by Hippo Lau
Having been in the fishing industry for over forty five years, I can claim that I have come in contact with thousands of anglers, and that I have exchanged a great number of fishing techniques and tackle tips with them.
Since I retired from active retail sales nearly five years ago, it has been a joy and delight to bump into old acquaintances while going about my daily business. Oftentimes, such a person would remind me of an occasion when I helped them out with a fishing tip or two, many tips which
I have forgotten. (There are constant reminders that I should be writing all these things down in a book or something before I forget them all.) Such is the case when I was shopping at Costco the other day and bumped into Dave.
Dave, by way of explanation, is a die hard salmon troller. He loves the whole concept of salmon. He loves trolling for salmon. He loves hooking up to salmon. He loves fighting salmon. (He’s caught lots of other fish like yellowtail, bluefin tuna, sailfish, and striped bass, too, but somehow he still likes fighting salmon the most. Go figure.)
He likes cleaning salmon. He loves cooking salmon. Most of all, he loves eating salmon, whether raw or cooked. Did I mention he loves salmon?
Anyway, back to Costco. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Dave leans over and whispers, “That Alabama rig for salmon is just killing them!”
I was taken aback because I had no idea what he was talking about so I answered back, “I had a feeling it would!” After a few more minutes we parted
ways and I was left with a mystery. How in the world are you supposed to use an Alabama rig for salmon?
For those who are out of the loop, the Alabama rig is a small, castable spreader rig originally designed for catching black bass. When it first came out, it took the tournament world by storm because of the absolutely huge limits that were caught using it.
Mann’s of Alabama was the first company to commercially produce the rig and has the trademark name for it. Subsequent producers of such rigs had to call it the A-rig, the umbrella rig, or the U-rig to avoid some legal infringement.
Essentially, the Alabama rig imitates a small bait ball. The lure rigged to the longer center wire gives the illusion of the straggler in the group. This poor rascal is the one most frequently attacked by a predator.
Of course, a ball of bait is more attractive to a predator than just a single lone bait. This accounts, in part, why the rig attracts big fish. But how does one use this on the ocean for salmon?
Anglers on the West coast aren’t too familiar with the use of umbrella trolling rigs, but they are the cat’s meow back East. These multiple lure fish attractors are used for everything from tuna to striped bass to bluefish and all
sorts of predator fish. The great attraction is that the conglomeration of lures and decoys more resembles a
small pod of bait fish, something more natural than a loner in the middle of nowhere.
There is no reason why such a rig wouldn’t work for fish out west except that no one has ever used it. When
Dave asked if there was anything on the market that may up his success when salmon trolling, I decided that
he would be a candidate for a little experiment.
I took an original Mann’s Alabama rig, added #4 silver willow leaf blades to the four short arms, then tied on a
two foot long leader to the longer middle arm that led to a tandem hooked Rotary Salmon Killer. Ahead of this, I tied on a five foot leader made of 50 b. test fluorocarbon.
Two weeks later, Dave came back into the shop and barely said “Hello.” He went to the back of the shop, grabbed a half dozen Alabama rigs, a couple of dozen #4 willow leaf blades, assorted Rotary Salmon Killers, and some
fluorocarbon leader material. He paid for everything, but then, before he went out the door, he turned, gave me a wink and a big thumb’s up.