Freshwater: Alabama “A-Rig” For Local Bass - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Alabama “A-Rig” For Local Bass

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Pennsylvania-based tournament bass pro Nick Canestra shows off the A-Rig and a solid freshwater bass.

Roll tide roll, and get the net!

Maybe new to some anglers, “A-Rigs” or “Alabama Rigs” can best be described as a smaller sweet-water cousin to the salty “Umbrella Rig.”  While A-Rigs can be trolled, it is also designed to be castable for use in lakes and rivers.

The A-Rig usually consists of a weighted head and several metal arms protruding from the back on an angle. A snap swivel normally terminates at the end of each arm where you connect different types of lures for your presentation. Some rigs even have a longer steel leader in the center to so you can attach an additional lure as a trailer to attract those wary fish.

To get an idea on some best practices, I again reached out to a tournament pro I know, Nick Canestra, to get advice on how he prefers to fish the A-Rig in our region. Nick has been very successful landing huge smallmouth and largemouth with this tactic and was willing to offer up some of his advice.  First, he said he prefers to use paddletail swimsuits like the “Keitech” or similar. He generally prefers baits in the 3-inch range, keeping it on the smaller side. Depending on the bite, he may go up to 3-1/2 inches or down slightly once he patterns what the fish prefer on a given day.

Swimbaits are rigged on a 1/8-ounce jighead, again keeping it light. With four or five of these attached to your rig, the weight will add up quickly. Keep in mind, the A-Rig itself may have a 3/8-ounce head (or more) on it already.   Some A-Rigs also come pre-rigged with willow leaf spinners attached to the middle of each arm, really giving the effect of a large school of bait to your presentation. Nick cautioned that some days fish prefer just the swimsuits without all that flash, others it can be a home run. Be flexible and be willing to change up if one presentation is not producing.

Lure colors can be key as well. Since we are intending to mimic a school of bait, Nick prefers natural shad patterns for the soft plastics. Making the presentation look “like it belongs there” will surely draw that reaction bite.  Gear selection is equally important as you will need a more robust setup to toss this bait. Nick prefers a 7-foot, medium/heavy baitcasting setup. Remember this will have weight and create some drag in the water during the retrieve, so the right gear is important.

While many anglers often use heavy braid, Nick prefers 20-pound fluorocarbon.  It’s not necessarily that any fish would be line shy going after an A-Rig, but this is what he usually fills his spool explaining how he feels fluoro has a bit more sensitivity than mono, and is also a bit more forgiving than braid.

Fishing the A-Rig can be a bit challenging. With all those hooks you certainly want to avoid tossing it in deep weed cover or a patch of lilly pads. However, presenting the lure on edges of weed lines where those big ones lurk can be productive. The lure is best used when keeping close contact or very near the bottom during your retrieve. You want to feel the bait tick the bottom, stump, or rock from time to time.

The bait does not need to be fished real deep, in fact Nick uses this presentation almost exclusively in about 10 feet of water. Experience has taught him that fish up in that shallow water column are the ones most active and feeding. So they will be willing to chase a large presentation like the A-Rig.

Preferred times of day are often in the morning and evenings since that is when fish tend to move up shallow to feed. During mid-day, they could slide into deeper and cooler waters. It’s also a preferred bait for the spring and fall.

While A-Rigs may look to take a bit of effort to use, they can be a very effective method to get into trophy smallmouth, largemouth, striped bass, and other gamefish. Rather than present one target to a fish, the A-Rig offers a whole school of baitfish to chase down over just a single morsel.

You can find A-Rigs almost everywhere. They can be had for a very reasonable cost, many around $5. Add a few jigheads and some soft plastics and you are well on your way. Don’t be shy with the lure, if you aren’t bumping brush, stumps, or rocks, you aren’t fishing close enough to cover.

Next time give the A-Rig a try, it will be a very useful tool in the arsenal!

Go get on ‘em!

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