Other States limit the amount of hooks you may use on your rig.
- Frenzy Baits The Sniper – This 7-prong rig perfectly resembles a larger bait ball. The two extra baits gives the rig a bigger, tastier profile in the water.
- Yumbrella Flash Mob Jr. – In windy or murky water conditions the blades on the Flash Mob Jr. may give you the extra flash and vibration you need to help striper hone in on your rig.
- Paycheck Baits Donkey Thrasher – This A-Rig pulses enticingly when you pump your rod during a retrieve. The thin-wire design allows the rig to flex with little effort, giving a unique, fish-fleeing action.
Alabama Rig Components
After choosing your rig, it’s time to put it all together. You’ll need a few swimbait lead heads and swimbaits along with screw locks for the “dummy” baits (swimbaits without hooks to follow certain regulations).
- Picasso Smart Mouth Jig Head
- Owner Ultrahead Inshore Head
- 6th Sense Core X Swimbait Jig Heads
- G Money Swimbait Heads
Paddle Tail Swimbaits
- Keitech Easy Shiner 3-5”
- Keitech Swing Impact FAT 3.3-4.8”
- Berkley Powerbait Rib Shad
Screw Lock (if necessary)
- BOSS Screw Lock
- Owner TwistLock Centering-Pin Springs
A-Rig Fishing Tips & Techniques
Now that you have everything together, it’s time to hit the water! Keep these tips and tricks in mind during your trip and you’ll be that much closer to landing some solid stripers.
- When casting, leave a foot or two of line from the rig to your rod tip. This gives you the much-needed leverage to cast smoother and farther.
- Play with retrieve speed. When striper are busting around you, retrieve a bit faster to imitate baitfish fleeing the scene. A slower retrieve means you can get down deeper, and vice versa. If you are fishing shallow water keep your rod tip high and retrieve faster to avoid snags.
- Use smaller “dummy” baits. By making your dummy baits smaller than the ones that have a hook, you can focus the striper’s attention on the bigger baits hanging out the back. This greatly increases your hookup ratio and helps you avoid fish tearing up your dummy baits.
- Blades or no blades? Sometimes striper will prefer the absence of blades on your Alabama Rig and vice versa. In clearer, calmer water a rig without blades will work perfectly fine whereas in stained water a bladed rig provides more flash and vibration.
- Experiment with different swimbaits. Standard soft-bodied paddle tail swimbaits work great, but there is a time and place for hollow-belly swimbaits. A hollow-belly swimbait actually slows the fall rate of your A-Rig, so if your rig is snagging on bottom vegetation or rocks, using hollow-belly baits can help you steer clear of structure.
Now it’s your turn to put in some time on the water with an Alabama Rig. Feel free to share your experiences or personal customizations with the rest of us in the comments below. Good luck and tight lines!