By Kevin Tate
When the water gets warm and the bass go deep, it’s time to bring out the Carolina rigs to find and catch fish.
Combining key traits of standard Texas-rigged worm fishing and crankbait fishing, the Carolina rig lets fishermen cover wide expanses of deep water, feel what’s on the lake bottom and tempt less-aggressive fish at the same time.
Standard construction of a Carolina rig begins by slipping onto the main line an egg or pointed sinker in the three-quarter-ounce range, following it with a bead, then tying on a barrel swivel. Use a lighter weight in calm, shallow water and a heavier weight in deep water and high chop. The bead protects the knot from the weight and, with the weight, can create a clacking noise to help grab the attention of fish. Onto the other side of the swivel is tied a leader one to four feet in length and a very sharp hook with a wide gap.
One variation in this construction puts the weight on a wire, as opposed to the line, above the swivel, preventing it from rubbing against the line and creating abrasions that can cause the main line to break when fighting a fish. In either case, the main line should be heavier than the leader so that, when the hook does get irretrievably hung up, the line breaks off below the swivel rather than above and doesn’t require rebuilding the whole rig from scratch.
The Carolina rig allows the use of a heavier weight than the Texas rig, since the weight is positioned away from the bait and so doesn’t make it feel unnatural to the fish, and that heavier weight gets the bait to the bottom quickly, even in deep water, and holds it there. This means larger areas can be covered more quickly and effectively than a Texas rig would allow. It’s ideal in situations that require more finesse than a crankbait could present, and it keeps the bait on the bottom over a longer distance as well – key points in finding and catching post-spawn bass.
Part of the value of the Carolina rig is the way it lets the user know what’s on the bottom of the lake. Vibrations from the weight dragging along are easily interpreted between mud, gravel, shells, rip rap or stumps, and the fisherman can easily picture where the bait is behind the weight and know it’s in the zone.
Carolina rigs are best fished with a sweeping motion, moving the rig along with the rod then reeling down to sweep again, keeping the line tight at all times. Experienced Carolina rig fishermen advise users never to set the hook as they would with a jig, but rather to reel a little faster until the rod loads up and sweep into the fish. They say jerking when you feel the bite may just jump the sinker off the bottom without transferring the energy into the fish.
Increasing the length of the leader increases the finesse at the expense of feel. A shorter leader may make strikes easier to feel, but a longer leader may make more strikes happen. Finding the best middle ground is a matter of experimentation and personal preference, but a leader three feet long is a good starting point.