Not so the umbrella or Alabama rig. OK, maybe it isn’t the hottest bait on the market, but it still has its faithful and they are still buying.
Looking like the biggest gimmick since the introduction of the Banjo Minnow, the umbrella rig took wings in October 2011 when pro fisherman Paul Elias first fished it in an FLW tournament on Lake Guntersville, Ala. Elias won the tournament going away, leading all four days and finishing with 102 pounds, 8 ounces. He bested the second-place finisher by 17 pounds.
Elias credits creation of the rig to an Alabama businessman who came up with the idea while watching a nature show in his motel room. Supposedly the man, an avid fisherman, was watching tuna attacking schools of sardines and realized they targeted the smaller schools of four or five.
He transferred the idea to bass fishing and shad being the bait, and the rest is fishing tackle history.
After Elias’ win the rig had instant fame and immediately made enemies. In the tournament world FLW has said it is legal. BASS says it is not, and limits fishermen to one line/one lure.
When it comes to everyday fishing, it appears the rig is legal in less than 15 states, with Texas being one.
Some of the state bans don’t specifically address the rig, but it falls under already existing rules that limits the number of hooks an individual can have in the water at one time.
The lure isn’t a concern in Oklahoma where a state record 14-pound, 13.7-ounce state record bass was caught last week at Cedar Lake on an Alabama rig.
In Texas, the only place a fisherman can run afoul of the rules may be on waters designated as community lakes. On other reservoirs fishermen can use devices with as many as 50 hooks at once. This rule really addresses catfish fishing, but there are no limits for other types of fishing, so 50 hooks it is.
The push to outlaw the rig was swift. Officials with Professional Anglers Association approached Texas Parks and Wildlife Department about its opinion in 2012, and were told state biologists didn’t see it as an issue.
Dave Terre, TPWD’s Management and Research Chief, offered the department’s view and an email response to PAA which said the state has no information to suggest the rig causes additional bass mortality from hooking.
Terre said baits like a Carolina rig actually posed a bigger threat to hooking mortality than the Alabama rig because they are ingested deeper. He added that according to department studies, Carolina rigs even seem to cause higher mortality in bass than live bait. And to date there has been no movement to ban Carolina rigs.
The biggest concern among tournament fisherman is that a fisherman might catch more fish with an umbrella rig than a single hook. That isn’t a concern to biologists because with bag and length limits, the number of fish caught and kept is still limited.
Of greater concern to biologists is tournament bass mortality. Studies have shown that bass caught and eventually carried to a weigh-in are more susceptible to dying than those caught and immediately released. Studies also show the hotter the day the higher the delayed mortality of the fish caught and weighed.
Terre said any debate over Alabama rigs seems to be more of a social issue than biological issue, and that if a tournament wanted to restrict its use they could, but that the state has no plans to do so.
Probably the best line about the rig comes from an FLW official who asked how many other rigs have been presented as the next great thing, only to be forgotten when the next, next great thing showed up.
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