IL: State’s bass anglers must modify popular rig

Springfield – The Alabama Rig, the latest craze in the bass
fishing world, must be modified to be used legally in most of
Illinois’ waters, according to DNR assistant fisheries chief Dan
Stephenson.

The rig is more of a device than a lure, and it’s closely related
to a saltwater umbrella rig, allowing bass fishermen fish a tight
spread of five lures, emulating a school of baitfish.

The rig has the head of a tandem spinnerbait but five flexible
leaders protruding from its butt, allowing lures to be clipped to
each leader.

In most of the state’s public waters, only two lures with hooks can
be clipped to the rig, Stephenson said.

Stephenson said some tickets have been issued in the state, but
most have been warnings.

Stephenson said the rule that prevents the lure from being used as
intended was created to deal with commercial fishing. It will be
discussed in January or February, when the DNR meets to propose and
start the process of making changes to the state’s rules and
regulations concerning fish and game laws.

But changes made this year wouldn’t go into effect until April
2013.

That won’t stop several bass fishermen from using the rig legally
this year.

“It’s going to be best used in September when shad are schooled up
and still suspended,” said Jerry Martoglio, president of the
Illinois Bass Federation.

Martoglio intends on using the rig with hooks on only two
baits.

“I will have the center one and bottom one with hooks in them,”
Martoglio said.

While some copycats have come up with versions of the rig that have
less than five lure clips on them (to bring them into compliance in
different states, many of them with laws similar to Illinois),
Mann’s Bait Company, which purchased a licensing agreement to make
and sell the rig in November, has no plans to manufacture a version
with fewer than the five arms, according to Mann’s director of
sales Lanny Deal.

“We’re not going to check all 50 states’ laws,” Deal said. “We’re
putting something in the packet for them to contact their DNR to
find out what is allowed in their state. They can put anything else
on there as long as it doesn’t have a hook in it.”

He suggested fishermen either clip hookless baits or a No. 5 or 6
willow leaf blades to the other three slots.

Deal warned that patent laws are stronger than before, noting that
the lure’s creator Andy Poss of Alabama has a patent pending and
that several cease and desist letters have gone out to parties
believed to be in patent violation.

“You can’t just say I changed it just a little bit to get around
the patent,” Deal said, confirming that part of the rig is being
manufactured for Mann’s by Cast Industries of Springfield.

The rig, which sells for nearly $30, has had a meteoric rise in the
fishing industry since it was released to the public on July
1.

Since then, the rig has won several tournaments in the southern
part of the country.

In October, bass pro Paul Elias won a FLW Tour event on Lake
Guntersville with the rig.

Martoglio said he and fellow federation members finally caught wind
of the buzz surrounding the rig after Elias’ victory, but, by then,
there was only a small window to use it on Illinois lakes.

He’s not sure how effective it will be in Illinois during the
spring and summer, but intends on using it next fall on certain
lakes, such as Rend, Shelbyville, Clinton and Evergreen.

“I know where there’s a lot of open-water flats with 5 to 10 feet
of water for big expanses, where the bass get up there and eat the
shad,” Martoglio said.

Know your waters

As Stephenson mentioned, in most of Illinois’ waters, only two
lures with hooks may be clipped to the Alabama rig.

The main exceptions are on private lakes and ponds and on public
waters that don’t have a two-pole and line limit listed.

It is legal on the Mississippi River along the Missouri border, but
illegal along the Iowa border. It is legal on the Wabash River and
along the Kentucky border on the Ohio River except for Smithland
Pool.

Illinois anglers should check the regulations at each lake they
fish before using the rig.

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