October 22, 2011 by Brett Carlson
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - While the cat is out of the bag on the Alabama rig, nobody is fishing it more effectively than Paul Elias. In what was widely considered a tough bite coming in, Elias has shocked the world with 15 giant Lake Guntersville bass and is one day away from clinching his second Walmart FLW Tour win.
After putting the pieces together late in practice, Elias' biggest concern was that other fishermen would crowd him out. And after an hour and a half fog delay Saturday morning, Elias' fears grew. But he had no problems getting on his spot and has received the utmost respect. While his areas were crowded, most just wanted to witness the offshore master and his newfangled bait in action.
"This Alabama rig I'm throwing is crazy," Elias said. "A lot more guys were throwing it today than were the first two days. It's obvious by the weights. A bait comes along every now and then that makes a lot of sense that the fish haven't seen. That's what is happening here and it's incredible."
The Alabama rig consists of a hard-bait body that trails five wires that have a swivel attached to the end of each wire. Elias is using swimbaits on the five wires, which fan out and mimic a school of baitfish. The Laurel, Miss., pro uses the rig at three different spots, all of which are similar in terms of depth and structure. The fish he's been targeting are suspending off the bottom.
"Most of the schools are 4 to 5 feet off. They will not bite it on the bottom. I think the majority of the fish in this lake are suspending; that's why most everyone struggled early on."
Elias said the key is counting he rig down with a precise cadence.
"I've tried other stuff, but it just wasn't working. I've been a structure fisherman my whole career and I've always struggled when they suspend, until now."'
With a 15-pound lead, it's conceivable that Elias could sleep in tomorrow and still walk away with victory. Conversely, he also has a shot to break Brandon McMillan's FLW Tour weight record.
"This is fishing so you never know. But I feel good about it. I feel like I can catch a good bag again tomorrow.
"This is one awesome lake. I've had some great Octobers on this lake and I've been wanting a win on it for a very long time."
Second-place pro Bob Behrle has improved his weight each day of the tournament. Today he sacked an amazing 24-pound, 3-ounce limit. But somehow he continues to lose ground on Elias.
"That's probably as good as I can do," Behrle said after weighing in his catch. "I caught that 7-pounder on my very last cast of the day."
Behrle was really worried the fog delay would hurt him because he's been averaging only eight bites per day.
While he's been sampling a shallow bank, he's mostly fishing offshore. But he only has one offshore spot - a flat off a ledge in approximately 15 to 25 feet of water that's close to the state park.
"There's definitely a sweet spot on the flat. There's some stumps on a hump and I caught my two biggest fish off it today."
The Hoover, Ala., pro continues to use the Alabama rig with homemade baits. His total weight for three days is 64 pounds, 15 ounces.
"I'm afraid Mr. Elias has got them and he's going to continue to get them tomorrow. My battle is for second and I was able to improve that by 4 or 5 pounds."
Morrow retains third
For two days, Troy Morrow had been the one pro to have success offshore with traditional ledge fare like crankbaits and spoons. But today at about 1 p.m., he caved and tried the Alabama rig.
"On my third cast I had a double and I was able to finish my limit with it," he said.
Overall, Morrow described the bite as slow and said that his primary offshore spot let him down. He'll start the final day with his tried and true baits, but won't hesitate to switch to the A-rig. Either way, he'll continue to avoid the grass and instead focus on bait.
"I was just happy to temporarily knock Paul out of the lead, even if it was just for a few minutes."
Morrow's day-three stringer weighed 19 pounds, 6 ounces, brining his combined weight to 59 pounds, 4 ounces.
Fourth-place pro Jacob Powroznik claims he was one of the first to discover the effectiveness of the Alabama rig this week. Today he used it to catch a 17-pound, 10-ounce limit.
"It all started when I told Koby (Kreiger) to come over to my Rat-L-Trap spot," Powroznik explained. "He caught a 3-pounder right away with it on his first cast and then a limit in about 15 minutes. After that, we told Gags (Anthony Gagliardi), Luke (Clausen), and (Bryan) Thrift."
Not coincidentally, four of the five made the final cut. Powroznik is fishing his A-rig on little drops inside pockets where the shad are funneling in. He works the rig in 4 to 10 feet of water.
"The fish are feeding on shad right now and that rig does a great job of mimicking a school of shad."
The Virginia native puts a 5-inch Hollow Belly swimbait on the middle wire and 3 1/2-inch swimbaits on the four outside wires. He also mixes and matches with colors. The odd-colored swimbait is usually the one they eat for whatever reason.
"I don't really care if I catch another bass tomorrow. The last three days I've had the time of my life. My hands hurt and they're all torn up. It's unbelievable."
Yelas up to fifth
Jay Yelas had tickets to attend the Alabama-Tennessee football game Saturday night with friend and fellow pro Scott Canterbury. But after making the top-10 cutoff, he had to decline and prep tackle for the final day.
Yelas was late to the A-rig party, but he's a big believer now. After catching 11 pounds in his best area with traditional baits, he came back to it today with the A-rig and caught 21 pounds, 8 ounces.
"It's so rare that something new like this comes along and makes such an impact. It's been like magic this week. You never know what other innovations might come off of this. You're throwing five baits at a time, but who is to say it couldn't be more. This thing will be a staple in the tackle box before too long."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on day three at Lake Guntersville:
6th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 50-15
7th: Russell Lane of Prattville, Ala., 49-15
8th: Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., 49-8
9th: Alex Davis of Albertville, Ala., 47-5
10th: Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., 44-7
The final day of the FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville will begin Sunday at 7 a.m. at the Lake Guntersville Resort State Park located at 7966 Alabama Hwy. 227 in Guntersville, Ala. The final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 11697 Hwy. 431 S. in Guntersville beginning at 4 p.m., with the FLW Outdoors Expo opening at noon.