Only three-hooked lures allowed on Alabama rigs in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY Mo -- A multi-lure rig for largemouth bass fishing, commonly called the Alabama or umbrella rig, is a hot topic this spring because anglers are having good success catching fish with them. But while the rigs allow multiple lures to be used, Missouri’s Wildlife Code allows no more than three lures or baits with hooks for each pole and line.

Most umbrella rigs sold to date are a weighted jig head with five, five-inch wires with swivels on the end. Anglers can then attach lures such as plastic shad imitations, marabou jigs or crank baits. They are then cast, lowered or trolled behind a boat. The rigs are effective because they imitate a group of shad, a big meal for a hungry largemouth bass.

But under Missouri’s fishing regulations each angler using the pole and line method may have no more than three lures or natural baits with hooks on each line. Alabama or umbrella rigs are legal to use in Missouri, but only if no more than three lures or baits with hooks are attached to each rig.

Anglers can modify their lure presentation to legally use umbrella rigs, said Mike Smith, Fisheries administration manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). They can clip the hooks off two lures and use them as teasers to entice fish on the extra swivels. Anglers can also attach other fish attractors such as spinner blades or marabou streamers to add flash and action.

The hook limit is in place to reduce the chances that anglers will snag sport fish such as bass while trolling or casting, Smith said. Umbrella rigs can be used for fishing in Missouri as long as anglers adhere to the rules regarding the number of hooked lures. Creel and length limits will protect the fishery resource from overharvest.

That anglers are abuzz about a successful way to catch largemouth bass, particularly those suspended in open water in lakes, is a good thing.

“This has put some new excitement in our fishing,” Smith said. “If people play by the rules, we expect no impacts to our fishery resource.”

Rules on umbrella rigs vary from state to state, but Missouri’s regulations are similar to many other states.

One potential point for confusion is that lures such as crankbaits have multiple hooks. They are still considered one hook under the Wildlife Code definition. The key is to apply the regulatory definition of a hook to use the rig. The numbers of hooks on each lure are not counted, but rather, the numbers of lures with a hook or hooks are counted.

Missouri does allow fishing with methods such as trot lines, bank lines or jug lines that allow each properly licensed angler to use up to 33 hooks. But those hooks must be spaced two feet apart. Those are not pole and line method, and lures on the umbrella rigs are only inches apart.

Also, an umbrella rig is not in itself considered a lure, because it is incapable of catching fish unless lures or baits are attached to it.

The MDC stance on Alabama or umbrella rigs stem from regulations in place for decades, Smith said. Those rules have served well to allow new innovations in sport fishing while protecting the resource for millions of anglers. Missouri continues to be a great place to fish.