There's a new trend in bass fishing.
This new lure catches a ton of fish, but the problem is it may be unethical. For the Alabama Rig, success may lead to its demise.
If you've ever trolled the Chesapeake Bay for striped bass, you're likely familiar with the lure that has evolved into the bass-fishing industry's latest hot bait. The umbrella rig has been around for decades. It gets its name because it resembles the metal framework of a typical umbrella. Attach a few soft plastic baits on the arms protruding from the center, add a bait with a hook running down the middle and troll it 40 feet off the transom. It's an effective, time-tested bait.
The Alabama Rig, on the other hand, is a smaller, sleeker version of what we use on the Chesapeake. But there's one variation. And it's a big one. Instead of one hook, there are five. Each arm of the "umbrella" leads to a snap swivel that gets its own bait. You can snap on just about any lure you want. It's not hard to imagine why these rigs are so successful. Not only do they perfectly mimic a small school of bait, but with five hooks zipping through the water, it's nearly impossible for a bass to miss the lure.
The debate over the Alabama Rig came to a boil in late October when Paul Elias crushed the competition at an FLW tournament and landed a check worth $100,000. Over four days he brought 20 bass to the scales weighing a total of 102 pounds. By the end of the tournament, every other angler in the event was tossing the same lure.
After the furious success, the rig gained fame and plenty of notoriety. Earlier this week, the big dogs of the bass tournament industry, the group that runs the Bassmaster Classic, changed its rules to keep the Alabama Rig out of its competitions. Despite the popularity of the $15 baits, the group said, it must hold its anglers to the highest standards. In other words, dragging a school of minnow or shad lookalikes through the water makes fishing too easy.
State rule makers are getting in on the action as well. States such as Minnesota and Tennessee have already taken steps to make sure anglers won't use the Alabama Rig in their waters. And, here in Pennsylvania, if the Alabama Rig has more than three hooks, it's off limits. That's a rule, though, that was around long before this latest tackle fad.
It's true that every year we get a hot new bait. Most years, it's nothing dramatic. Sometimes it's a fresh color scheme or maybe a new technique. But the Alabama Rig is different. It takes things in a new direction, one that we may not want to head.
I'm glad the industry is putting the Alabama Rig through its ethical paces. After all, if a lure takes the sport out of fishing, then what's the point?
I have a feeling this year's hot new lure won't be around next year.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdis patch.com.