The Alabama Rig or castable umbrella rigs came onto the scene as a new rig for bass fishing back in 2011. Since then they have waned some from the firestorm that made them the hottest topic in bass fishing for a couple of years but they are still very productive at catching bass under certain conditions.
So we’ll go through what an Alabama rig is, how to fish it, how to rig it and some of our best tricks on how to be successful with it in your bass fishing.
What is an Alabama Rig
An Alabama Rig is simply a scaled down version of an umbrella rig that has been used for decades in trolling applications. Essentially an umbrella rig is simply a harness that enables you to rig multiple baits on one line. I’ve seen umbrella rigs with 20 baits on them before in trolling applications.
The Alabama Rig name was coined by Andy Poss who was an Alabama bass angler and tournament fisherman who wanted to make a better version of an umbrella rig that was castable on pretty common bait casting equipment for bass fishing. Poss joined 5 bendable wires together at an angle and then encased the connection in a small shad profile head. Giving you basically a fish looking head with 5 wires coming out of the back around 6-7 inches in the length at an angle that you could spread apart to your desire.
From there he would take 5 small roundball jigheads and put either 5 grubs or 5 small swimbaits on there and now he had something that looked like a small pod of baitfish swimming around.
Since then it’s one of those rare lures/rigs in fishing where the name has become synonymous with the category. Like everyone just calls a vibrating swim jig a Chatterbait whether it’s actually a Chatterbait made by Z-Man or not. Or like how people say they were flipping a beaver bait even though it wasn’t really the Sweet Beaver from Reaction Innovations. The brand name has become the category reference for all anglers.
Alabama Rig Fishing
There is not much to fishing an Alabama Rig or castable umbrella rig. It’s basically more about having the right equipment that can handle throwing such a large mass and weight of lures.
Casting an Alabama rig
Basically you want to use a transfer of energy cast so make a big circle with your backcast and then complete the circle in to your cast. This does two things. One it will keep you from breaking a weaker rod and it will keep you from hurting your wrist and shoulder under the torque of the lures being cast.
I will start low as I wind the bait in and start looking for my next cast, I will swing the rod back with the rod tip low to the water and then make a big arcing circle with the tip coming upward and then forward. As I do that, I will use my left hand (non dominant hand) to push the rod butt away from forward while simultaneously pushing my top hand on top of the grip (usually above the reel on a good swimbait rod) towards my target.
This fulcrum action with my two hands on a long grip propels the lure into a lobbing, looping arc of a cast that will give you better distance without hurting your body in the process. And it protects the rod from a snap cast that can load and unload the weight too quickly causing stress cracks in graphite.
Retrieving an Alabama rig retrieve
Once your rig hits the water, you want to start by letting the rig sink to depth. Even with 1/4 ounce or 1/8 ounce jigheads, it sinks pretty fast. So if I want to fish 10 foot deep, I’ll count to like 8 and start reeling. And sometimes if I’m fishing really deep I will let it hit bottom and immediately start reeling when my line goes slack.
I usually start the retrieve with a quick pop of the rod tip to get the rig to straighten out behind the head. When you have wires, swivels and multiple baits falling through the water column, you need to get the rig righted before you start your retrieve.
Keep a steady medium to slow retrieve depending on the weight and depth you want to fish. Obviously if you’re fishing around potential cover, err on the side of faster retrieves to stay above the cover.
One good trick is to stop reeling and pop the rod a time or two during a steady retrieve to cause the rig to flare and the baits to dart for a split second. This often can get a fish that follows an Alabama Rig a long way to finally commit.
Setting the hook
Usually when a fish bites you will feel a jarring strike or a heavy load on the rod. All you really have to do is lean back against the rod as you speed up your retrieve and you will drive a good hook. I don’t set the hook hard and quick like other single lures because I have so many opportunities to hook a fish with this rig. Often a fish will flare on one bait and not get it but if you maintain your retrieve you can usually catch that fish on repeated strikes by letting it load up on one of the baits.
