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About the only thing hotter than the March weather here on Kentucky Lake and elsewhere across the state has been the saga of the newfangled Alabama/umbrella style bass rig that has taken the sport by storm.

    The multi-hook presentation continues to dominate the conversation among the ranks of both weekend anglers and tournament fishermen. Last week several area bass anglers voiced their opinions on the attributes and downfalls of the controversial rig.

    While the jury is still out on just how detrimental the rig might be regarding foul hooking and increased mortality on catch and released fish, scores of anglers are embracing the use of the fish catching presentation and hoping clarification of the regulation continues to evolve.

    Some organizations such as Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society have outlawed the use of the rig in its Elite Series tournaments. Other regional organizations have restricted the use to just three hooks on events held on Kentucky Lake, although the state of Kentucky allows five hooks.

    Here are comments from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s chief of fisheries Bobby Wilson, Henry County Wildlife Officer Clay Riley, Fishers of Men Tournament Director Billy Cooper, and local bass anglers Roger Buffington and Shane Barker.


  TWRA Fisheries Chief Bobby Wilson:

    “We average about 5 calls or e-mails a day on this subject.  There still seems to be some confusion but we are also getting the feeling that anglers in Tennessee are starting to catch on to understanding the regulation.  In trying to keep it as simple as possible, for bass anglers, a rig can only have three lures with hooks.  If it is an Alabama Rig with 5 arms, only three can have lures with hooks and the other two arms can’t have anything on them at all.  If the rig has more than three lures on them (with or without hooks) then it follows the umbrella rig regulation with only one lure allowed to have a hook and it must be a single hook (#6 size or larger).  Of course if the rig has lures with hook sizes smaller than #6 then all the lures can have hooks.     As for the reciprocal zone on Kentucky Lake, our agreement is pretty simple: “Sport anglers shall abide by the regulations of the state in which they are fishing”.   In the reciprocal zone an angler will be allowed to have the Alabama Rig on board the boat but they can only use it in while in Kentucky waters. 

    As for what lies ahead, your guess is as good as mine.  At this point we are collecting information.  Our creel clerks are asking bass and striped bass anglers a series of questions related to the Alabama Rig and the umbrella rig.  They will be asking these questions through mid-April and we will look at the responses to help guide us in our decision making process on the umbrella rig regulation-whether to keep it as it is or amend it in some fashion.

    We are also working on putting something on our web site    about the Alabama Rig and umbrella rig.  It will probably end up being a series of photos with various combinations of what we consider to be legal or not legal rigs. 

    As far as my opinion on the rigs, I am keeping an open mind about them.  I know that we developed the regulation in response to concerns about excessive mortalities in striped bass from anglers using the umbrella rig so we have to be aware of these same concerns when considering any changes.

     I have spoken with fisheries folks from states where the Alabama Rig is allowed to see if they have any concerns about things like excessive mortalities, foul hooking, effects on the bigger bass populations, and any other issues.  To date none have expressed any concerns but we are going to keep on watching and talking with the other states in case something arises.  Crappie fishermen have been able to use the umbrella rigs pretty much unrestricted so I don’t think we will make any changes that will affect them.

    Our fisheries biologists will meet in May to discuss the umbrella rig along with any other possible changes to the fishing regulations so I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens after that point.


Henry County Wildlife Officer Clay Riley:


     “On page 41 of the TWRA Fishing Guide there is a definition of an Umbrella Rig with restrictions (Alabama Rig).  To be classified as an Umbrella Rig the pole must have more than three (3) artifical lures or baits.  Those lures or baits must have a #6 hook or larger.  (Note there is a picture of the actual size of a #6 hook).  So an array of lures with hooks smaller than #6 would not be considered an Umbrella Rig and would be legal.

    Some fishermen have asked if they can remove the hooks from 2 of the lures of an Alabame Rig and make it legal to use. WRONG.  The definition says lures either with or without hooks defines an Umbrella Rig.  If the fisherman chooses to use 4 or more lures with hooks #6 or larger then he must remove all hooks except 1 and that must hook must be a single hook.

    It is really quite simple once you sit down and study that paragraph on page 41 defining an Umbrella Rig.  I think it is confusing because it is new and we are all upset that we did not think about the concept before now.  They seem to really catch fish.


    Fishers of Men Tournament Director Billy Cooper:

    “I am not real fond of the Albama rig but I am allowing it in our tournaments because most of our fishermen think it is great.

    To simplify things I am restricting the use of it in our tournaments to the legal Tennessee version.”


     Shane Barker, local bass angler and tournament director:

    “When I first saw the Alabama rig,I said it should not be used in Tennessee or even in a bass tournament.  I bought a legal Tennessee rig to see what all the rage was and let's just say I was highly impressed with the results. That being said I still feel like it should not be used just because we are throwing more than one lure out at a time.

   I feel like we are bending the rules a lot when it comes to bass fishing. TWRA to me has made the rules very confusing for people. I can ask the same question to three bass fishermen on what is legal and not legal on the Alabama rig and I promise you I will get three different answers. The rule needs to be simplified.

    Now do I think they should ban them? That’s a hard question but to me you are throwing out more than one lure at a time and we are not allowed to do that in some of the rules of bass tournaments. B.A.S.S. has already stepped up to the plate and banned them in the Elite Series. I think we should follow suite .Do I like the rig? I have to say yes as it flat out catches fish. To me it still comes to how many hooks we are throwing out at one time.”


   Roger Buffington, local bass tournament angler”

    “It’s not too enjoyable to fish and can sometimes put holes in the gills of a fish foul hooked but it really works. No doubt it has increased interest in bass fishing as this winter with the warm weather there were a lot of boats out and just about everyone was tossing Alabama style rigs and catching fish.”


Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.



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