Alabama Rig is today's rage for catching fish but not legal in California

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Some call it the “Alabama Rig.” Others call it an “Umbrella Harness.” Whatever you call it, it can be a devastating way to attract and catch fish.

Being called the Alabama Rig, it must have been “invented” there. However, what is a legal method to fish in Alabama doesn’t mean it’s legal in California.

I prefer to call it an Umbrella Harness. Take the cover off an umbrella and you’re left with the handle and numerous ribs. That more closely describes this rig.

When I recently went to Rocklin’s Sportsmen’s Warehouse and asked for an Umbrella Harness, a sales associate knew what I was referring to and directed me to the rack.

At the harness top is a lure head trailed by five steel wire arms. At the end of each arm is a snap to attach a lure. You spread the five wires as you prefer them and, with five lures attached, you can cast-retrieve bass. What they see appears to be a school of bait fish.

But, therein lay the legal problem in California, where you’re allowed to use no more than three hooks at a time. You can put a lure on the other two arms, but it can only be a teaser. No hooks. And, you run the risk of a fish grabbing the teaser and not the hook.

It may be difficult to find, but I’ve heard somebody developed a “Cali-rig,” containing three wire legs instead of five.

The rig was invented for use by bass anglers, and I suspect a California-legal Alabama Rig also would be effective for trout trolling. I’m going to give it the old college try when we return to Lake Almanor soon.

The major forage fish at Lake Almanor is Japanese Pond Smelt and, if you have a decent scope, you’ll see massive schools. Almost always, you’ll see game fish within easy chomping range.

That’s the same theory for using the Alabama Rig while trolling. Two hookless teasers and three hooks would appear as a small school of bait fish and hopefully attract a bite.

Stay tuned.

Current fishing

It’s that time of year when the weather is unstable. We’ve had temperatures ranging near 100 degrees, followed by a big cooling with scattered rain in low elevation, better rainfall in the mountains and even snow at the high elevation.
The weather is a yo-yo, but it’s comfortable to be out fishing before hot summer temperature hits.

Salmon: The bite has been good, but the main stopper has been the wind. If you have the landlubber’s stomach, the conditions haven’t been the most ideal. It has been bouncy.

The San Francisco Bay fleet, venturing under the Golden Gate for the open water of the Pacific, has found a phenomenal bite with anywhere from a fish and a half per rod to full limits for everybody aboard. One bite was within five miles of Seal Rock, a short run as salmon fishing goes. Many of those Chinooks were in the 20-pound class.

The salmon bite also has been tremendous at Bodega Bay. It’s too bad every fish hooked doesn’t make it into the net. If that were the case, limits would be the rule. Out of 45 hooked one day by 16 anglers on Rick Power’s New Sea Angler, 25 found their way into the net.

Pat Heaviside of the “Bragg-N,” a 32-foot Boston Whaler, told me everybody on board limited in about three hours, and he even added a limit for himself. Several boats are limiting so quickly they get back in port, offload the salmon, change rigs and head back out to grab a quick load of rock cod.

Folsom Lake: If you have any hope of fishing, you’re going to have to be there at the crack of dawn. Recreational boaters generally take over the lake by 9 a.m. If you do arrive at almost oh-dark-thirty, you can get into a decent bass bite.
Some largemouths are still on their beds while spots and smallies are being found deeper. Senkos and even reaction baits can get you bit. In the deeper water, throw dartheads or even drop-shot.

Ice House Reservoir: The lake level is still good, more than 90 percent, and the fishing is great. Shore slingers and trollers are connecting with rainbows and even a stray brown trout. Eggs, Power Bait or an inflated crawler should get you bit as you lounge in your folding chair on the shoreline. If you take your boat, pull a dodger followed by a threaded two-inch grub and stay in the top 15 feet of water.

Loon Lake: The gate to the campgrounds was recently opened, but you’re at the edge of the Desolation Wilderness Area. There still should be snow in the region, and it’s going to be cooler than many other areas. You can launch a boat, and the trolling should be good. With the water still being ice cold, the fish should be in the shallower ranges.

Lake Amador: With warming temperature, the trout are running deeper. While limits may not be the rule, there are still big fish roaming the lake. Power Bait is a main attractor, but I’ve also done well using my second rod by cast-retrieving a lure. The dam and spillway are always popular places to fish for Amador’s Donaldson strain of rainbow-cutthroat trout. The Carson Arm and Mountain Springs also show success.

New Hogan Reservoir: There is a great, self-sustaining striped bass population at this lake. Water recreationists can easily take over, so you have to pick your times carefully. Early mornings, late afternoons and nighttime trolling will be good. They should be boiling on the surface this time of year, and that’s a good time to find the schools. If you see a boil, get there quick but don’t go into the boil. Nothing will scatter them more quickly. Stay on the outside edge of the boil and toss a variety of wounded minnow imitations. If you don’t see boils, troll anchovies or shad in the top 35 feet. I’ve trolled salt water-sized Rat-L-Traps and done well.

This lake also has a big population of catfish, the brown bullhead and more prized channel cats. Fishing any of the coves as the sun sets can produce wonderful stringers.

Camp Far West: The lake is full, and the South Shore campgrounds are now open. Anglers can find it difficult to get away from the recreational boating crowd, but good bass fishing can still be found, mostly up the Bear River arm and some in Rock Creek.

Contact George deVilbiss at