The Versatile Carolina Rig
By Hank Paker
There isn’t a more unique or versatile way to fish a soft-plastic lure than the Carolina rig.
Essentially, the Carolina rig consists of a free-sliding heavy sinker, long leader and soft-plastic worm or lizard. The lure and sinker are separated by the leader, a swivel and glass bead. To rig, simply slide a 1-ounce sinker on the main fishing line, followed by one or two glass beads that will clatter and protect the knot tied to one end of a swivel. The leader and lure is attached to the other end of the swivel.
The rig allows the sinker to drag along bottom while the lure floats above. It’s my favorite technique for fishing deep points and ledges because I can cover a lot of water quickly and entice non-aggressive bass into striking.
Don’t get me wrong – I still love fishing a plastic worm Texas-style. But the advantages of the Carolina rig far outweigh the Texas rig when fished in water 20 feet or deeper.
For example, when fish are suspended off the bottom, you can keep the bait in the strike zone better because the leader length can be adjusted.
In addition, the Carolina rig is not only easier to cast on windy days, but it makes it easier to detect bites because the fish seem to hold the bait longer. Also, with the 1-ounce sinker sliding freely on the line, the lure gets down quicker and stays there. That allows the angler to fish the lure faster, therefore covering more water efficiently.
Years ago, I fished pre-rigged worms such as the Ron Savage or Mann’s Limit Finder almost exclusively on Carolina rigs. They’re great choices when fishing open water, because the bass basically hook themselves. However, I’ve found the plastic lizard works as well, if not better. It’s a little more buoyant and can be rigged weedless for fishing around brush.
I’ve used other lures, too. For example, I’ve stuffed tube jigs with Styrofoam (to make them float higher in the water) and used them to catch extremely finicky bass.
My most unique discovery, however, occurred during a local tournament. The suspended bass wouldn’t bite my soft-plastic lizard, so I replaced it with a floating A.C. Shiner minnow plug and wound up catching more than 30 pounds to win the tournament.
For equipment, I prefer a 7-foot medium-heavy rod and baitcasting reel. I’ve also found that the new braided lines are excellent for Carolina rigging because of their sensitivity and strength. I use 25-pound test line on the reel, then tie a 14-pound Berkley Trilene XT leader to the business end of the swivel. If I get snagged, I can break off the monofilament leader and still keep my sinker, beads and swivel.
Leader length is critical. Three feet is standard for me, but I have used leaders as long as 8 feet. For terminal gear, I use an egg-style sinker, swivel and a 4/0 Mustad Needle Point hook. If fishing rocky areas for smallmouth, I’ve found that the Lindy Rig walking-style sinker or Bait Walker hangs up less.
As versatile as Carolina rigs are, they’re tough to fish through stumps and brush. If you encounter snags switch to a half-ounce bullet sinker and try swimming the bait through cover.
The next time you see fish suspended off the bottom in deep water, fashion a Carolina rig and begin experimenting. If those bass are even remotely interested in feeding, you’re going to catch ‘em.
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