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updated: 4/17/2013 4:51 PM

Be careful — you may not be legally covered with umbrella rigs

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  • The Alabama Rig, also known as the umbrella rig, consists of five wires dispersing from a lead jig head, with swivels and up to five individual lures.

      The Alabama Rig, also known as the umbrella rig, consists of five wires dispersing from a lead jig head, with swivels and up to five individual lures.
    Chris Young/The State Journal-Register

 
 

It was during an autumn largemouth bass foray when I saw an angler break the law -- the Illinois law, that is.

I'd just caught my fourth bass of the session using a pre-rigged Carolina plastic worm. The other fella was using one of the now famous umbrella spinner rigs.

While bass anglers in other parts of the country continue to laugh at us over the ancient ways and means of Illinois Conservation laws, we continue to walk a thin line as pawns in the great struggle of staying legal.

Anglers in some states view these new multi-spinner setups as a boon, especially after they've caught some big bass using one.

It's my opinion fishermen in Illinois continue to wear the yoke of antiquated thinking when it comes to fishing inland waters along with the great cache of opportunity that is Lake Michigan.

I've been asked, "Why are you always down on the Illinois DNR?"

Well, mainly I take issue with that organization because the IDNR marches to the drum beat set by the state legislature -- a group that can't tell the difference between a saltwater shark and a loan shark.

But I digress.

One former IDNR employee told me his former bosses are afraid if the umbrella rig, also known as the Alabama Rig, was allowed to be used in this state, those of us who use conventional lures and live bait would see a dramatic decrease in overall fish populations.

Meanwhile, from a January 2013 article by IDNR staffer Steve Quinn, comes this information:

"When the Alabama Rig broke onto the scene in October 2012, angler reactions included shock and awe, while manufacturers saw a chance to make a quick buck in the generally flat fishing tackle business. Despite the explosion of products and press concerning multi-lure rigs commonly known as umbrella rigs or A-rigs, the concept is far from new. Various forms of umbrella rigs have been used to catch striped bass and bluefish along the Atlantic Coast for decades. Some deploy as many as 14 lures. With some weighing several pounds, extremely heavy tackle (at least 50-pound class) and monel wire line are typically used to troll them."

One IDNR biologist says it is still illegal to use the Alabama rig on lakes that have pole-and-line-only fishing regulations -- unless the rig is modified to have only two hooks.

These rigs, which feature multiple arms for the attachment of up to five jig heads rigged with swim baits, have come under fire by many pro anglers as being too effective. Like spinner baits, crankbaits or any other tool in a bass angler's arsenal, however, there is a time and place that the rig is most effective. Catching tournament-winning stringers doesn't come from simply tying on an umbrella rig and proceeding to catch three fish per cast all day long.

Chris Young wrote in the Prairie State Outdoors Web page "the rig is legal on some lakes, such as the big U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lakes like Shelbyville, Rend and Carlyle. It also is allowed at Kincaid Lake and Lake of Egypt. Anglers can use it on the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri, but not between Illinois and Iowa. The Alabama Rig is legal on the Ohio River.

There are ways around the regulation, DNR biologist Stephenson noted. "If the angler clips the hooks off three of the lures or replaces those lures with spinning blades to attract fish, the rig is legal," he said. "But they can only have two hooks (or lures)," he says.

•Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.

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