UPCOMING EVENT: HIGH SCHOOL FISHING - 2019 - Pickwick Lake

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Alabama Rig blog: One rod, one bait, one legacy

Alabama Rig blog: One rod, one bait, one legacy
Dave Lefebre shows off his catch during the first day of FLW Tour Pickwick Lake competition.

Let me start by saying I don't think either BASS or FLW has another reasonable option other than to prohibit multi-bait rigs from their tournaments.

Though I admit it can be fun and exhilarating to catch four or five fish on multiple casts, is this really appropriate for professional tournament fishing? Is it fitting to even be talking about making it easy for everyone to catch a ton of fish in a Tour event?

I think anyone would be foolish to have not recognized the undeniable spark of excitement the fishing industry has seen since Paul Elias won the Lake Guntersville event. I understand that completely and I also understand this rig will be very profitable for a lot of companies as well as many pros sponsored by those companies. But I don't think that any of us want to ban umbrella rigs from production, but simply from our professional tours. This is our current battle as it pertains to us, nothing more.

Based on comments I've read and listened to repeatedly, this must come as a shock to many, but an umbrella rig is nothing new; it is not a new innovation and it is certainly not a new "lure" or "bait" as countless contend. I have heard of striper guides using them since I was a young kid. But did I, or the thousands of others thinking the same thing, ever think it would be allowed in the highest levels of competitive bass fishing? Of course not!

A local old-timer I know chuckles at the comments that give credit to someone "inventing" the same umbrella rig he used to troll with back in the mid-60s. He even worked with Shakespeare to develop rods for trolling these rigs. He gives credit to a Mr. Sekora, who first made the rig known to him, more than 50 years ago. These rigs prompted fisheries officials to create restrictive laws in some states, including Tennessee, roughly 15 years ago.

If FLW allows professionals to use umbrella rigs in their FLW Tour events, where will the line be drawn? How many baits will pros be allowed to employ on the rig in a tournament if there are no state limits in place? Should this decision really be left to a fish warden or a state agency? How will FLW officials police it state by state? And what about lakes on state or national borders? Will the "don't ask, don't tell" policy become the norm with professional anglers? You bet it will. I would say keep it consistent across the board - one rod, one bait per line!

What happens when an angler catches four or five keepers on one cast and already has a limit in the livewell? Would that be considered possession of fish over the state limit where the tournament is being held? No one has been able to offer a good answer to that question over the past three months, with the exception of one Pennsylvania Fish Commissioner. "Well, you could be in big trouble," he said and then laughed.

In Pennsylvania you are allowed three hooks per line and a treble is considered to be one hook, so that seems pretty black and white. But some state laws aren't so clear. Couple that with bodies of water bordering other states or countries, and then add already confusing reciprocating laws into the mix and it becomes a real mess.

I've seen a few people admit to changing their minds about the umbrella rig over the last few months, but not many. Most of the time, we are of a stubborn nature, especially middle-aged men, which I'm sure are the majority reading this blog. We quickly and sometimes prematurely gravitate toward one side and rarely change our minds, even when we are challenged or proven wrong. When this happens, it tends to make us angry and even more defensive, myself included.

Those vehemently supporting umbrella rigs repeatedly use words such as "innovative," "invention," "tool," and especially "lure" when describing it or arguing in its favor. Oftentimes, they also attempt to defend its use by pointing to other unique, but truly innovative lures, techniques and equipment used in professional angling. They mention things such as Lowrance's GPS/Structure Scan, Power-Poles, HydroWave, Navionics, etc.

They even throw in examples like sight-fishing, landing nets, treble-hooked baits, buzzbaits and ChatterBaits in an attempt to show that umbrella rigs belong in our sport. Are they suggesting that two or more wrongs make a right? "Well, we already have sight-fishing, might as well throw in Alabama Rigs too?" As silly as that sounds, you can read these kinds of comments all over the Internet. Some of these could actually be valid topics, but they have nothing to do with the umbrella rig. Each "new twist" in fishing must be looked at separately.

