Rigs For All Reasons
By Fred Wall
"I don't see what you bass fishermen need with all them rods. I'm doing all I can to fish with two," said the semi-pro crappie fisherman. He was tied up beside me as I waited on my partner to park the truck and trailer before we left to pre-fish that morning.
I can fully understand why six or seven rods, all rigged differently laying on the deck of a bass boat might seem extravagant to a fisherman who only uses one rig all day. But as bass fishermen, we know there are at least that many rigs that are different from each other and every one has it's own application. I personally hate to take the time to even retie after I break one off, much less settle for one rod, one reel, one line size and all the knots needed to fish every given situation encountered on a single fishing day.
Every angler should have at least four rigs ready, for every trip regardless of where you're fishing, or when. These are the ever-popular Texas, Carolina, split-shot, and the newest one known as the drop-shot rig.
The Texas Rig
Quite possibly everyone reading this cut their teeth fishing plastics using a Texas rig. I remember in the mid- to late 70's, right after Creme brought out the first "rubber worms," as we called them then. It didn't take long for someone to figure out how to hide the hook in the worm to make it weedless. From then, until the late 80's, Texas rigs were "the only way" to fish a worm. It consisted of a bullet weight with a hole through it and a hook. We all used 20- or 25-pound test line on a "pool cue" with eyes - and that was how we fished a Texas rig.
That was then, but now is now. A Texas rig now starts with a 6-1/2 to 7-foot quality rod that is very sensitive in heavy action, a slow-geared reel, as light pound test line as is possible for the water you are fishing, and a sinker.
Lake Fork Tackle has a new sinker made from an alloy heavier than lead. It is noticeably smaller and not nearly as hard on the environment. They have a tapered head and come through cover easily. But the most advanced part of a Texas rig these days are the new hooks that are available. Owner Hooks constantly adds new and better hooks for every type of fishing to their product line. Anglers haven't missed the point either. If I'm using a lizard, or the new creature baits everyone has now, I like their new "J" Hook. It has an extra wide bend, combined with a worm-holding Z-lock shoulder bend at the eye. It is perfect for these baits and all larger plastics. For smaller baits and small worms I like their off-set shank wide gap and use it for most smaller applications. Their cutting point is the sharpest and won't let the worm bunch up or the fish get off.
As for tying a real Texas rig, simply thread the line through the sinker with the tapered end forward. Then tie the hook on the line using either a palomar or a Trilene knot. Run the point of the hook through the top of the worm and back out about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch down the worm. Turn the hook and run the point back into the worm without exposing the hook point and be sure to keep the bait as straight as possible.
The Carolina Rig
To an old striper guide friend of mine on Texoma this used to be called a chicken liver rig. He still won't throw one, and if you are of the same thinking you are so far behind the power curve you can't even see our dust. Here, too, in certain situations there isn't anything that works as well as a Carolina rig. In years past this was a heavy 1/2-ounce egg-shaped sinker, a glass bead, a swivel and a hook.
That was then. Most people these days start with a 7-foot medium-heavy, fast-action highly sensitive, quality rod, for added distance on the cast as well as to take up slack on a sweeping hook-set. It's generally teamed with a 5 to 1 retrieve ratio reel. Here smaller line size doesn't mean as much because a lot of people are using a lighter weight fluorocarbon leader material.
This rig allows a sinker to be attached to your line ahead of a bead and swivel and then a leader of specified length, onto which the hook and your plastic lure is rigged. It allows the fish to pick up the lure and move it the distance of the leader length without feeling the resistance of the weight. One of the pros I listened to one time told us, "The colder the water the shorter the leader length," and this holds true. But to me if you get shorter than about eight inches you might just as well use a Texas rig. So I usually fish about an 18-inch leader except when fishing grass, and I have fished them as long as four feet, in certain situations.
The long-term problem with the old Carolina rigs was when fishing standing, or downed timber or rocks you couldn't put that damn egg sinker through it. The second thing was you couldn't feel the bite when a fish picked up the bait, and it was hard to get a good hook-set that would hold the fish.
