Revealed: Illegal Bass Fishing Lures
Anglers are highly competitive; even a casual afternoon by the water can erupt into fierce competition between friends. And tournaments, where thousands of dollars are at stake, can be as combative as any professional sport.
As with most sports, anglers are looking for an advantage and will use almost any lure that could potentially give them an edge. But some lures, often for good reason, are illegal.
When thinking about illegal bass fishing lures, there are two primary contexts. The first is the prevailing law, which impacts all anglers. The second is in the context of bass fishing tournaments, which affects comparatively few fishermen.
Dealing in Lead
In the United States, you will rarely find lures on sale that are illegal for use, at least in most areas. The biggest issue you’re likely to encounter is lead. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet implemented a nationwide ban, lead lures are banned in at least six states.
Lead is toxic and known to be a danger to fish, as well as birds and mammals that prey on aquatic life. A bluegill that swallows a lead lure could be consumed by an eagle, otter, or your next trophy bass, which keeps the toxicity in the food chain. For this reason, lead is banned for use in many outdoor and agricultural settings.
Several old lead weights
So far, six states have made it illegal to sell or use lead sinkers, the most common lead item in the average fisherman’s tackle box. Lead jigs and lead-based artificial lures are also banned in these states.
The states which have banned lead lures and tackle include New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington.
As a bass angler, you need to be aware of the laws in your state that relate to lead. Some states are pushing to implement a total lead ban, so be mindful that this could change your fishing setup in the future.
The Umbrella Rig
The umbrella rig (or Alabama rig as it is also known) consists of four to six hard wires extending from a single point. A hooked lure is at the end of each wire, with another usually extending from the center for good measure.
This rig is designed to mimic a school of fish. Many also include spinning blades to generate subsurface vibrations, which further entice bass to strike.
An umbrella rig (without lures attached)
The umbrella rig faces legal challenges in several US states – Tennesse, Iowa & Minnesota. Let’s take a look at why.
In Tennessee, umbrella rigs must conform to the following criteria or risk being considered illegal:
- The rig cannot be made up of more than three baits/lures
- The rig must use hooks that are size 6 or below (you can technically use hooks larger than a size 6, but there can only be one, and it must be a single hook)
Regulations in Iowa clearly state that it is not permissible to use more than two lines, or more than two hooks on a single line, within a single rig. They also state that using more than two spoons or artificial baits on one line is not permitted.
This pretty much rules out the use of umbrella rigs in Iowa.
Similar to Iowa, Minnesota law takes issue with the concept of fishing two or more hooks on a single line. The regulations consider an artificial lure the same as a hook, again ruling out the legal use of umbrella rigs.
Illegal Lures in Bass Fishing Tournaments
The Umbrella Rig
As mentioned, in most states, these rigs are perfectly legal. But they have been banned in certain tournaments. Two of the largest organizations in the industry, the B.A.S.S. and the F.L.W. Outdoors tournaments, have banned the umbrella rig.They are illegal for a simple reason: they are so effective it’s almost like cheating. When fish are finicky and won’t bite, the umbrella rig can be highly effective at enticing a strike. In the past, B.A.S.S. spokesman David Precht has stated that these lures are simply too effective and eliminate some of the skill required in fishing.
In most states, you will be okay if you use an umbrella rig on your own. Just keep them to private, non-competitive use.
Blinking or flashing lures are designed to get more attention from fish than a standard or traditional lure. Often used at night or during twilight, these lures have a small light and battery system that creates a blinking flash in the water. This is especially inviting for sight-based predators like bass.
Light-powered lures are not illegal to sell, possess, or use, except in Wyoming, which is the one state where this lure has been banned. In addition, many bass fishing tournaments have outlawed blinking lures for the same reason as the umbrella rig.
Different colored blinking lures
As an angler, you must be aware of any illegal bass fishing lures in your area. Whether it’s a blinking lure or an umbrella rig, know which lures you can use, where you can use them, and which lures need to stay in your tackle box!
Please note: this article contains legal information but is not legal advice.