Oneida Lake is an amazing smallmouth bass fishery. Ian Renfrew loves to fish this New York lake. He particularly loves using an Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass. He gives us all of the details of how he fishes the Alabama Rig.
How long have you been fishing Oneida Lake for smallmouth bass?
I’ve been bass fishing Oneida since I was a kid so over thirty years. The smallmouth fishery has really started to flourish over the past few years.
It used to be that if you were not fishing for largemouth bass you were fishing for second place. But in recent years with the introduction of the goby in the lake the smallies have really started to put on weight and they can definetly be a major player in tournaments. The thing with Oneida is that it seems like the fish are always changing which makes its fun but it can also humble you hurry.
What first gave you the idea to throw a Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
The A-Rig kinda busted onto the scene in a big way but I kinda thought it was a down south largie deal at first. So I will admit I was a little skeptical at first and a lot of the original rigs were not designed for to target smallmouth bass.
Not so long ago before the gobies got in the lake the fish would really school on bait like crazy and that’s when I first started throwing the Alabama Rig at them. It was the first year it came out when I started experimenting with it.
Were you successful the first time you threw the Alabama Rig on Oneida Lake or did it take a few times before it proved itself?
There is definitely a learning curve to throwing it. When it first came on the scene there wasn’t really one’s designed like the Rigs we are throwing now. So it took some tinkering and playing around with until I really unleashed its full potential. Its one of those baits that when its on you better be throwing but when its not on I still have the confidence to throw it because I know when one does eat it its gonna be full grown.
What base rig are you using for your Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
My go to Rig is a Brown Dog Tackle Co. Finesse Alabama Rig. This is a bait that I designed and that I produce. I designed this bait to be a little more compact than most rigs. I did that so it wouldn’t have as much drag in the water so you can fish it a lot faster and draw a lot more of those reaction bites from aggressive smallmouth.
In the FLW Costa on Oneida in 2016 I finished 3rd by burning this Rig. I’m really proud of the quality of our A-Rigs. I started making my own because the stuff I was buying just didn’t hold up. We use only the highest quality wire and we feature industry best Owner swivels and snaps on all our rigs. That means you open up the package and fish these things.
I saw you will use some different blade colors. What goes into your decision about blade colors on a day of fishing with the Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
As far as blade selection goes I like to keep it pretty simple. You got nickel and you got chartreuse. I like to have a rod rigged both ways.
Typically nickel performs really well in bright conditions. The chartreuse version is just a great one two punch. Smallmouth bass love chartreuse and they especially love chartreuse on Oneida in the fall. I will throw the chartreuse blades any time it clouds up, in rougher weather when the water gets stained, really it never hurts to keep them honest with the chartreuse rig anytime.
If I work a school for a while with nickel blades and they slow down I’ll go back through with the chartreuse. I’ve seen times where the chartreuse rig just dominates over nickel blades but that being said I’ve seen it go the other way also so its good to have both ready to go.
What are your favorite baits to put on your Alabama Rig when fishing Oneida?
We have a couple different hand poured baits that we designed at Brown Dog specifically for the rig and basically for Oneida. My typical setup is four of our 2.75″ Retriever series swimbaits on the outside wires and one 3.5″ bait in the center.
We designed these baits to be more durable than most swimbaits. If you’ve fished an Alabama Rig any amount of time you know that you catch one smallie he shakes and all your tails go flying off. Not with our baits. We played around with soft plastic blends so that we still got the swimming action we needed but were also able to get the durability to keep us fishing instead of changing baits all day. That’s my typical setup 90% of the time. There are times when I might go a little bigger but that setup is the deal most days.
The A-Rig needs to be properly weighted and balanced. I typically run 3 1/4 oz. weights on the bottom 2 and center wire and 2 1/8oz weights on the top two wires. This helps balance the rig and allows you to fish it fast.
What is your rod/reel/line setup for throwing the Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
Rod G. Loomis IMX Pro Umbrella Rig Rod 7’7″ 915 UBR, Reel Shimano Calcutta 201D, Line high quality 20lb fluorocarbon. This setup is the deal.
The rod has the perfect amount of tip and backbone to heave the A-Rig. Its not just a stiff telephone pole like most A-Rig rods…that’s not what you want.
I use the Shimano Calcutta because the power that that reel has. Most low profile reels were not designed to fish an A-Rig all day. This reel is a tank. It has so much power it makes fishing the A-Rig effortless.
As far as the line goes, I prefer a good high quality 20lb flouro. Some guys like braid. I do not. I like the shock absorption of the flouro for hooking and landing fish.
When fishing the Alabama Rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass, what types of structure are you looking for?
The smallies on Oneida do a little bit of everything. You can throw the Alabama Rig around shoals, down grass lines on flats, over submerged humps in 10 to 12 feet. There are so many places to catch them on the Alabama Rig.
My favorite thing to look for is bait. Find the bays or flats that are loaded with bait, and there will be active smallmouth. I’ve had 60 to 70 fish days in 25 to 30 feet of water where the smallies were just on bait out in the channel.
You can’t really go wrong throwing the Alabama Rig anywhere on Oneida other than heavy grass…the two just don’t mix. But anytime I’m say over 8 feet I’m gonna have an Alabama Rig in my hand. Its a great search bait.
Is the Alabama Rig an all conditions bait for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
I’m gonna say it is an all conditions bait. Its just one of those deals you just gotta try any given day they can get on it or they can get off it. But I’ve caught them just as good in slick calm as I have in 4 footers. It just depends on the day.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone fishing the Alabama rig for Oneida Lake smallmouth bass?
1. Don’t throw too big of a rig and baits. The forage is small in Oneida. You are trying to replicate that.
2. Don’t fish it to slow. I don’t like the fish to get to good of a look at it. Keep it up in the strike zone.
3. Don’t think that its ever to calm to throw it. Its not.
4. Oneida largemouth love it if you find them offshore.
5. If you think it doesn’t work, you are doing something wrong. Pick it up and don’t put it down. Commit to it. You might not get a lot of bites some days but they will be the right ones. That’s the biggest thing is just committing to the bait and throwing it all day.
Thank you Ian. So much great detail that here.