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LAKE WYLIE, S.C. -- A popular fishing lure called the Alabama rig is making novice anglers look like experts, but also causing concern about illnesses and injuries users say the lure causes.

The Alabama rig has five lures with five hooks connected by a spreader arm and looks like a school of bait fish swimming in the water. It costs between $15 and $25 depending upon the size.

It is such a hot commodity Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle owner Brittany Stegall keeps them on the front counter so fishermen have fast access to them.

They are by far her biggest selling lure. Yes, most definitely, Stegall said.

It might look strange to folks used to fishing with a single bait and hook, But to bass, the Alabama rig is irresistible, Stegall says.

It comes through the waters as a school of fish and pretty much you go from fishing to catching, she said.

We put the Alabama rig to the test with Bassmaster Elite Series angler Jason Quinn, who knows Lake Wylie like the back of his hand.

He caught a bass 20 seconds after his first cast using the Alabama rig.

His second cast netted two bass at the same time. Yes, two at the same time.

I ve never caught five, but I ve caught four, Quinn said.

His third cast landed his fourth bass of the day.

One of the bass Quinn caught had a sore on its side and shows why the Alabama rig draws concern and is banned in some locations.

See that sore? Quinn said pointing at the fish. That's because of an Alabama rig where he's been caught before and the hook got him in the side.

When you catch a fish, those other hooks around it seem to get entangled in it, so it hooks them in places like in the side and the belly and tail, said Quinn. What it does in when you take that hook out of the fish and release it back into the lake, it will form a sore when it starts to heal and if it starts forming sores, then other fish will contract it and it will start killing a lot of fish.

It s a problem, Quinn and Stegall say, that gets worse as the weather gets warmer and could impact Lake Wylie's bass population. Stegall says the lure became popular last fall, so this will be the first summer to see potential impact on the lake.

Let's hope we don't have a lot of floating bass, Stegall said.

Concern over the number of hooks and impact on fish populations is why the Alabama rig comes with hook number and/or hook size restrictions in Minnesota, Tennessee and parts of Mississippi.

Alabama rigs are legal in South Carolina. The state says it hasn't seen problems with it, but adds there still isn't widespread use.

Alabama rigs are legal in North Carolina except for a few spots near the coast. The state is studying their use. After that, biologists will see if regulating the Alabama rig in North Carolina is warranted.

The Alabama rig is banned in Quinn's Bassmaster Elite Series. Quinn says it is too easy to catch fish and doesn t showcase other skills needed to find and catch fish.

For other anglers, it's as close as you can come to a good day fishing on the lake.


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