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By James DrakeThe Alabama rig, that smaller cousin to a traditional umbrella rig such as is often used around here to catch striped bass, continues to make news in the largemouth bass fishing world.

On Feb. 1, it officially was banned to use in the Bassmaster Classic and all B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournaments.

The results of a poll taken of Elite Series professional fishermen was just released in the March issue of Bassmaster magazine in which 47 percent of the pros are against its use while 47 percent are for it and six percent were undecided.

Recently, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission ruled that its use would be illegal in the main stem Potomac River. It is already illegal to use in all Maryland controlled waters.

The reason for this is that it has five hooks.

To a bass, the Alabama rig resembles a little school of baitfish and all five lures are loaded with a hook unlike our traditional striped bass umbrella rigs that use multiple teasers but usually only have one real hook.

Maryland and the PRFC only allow two hooks per line, unless youíre using a large standard plug that was designed with three treble hooks.

However, our friends in Virginia donít care how many hooks you have on one line.

Can you see the potential problem when fishing the Potomac River? If you're doing your casting within the PRFC markers in a Virginia tributary to the river, the 5-hook Alabama rig is legal to use. Once you go beyond those PRFC markers into the main stem or over on the other side into a Maryland tributary, the Alabama rig is now illegal.

In the past, to ease this kind of confusion for fishermen on the Potomac, Virginia has usually worked together with Maryland and the PRFC on such things as creel limits and minimum size for bass and even implements the larger minimum sizes in the spring for her tributaries to the Potomac.

This time, the Commonwealth has no intention of going along and outlawing the Alabama rigs. At least, Iím told by both the biologists and game wardens from their Northern Office of Game and Inland Fisheries, it wonít happen this year.

Ever since Paul Elias won a major tournament at Lake Guntersville in Alabama last fall using the Alabama rig, these things have become the hottest lure in bass fishing today.

They absolutely work to catch bass and can be cast and retrieved, trolled or even jigged, sometimes with great success.

To use the Alabama rig around here, you may only have two hooks. If you added three in-line Mepps spinners to the rig, with their hooks removed, you could then load two lead jigs with hooks to the two remaining arms and be legal.

These things arenít cheap, either. Iíve seen the basic Alabama rig for sale in tackle shops for $14 and another model for $18.

Bass Pro Shops have two offered in their latest catalog. One sells for $14.99 and the other will set you back $24.99. And remember, thatís just the basic rig. You still have to add some kind of bait or lures to those five arms.

These things obviously work and I think theyíre here to stay.

Fishermen are sometimes an inventive bunch. It will be interesting to see what happens this fishing year.

Fishing updateThe hatchery trucks made several stops in Southern Maryland last week and delivered thousands of catchable size trout to the following waters:

Prince Georgeís County: Tucker Pond, Melwood Pond, Lake Artemesia, Greenbelt Lake, Cosca Lake

Calvert County: Calvert Cliffs Pond

Charles County: Wheatley Lake at Gilbert Run Park, Hughesville Pond

Yellow perch have already been caught at Allens Fresh, Nanjemoy Creek, Mattawoman Creek and far up the Patuxent River, way beyond the Route 231 Bridge.

Andy Andrzejewski with the Reel Bass Adventures guide service (301-932-1509) said the bass fishing on the Potomac has been steady as long as the wind doesnít blow.

ďWe are still finding good numbers of quality bass along drop-offs in the creeks and along main river areas,Ē Andrzejewski said.

Heís getting strikes on deep diving crankbaits, slow-rolled spinnerbaits and chatter baits. That all said, the best bait of all continues to be the Mann's Sing Ray grub rigged on a 1/4-ounce ball head jig with the hook exposed. You might also scare up a bass on tubes or a jig and craw combo.

Andrzejewski is also sometimes targeting yellow perch and says theyíre staging now for the big spawn. The guides are finding them tightly grouped in 13 to 20 feet of water and some of the bigger perch even will hit those same Mann's grubs.

For more quantity, try a drop shot artificial minnow coated with Smelly Jelly or, of course, you can be a traditionalist and throw the real thing.

UpcomingThe second annual Sportsmanís Banquet will be held at the Hughesville Baptist Church on March 10 with guest speaker and whitetail authority Charles Alsheimer.

The cost is $20 per person and $10 for children 12 and younger. Tickets may be purchased from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and Sunday mornings at the church at 8505 Old Leonardtown Road in Hughesville.

For more information, call 301-274-3672 or 301-884-8645.

A second banquet is set for March 24 at Middleton Hall sponsored by the Southern Maryland chapter of the National Wild Turkey Foundation. For more information, call Billy Moore at 301-751-6945.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Solomons Flotilla 23-2 will present two four-session Maryland Boating Safety Education courses that will qualify graduates for a Maryland Boater Safety Education certificate.

These certificates are necessary for any person born after July 1, 1972 to operate a registered vessel in Maryland waters.

The first will be held at the Piccowaxen Community Center in Newburg on from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays March 13 to 22.

The second will be offered at the Southern Community Center in Lusby from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays April 3 to 12.

Topics to be covered will be boating terms, equipment, how to properly trailer your vessel, safe boat handling, navigation, jet ski operation, water skiing regulations and more.

For more information or to register, call Gary Smith at 410-326-8377.

The Greater Philadelphia Boat Show will be held March 2 to 4 at the Philadelphia Expo Center at 1601 Egypt Road in Phoenixville, Pa.

Real bargains and great financing is promised.

zbasser@aol.com