My how time flies when you get old! It seems like yesterday when many of us were putting our boats on the trailer for the last time in 2011 at the Skeeter XFL Championship on Grand back in October. I, for one, drove home after that tournament, put the boat in the garage, left my tackle in total disarray and went to the deer woods and duck blind to enjoy my other outdoor addictions. November and December yielded a successful deer season and several limits of ducks and a few bonus geese. Then I started hearing of all these outlandish 5 fish stringers being caught at Grand and Tenkiller. Not being much of a winter bass fisherman I wondered what these guys were doing to catch such impressive limits. As is so often the case the secret got out and the answer was the Alabama Rig. Like any other inquisitive angler I used the power of the internet and did my research. I took one look at this contraption said “You’ve got to be kidding me”. This thing looked like a chandelier. But, the reports kept coming in on how effective the A Rig was. So, I succumbed to the temptation and paid the exorbitant price of $25 for the rig plus another $30 in baits just to hang off the silly thing. Armed with something that looked better suited to trolling for tuna I went to Grand on a nice Sunday afternoon to try it. I took one look at the A Rig in the water and instantly realized why it is so effective. Never before have I seen anything that mimics a school of baitfish like this. My trip that day was pretty uneventful but I did manage to catch 5 fish on it but nothing over 3 lbs. Another thing I noticed is there is no guesswork involved when trying to determine what the guys in another boat are using. Several times I noticed guys taking a “crow hop” (those of you that ever played baseball will know what a crow hop is) just to heave this monstrosity. Plus when it hits the water it has all the subtlety of a cinderblock being thrown into the water. It is the antithesis of finese fishing. The next day I awoke with a sore back, couldn’t lift my casting arm above shoulder level and felt I needed rotator cuff surgery. Despite all that the A rig catches fish. But, in order to fish it effectively I needed the tackle to handle it. I now am the proud owner of something better suited for muskie fishing than for largemouth bass. If thats what it takes to fish the A Rig, then so be it. Hopefully, the investment will pay off come tournament time. Judging from the extreme demand for swimbaits at the recent tackle shows I would say many other anglers are betting on the A Rig to produce winning stringers for them as well. Proof of this was at last week’s MidSouth Hunting and Tackle Show. In just 3.5 days I witnessed over 5,000 ten count bags of the Gene Larew Sweet Swimmers sold at the Gibson Tackle booth. I spoke with the other tackle vendors at this show and they all practically sold out their entire stock of similar swimbaits. All of them reported they were purchased by anglers for use on the A Rig. I’ve been working tackle shows for many years and have never witnessed such a feeding frenzy.
That brings up the next hot topic: Should the A Rig be banned. Let me start off by saying that what you are about to read is my own opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the XFL League, it’s sponsors or directors. I do not think it should be banned because it is not an illegal means of catching bass in Oklahoma. The decision to ban the A Rig on a particular lake or statewide basis is best left up to the professionals in the Oklahoma Wildlife Department. Furthermore, any kind of restrictive measures will only open the door for the anti-fishing groups to get in our business. During the recent boat and tackle shows I spoke with many fishermen. The arguments against the A Rig ranged from “it will take all the skill out of catching a big stringer” to “there will be over 100 20 lb stringers weighed in every tournament at Grand”. My take on that is one still has to find the fish and make them bite. As for Grand, it is such a great fishery it has the potential to produce those kinds of stringers anyway. I even overheard one guy say he will not fish any circuit that allowed the A Rig to be used. If thats how a person feels, then I respect their decision. If a particular tournament circuit decides to ban the use of the A Rig in their tournaments, that is their decision and I respect that as well. However, despite all the negative comments I heard just as many, if not more, positive comments. Lots of folks were very excited to get out and try it. Most of the people I spoke with were not tournament anglers and were just looking for another way to perhaps catch a fish of a lifetime or just catch more bass. If the A Rig does that for them or their child, then all the better. Even the crappie fishermen were getting into the act with versions designed for crappie. So, instead of taking a knee-jerk reaction to the A Rig, lets all be open minded about it and see what the year brings. If something develops that warrants a change, then it should be carefully studied and an informed decision made. My prediction (I could be wrong and; if so, I will be the first to admit it) is that the A Rig will play a role in the March and June tournaments and a lesser role in the others provided the water conditions remain conducive to this presentation method. It’s a proven clear water presentation but has yet to be tested in muddy or high water levels. Time will tell.
I look forward to bringing you the Captain’s Chronicles this year and wish you all a successful tournament season.
Until next time,