It seems like just yesterday nearly all members of the bass fishing media were writing about this new bait/system that mimicked an entire school of baitfish. It’s hard to believe that it was almost two years ago that Paul Elias introduced the Alabama rig with his domination on Lake Guntersville.
While the controversy surrounding the A-rig will likely never end, FLW announced last week that umbrella rigs will no longer be allowed on the Walmart FLW Tour. That news was met with glee by pro Dave Lefebre, who is known as the unofficial leader of the “ban the A-rig” movement. It’s easy to sit back and say that Lefebre won, but in reality there was no dispute.
FLW took the prudent, calculated approach and evaluated the rig at its tournaments while simultaneously monitoring any changes or restrictions from the various state game and fish departments. In a May blog, I argued that the A-rig is a game changer in certain conditions, but it’s not a luck lure as it hasn’t changed the players who are dominating the game. Now with two full years of competition in the books, the data show that only three of the 18 FLW Tour events were won on the rig. Furthermore, the names at the top of the Angler of the Year race never changed – it was the Morgans, Ehrlers, Dudleys, Powrozniks, Christies, and Thrifts like always.
Because of this, I remain unconvinced that it needed to be banned. This is just my belief, but I don’t think FLW as an organization is against the Alabama rig, at least not the original version with five wires and five swimbaits. But it became more and more apparent that the next wave of rigs was only getting bigger and gaudier. Instead of the five swimbaits Elias used at Guntersville, Casey Martin won Chickamauga with a 13-swimbait Picasso Bait Ball Extreme (that had only three hooks). Clearly, the more an angler could emulate a school, the more effective these rigs were. And that trend showed no signs of slowing down.
When you start pushing towards 20 swimbaits and when your presentation resembles more of a chandelier than a bass-fishing lure, the fair chase discussion rears its ugly head. Furthermore, the bigger rigs were starting to cause major health problems with anglers’ shoulders, backs and elbows wearing down.
The primary reason the rig was banned was that the majority of pros simply didn’t want it. In the spring, FLW surveyed all the Tour pros and the results told the story – two thirds of the 150 wanted it barred. At that point, all other discussions cease as this is the pros’ circuit. If they don’t want it and they can agree (to a majority), then it’s gone. With concrete data in hand, FLW made the only rational decision it could.
The Alabama rig will still have long-lasting effects on the industry – mainly the concept of mimicking an entire school of baitfish. So while we now bid farewell to Andy Poss’ invention on the FLW Tour, in short time we'll see the next multiple baitfish presentation surface. And then it’s time to start the evaluating, conversing and voting all over again.