Carolina Rig Fishing

January 31, 2009 by  

By Kevin Dahlke


Standard carolina rig

Standard carolina rig

The Carolina Rig is a technique that has been around for quite some time. It is used to cover an area quickly to find out what kind of structure you are fishing. Personally, I have put this technique on the back burner for the last number of years, but as of the last season, I put it back into action and it really paid off. In fact, I used it enough that it had earned me (4) top 4 finishes, and (3) big fish awards. This article is going to help you, step by step, explain the setup of this technique, types of baits to use with this, and places where to fish using this technique.

First, we will cover all of the components that are required for getting this rig set up. The first component is the weight. After assessing what type of structure and depth you will be fishing, decide how much weight you are going to need. The way to look at it is, get away with the lightest weight possible; usually throw between a ¼ to ½ oz weight, unless you are fishing deep water, then look at the ¾ to 1 oz weight. There are a variety of weights to use for this, egg sinkers, bullet weights, weights with rattles in them, and so on. They come in different composites, lead, brass and non-lead. A bullet weight is a more common weight for ease of getting through vegetation. Since a lot of the states are getting away from lead, use the brass or non-leaded weights.

The next component that goes onto the line after the weight is the beads. The beads come in either plastic or glass. The glass beads are faceted, which means that they are not round, but have many flat sides to them. Usually there are two beads put onto the line after the sinker. Most anglers use the glass faceted. Some anglers think that using colored beads makes a difference, but it really comes down to personal choice. Using the two glass beads in line makes more of a clacker noise when the weight and the beads bang together, as opposed to the plastic beads. With the noise from the weight and beads, it represents the clicking sound that the crawfish makes.

3 simple ways to outfit a carolina rig

3 simple ways to outfit a carolina rig

So far, on the line, we have the sinker followed by the two beads. The next component is a swivel that is tied onto the line. Usually with this rig, we would use the crane swivel for this in the black finish. The purpose of the crane swivel is to keep the twist out of your line, for the leader end, as well as to keep the sinker and beads in a fixed position. For the swivel size, usually stick to the smaller versions like the 20 to 30 pound rated range. There are manufacturers in the industry that offer a pre-rigged version, called the Carolina Shortcut; Bass Pro Shops offers this as well as many others.

So up to this point, the rig consists of having a weight threaded onto the line, followed by two beads. Then, with the end of the line, we tie on the swivel. Now that we have the main components rigged up, we will get to the business end of the Carolina Rig.

Now, it comes down to what type of cover you are fishing; what mood the fish is in, and this will dictate how long of a leader you will need. From the swivel that is tied onto the line, we will then tie on a Fluorocarbon leader. By using a Fluorocarbon leader it gives the bait a much more natural look as the fish don t see the line like some Monofilament lines. Usually the main line is of heavier weight poundage; anywhere from 12 to 30 pound test, depending on how much abrasive cover you are fishing. For instance, weed cover will let you get away with 12 pound test, but if you were fishing rock cover, then we would look at 20-30 pound line. From the swivel, we tie the leader on and which is a lesser line weight. The line weight for the leader is anywhere from 8 to 15 pound test, try and get away with the lightest possible line that you can.

The lighter the line is, the more naturally the bait darts from side to side, moves up and down, and falls more naturally to the bottom. This is where we need to pay some attention to the line length with the bait that we are using. The leader can be as short as 12 inches long and can go to as long as 4 feet. The shorter the leader is, the faster the bait will fall and the longer it is, the more natural it will look. Usually the length would be between 24 and 36 inches. Tie the hook to the end of the leader, usually the hook will be a 2/0, 3/0 or 4/0 hook. Use a heavier gauge hook; otherwise if you use a thin-wired hook, there is the possibility of straightening the hook and losing some big fish.

