A Carolina rig is a bass fishing basic. It’s one of our most efficient tools and one that each and every one of us ought to use regularly. Simply stated, a Carolina rig catches fish when other methods fail.
Dragging a rig around all day doesn’t sound like much fun and at times it’s not. It can get really boring. But, when you get on the fish, it will be one of the most action-packed periods of a bass angler’s year. It has contributed to multiple tournament wins for me and countless others on the trail. I try to keep my Carolina rigging simple: I use basically the same line, rods reels and baits for most situations. I know it works well shallow or deep, ultra clear water or stained and I know it works all year long but best in the post-spawn through the summer months.
The rig works well because it keeps the bait on or near the bottom better than any method out there and it covers lots of ground. When bass are relating to the bottom they will eat a Carolina rig. When they aren’t relating to the bottom of the lake try something else, a C-rig just won’t work.
Many touring pros look at the rig as a search bait. They use it to cover a lot of water, and once they start catching a few bass they will slow down and switch to another more focused bait. That can be a good plan, but not always. As the old saying goes, “dance with who brought you to the party.” That’s never been truer than with the rig. If you are catching fish it, why change?
The rig I use is much the same as every one else’s. I thread a ¾-ounce sinker on my main line, then a bead and then I use a Trilene knot to tie on a swivel. Then I tie on a leader (normally about three feet long) and attach a hook designed for rigging. I vary all this with the conditions but not a lot. For my main line I use 20-pound Iron Silk and Vanish for a leader. The main line needs to be tough and low stretch; the leader needs to be invisible to the fish. These lines do just that.
I use two different baits and they are both made of Berkley Gulp!. It’s all about the scent and how it’s dispersed in the water. If a fish gets near the bait, it will instantly recognize it as something to eat and trigger an impulse to grab it and hold on. The two baits I use are the Sinking Minnow and the Noodle in green pumpkin or watermelon with red flakes. I switch baits and colors and let the fish tell me which to use. These colors work for me in all most all conditions, but when the water is a tannic (or what I call “Florida” color), I will use June Bug.
I always use a tungsten sinker. Being denser it stays on the bottom better and sends more distinct vibrations up the line so I can tell more about what’s going on down there. I feel the rocks, gravel, logs or whatever and after time you will know instantly the bottom composition. If the fish are deeper than 20 feet or so, a heavier weight works better; in shallow water or heavy cover, a lighter one may be in order. The ¾-ounce tungsten sinker is the best over all. I use a bead to protect the knot but I make sure of two things: first, the bead needs to be made of plastic (glass breaks easily in the rocks); and second, the bead needs a hole in it large enough to go over the knot. I never use any clackers or other noisemakers near the sinker. I want the fish eating the bait and not the sinker. If they still continue to hit the sinker, I can always shorten the leader. If that doesn’t solve the problem, I can tie on a two- or three-inch dropper and hook with a Gulp! Noodle.
Sometimes I vary the leader length. Heavy cover and shallow water requires a shorter leader. Hang-ups are less frequent and when I hit a stump or other cover I know the bait is close by and to get myself ready to react. I try to always use a sweeping, side-arm hook set. I use a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod. It feels good to me for a Carolina-rig rod since its long enough to take all the slack out of my line to set the hook and sensitive enough to feel the bottom and the bites. I use a reel with a 6.3:1 gear ratio that also helps keep control of the line.
A Carolina rig is every man’s method to catch more bass. It’s easy enough for the beginner yet dependable enough for the pro. Just throw it out there over a hump, point or other deep water cover and drag it in two feet at a time. Boring? Maybe. But who cares when the fish are biting?