Associated Press, Published February 23 2012
New technique has become bass fishing craze
Fishermen are snapping up the Alabama Rig and similar devices, apparently catching fish aplenty. Tackle companies are raking in enough sales that at least one was able to add to its workforce in Arkansas.
The Alabama Rig, invented by Muscle Shoals fisherman Andy Poss, has a harness with five wires leading to baits, mimicking a small school of baitfish that bass evidently see as tempting prey. A few dozen companies have created their own version.
One fish at a time is so 2011.
“It's the biggest thing to come along in fishing since probably the rod and reel,” said Jack Tibbs, owner of Strikezone Lure based out of Eufaula, Ala. “Every magazine you pick up, every Internet site, they're talking about it or writing about it or demonstrating it.”
Poss, a union Pipefitter, came up with the idea while watching “Blue Planet” on the Discovery Channel in his hotel room on a business trip.
He essentially created a smaller version of the umbrella rigs used in saltwater after seeing tuna gobbling up small schools of sardines on the episode, calling to mind similar observations on his home lakes.
“If I'd have known it would be as good as it was,” Poss said, “I would have hired me about 20 people and made about a million of these things.”
It's still much closer to the big one than the one that got away.
The new umbrella rigs are effective enough that the world's top pros have banned them from the Elite Series tournaments.
That's why they aren't allowed at this weekend's Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La., bass fishing's equivalent of the Super Bowl. Some states also don't allow lines with more than two or three lures on their waterways.
“The Elites are kind of a different animal,” said Trip Weldon, Bassmaster's tournament director. “You don't see Major League Baseball players using aluminum bats.”
In states like Alabama and Arkansas, though, fishermen have taken the bait — and so have the fish.
Tibbs and Dave Precht , senior director of B.A.S.S. publications and communications, both said there are 30-plus companies making versions of the Alabama Rig, which is produced by Mann's Bait Company in Eufaula.
Poss spent some 18 months tinkering with the device. He used it himself for a year and won “about every tournament we fished with it.” Then he and his father started making them by hand at home last July before the enterprise fizzled out a couple of months later.
Then, Poss showed the rig to angler Paul Elias, who used it in an FLW tournament on Lake Guntersville in northeast Alabama in October, and won by 17 pounds with a four-day haul totaling more than 102 pounds.
The devices simulate a school of shad, which bass feed on in the fall.
“It's very effective on a fall pattern,” Elias said. "Nobody really knows how effective it's going to be on everything else. We haven't had much of a winter, so it's really been exceptional while the fish have stayed on fall pattern.
“It's an amazing bait, and it's amazing how the fish react to it.”
Doug Richardson of Guntersville watched Elias’ tournament run, and was hooked. He and friends build their own makeshift versions of the $25 Alabama Rig, and he said he caught three two-pounders at one time using one of them.
“It'll catch fish,” Richardson said. “Guaranteed, it'll catch fish.”
In Fort Smith, Ark., Yum Bait Company was able to rehire nine workers laid off for the winter season in September and has hired 57 people since Christmas, general manager Bruce Stanton said. They've got two shifts running 20 hours a day, six days a week, he said.
It's a boon in a town where some 1,000 Whirlpool employees are losing their jobs when the refrigerator plant is expected to shut down by late June, hitting local suppliers hard, too.
“It's good to see the parking lot filling up, parking being a problem again,” Stanton said. “It's making a sale, but it's fun going out seeing people working and looking them in the eye and they're happy they've got a job.”
Weldon,said the devices capitalize on the predatory instincts of bass, who hone in on smaller groups of shad.
“If a pack of wolves came up on a herd of sheep and a straggler got separated, or two or three, they're gonna concentrate on those two or three,” the Bassmaster tournament director said.
Elias said he doesn't understand some of the negative sentiment toward the new presentations among pro anglers. The anglers’ rules committee asked Bassmaster to ban the umbrella rigs.
“I think it's a new technique that's allowed people to catch a lot of fish and have a lot of fun and it's pumped a lot of money in the fishing industry, millions and millions at a time,” Elias said. “It's really been a plus to the fishing industry. I really think the pros so far outweigh the negatives that I think there's been an overreaction.”
For the amateurs it has been no contest — the new technique is a hit.
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