When to Fish the Alabama Rig
The dominant time that most people will throw an Alabama Rig is in the winter. But it really starts getting good in the fall. One reason is because baitfish are small and migrate a lot in the fall and the bass get really keyed in on baitfish movement in the fall. They will run up in the creeks and heard bait and when a creek is slammed full of baitfish, an Alabama Rig is a good way to get their attention in all that bait.
But day in and day out, the Alabama Rig really excels when fish are feeding on baitfish in deep water in the colder months.
You can rig up a couple Alabama rigs. One with heavier heads and smaller bodies for fishing deeper and one with lighter heads and bigger bodies for staying up in the water column.
When the bait congregates like it does in the fall and winter, an Alabama Rig is really the attention getter you need to cover a lot of deep water effectively. The deeper you fish the more water you have to cover and a bigger profile makes doing that a big more efficient.
Alabama Rig Setup and Rigging
Best Alabama Rig Rod and Reel Setup
You need to start by finding a rod that is rated for 1-3 ounces and has a bit more length. A longer handle is beneficial as well. I personally like an 8 foot Heavy or Extra Heavy Power rod with a fast to moderately fast action.
If the action is too light you will wear yourself out trying to cast a heavier rig all day. If the power is too weak you will put more torque on your wrist and shoulder as you cast and run the risk of repetitive use injuries in fishing.
So I will opt for a swimbait rod rated for at least 2 ounce with a longer handle to give me the ability to fulcrum and use the transfer of energy to easily lob an Alabama Rig all day.
For a reel I want a 200 or bigger sized reel spooled with 65-pound braid most of the time. I will on occasion drop down to 20-pound fluorocarbon in ultra clear water.
How to Rig an Alabama Rig
Usually you need to pick 5 jigheads and 5 swimbaits and then think about how deep you plan to fish. For the most part. The heavier your heads and smaller your swimbaits or grubs, the deeper the bait fishes and you can use a faster retrieve. The lighter your heads and bigger your swimbaits, the slower you can fish it and the shallower you can fish it.
So grab your 5 jigheads and put your swimbaits or grubs on them. This is generally not a weedless rig. I have experimented with weedless swimbait hooks and fishing around grass, and you miss a lot of fish with this type setup. So I usually opt for open hooks with the swimbait just threaded on the shank of the hook. I like the ball heads that have a screw lock keeper because fish have a tendency to nip at swimbaits.
You won’t always hook them because they bite the back half of the swimbait and don’t get the hook. But you will end up have to re-rig a lot of swimbaits if your keeper doesn’t hold the bait up. So a screw lock keeps the swimbait up on short striking fish.
Once you have your swimbaits rigged on the jigheads, attach each jighead to a clip on the end of the wires on the umbrellas rig. Spread the wires open a little so the swimbaits have room to swim free of each other.
The rigs collapse some on the back cast, so keep that in mind, if you have it closed too much they will get snagged on each other a lot on the cast.
Best line for Alabama Rigs
While I most often opt for braided fishing line with Alabama rigs, at times fluorocarbon is a good option too. But for me if the fish doesn’t shy away from a big wire harness, why would it shy away from braided fishing line. And with braid I can often pull and bend out a hook to get my rig back if it happens to get hung on a stump or other cover.
Usually I will go with a little larger diameter braided line like 65 pound braid. Because the rig usually weighs more than an ounce, if it binds in your spool on the cast, you run the risk of snapping the line or your rod even if the line catches with smaller diameter lines. Usually the 65 pound braid on a 200 or 300 size bait caster performs very well with these heavier multi-bait rigs.
There are some clear material rigs hitting the market and guys using fluorocarbon in ultra clear water and when they fish slower in clear water. If the fish are highly pressured and rig shy on your waters, a clear rig and fluorocarbon might get you more bites.
Alabama Rig Options
You can experiment a lot with Alabama Rigs. I’ve had success with big swimbaits, small swimbaits, and even grubs. I’ve had success with the swimbaits all being the same size and color and I’ve seen times where having one or two be a different size and/or color can really make a difference too.
Smallmouth guys like Mark Zona swear by having one odd bait on their Alabama Rigs to really trigger big angry smallmouths.
