Unless you've been living under a rock these past 10 days, you've no doubt heard about "The Alabama Rig", a.k.a. TAR. Two weekends ago a BFL Regional was won on it, and last weekend Paul Elias crushed the Guntersville field using it. At one point on the final day, it was said that all 10 pros in the field had it tied on and used it for at least part of the time.
This weekend, guys in the EverStart Championship out of Paris Landing, Kentucky have been throwing it, and about half of the top-5 guys at the midway point had used it for part of their catches. Word today was that the co-angler winner of that event used it also. That's no surprise considering that guys were lined up like a bunch of teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert to get their hands on a couple in time for the event's starting day.
The big questions as far as we're concerned here in Indiana are A.) how effective will the bait be in the state, and B.) just what setup will we be allowed to use with the bait?
Obviously we don't exactly know the answer yet to the first question, and we might not truly find out until next year. Water temps on many of our central and northern waters have dropped into the mid-50's, and the rigs effectiveness at those temps and lower might be limited. There's also the question on whether it will work well as a single fish bait, or if it's most effective around suspended and/or schooling fish. If the latter turns out to be the case, there might not be a lot of opportunities for the bait to shine on local waters. Additionally, many of our waters are stump and brushpile filled, and a rig with multiple hooks might hang up enough that it becomes a poor choice from a cost efficiency standpoint.
On the second question, I think we might already have our answer in the precedent that has been set with striper umbrella rigs in the state as well as the wording of Indiana law.
“One question that keeps coming up is can I fish with The Alabama Rig in my state; the answer is each angler will have to find out what their federal, state, and local regulations are for that body of water and follow the law,” Poss said.
- Quote from the Alabama rig inventor in today's press statement from the company
Here's Indiana law:
"Anglers may fish with up to three poles or hand lines at one time. Each line is limited to no more than two single or multi-barbed hooks, two artificial baits or two live bait harnesses."
So as I interpret it, you are perfectly fine to buy it and use it with all the arms "as is". What you have to do though is put hookless "teasers" on at least 3 of those arms. For example, you could attach spinnerbait blades with ball bearing swivels to 4 of them, and a hooked bait on one. Another option is to put just smaller swimbait bodies on several of the arms attached to the swivels with something like a hitchhiker attachment, then trail with one normal hooked/rigged swimbait. Makes for a lot lighter outfit overall, too. The fact that this is just a smaller "castable" version of the umbrella rig doesn't change it's structure/function, and therefore if you put more than 2 hooked lures on the outfit, you are breaking the law, just like crappie anglers can't put more than 2 jigs or hooks on their spider rigs. I'm thinking this is how things will get interpreted out on the water if you should get stopped or checked by a CO. Hoping to get a statement from IDNR or law enforcement at some point though to verify this. I have reviewed several striper forums and that is the alterations they have to make to be able to run their rigs legally in the state, so I don't see how this will be any different.
I got a phone call today from RedShad.com owner Rod Yoder as he was making his way back home from the EverStart Championship, and we ended up meeting out at a local lake around noon. Rod has his Alabama Rig still hooked up and ready to go, so we launched the boat and fought what turned out to be terrible winds for about 3 hours so I could see what all the fuss was about. I can tell you a couple things based on this first experience out on the water with it. First, it isn't a magic bait, as we failed to land a single fish on the setup today, though he thought he had a couple good whacks on it. That said, we didn't get bit on anything else we threw, so it might have been conditions and a crappy bite that were our demise.
Next, it does look great in the water. You can see from the pic below how Rod has his rigged using 3/8-oz. Lil' Pek jigheads with cutoff hooks on 3 of the arms, a 4th Lil' Pek with the hook still in it, and all rigged with smaller swimbaits, then a 5th larger swimbait with a hook that ran the middle wire. You ended up with 3 attractor baits and 2 possible hookup baits using this setup. He threw the outfit on a 7'4" long handled rod, which I thought was a med-heavy action, and used what I believe was 20# line (non-braid; mono or copoly). Other pro's are using similar, while some have gone to 65# braid and a longer 7'11" rods of a heavy or extra-heavy action. A lot will depend on exactly how you rig your setup, especially what weights you use for jigheads and how snag infested your waters might be.
We were marking loads of fish suspended off the drops out in 10'-17' of water, and it appeared to be a mix of all kinds of fish including gamefish and baitfish. At one point I dropped a jigging spoon down around these groups to see if I could get something to bite, and ended up snagging a nice gizzard shad in the process, so we definitely had healthy populations of baitfish in the area. As I mentioned above, it could be something that doesn't work well in the colder water we're now seeing in the area, or it could have been the post-frontal conditions that hurt. Another big factor to consider with this rig will be water clarity. There is no way a fish can miss this outfit moving through the water if you get it half way close to his face, but it might be something that works a lot better in clearer water where the flash of a bunch of swimbaits or the like can attract the attention of the fish. Many of our waters are still stained from turnover, and this wind isn't helping clarity on certain parts of the lake.
I got one of these rigs off Rod today, so I'm still hoping to get out to a different lake with some better clarity and take a crack at getting my first bass on the rig. I also think it might do a number on schools of white bass if rigged with smaller swimbaits or lure. Regardless, I'll definitely play around with it as I get the chance, and will report what I figure out if weather and water conditions don't go too far south too quickly.
NOTE: Be sure to see the most recent update to using this rig in Indiana HERE