The Carolina Rig is something that all anglers need to have in their arsenal. Once you’ve mastered and felt comfortable with the Texas rig it’s time to try out the Carolina and see how truly versatile it is.
After you’ve mastered the art of throwing a crankbait or a topwater you’ll need to learn how to fish deep and fish slow. That’s where the Carolina rig comes into play.
It takes a little more effort than the Texas rig to tie, but once you learn how to do it it becomes no big deal and you’ll be happy that you learned how. On top of being simple to tie it’s also deadly effective.
It has been winning bass tournaments for years and catching fish for weekend warriors for even longer. It’s no longer a tool that’s nice to have but is something that every angler needs to familiarize themselves with.
So, below we’re going to cover how to properly work a Carolina rig, the tools needed, as well as when it is going to be the most effective.
It’s unclear who started using this technique first, or where it may have originated from. There is speculation that it started somewhere in South Carolina, and it was used in order to fish a plastic worm more effectively in deep water.
What we do know is that it was Bill Dance back in the early ’70s who first brought into the national light. It was his second-place finish at the Bassmaster Classic that showed everyone just how great this can be.
When to use a Carolina Rig
The Carolina Rig is best used in warmer waters. Once the water temperature hits 55 degrees it’s game on.
Depending on where you live you could be throwing this lure anywhere from half of the year to nearly a year-round technique.
In parts of the deep south, you could potentially be using this fishing technique year-round. The water might not ever get below 55, and if it does it may just hover around that temperature.
So, if you love to throw a Carolina rig then the deep south is a hot spot to use it.
You can begin using it during the pre-spawn. The bass are triggered by that 55-degree temperature and begin leaving their deepwater homes in search of the warmer water.
Once the spawn hits it could be difficult pitching this lure to beds, but there are always late arrivals or early finishers during the spawn that you can throw this lure to.
You can continue throwing this into the summer and would work well during those hot summer days. When the bite is slow in the middle of the day a Carolina Rig could be exactly what is needed to pull out some deepwater fish.
This can continue to be effective all the way through Fall, but then it starts to drop off during the winter when the fish become dormant.
You could probably still catch some on this technique, but there are other methods that are more effective.
What kind of Structure should I look for?
Anywhere there is water is a great location to throw a C-Rig. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in just about any situation. Heavy cover? Perfect, punch through, and slowly drag it along the bottom waiting for a bite.
Shallow Water? Great, put on a lighter weight, and repeat the process above. The same goes for deep water, stained water, clear water, or anything else you could think of.
This is the method that every angler can use to catch more fish.
If fishing in really clear water then you’ll want to ensure your soft plastics match the natural forage and that your leader is a little bit longer than normal. Also, even if suing fluoro you may need to drop the size a little bit too.
Since this is such a slow-moving lure the fish get a good look at it and can determine quickly if there is something about this set up they don’t like.
How to tie a Carolina Rig
Tying a C-Rig is a little bit more labor-intensive than a Texas Rig. Don’t worry though, it’s not that complicated it just has a few more steps to it.
First, you start with your hook. It needs to be an offset worm hook. Match the size of your hook to the size of the lure that you’re using.
All lures used on this rig should be some form of soft plastic. Worm, crawfish, creature bait.
Next you’ll be tying on your leader. It should be around 12-48 inches long. The leader length is determined by how far off the bottom the fish are at the time.
A fish finder works well for this, or you can just use the trial and error method. If you are ever unsure what distance to start with use something in the 18-20 inch range.
After attaching your line to the eye of the hook, attach the end of the line to a swivel. The swivel acts as a measure to stop the weight from moving down.
Slide on a bullet weight (3/4oz is a good starting point) onto the mainline. This is the line that connects to your reel.
Attach a plastic bead to the line just below the bullet weight.
The bead serves two purposes. It protects the knot from being bumped by the weight and also makes a clicking noise against the bullet weight. Causing a noise that attracts fish.
Finally, tie your main fishing line to the other end of the swivel. You can use any knot you want here. The improved clinch knot is a personal favorite.
If tying all this seems like too much effort for you then don’t worry, many places make premade Carolina rig setups.
All you need to do is attach your main line to the barrel swivel and then attach your leader to the other swivel. It’s easy as can be, and it can fit inside your tackle box with any issues.
