For a new feature series we are speaking with local and national professional bass anglers about baits that they consider indispensable in the upcoming month – either generally or on specific lakes. For the first article I interviewed FLW Tour Pro Matt Arey of Shelby, NC, a 9-time FLW Championship Qualifier and winner of the FLW Tour Event on Beaver Lake in 2014 and 2015. We talked about what one bait he couldn’t live without in December.
Matt says that when Paul Elias brought the Alabama rig to national prominence on Lake Guntersville the perception arose that the system was chiefly effective for catching suspended fish. However, Matt says that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Alabama rig can be successfully fished from the top to the bottom of the water column – and in between – and in shallow to mid-depth to deep water from 1-40 feet. One of the beauties of the Alabama rig is how customizable it is, and if you want to fish deeper you can use heavier jigheads for a greater total weight. In December Matt says he would not think of going to any lake without an Alabama rig tied on.
Matt’s favorite brand of Alabama rigs are the rigs made by Shane’s Baits, and he believes that they are the best-priced, highest-quality rigs on the market. The components are extremely durable, and with replaceable arms on the off-chance that an arm breaks off you can simply insert a new one for a fraction the cost of a new rig. It’s conceivable to use the same rig all winter, although it’s probably unwise to not have a back-up if you have a break-off.
The rigs made by Shane’s Baits, and in particular the 9-arm varieties, offer the added advantage that anglers can adjust the running depth without changing the size of jigheads (all Shane’s Bait’s jigheads are 1/16 ounce). Because it is the cumulative weight of the rig that determines the depth it runs, on Shane’s Baits 9-arm rigs having more arms and jigheads serves the same purpose as using heavier jigheads. Matt also adds that the 9-arm rig can seriously outfish the 5-arm rigs, often by more than double the bites. Tournament rules will control the available options, and of course anglers can still vary the jighead sizes on any Shane’s Bait rigs.
As far as swimbaits Matt says the key is matching the hatch. If you are fishing on a body of water dominated by small, 2-inch threadfin shad then that will dictate one size of swimbait, while if the bass are primarily feeding on blueback herring in the 3-5 inch range or big gizzard shad in the 6-7 inch range each situation will dictate a different type of bait. Shane’s Baits standard jigheads are 3/0 but they also come in 5/0 size, and they offer weedless and standard options. Matt endorses Lunkherhunt Swim Bentos for use with Alabama rigs.
Shane’s Baits offers a variety of different Alabama rigs, and in addition to 9- versus 5-arm rigs they offer bladed rigs, with different numbers and locations of blades. Matt says that his preference for blades varies depending on the situation, but basically he will go with a bladed rig when he wants some extra “flash” in slightly off-color water or low-light/ overcast conditions. For flash he likes the “Blades of Glory Lower” 9-arm rig, with blades on the 5-arm lower unit but not on the 4-arm upper unit, as well as the 5-arm “Mini Blades of Glory.” The new “Domin8or” has 8 blades on a 5-arm rig when anglers want to maximize flash in shallower water. In brighter, more clear water conditions Matt will either throw the “Mini Finesse Rig” (5-arm, no blades) or the “Nasty Nine Finesse Rig” (9-arm, no blades).
Shane’s Baits are available at Angler’s Headquarters store at competitive prices. Click here to shop for Shane’s Baits.
Thank you to Matt for sharing this information with our readers, and good fishing to everyone this December!