Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Odd-looking gear attracting schools of Ohio anglers

An old salt-water fishing system is attracting the interest of fresh-water bass anglers as a new way to catch largemouths.

However, the system - called the umbrella or else Alabama - method is likewise hooking the attention of professional bass-fishing tournament organizers.

What started out as a system used by salt-water anglers to catch striped bass and bluefish has evolved into usage by their fresh-water bass-fishing counterparts.

It’s not a simple rig to either load a rod and reel with nor is it inexpensive.

But it works. And works so well that the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society has forbade its use in several of the organization’s tournament series.

Locally, at least one Ohio’s home-grown bass-fishing tournament circuit is prepared to allow the use of the Alabama rig. And that pleases area professional bass angler Richie Glavic to no end.

In a nutshell the Alabama rig is an octopus of a wire harness to which is attached about five steel wire leaders. On each leader is a snap swivel which is used to hold a hooked plastic “swimbait” that mimics a baitfish.

Obviously when you splice together a whole clump of these swimbaits what you present is a representation of a school of baitfish that no self-respecting largemouth - or two or three - can pass up.

The wire gizmo itself can cost from $20 to $40 while a package of just-so-properly paired swimbaits will set an angler back by around another $20.

And then there is the equipment needed to heave the whole shebang out to the awaiting largemouths. In Glavic’s case that includes spooling up with at least 50-pound test line (some anglers are using 80-pound test line), a heavy-duty casting rod of around 7 1/2 feet along with a beefy casting reel capable of handling all of the stresses that flinging such a monstrous enterprise entails.

Mercy, though, the system works. Last fall long-time professional bass-fishing angler Paul Elias used the rig to snatch an important FLW tournament trail victory with a whopping catch of 102 pounds of bass.

After that affair the contraption quickly snagged the attention of bass anglers everywhere, from the weekend warriors to those whose income is fueled by winning fishing tournaments.

Which has translated into income from fishing tackle firms who soon jumped on board by building their own versions.

Point is, however, the rig is not even legal in every state. For Ohio anglers the rig is not a law-breaking item but with a caveat. That limitation says anglers cannot, by law, fish with more than three hooks on any one line.

Consequently, only three of the five or so leader/swimbait combinations can contain hooks. The remaining two or three harnesses must either be shooting blanks with nothing attached to them or else fitted with swimbaits that have no hooks or else with spinners.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife believes that so great has the popularity of the rig become that the agency even has developed a web story on the subject that spells out the legal and illegal assemblies. It can be found at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Default.aspx?tabid=23932.

As for Glavic’s take on the subject, he’s all for it.

“No one really has had much of an opportunity to use it in Ohio because it’s so new and came out last fall,”
Glavic said. “I do know that it is selling off the shelves, though.”

Glavic says he intends to use the rig both as a recreational angler as well as a tournament pro.

Where the rig will most likely induce bass to strike, Glavic says also, is on larger lakes and reservoirs where largemouth bass tend to school and seek large pods of baitfish.

That situation applies to such area fishing holes as the Portage Lakes in Akron and Mosquito Creek Reservoir in Trumbull County, Glavic says.

“It is a lot of work to use,” Glavic said. “For one thing you have to use about two ounces of weight along with the weight of the rig and lures. It’s definitely a different type of rig and a different type of technique, that’s for sure.”

All of which may be bringing chuckles and smiles to those salt-water anglers who have successfully employed even larger, more grotesque-looking, “Alabama” rigs for years to catch super-sized striped bass and bluefish.

Then again, there are ultimately few kept secrets in fishing, regardless of what lies anglers are inclined to tell.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
JFrischkorn@News-Herald.com
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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