Oh A-rig. How do I love thee!!! Let me count the…FISH!

So, WOW!!! Back in 2011 when the “A-rig” or Alabama rig or umbrella rig came to the market, I didn’t even know about it.

I actually took an unintentional break from fishing for quite a few years – actually, maybe like 5 or 6 years. I didn’t really miss it because I was so focused on other stuff…like getting married, a mortgage, kids etc. Basically life got in the way and priorities changed without even realizing it. 

I fast forward to the last 3 years, I have only focused on saltwater – be it offshore inshore (jetty and surf fishing). The day that has changed my fishing life forever was April 8 of this year, 2021. I was fishing at one of the local jetties and this guy (Peter) shows up with this 5 lure setup and my first thought to myself was “Umm, what is that?”. I didn’t ask what it was or even talk to Peter during the time I was there. I was fishing with one of my purple swimbait that has caught a couple halibut and spotted bay bass when I saw Peter hook up on a small halibut. Naturally, my attention spiked. All I could think of was that I was so glad I didn’t make some stupid comment out loud to Peter about how ridiculous that thing looked and good luck. LOL. 

I left after that as I had to get to work. About a week had passed and I was fishing in the morning at the jetty and here comes the same guy again with the silly looking HUGE rig. This time it only took him about 3 casts before hooking into a halibut. That was the halibut that changed it all for me. My interest was now peaked and it was time to get some answers. 

After a brief conversation with Peter, I was convinced that I needed to get one. After 2 or 3 weeks of procrastination, I went onto Amazon (of course) and saw the 100’s of different ones available. 3 arms, 5 arms, 6 arms. 5 inch, 6 inch, 8 inch arms. OMG!!! There are tooooo many options for these rigs I thought. After texting Peter back and forth, I settled on 1  and bought it. After researching for hours on end what colors halibut like, I went to a local tackle shop and got some various colors of 3″ swimbaits – smelt colors, sardine colors, etc. and some 1/4oz leadheads.

May 22, 2021 was when I caught my first fish (halibut) on the A-rig. It was such an amazing feeling – I mean heavy. The thing weighs a few ounces, so casting it is MUCH harder than just throwing a single swimbait that weighs 3/8oz.

Now, most of the articles you read on the internet about the A-rig will say that it is not the end all or it’s not the “perfect bait for ALL situations. They are mostly correct in saying this. However, after using this almost non-stop for the past 5 months (1,000s of casts), it is a life-changer for sure. I have caught well over 100 halibut and bass – mostly halibut if you’ve been following on YouTube and Instagram. 

A single swimbait does have it’s place, but nothing can beat the appeal of a small school of bait fish swimming right in front (or above) a predatory fish, like halibut and bass. 

Now, there is a downside to fishing with the A-rig. ROCKS! When you’re fishing at a jetty or around structure (even kelp/seaweed), you are bound to get the rig stuck and lose the rig. Peter did prep me for this, but it was simply going to happen. I was very cautious at first, starting my fast retrieve the moment the rig hit the water surface because I did NOT want to lose it. But, after using it for a while, you start to get somewhat overly confident in your abilities. You start testing various speeds and technique with your retrieve. Everything is going great until you get to the point where you are ready to give it one last cast. Well, you (for some weird reason) decide on that one last cast to let the rig drop a little deeper or retrieve a little slower in case that fish that is staring at it needs just a little more convincing in order to go after it…DANGIT!!!!! That rock fish just attacked your rig and you’re now stuck!!! 

Well, that my friends is why you need to use 50# braided line directly to the rig and thin gauge hooks. No fluorocarbon or mono or thick metal hooks. When the rig gets stuck, the majority of the time it’s the hook that is stuck either on a barnacle, mussel, kelp or the backend of a rock. If you are using fluoro or mono line, chances are you’re going to break the rig off and be out plenty of money. Yes, the rig does break with the 50# braid, but it’s a very rare happening. When the braid breaks, it’s usually because the head of the rig is what is stuck, not the hook or arms.

After losing a couple rigs, I decided that it was too expensive to keep buying these things, so if I was going to continue to use the A-rig, I was going to have to either find them cheaper or make my own for a fraction of the cost. Long story short, I did find a way to make my own rig. So now my rig, leadheads and lures are made for about 1/4 the cost of retail.

However, just like anything, the more practice and work you put in, the better you get at it. Ever since I made my own, I have not lost my rig. Don’t get me wrong though, I still get the rig stuck, almost daily. How have I not lost it you ask. Great question! When you’re using 50# braid, you subconsciously think “hey, I’m using 50# braid, I don’t have to worry about any of these small fish spooling me, so I’m going to tighten it down so I can get the fish in faster!” Well, yes, that is true.

But, what you are not thinking about is that when your drag is set tight and you think a rock or structure is a fish biting and you set the hook hard, guess what? You just pulled that hook deep into that barnacle, kelp or rock crevice. Good luck getting that out. Even 50# braid is not holding up to that. It is most likely going to break and your rig is gone forever!

So, what I have found works best is loosening the drag quite a bit. Loosen it down closer to where you would have it if you were using 15# fluoro or mono. What this will do is when you set the hook on what you think is a fish that turns out to be a rock or hard structure, your hook or rig will not set in nearly as hard as your drag will give. You’ll probably still be hooked, but you’ll be able to more easily get it out. 

Remember how I mentioned earlier to use thinner gauge hooks? This is why. When you’re applying that steady pressure, pulling on the line, that hook is slowly straightening out. Most time, eventually that hook that is stuck will straighten and release. Then you simply reel in the rig, take off the swimbait, put it on a new leadhead and go back to fishing. 

If it’s still not releasing, you may simply need to make a small move to change your angle and he rig will free up on it’s own.

In summary, the A-rig [Alabama rig or umbrella rig] may not be for everyone, but for those of you that can dedicate the time towards practice, it may turn out to be your game-changer. 

Again, the biggest “THANK YOU” ever goes out to Peter – for simply showing up 2 weeks in a row and allowing me to bug him with too many questions at the beginning. You’re the man PETER!!!


Halibut in hand

Finally I catch a legal halibut from the surf/jetty in crystal clear water.

Halibut teeth

A free-swimming halibut at my feet. A missed bite and a few casts later…