The bait that goes onto the hook can be any variation of baits that are out on the market. There is a plastic bait company by the name of BearPaws Hand Poured Baits that offers a wide range of plastic baits. They offer baits like BearPaw Grubs, Lazy Sticks (senko style), Slick Sticks (finesse worm), Grim Reapers and Shad baits. They have just come out with some new bait that consists of 5-1/2 Salamanders, large 7-3/4 Kodiak Whip worms and the 4-1/2 Grizzly Stick, which is a creature bait. All of these baits come in a wide variety of colors, BearPaws baits are offered in over a 100 different color variations. All of these baits are hand poured and individually trimmed and packaged at a great price. If you haven t tried hand poured baits, you don t know what you are missing. Hand poured baits are more durable, have a more lifelike feel to the fish, have scent baked into each one and have a natural buoyancy that works great for Carolina rigging.

A simple view of the carolina rig. Experiment with different line lengths in-between the swivel and the hook.

A simple view of the carolina rig. Experiment with different line lengths in-between the swivel and the hook.

The creature bait craze is running wild right now and it is always a great choice for this technique. The BearPaws Grizzly Stick creature bait consists of two curl tails off of the tail end of the bait and has two side appendages also. The main body consists of the zipper concept and with this design; it displaces a lot of water and creates a disturbance in the water column that draws the fish to the bait. Another great bait that they offer for this type of a bite is the 5 1/2 inch salamander, which has the great buoyancy from being hand poured. If there is a tough bite going on then switch to a subtler bait of the 4 or 5-inch Lazy Stick, the 4 or 6 inch Slick Stick or the 4-inch Shad. Any of these are finesse baits and offer the subtle action that is required for the tough bite.

Now that we have the Carolina rig setup and a few baits picked out to fish with, we will now look at places and presentations to use this in. This rig is really used to pick apart structure, as it gives the fisherman a lot of information back to them as it is being fished. The weight transmits vibrations back to the angler s hand and with that they can tell if they are fishing sand, rocks, mud, weeds, etc. This presentation is used as search bait, as it can cover an area fairly quickly and when an area has been found that is holding fish, you are able to slow down and fish it as slowly as the need warrants.

This presentation is used mainly to cover large expanses of an area with little vegetation and sand or rock bottom. But, as anglers are using it in heavy vegetation, this is giving the bass a different look at the baits that follow. As it is coming through the weeds, the buoyancy of the BearPaws Hand Poured Baits allows the bait to float either high in the weeds or above them as it floats and slowly settles towards the bottom. After casting the rig out you will slowly drag it back towards the boat, with a lifting or side motion of the rod tip. With a 3 foot leader the bait flutters above the bottom and it slowly falls back down and that is when the bass strikes. As you start to move the bait, be prepared, because many times you may not feel the fish pick it up and when you go to move it, there is weight there. With a side sweeping hook set you will hook another bass.

Mainly this rig has been fished on deep structure, but recently more people are using it to fish in water as little as 1-2 feet deep. It gives a different presentation to the shallow water fish that are use to seeing jigs and plastics fished Texas style. By fishing this shallow, the bait will have a very erratic action and is enticing to them. You will be able to crawl this over wood cover, but would recommend shortening the leader to maybe a foot long or a bit more. This allows the bait to free fall better, but with a shorter leader it doesn t get as tangled in the wood like a long leader would. The shallower presentation will also allow you to get away with a much lighter weight for a softer presentation into the water after the cast. You will be able to use a weight between 1/8 – 3/8 oz.

If you haven t tried the Carolina Rig before, you don t know what you are missing. You are able to cover water quickly with this technique and you are able also to fish it slow. You can fish it very shallow or as deep as you need to. There are a variety of baits to use with the Carolina Rig and they will allow you to fish to what ever mood the fish are in. Bigger baits with rolling curly tails and body appendages are great for the quick and aggressive bites. As opposed to the subtler 3-5 inch finesse baits for the very finicky fish. Whatever the mood is or whatever the structure you are fishing, you should always have one rod ready with the Carolina Rig.


One Comment on "Carolina Rig Fishing"

  1. Neal Harvey on Fri, 12th Mar 2010 6:41 am 

    When I install a weight to my main line of the carolina rig, should the weight slide up the main line all the way. When I cast, the lure or hook will pull the main line thru the weight for a good distance.

    Thank You


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