To those who honestly think this multiple-rig concept will run its course and fade into the sunset, or believe that umbrella rigs are just a seasonal or regional application; you couldn't be more mistaken. Five baits will always be better than one. Andy Poss has even said that his rig will work all over the country - from the surface all the way to the bottom during any time of the year. And he is absolutely right! Variations and offshoots will never stop coming.

I've watched several YouTube videos lately of striper anglers with at least 10 lures hanging from a single rod. When watching these videos, it doesn't take long to realize another problem. As anyone who has fished it can tell you, the snagging of fish and the tangling involved in trying to land a fish with four or more other baits flying all over the place doesn't look good. If we're not comfortable with the visual damage that these rigs do to fish what might this look like to the general public?

Certainly, there are other conservation issues as well, but I tend to look at it more from a sporting, competitive, legal and professional viewpoint. I want the world to respect our sport and its athletes and not provide the mainstream more reason to mock us. I too, as FLW expressed in the open letter, think the Tour pros should be held to the highest of standards. The very core of competitive bass fishing is, and always has been, based on the premise that a tournament angler is only allowed to use one rod with one line and one lure at a time. The use of an umbrella rig is simply a method to circumvent that basic principle.

Some have instigated that those who support the ban are just jealous that Elias won that first event and we didn't. I certainly don't have any issue whatsoever with the anglers who used umbrella rigs at Guntersville or Kentucky Lake. In fact, I have nothing but respect for both Elias and Dan Morehead. If anything, I was irritated at myself because I lost the rig given to me by Mr. Poss, himself, only a month prior. I would have loved to win, but there was no more jealousy at Guntersville than any other tournament.

I looked everywhere for that thing after I heard about all the success following day one at Guntersville. I knew it would be productive in the area I was fishing, and had I found it, I would have used it. That was before I had time to study it and think about all of issues. I would have used it then. However, I will not use it now based on what I have seen with my own eyes, read and heard.

I made an educated decision; a decision that I believe shouldn't take an entire season for other professionals and our tournament organizations to reach. Our officials had the great luxury to review the use of the rig at the end of a season and in my opinion, that should've been more than enough time.

Those who experienced Guntersville already know what this rig is capable of under the toughest of tough conditions. How about reviewing it for a year before allowing it on Tour? Furthermore, are we comfortable with all the hard fought, legitimate records falling overnight? If umbrella rigs are permitted this season and then banned for 2013, will FLW then go back and erase all the 2012 records and statistics, or will there be asterisks beside them, like in MLB?

My history with Andy Poss' family goes back a long, long time. Laney Poss is the owner of Mango Tackle and just like Andy, absolutely loves fishing and designing lures. They are the definition of good people. Laney was the first person to offer free product to me as a teenager and I called him my first sponsor. I've won multiple local and regional tournaments on his buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and Mango Minnow soft jerkbait. I wore his logos and high-profile blue cap proudly for years. Therefore, I'm certainly not out to have a negative impact on Andy's success as some accuse. I think he realizes that the knock-offs are hurting him more at this point than prohibiting this rig from professional tournaments could ever do. I would ask that if you are considering buying some of these rigs, the least you could do is buy the original Alabama Rig.

As far as FLW's and BASS's best interests are concerned, I, and others in the sport could be wrong about having, or not having co-anglers. We could be wrong about using our own boats and equipment every day of every event. We could be wrong about being allowed to promote certain sponsors, or even about using landing nets. But we are not wrong about the harmful and negative effects that this rig invites into our profession. By allowing umbrella type, multi-bait rigs to invade professional bass fishing, we will be changing the very foundation of our sport.

Anglers need to fully understand the entire issue, and then vote on what they want to do with it, similar to what BASS has done. I'm confident that given the opportunity, our anglers would come to similar conclusions.

If you're undecided on the issue, you should consider what motivates people on either side to speak out. Is it money, greed, sour grapes, or real concern? For me and many others, this comes out of a genuine concern about our sport. We can all envision how this controversy could negatively impact our sport in so many ways. Wouldn't it be smarter to wait and not take that chance? Is there something to lose by waiting? To the contrary, by not waiting, just look at all we stand to lose.

As one of my Facebook friends said the other day, "One rod, one bait, one LEGACY!" The T-shirt is already being printed.

Tags: dave-lefebre  blog 

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