Reel Chat

Reel Chat with PAUL ELIAS

Another look at Paul Elias' Alabama rig. (Photo by Rob Newell)
FLW Tour Guntersville winner discusses plans for 2012, offers tackle tips, fields plethora of questions about Alabama rig


Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we're joined by bass pro Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., who recently took home the top prize of $100,000 after winning the 2011 FLW Tour Open on Lake Guntersville.

Paul Elias boasts over $370,000 in FLW winnings and six top-10 finishes since he began his career with FLW in 1996. Elias recently recorded his second-ever FLW Tour victory during the Oct. 20-23 FLW Tour Open at Lake Guntersville. During that event, Elias employed the Alabama rig to perfection to blow away the rest of the field, winning by a stunning 17-pound margin en route to a $100,000 payday. In addition to his Lake Guntersville win, Elias also boasts a 2003 FLW Tour victory at the Atchafalaya Basin.

Today, Elias is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let's get started.

Q: Paul, I know you've had plenty of success on the BASS tourney circuit, but what did it feel like to get your first FLW Tour victory since 2003?
-- Jim Interlandi (Chicago, Ill.)
A: Anytime you win it feels great. I've missed fishing the FLW Tour, so I was really happy that there was a tournament date open where I could fish it. We've just had so many conflicting dates between the two tours that it's hard to fish all the events you want to.

Q: Until this year, it appears that you hadn't fished an FLW Tour event since 2005. So, with your recent victory, do you plan on fishing more FLW Tour events going forward? Also, what is your schedule looking like for the 2012 season?
-- Jon Stebbins (San Diego, Calif.)
A: I have sent my deposits in on three FLW Opens. There's a conflict with one tournament, otherwise I'd be fishing all four of the FLW Opens. I'm fishing the BASS Elite Series and the PAA as well.

Q: When you go to a new lake or river, what determines where you fish and what to throw? I know it depends on seasonal patterns and water temperature.
-- Donald Smith (Richmond, Va.)
A: Actually, I really like going to places that are new to me because I don't have any preconceived notions on how I'm going to catch them. Then I get to put together a brand-new plan of attack. And then it does depend on the season. That helps me determine what type of pattern I'm going to try. I'll also research (via) the Internet, see what the winning weights were for recent tournaments, and then I'll try to put a game plan together on how to try and catch that weight. Normally bass are going to be doing certain things at certain times of the year. So if it's spring, I'll be looking for bass on beds or areas where bass like to spawn. If it's in the summer, I'm going to look at channels, points, underwater islands or anything else that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Q: How did you get started doing tournaments and getting to where you are now?
-- Travis Belcher (Heath, Ohio)
A: Well, I guess to start with, when Ray Scott founded BASS, I was just getting out of high school. When I heard about it, I set a goal in order to fish tournaments. Went to college, got my degree and was just champing at the bit to get started. I got my degree in 1973, went to work to get a boat, bought a boat in 1975 and made plans to start fishing fishing in 1976. Fished the ABS trail in 1977 and 1978, did pretty well and went to BASS in 1979. I wound up winning the third event that I fished. Back then it was pretty hard because you're really fishing against a lot of guides - Larry Nixon and Roland Martin, etc. And that's mostly what the tournament trail was made up of, and that competition was pretty stiff back then, and I had a lot to learn. It was a rude awakening.

Q: At what point in the Lake Guntersville tournament (prefishing or otherwise) did you know you were going to employ the Alabama rig?
-- Tom Suk (Minneapolis, Minn.)
A: Well, I had two Alabama rigs - that's all I owned. I'd never thrown one before. So I practiced from daylight to noon the first day of practice and never got a bite. I was going to run farther north and try some shallower glass flats when I got a phone call. I was idling under the bridge, saw some current and decided I should try this stupid Alabama rig (for the first time). I caught a 3-pounder. Threw it out again and caught another 3-pounder. I actually skipped two bridge pylons, threw at another and caught another 4-pounder. Then I decided to put all of my other rods back in the locker. Then I checked out all of the other bridges and realized I could probably catch a fish on every bridge. I realized then it was a winning pattern. I also decided to fish it a little deeper. First couple of places I fished I wasn't catching anything, but I noticed a lot of suspending fish. I then tried to figure out the countdown to bring it through those schools of fish. And once I got that patten (and depth) down, I really started catching fish, especially where there was more current around those channels.

Q: Umbrella rigs have been around for a while, so why do you think the Alabama rig is such a successful innovation/technique?
-- Pat Zak (Oakland, Calif., )
A: Umbrella rigs have been around for a long time, but castable ones have not. When you look at umbrella rigs, there are a lot of differences between those and an Alabama rig. The way you can control the (A-rig) by changing the weights is pretty important as well as the castability.

Q: I know that the Alabama rig played a big role in your recent Lake Guntersville victory. You weren't the only one using that technique, yet you still managed to grab a Veteran pro Paul Elias holds up his trophy for winning the FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville.victory by a 17-pound margin. So how do you explain your amazing success during that event?
-- Jon Pageler (New York, N.Y.)
A: I think the most important thing is that the other guys were still keying on the grass. I found out the second day in practice that you could catch those fish around grass, but you wouldn't get the size you needed. I realized you could fish that rig deeper and catch some bigger fish. And I think that was the main reason.

