Unlock the Alabama rig for winter bass

Love it or hate it, there’s little doubt that the Alabama rig has added a new dimension to bass fishing, and especially during cold weather when fish really key on schools of bait.

But which version should you use, and how should you fish it when the mercury drops?

Carson Orellana, a college bass-fishing whiz from Mooresville, N.C., calls home a lake where the A-rig has a big following, Lake Norman. He’s seen how the use of the jangling assemblage of wires and blades, jigheads and swimbaits has changed over the few years it’s been a staple for anglers.

“It can vary from day to day how they like an Alabama rig, but I like to fish it slowly, just drag it across the bottom,” said Orellana, who uses a True South Elite 8 model with five wires with hooks and eight spinning, willow-leaf blades. “I know when it first came out, it was really popular to pop it off the bottom — make it look like a school of bait exploding off the bottom through the water. But when it first came out, it didn’t seem like it mattered how you threw it. Now, it’s like the fish have figured it out.”

Orellana said that Alabama rigs really come into their own when winter arrives and water temperatures plummet. A jerkbait may perform just as well early in winter, but an A-rig will take over as winter progresses.

“I like to cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and just drag it back, wind it real slow,” said Orellana, who threads on 2.8- and 3.8-inch Ki-Tech swimsuits to the five hooks on his A-rig and fishes it on a 7-foot-6, heavy action Duckett Terex baitcasting rod with 20-pound Seguar ABRAZX fluorocarbon or 50-pound Smackdown braid.

Orellana wants his A-rig to have as many blades and hooks as possible — or as allowed by tournament organizations.

“I’ve seen them with as many as nine wires (and hooks) and eight or nine blades,” he said. “Everybody wants more blades. Certain tournament organizations don’t allow you to fish more than ‘X’ number of hooks, and you can use dummies (swimbaits without hooks). A lot of the time, they’re going to hit the bait that’s on the wire that’s farthest back, but it can vary.

“I’ve seen guys throw baits with only one or two hooks, and they say they’ll feel fish hit a couple of the dummies before they hit the one with the hook.”

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