What kind of Tackle to use
If you only have one rod and reel then don’t be afraid of throwing a C-Rig. You can still go out and have success without a combo that is dedicated to throwing it over and over again.
If you have a 6’ medium action rod and a spinning reel then there are ways to make that work for you.
Now, if you want to have a set geared completely towards Carolina rigging then this would be a good one to have.
A 7-foot medium-heavy rod, paired with a 6:3:1 baitcaster is going to be ideal. Next, you’ll want either braided line or fluorocarbon line on your main line.
You can use monofilament if need be. But the previous two are great for casting close to structure because they are strong and won’t break from being drug over rocks and stumps all day.
Your leader must be made of fluoro. This is not a fast-moving technique so you need to ensure the smallmouth or largemouth bass will not be spooked by the line.
Fluoro is also very sensitive and will allow you to feel exactly what the bottom is made of.
Any type of soft plastic bait can be effective on a Carolina rig. Most people prefer to use lizards or worms, but if you find the fish are keying in on a certain species then feel free to apply that to your hook.
Below, we’re going to go over some of the products needed in order to tie a Carolina correctly. Each of them plays an important role and all of them can be easily fit inside your tackle box, so all pieces need to be used together.
A fluoro leader is needed in order to properly use a Carolina Rig. The Berkley Trilene vanish is a great line to use. It’s nearly invisible underwater allowing you to slowly drag this lure across the bottom without spooking the fish.
This line is also very strong and won’t break easily. Meaning you can throw it around all different kinds of structure and not worry about your line fraying or weakening. You can easily attach this line to your swivel by using either the improved clinch knot or a knot your choice.
The nice thing about this rig is you can easily attach and reattach line thanks to the barrel swivel.
Tungsten Bullet Weight
You can use just about any type of heavyweight that you prefer on this rig. However, tungsten is great because of how much denser it is than a normal lead sinker. Any tungsten sinker will do, but we recommend the Prime fish co. bullet weight.
The reason tungsten is recommended is that it has a much smaller profile than a lead weight. This is because of its density.
A 3/4oz lead weight is much larger than a 3/4oz tungsten weight. So when the fish are being skittish, it’s best to have something small at the end of your line that won’t cause any harm to the fish.
Razor-sharp points and a strong body allow you to catch fish after fish without worry of a hook straightening out, or the point losing its edge. Having the proper hook could mean the difference between losing or landing that trophy fish.
Ball Bearing Swivel
Any ball bearing swivel will do, but you should really be buying the best one you can. A cheap swivel will not turn as well which will lead to more broken lines.
Especially when hooking into a big fish. The nicer ones will turn more effectively allowing you to fish easier and will lead to more fish in the boat.
You can get beads made of glass, but plastic is preferred. The glass beads makes a great clacking sound which can draw attention to your lure, but they break easily. Especially when being pulled around rocks, stumps, or docks.
Plastic is much more durable and you get a very similar sound from them. So, unless you feel like retying your rig multiple times in a day you should get a plastic bead.
Pick out your favorite soft plastic lure and use that. Whatever you have the most confidence in should be the lure you choose. It could be a ribbon tail worm, crawfish, creature bait, or a lizard. If you want you could even try a baitfish imitation.
You’ll want to work these by dragging them slowly across the bottom of the river or lake. You’ll want to make long casts with this technique.
Cast past your intended target and begin the retrieve. Bouncing it like a jig can be used, but is not as effective.
Keep the rod tip at 10 o’clock and when you detect a bite you should lower the rod tip and reel in the slackline quickly. When the slack has been reeled in give a big hook set to ensure you’ve properly hooked the fish.
Also, ensure you have pliers handy as sometimes the lure could be deep inside the mouth of the fish.
If you want to fish deep water then the Carolina rig is a very effective way to do it. It’s something that should be in every bass anglers arsenal and while it may not work as well during certain times of the year, it can easily be a technique that can catch fish year-round.
So, check out the information above and use that as your guide to picking out all the tools and materials needed for properly throwing this rig.
Feel free to make some alterations too. Each body of water is different so maybe you think a longer leader will work. Use the above information as a baseline and expand on it for however you see fit.
Now, head on out to your local bait shop, or check out amazon for any of the above products. You’re going to love using this technique and I guarantee you’ll keep coming back to it time and time again.