How to Fish the Carolina Rig

BW lifting in a bass caught on a Carolina rig.

A Carolina Rig is just another way to rig up a soft plastic bait to fish for bass. Instead of having a sinker that can slide all the way to the head of the lure like a Texas rig, you keep the sinker a short distance away from the lure using a leader and swivel.



The sinker will still slide up the main line, but not all the way down to the lure. The use of the leader allows the bait some freedom to move around on its own. The lure is free to glide, rise, and settle in any such manner that it would naturally tend to do.

A typical Carolina rig consists of a hook, leader, swivel, glass bead, sinker, and main line. I sometimes like to add a couple more items to it such as another glass bead, a small rubber bead, and a brass disk or “clacker”. There are so many ways that you can customize your Carolina rig it will boggle your mind.A close up of a Carolina rig and all of its components.

You can use any soft plastic bait on a Carolina rig. I have even used hard baits like jerkbaits on Carolina rigs. Use any hook size that will pair well with your soft plastic bait, but keep in mind that a lighter hook will allow the lure more freedom of movement. An offset hook will help to keep your bait positioned correctly on the hook.

I generally like to use a one to three-foot-long leader, but you can use any length you’d like. That size of a leader is easier to cast. I use a ball bearing swivel with solid rings and a small rubber bead at the junction of the main line and the swivel. The rubber bead protects the knot from the glass beads. I use a main line that is of higher test than the leader so that if I snag the lure on something and the leader breaks, I can still retrieve my sinker and beads. I use glass beads that have facets on them like a diamond to reflect a little light.

You can use any size and shape of sinker. Typically, heavy sinkers in the ¾ to one-ounce range create more noise and commotion on the lake bottom than lighter sinkers. Bullet shapes come through weeds better and rounder shapes get caught between rocks less frequently. Sinkers made of harder materials make more fish attracting noise against the rocks and glass beads. I like to add an additional bead and brass disk so that my Carolina rig makes even more noise. In my neck of the woods I’m fishing my Carolina rig around weeds most of the time so I use a lead bullet shaped sinker.

I like to use a seven-foot rod for my Carolina rig and a good quality casting reel that will hold plenty of line because I can make very long casts with a Carolina rig.

You can fish the Carolina rig at any depth. It works very well in shallow water before, during, and after the spawning period. From summer through fall it is an excellent lure to use in deep water. That‘s when I use it the most, but maybe that’s because summer and fall last so much longer than the spawn. The post spawn period is the only time the Carolina rig doesn’t work very well for me in Minnesota. The bass tend to bury up in all the fresh weed growth that we have here at that time of year making the fish unreachable with the Carolina rig. Jigs or Texas rigs are better choices then.

BW lifting another bass caught with a Carolina rig.I consider a Carolina rig to be a finesse type of lure that really shines when the fish are reluctant to bite on most other lures. It is also one of the easiest lures there is to use. Just cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, and then drag it all the way back to the boat. The trick is in how you drag it back to the boat. I drag it back one to three feet at a time by pulling it slowly to the side with the tip of my rod. I pull it slowly enough to be able to feel all the nooks, crannies, rocks, and old boots that may be on the bottom of the lake. After each pull I pause, letting the lure glide, rise, and settle, before I pull it again. I can vary the length of the pull and the length of the pause to suite the mood of the fish.

When you feel a fish pulling on your line, set the hook by giving the rod a good hard sweep to the side. Since we rig the lure on a short piece of slack line we aren't always able to detect the very first bite of the fish on the lure, but after a few seconds either you will begin to pull on the fish or the fish will begin to pull on you. The fish can even swallow the hook before you ever feel the fish on your line, so set the hook as quickly as you can to prevent hooking the fish deeply enough to injure it. When this begins to happen, I know that the fish are aggressive enough to catch with other types of lures, so I switch to a jig or Texas rig to avoid injuring fish.

Related articles: Counting Down.

Now that you have read about the Carolina rig, watch it work in these videos: Ida Lake, Orchard Lake III, Turtle Lake.

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