Basics Revisited: Carolina Rigging 101

One of the most basic and widely known methods of fishing a plastic worm is the Carolina rig.  For most fishermen it is among the first techniques learned when they begin fishing.  The rig's beauty lies in its simplicity.  It is not hard to rig or fish.  The bites are often subtle, and the rig does not possess the "glitter and shine" of some others but when properly used it can flat out catch fish.  Let's take a look at this bass catching machine starting off with components and rigging.

The Carolina rig is simple to tie and fish, requiring no "specialty" tackle or knots.  Start off by slipping on either a bullet or barrel weight generally 1/2 oz. to 1 oz.  Brass has long been the preferred material for Carolina rigging because it is louder than lead.  However, tungsten now offers a louder, harder and smaller alternative.  Next, put on a glass bead or two under the weight.  This not only protects the knot on the swivel but also produces a rattling noise when it makes contact between the weight and swivel.  Now for the swivel.  Tie on a size 1 or 2 ball-bearing swivel or a size 10 to 7 barrel swivel. I stick to these sizes because they are heavy enough to withstand a big fish and small enough that they will not be easily spotted.  Tie on using the knot of your choice.  I prefer an improved cinch knot or a Palomar.  From the bottom of the swivel, tie your leader.  I generally use a leader that is from one foot to three feet in length.  Any shorter and the bait is not going to be off the bottom hardly at all.  Any more and the rig is extremely cumbersome to cast.  I generally use monofilament from ten to fourteen pound test for the leader.  Super braids are highly visible and fluorocarbons while invisible sink, eliminating the purpose of the rig (to float your bait off the bottom).  Now for the hook.  This is largely personal preference.  Use a hook that fits the bait you are throwing well.  That is about my only rule for hooks when fishing any plastic bait.

As far as baits, lizards and centipedes have long been top choices when Carolina rigging.  While lizards are still a top choice, I prefer finesse worms and senko-type baits over centipedes.  Creature baits, tubes, soft jerkbaits, and pinch-tail style baits (Sweet Beavers, Ugly Otters, etc.).  Just about anything that offers water resistance and floats the bait off of the bottom is fair game.  The bait you should choose depends largely on forage type and size.  If the fish are feeding on three-inch long shad, an eight-inch long lizard is probably not the best choice.  A tube, smallie beaver, or small soft jerkbait is likely to be your more productive baits.  The old adage "match the hatch" still applies even if you are bumping the bottom.  As far as colors, your choices should be no different than they would be with any other rig.  One color that has been successful for me in almost all situations is green pumpkin.  Fish everywhere seem to love this color.  If you are fishing in clear, open water, many anglers have begun fishing a small floating jerkbait in place of soft plastic bait.  This has proven especially deadly in cold water when fish are sluggish and the bait must be fished slow to entice that lunker into biting.

While most anglers categorize the Carolina rig with deep water, I have found it effective in depths as shallow as three feet.  The beauty of the rig is that it can keep the bait above structure while the weight and terminal tackle is out of the fish’s line of sight.  I have found it extremely effective in grass, when the fish are suspended above the tops.  Set the leader to be just a little bit over the top of the grass, and instead of dragging the bait lift your rod tip.  This will help prevent the weight from balling up in grass and deadening your feel of the bait.  The Carolina rig is also extremely effective on humps and ledges.  In either situation, start by positioning your boat over deeper water and throwing up to the shallow water.  Slowly drag the rig back, using a sweeping motion low and parallel to the water.  Shake the bait as you retrieve it.  This will cause the weight and beads to hit each other and rattle, possibly causing any bass that do not see your bait to start with to come and take a look.

I throw the Carolina rig all year round.  Hot water, cold water, it can be successful anytime there are fish around.  Try fishing it next time you go out in pursuit of that green (or brown) fish we all love, it can be very exciting.

Tight lines and God Bless,
Blake Rutherford

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