Anyone who has seen an Alabama rig in action knows it's a copy of an old saltwater rig setup called an umbrella rig, mostly used as a dolphin (mahi-mahi) or ocean-run striped-bass enticer or teaser. When retrieved just below the surface, it looks exactly like a school of baitfish.
And gamefish - all kinds of gamefish, including saltwater denizens - can't resist it.
Freshwater 'Bama rigs are scaled-down versions of the saltwater 'brella rig, some with three wire arms twisted around a jighead; some with five wires and some with six or seven wires. They're best thrown with a 7-foot level-wind bait-casting rod.
Washington saltwater guide Richard Andrews (Tar-Pam Guide Service, 252-945-9715) purchased his first three-wire 'Bama rig Tuesday for $12.95 and broke it out at the request of a visiting outdoor writer Wednesday, Dec. 21, when the action was spotty in Blounts Creek on the south side of the Pamlico River a few miles east of Chocowinity.
Following the third cast by Andrews near the creosote support pilings at the Mouth of the Creek bridge, an unknown fish slammed the rig and ripped line of his drag while headed toward open water.
After a fierce fight as the fish strained against his 10-pound-test braid, Andrews landed his first Alabama-rig striper, a 7-pounder.
"That's about as good as it gets in the creek as far as rockfish sizes go (the fish was approximately 30 inches in length)," he said.
Andrews and his partner, who had caught two small spotted seatrout up to that point during 4 hours of hard fishing, boated five striped bass in the 22- to 28-inch range during the next 45 minutes before rain squalls drove them off the water to Cotton Patch Landing & Marina (252-946-8226), about 1 mile north of the bridge.
Andrews caught each of his stripers with the Alabama rig.
"I'm not sure this (Alabama rig) with 3/8-ounce lead-head jigs would be effective for speckled trout, but I plan to get some weighted live-bait hooks and thread 3-inch white Z-Man Minnow-Z paddletail grubs on them," he said. "But they obviously do the job on stripers."
The clerk at Cotton Patch said she'd been trying to acquire 'Bama rigs, but Big Rock Sports in Newport only had ones that included three to five paddletail grubs for $35 and no other outlets had any for sale. Alabama rigs, made in several ways, are being gobbled up by anglers as fast as they hit retail stores.
"I think anglers who are going to use Alabama rigs for stripers need to go up to 15- to 20-pound-test braid," Andrews said. "With rockfish around the bridge pilings in this creek, at the old docks across the (Pamlico) river from Washington and at the old and new U.S. 17 bridges, you're gonna need something that will turn the head of a big one."
Andrews said Alabama rig apps are "going to go viral" in saltwater.
"It would be interesting to see what two 10-pound stripers would do if hooked at the same time," he said.