Again technology has fixed two of these three problems. The first being the sinker. Lindy Little Joe has brought out a sinker called the Lindy No-Snag. It is long and slender has a 20-degree bend about halfway down. It is available with a rattle or without, comes in 1/8- through 1-ounce and will come through snags better than anything you've ever tied on. They come with a black coating, which the factory says is a vinyl-like sub stance. My point here is I have used this same sinker so long that most of the coating is gone but I've still got it. It comes through rocks and tree limbs like nothing else.
The other problem with Carolina rigs that has been fixed is the hook-set problem. Owner has brought out a hook called Rig-N-Hooks. They are engineered for Carolina rigs as well as split-shot rigs. They ride with the point upright. They have a huge wide bite on a short shank and also have the cutting point. They are available from a tiny size 4/0 all the way to 5/0. I've used the #1 and the 1/0 for Carolina-rigged 4-inch finesse worms and had no problems hooking or landing fish. The third, and probably biggest, problem with this rig is feeling the bite. This is hard to overcome. My best suggestion is use a super sensitive rod, and pay extra close attention to how the rig feels. If at any point the "feel" changes in any way, set the hook.
The Split Shot
A split shot rig consists of a hook tied directly on the end of your line and a small 3/ 16-ounce or smaller split shot pinched on the line. This rig is used in fairly shallow water. It is excellent for sight fishing and to pitch at and around boat docks or shallow cover. The magic is that its light weight offers little or no resistance to the fish when it is picked up. The problems with this rig were it was hard to pull an odd shaped split shot through cover and the weight pinched on the line created the second problem. If you pinch it too hard, it will not slide down the line, the monofilament is weakened at that point.
That was then. Now a California company called Leadmasters has developed a product called Sticky Weight. This is a putty-like substance that is 94 percent tungsten alloy weight, 6 percent adhesive, and 30 percent heavier than lead. This product is the answer to the both of these problems. It comes in a small container and you just use as small as portion as you need. It is moldable to any shape and will stick to anything that is dry including itself. I tie an Owner hook on the line then about 12 inches above the hook, just molded a little of this product around the line. You can shape it to come over and through anything. You cannot knock it off. Get some and try it, it's worth its price.
I like to use a 7-foot medium action medium tip Enders rod for split shotting. The medium action is forgiving enough to keep the usually small hook stuck when a fish jumps or pulls, and the medium tip makes for longer casts with this light weight rig. Either of the Owner hooks mentioned earlier work well on this rig.
The Drop Shot
This is the hottest new rig to hit the bass fishing industry. It is now being fished by about 70 percent of the touring pros and if you haven't tried it you should. It consists of a hook tied from 10 inches to four feet above a sinker. It is most productive in early spring when water temperatures are below 55 degrees and the fish are ganged up in deep water. This situation happens again in late summer when the fish are in their deep-water territories and don't move shallower than they have to for foraging purposes.
The most popular baits for use with this rig are the really small, hand-poured 2- to 4-inch baits. Most plastics manufacturers have brought out a line of downsized worms, craws, or creature baits to be utilized using this system. It is extremely simple to tie.
Again, Owner Hooks has developed a new hook especially for this system. It is called the Down Shot and is an offset hook. It is designed to ride perfectly horizontal when tied to a line that is to be fished straight up and down. Use your favorite knot, but pull the tag end up over and back through the hook's eye. Leave this tag end as long as you want your bait to be off the bottom. Bass Pro shops sells a special drop shot sinker designed to be fished on this rig. It has a wire clip on top that you simply run your line through and pull it up tight in this wire clip. It is designed to pull free if it hangs up without losing your fish or your hook. Most people are fishing this rig on a soft-tip spinning rod with line less than 8-pound test. I'm fishing mine on an Enders 6-foot, 6- inch medium-fast tip using 8- pound "P" line. I had to make myself put everything else in the box and learn to fish it, but for deep-water fishing it can't be beat.
If you know how to rig and understand the separate applications of these four popular methods then you have covered the spectrum of bass fishing for soft plastics and should have an excellent arsenal on every trip to any lake anywhere in the US.
The tackle industry has done a great deal to improve our odds at the game, but becoming adept with any of these rigs and products is up to you.
Till next time, remember you create your own luck.