January is when many of Lake Norman’s hybrid striped bass, white perch and spotted bass move from the creeks to the main river channel. Add some larger-than-normal 9- to 10-pound striped bass and it makes for fun fishing. Some anglers credit the better-than-normal fishing season to a change in technique, which includes using Alabama rigs in lieu of live baits.
The Alabama rig has been the lure of choice for bass anglers since the fall of 2011. That year, Paul Elias won $100,000 in a FLW fishing tournament at Lake Guntersville, Ala. Elias brought to the scales 20 bass that collectively weighed more than 100 hundred pounds, each reportedly caught on an Alabama rig.
Elias’ tournament winning average of 5 pounds per bass caught the attention of the fishing community. By mid-November, the A-rig was the hottest selling lure in recent history. Its rapid rise to fame created a supply-and-demand phenomenon that drove prices to more than $100 per lure. Anglers truly believed the A-rig to be the Holy Grail of fishing lures, and if they could get their hands on one, they would catch trophy bass like the pros. Supply eventually caught up with demand and prices fell dramatically. During the next two years, the A-rig continued to produce catches of larger than normal bass, and the lure maintained a high ranking in popularity.
The winter of 2014 saw a resurgence in its use by those who targeted stripers and hybrid striped bass. Taking a nod from their bass fishing counterparts, they cast the A-rig into schools of surface-feeding hybrid striped bass. As water temperatures cooled and the fish went deep, more anglers switched to slow-trolling techniques.
Trolling is a method where one or more lines, baited with natural or artificial lures, are pulled behind a slow-moving boat. Instead of casting a single A-rig, those who troll are able to pull four, six or eight rigs at the same time. Trolling multiple lines, not only improves one’s chances, but also allows the boat to cover more water, particularly when fish are scattered. Trolling at 0.5 to 2 mph permits the A-rigs to get near the bottom. To do so, electric and small gas motors must be used. High-powered boat engines have difficulty running for long periods at idle speed.
For those not familiar with the Alabama rig, it has a wire harness design that allows the angler to cast/troll five or more swim baits on one line. A snap swivel is attached to the center wire and to the terminal end of each arm, which makes it easy to change lures when necessary.
If you haven’t used the Alabama rig, give it a try. It catches lots of fish, and some of them will be big enough to make you proud.
Free fishing seminar: At “Getting Ready for Spring,” Jake Bussolini and I will discuss the how’s and where’s of catching pre-spawn and early spring bass, hybrids, crappie and white perch. This 90-minute session will begin at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-822.
Hot spots of the week
Hybrids, stripers, bass and perch are feeding on baitfish in the old river channel. Best bets are anywhere you see seabirds flying low to the water and/or where boats are fishing in close proximity to one another. Fishing is good at times on either side of the N.C. 150 bridge between channel markers 13 and 14 and in the vicinity of channel markers 7, 3 and 2A.
Tip from Capt. Gus
The Alabama, Umbrella, Sabiki and other tandem lure rigs are producing strikes from some rather large stripers, hybrids and bass. Why big fish like these multi-lure rigs is anybody’s guess, but some surmise that big fish would rather gulp a mouthful of baitfish at one time, than snack on a tidbit or two.
The water level on Lake Norman is about 3.4 feet below full pond and 1.7 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the mid to high 40s in water not affected by power generation.