December 21, 2023
Alex Davis calls it a problem solver—a fish-fooling, bite-getting solution for a challenging scenario he often faces during the late fall-winter season.
The Alabama rig, aka castable umbrella rig, has been around for years and while the preferences for sizes and colors has evolved, Davis knows the general appeal remains undeniable.
“People ask me: ‘What kind of fish will eat this rig?’ and I say, ‘Any fish that eats shad,’” he explains. “I’ve caught bass, stripers, wipers, catfish, and drum on the A-rig.”
For our purposes here, he addresses the largemouth and spotted bass he’s used to targeting on Lake Guntersville and other TVA reservoirs. As one year closes and another begins, he needs a way to target fish in a difficult scenario and the A-rig delivers the goods.
“I think it comes into play on TVA lakes this time of year, because a lot of these fish will suspend on the edge of the river channel or the end of a point with a really sharp drop-off,” he said. “In the spring or summer, they sit more on top of things, but this time of year, they sit where it drops off.
“Most of the spots they prefer are 8 to 12 feet on top and then it drops straight to like 35 to 40. It seems like they’ll sit in 15 to 16 feet, right off the drop.”
Similar to a Spec Ops team pushing through dense underbrush to reach a high value target, he said the A-rig is ideal for this scenario because it allows him to reach the strike zone without succumbing to the common hazard vexing many other presentations.
“You can throw this rig out there, let it go to the bottom and then slow roll it over the grass,” he said. “When it clears the river edge in that 10- to 15-foot zone where the fish are suspending on the sides.
“This is the only bait that I know that allows you to target that depth. You can throw a jerkbait, but it’s hard to throw a jerkbait 10-12 feet deep with grass in the equation. If you throw up on top of the drop and work it down, by the time it reaches the ideal depth, it has grass on it.”
Epitomizing efficiency, Davis can retrieve his A-rig over the grass what that lead had and wire arms pushing past entanglements and just ticking across the vegetation. Once he reaches the drop, he’ll use his forward-facing sonar to spot suspended fish and allow his rig to drop to their depth.
“This is the perfect bait for suspended fish.”
The Rig and Tackle
After years of experimentation, Davis said he prefers the YUMBrella Flash Mob Junior, a 5-wire rig with four willow-leaf blades. He fits this rig with 1/8-ounce jigs with beefy hooks and adds 3 1/2-inch Scottsboro swimbaits.
For deeper fish, he will go up to 3/16-ounce heads. And for lakes with big gizzard shad, he bumps up to 5-inch baits.
He fishes his A-rigs on a 7-foot, 8-inch Shimano swimbait rod built with the parabolic action that facilitates a day of long casts with this bulky rig. He pairs that with a 7.4:1 Shimano Curado HG 200 carrying 50-pound braided line.
Some may argue for fluorocarbon’s quieter and visually stealthy properties, but he finds greater benefit with braid. In his view, a fish that’s aggressive enough to attack the A-rig’s big, bold profile won’t be too offended by braid.
“Now, people are transitioning into fluorocarbon, but with braid, I can feel one blade of grass on my line,” he said. “If I feel any grass, I can make one hard reel handle turn and clear it. And if I get hung up, I can bend one hook and get my rig back.”
Davis described his standard presentation: “I’ll cast the rig, let it sink 5 to 6 seconds to get close to the bottom and make a steady retrieve. I’ll watch my forward-facing sonar to look for followers. Every few seconds, I’ll hit the handle one good time and that makes the whole rig pulse.
“You’re reeling it and when you see one following, your pulse it, and that fish unloads its fury on it. It’s the cat and mouse game; that pulse triggers them, and they have to do something to catch it.”
In addition to his deep-water theater, he occasionally fishes his A-rig along riprap. Paralleling the rocks, as he would with other reaction baits presents the irresistible image of a bait cluster.
“Most people get out there and bomb the A-rig around bridges and points, but it can be really effective because it’s a presentation that they haven’t seen (on riprap),” he said. “Most people throw a jerkbait, crankbait a jig on riprap. The fish have seen those a million times, but when something new comes through, they’re like, ‘Let’s bite it.’”
Wherever he throws his A-rig, he said the moment of truth is harsh and immediate. The fish that attack this deal mean business, so subtleties are non-existent. It’s a full throttle assault that’ll wake up the nappers.
<p[>“You’re going to set the hook out of self-defense,” he said of the typically savagery. “Very rarely are you just reeling it and one loads up on it. He yanks, I yank back, and I try to ski him back to the boat as quickly as possible.
“You wouldn’t think they’d come off with this rig, but they will, so don’t play around with hem. I play a no-nonsense game.”