Q: Mr. Elias, how did you come by the Alabama rig and the strategy to use it so effectively?
-- Arron Muir (El Reno, Okla.)
A: I was working a cancer-benefit tournament on Pickwick the first week of September. I was helping with the weigh-in, and one of the guys (the founder of the A-rig) called me over and said he wanted to show me something. He showed me the rig with five grubs on it, but it didn't really impress me. Then he held up one with five swimbaits on it, and I said, "Hmmm." He said he'd won four or five big events with it, and that got my attention. I thought more and more about it. He then gave me two of the Alabama rigs to use later on. I thought it was a current-oriented bait, and that's why I used it around those bridges on Lake Guntersville that first day of practice. And the rest is history.

Q: A lot of the other top finishers at Guntersville used the Alabama rig in the backs of creeks. Were you surprised it worked as well in shallow water as it did out deep?
-- (, )
A: I wasn't surprised because I'd tried it out shallow in practice. It came through sparse grass, and that kind of surprised me initially. But because I'd had some success with it shallow in practice, I wasn't surprised by the end of the tournament.

Q: Do you think the Alabama rig will work in clear water, or will the wires spook the fish?
-- (, )
A: The Alabama rig will work in clear water. The wires won't spook the fish because those baits are moving so much water that I don't think the fish are paying as close attention to the rig as opposed to if it was just one bait.

Q: Why did you use heavier heads and bigger swimbaits on the A-rig?
-- David De Jesus (Ashland City, Tenn.)
A: I had three different rigs. I was throwing them with 3/8-ounce heads, 1/2-ounce heads and 3/4-ounce heads. Once I figured the countdown out for all three of those sizes, the 1/2-ounce head was by far the best size to be using. A lot of times the 3/4-ounce head worked better when I needed to keep the bait deeper.

Q: Do you think the Alamaba rig would work on a shad spawn around docks in the late spring?
-- (, )
A: I think it definitely would, although I'm going through a learning process just like everyone else. I just got back from a tournament where I was able to catch a lot of good fish around docks with the A-rig.

Q (MODERATOR): I heard that FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre has organized a petition to ban the Alabama rig from tournament fishing. What are your thoughts regarding whether or not that bait should be allowed at tournaments in the future?
A: I'm definitely (for) the Alabama rig. I don't think it makes any sense to ban it. My main reason for saying that is because I fished that Guntersville tournament and caught about 25 fish a day. I never weighed in one dead fish. I don't know why all of these people are saying it's detrimental to the fish. You really don't snag that many fish; I only may have snagged three or four the entire tournament, and they were right around the mouth, so they were definitely trying to bite it. I really believe that a crankbait with three treble hooks can cause more damage than a crankbait. After catching so many fish (in good condition), I don't really see that (a ban) is warranted.

Q: I'm looking to fish in several tournaments next year. Right now I'm in the process of buying all the equipment as far as tackle and rods and reels. I'm looking to buy durable and efficient rod-and-reel combos at an affordable price that will get the job done. How can I get the biggest bang for my buck, and are there any rod-and-reel combos that you would recommend?
-- Mic Miller (, )
A: I'm going to recommend Pinnacle rods and reels. I'm sponsored by them, but I truly believe that if I was shopping economically, I'd really take a close look at Pinnacle because of the pricing and quality of the rods. I've fished a lot of rods and reels, and I've never had rods hold up as well as Pinnacle. I've had no trouble whatsoever with their reels as well, and I'd be the first person to recommend buying them.

Q: How do you feel about people focusing more on the A-rig than on you?
-- David De Jesus (Ashland City, Tenn.)
A: That rig is so amazing I can see why they're focusing more on that than me. Believe me, I've gotten more than enough attention from it. I want to see Andy Poss, the owner and inventor, reap the rewards for coming up with a technique that opened up the door for catching suspended bass. I'm a structure fisherman, and that time of the year has given me fits. But now, the A-rig has really opened up the door and allowed us another technique that will work really well in the fall.

Q: Have you tried to fish the A-rig at Lake Bogue Homa yet?
-- (, )
A: No. I haven't really gotten to fish it around home yet.

Q: After taking the pain from the A-rig, are you looking forward to throwing it again?
-- David De Jesus (Ashland City, Tenn.)
A: When I first started throwing the rig, I threw it consistently for six and a half days. But it was so fruitful I didn't really get tired. But after throwing it afterward on a few lakes, I realized it does get tiring if you're not catching anything. My guess is that somebody is going to start developing rods and reels specifically designed for this rig, and when they do, my guess is that it will be a lot easier to fish.

Q: Good afternoon, Paul. I have followed quite a bit of your career, and you have become linked with terms and products. The kneel-and-reel and Mann's jelly worm come to mind. I appreciate what you have done for the sport. Do you think that the A-rig will consistently become a go-to lure for you, or will it depend more on the time of year or particular body of water you are on?
-- (, )
A: I think it's going to be one of those rigs similar to a Carolina rig, where you're always going to have one rigged up in the rod locker - always there if you need it if the right situation arises. I think it's going to be a learning process for all of us. I think it's going to be better in colder water than warmer water. It's probably going to work better in current, but until I get to practice with it more, I'm not going to rule it out for any situation right now. But do I think it's a magic bait that's going to work in all circumstances? No. I think there are going to be times if you can't lay that A-rig down, you're going to be in trouble.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have to chat with Paul Elias today. Thanks, once again, to all the fans who tuned in and participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Elias, the recent FLW Tour winner on Lake Guntersville, for giving us his time and insights into bass fishing. Check back shortly for a complete transcript of today's FLW Live Reel Chat.