By Nick Marsh, Marsh Outdoors
Well it’s time to get your arm workouts in for the season. Depending on where
you are fishing in the US you are either one of the next 3 stages: You’re either on the
very tail end of a fantastic bite, right in the heat of it or just starting to get good.
These stages are also in order from North to South. If you haven’t figured out what
I’m talking about yet I got two words for ya, Alabama rig! The bait that has made a
few waves in the bass fishing world over the years but we are not here to talk about
any controversy, I mean c’mon you can’t argue with its pure fishing catching ability.
This thing will load the boat and in a hurry when thrown at the right times and with
BIG FREAK FISH.
So let’s talk about what your need to throw this bad boy and what I have found to be
successful for myself. Now most of my experience has been with northern strain
smallmouth but I have also caught plenty of fish on the TVA with these same setups.
With that being said we will focus on my northern strain smallmouth friends.
Biggest contributing factor to having a good A-rig bite is water temp. The
catalyst really sits right around that 55-degree mark. Don’t get me wrong have I
caught them from 60-65 water temps, yes, but the fish turn on the buffet at 55 and
really start crushing this bait. Temps from 55 all the way to low 40’s I can get them to eat
this thing pretty darn well. With water temps like these the lakes up north setup
well for early spring and late fall, which is when I throw this bait 90% of the time.
The bait fish will be balled up with those water temps and nothing makes a better
imitation of schooled bait fish than an A-rig.
So let’s talk gear to throw this massive bait and my exact setup.
Rod- 7’11 extra heavy
Reel- 200 sized 6:3:1 or 7:3:1 (depending on depth fishing)
Line- 20lb Fluorocarbon
Swimbait heads 1/16oz or 1/8oz or 1/4oz (again depth depending)
Swimbait- Big Bites pro swimmer 3.8
The rod I want is something that has a fast tip. I want the first 1/3 rd of the rod to
have a decent parabolic bend. Then the other 2/3rds can be straight meat n
potatoes. Paired with its 7’11 length the bit of tip will help you launch that rig a good
distance which is what you want. The tip will also help with the fish loading up on
this bait properly and letting them get ahold of it a bit better, that means higher
landing percentages. Oh and just an FYI I’ve got a cheap rod for this got it on sale for
$60 it has worked great. Nothing fancy here is needed.
A 200 size reel for line capacity and slower gear ratio for deeper water and
faster ratio for shallow water. I catch the majority of my a-rig fish in 2ft-8ft so you
best believe I have a fast gear ratio rigged up majority of the time. Whatever reel
you use you best know going into it that it will take a beat down throwing this hunk
of metal n’ lead all season. So don’t skimp out on this part. I recommend a good $150-
Now this can be somewhat of personal opinion but take this for what it’s
worth. Have I caught fish on both fluoro and braid in clear water….yes. Have I
snapped off more than a few rigs on casts with both lines…YES. With that being said
I personally like the way my rig reacts with floro when I flare my reel handle and the
way it absorbs the impact of bites. But the other big part is braid really likes to
freeze up and get stiff as heck in colder temps, floro wont do this until little timmy’s
tongue sticks to the flagpole.
Don’t overcomplicate this. Standard 4/0 hook on a ball head jig
will work perfect. Just make sure it’s somewhat of a medium wire hook. Easy enough you can bend it out if you snag up but not easy enough your having to re-bend it every other fish catch. Gamakatsu makes a perfect ball head.
We all know that in some states dummy heads are required without a hook. What I like to do is put two spring locks on the top two arms. I also remove the snap swivels and connect them straight to the metal arm. This keeps them from rolling and spinning and makes for a perfect presentation. Keep the dummies on the arms furthest away from where a fish is likely to bite. That means the top arms as fish usually will come from under the bait and get the bottom arms or get the bait furthest back which is the middle arm. Also if you choose to use one different color swimbait as a target put it in the middle of on the bottom! – Caleb
I like something with NOT a lot of wobble. These fish really like a subtle swimming action this time of year. Just a wag of the tail is enough to get them to go.
No big hollow bodies needed here. The Big Bite Pro Swimmer and Finesse Swimmer have minimal roll but good tail wag that is perfect even in cold water scenarios. Smallie magic, pro blue, and pearl are go-to colors of choice.
Where I throw it
Okay now you have the gear lets talk where to throw this bad boy. For these
Northern strain smallmouth it’s very simple once you get an idea of what you are
looking for, here is what I have found. A large majority of the time if you head back
to spawning areas of these fish they will be extremely close by. Depending on
weather they will either be just off the main break or up on the flats cruising. Main
lake points are a great place to start looking, ones with steep angled drops and deep
water close by. Breaking down these points I look for these 3 things while
searching for fish:
1) Rock spines and hard edges, where gravel or rock meet big sand flats.
2) Depressions up on the sand flat, if it’s all 4ft and one spot is 5ft, just that little
difference will hold fish.
3) Secondary breaks, you have the main break going from 30ft -6ft then way
way WAY up the flat (sometimes 100yards or more) you have secondary
breaks close to shore. These will go from 6ft-3ft and less. There will be fish
there on sunny days.
Sometimes you find these fish in areas that make you confused during the fall. Giant
sand flats with nothing around for a long ways. No bait, no cover just a wolf pack of
15 smallmouth in a tiny depression doing nothing.
I wish I could show more people in person just how shallow some of these fish get
because I really believe a lot of people over look just how shallow they need to go.
Alright to try and wrap this up don’t be afraid to try these things on smallmouth
lakes near you. This is what I have found to be the winning ticket for me in northern
Michigan and I hope it works for you as well. If you ever have any questions on the
matter don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. I’m always available on social
media @a1_angler_dev AND @Marshfishing.