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Fishing A-Rigs in the Winter months

Let me start out by saying- I love this time of year! Other than having to get the leaf-blower out every other day to clear the driveway, and having to bundle up like young Randy in 'A Christmas Story', late fall and winter can be a magical time for fishing.

During the early and mid-Fall season, fishing can be very fickle, and staying on top of fish under the quickly changing conditions can be a full-time job. However, once water temps start dropping into the upper-40's, the fish have started to settle into their stable, winter patterns, around steeper structure near the main lake and major creeks. Once this migration has happened, possibly the best technique available to bass fisherman, for finding fish, is the Alabama Rig.

Despite the controversial nature of the infamous "A-Rig" there's little doubt that it's an amazing bass fishing tool, so I would like to share with you my setup for fishing it, and when I implement it.

The Ideal Setup

Let's begin by picking out the right A-Rig. Personally, I prefer to keep my selection very simple. I have two basic A-Rigs that I use, one that has a very simple, low profile head, and a basic 5-wire design, and one that also has a 5-wire design, but adds several small willowleaf blades onto the wires to create extra flash. There are many different kinds of Alabama Rigs out there, but these two basic designs seem to cover all my bases. I will say that I like to make the baits I hang on the A-Rig the stars of the whole thing, so I don't like to get too flashy when it comes to the design of the A-Rig's head.

With that well-placed segway, let's talk about the "stars" of my Alabama Rig- the swimbaits. Once again, I prefer to keep my selections simple, and so I have narrowed my swimbaits down to the DieZel MinnowZ or the 6" SwimmerZ. Most of the time I am going to start out with the DieZel MinnowZ because it seems to be the perfect size to match most of the Shad the fish key in on, however, when the fish are focused on larger species, like Gizzard Shad, I like the SwimmerZ due to its bigger profile. When it comes to color, my favorites are Blueback Herring (in the SwimmerZ), Pearl Blue Glimmer, Bad Shad and Smoky Shad. As far as the jigheads I use, I have really come to love the HeadlockZ HD swimbait head, and I pair the 3/0 version with the DieZel MinnowZ in either 1/8oz or 1/4oz sizes. For the SwimmerZ, I stick with the HeadlockZ HD but I upsize to a 6/0, 3/8oz version.

Finally, I pair my perfect A-Rig with a beefy 7'8" medium-heavy baitcasting rod (or your favorite Flipping stick) a 6.6:1 gear ratio baitcaster with 20 or 25-pound test fluorocarbon line. Many people like braid with A-Rigs, but I really don't like braid for its tendency to backlash, and for its no-stretch properties. Fluorocarbon seems to be a much better line for the A-Rig.

Steeper and Deeper

I already alluded to the areas that I like to fish the A-Rig in, but let me get into more detail. As I stated before, most of the fish will be close to the main lake, or in the deepest parts of major creeks and bays. Once I find likely areas that the fish should be funneling out of their fall patterns, I look for the steepest, rockiest banks that I can find. Most of the time this means bluff walls, channel swings, steep points or ledges, but depending on the type of lake you fish, it could just be a deep flat outside of a spawning bay too. The biggest key, is for it to be steeper, and deeper than the surrounding areas.

In the end, the A-Rig may be a controversial technique, but it got that way for a reason- it just flat-out works! So if you are trying to find fish quickly, and have a shot at a true winter-time monster, tie on an A-Rig and get to work!

PS...always be sure to follow state and local laws when it comes to the Alabama or Umbrella Rigs, as many states have special requirements in place.

Z-Man Pro & Host of Sweetwater Fishing TV,

Miles "Sonar" Burghoff

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