You can experiment with different umbrella rigs too. There are tons of good Alabama Rigs on the market now. Some hold more than 5 swimbaits and some hold less. Some have spinner blades on them for added attraction in deep or darker water. And some are made out of different materials.
Regulations around use of Alabama Rigs vary
You can add teaser baits without hooks in states that limit the number of hooks you can have on a single rig. Speaking of which, some states won’t allow you to fish with Alabama rigs with 5 hooks or more. Some states allow for only one hook. Some will allow 3 hooks. So check with your local state DNR agencies to make sure you are using Alabama rigs that are in compliance with your local fishery guidelines.
Best Alabama Rig Lures and Gear
Tackle Warehouse has more than 75 options on Alabama Rigs and hundreds of different swimbaits to choose from. Not to mention all the accessories, rods, reels and line you’ll need to fish umbrella rigs. So it’s a little daunting when you’re trying to figure out the best options.
We’ll make some common and approved recommendations here to help get you started with some great options from retailers like Omnia Fishing, Tackle Warehouse, and more.
BEST BUDGET ALABAMA RIG
YUM Flash Mob Jr.
While this is probably the oldest castable umbrella rig next to the Mann’s Alabama Rig that Poss designed, it’s also one of the most popular due to its affordability and its performance. The Tennessee state record was caught and released the year after the Alabama Rig news broke on this rig and it’s still very effective a decade later. It’s a compact profile, the arms are moldable and the components are decent with the added flash of willow blades. At $11, you can afford to have a few in your tackle bag. Click here to read our full review on this YUM Flash Mob Jr.
BEST MULTI-TIER ALABAMA RIG
HogFarmer Baits Harvester Flex Rig
The HogFarmer Baits Alabama Rigs have a very storied history as well. Rogne Brown put the world on notice that Chickamauga was the bass fishing place to be when he started posting 40-pound limits in tournaments on the Hog Farmer Alabama Rigs. The Harvester Flex Rig builds on the original Harvester Rig and adds more flash and swimbait attachment points with a multi-tiered rig. You have two heads, 7 blades and can rig 7 swimbaits on it for a massive bait ball presentation. Find it for $38.99 on TackleWarehouse.com. Buy this rig here.
BEST MULTI-TEASER 3-BAIT ALABAMA RIG
Bailey Rigs Bailey Special Umbrella Rig
The Bailey Special is another unique Alabama Rig that features a ton of screw lock access points to add teaser swimbaits or grubs with just three baits with jigheads and hooks to meet the three-hook requirement in several states. With this rig you have five wires that can hold 8 teaser swimbaits or grubs, 3 hooked baits and 4 blades. It’s another big profile that has less hooks for a more snag proof presentation as well. Buy this rig here.
BEST DURABILITY ALABAMA RIG
Geecrack Stealth 7-Bladed Umbrella Rig
A bit of a new comer in the castable umbrella rigs, the Geecrack Stealth 7 Bladed rig offers maximum attraction in a more durable design thanks to a welded wire design in an open state that drastically reduces metal fatigue. The rig keeps its form and lasts season after season. The welded design seems to make for a better hooking percentage with its black nickel wires and denser school formation. The center wire is 10 inches and the outer wires are 4 inches. Buy this rig at here.
BEST SELLER SWIMBAIT FOR ALABAMA RIG
Keitech Swing Impact FAT
One of the leading brands and sellers in all swimbaits, the Keitech is proven as a single swimbait on a single ball head. It’s equally deadly, however, on an Alabama Rig. And because they are offered in such a wide range of sizes and colors, you can match your baitfish perfectly to the water, clarity and depth you are fishing. With one of the truest swims available in a small swimbait, this is a solid choice for your Alabama Rig. Read our full review of Keitech Swing Impact FAT Swimbaits.
BEST UMBRELLA RIG ROD
Cashion Core Series Umbrella Rig Rod
There are some good rods on the market that will work well for Umbrella Rig casting and Alabama Rig fishing, but the Core Series Umbrella Rig rod is our current favorite. It’s a great design, throws an A-rig up to 2 ounces with ease, and is easily managed at 7-foot, 10 inches with a mod-fast action and heavy power. Buy this Cashion rod here.