Carolina Rig: It’s All About the Details

Carolina Rig: It’s All About the Details A Carolina rig is one of those classic presentations that seems to work in any season, at any depth, on any body of water. Here's how to catch insane fish with it!


Marc Townsend

Marc Townsend

Marc Townsend has been called “old school”, but he takes that as a compliment. While the competition is dabbling tiny baits on light line, Townsend is most likely throwing a big Carolina rig and smacking toads with it. A Carolina rig may be old school, but it’s an excellent way to search for and catch bass, shallow or deep.



Basically, a Carolina rig is stout line on a stout rod with a leader following a heavy weight. Townsend uses 50-60# braid on his main line, and 12-pound-test fluorocarbon or mono for the leader. Which one he uses depends on whether he wants the lure to float up. Using a long mono leader will help the bait float. This is particularly helpful on very soft bottoms or when there is grass on the bottom. For harder bottoms he uses fluorocarbon line, and he generally prefers a 4-foot leader. Your rod should be fairly long with a lot of backbone but a slightly limber tip to make slinging that long rig out a bit easier. Most rod manufacturers will have a Carolina Rig rod, so just play with a few until you find one that feels good to you. Top that rod off with a strong, fast reel that holds a lot of line.

   Marc has done a LOT of pool fishing – testing various rigs in his swimming pool to see how they perform. As a result of that, he rarely uses any weight smaller than a ¾- or 1-ounce egg sinker. To tie up a Carolina rig, slip your egg sinker onto the braid, then tie on a good quality swivel. The swivel really helps to reduce line twist. Invest in the best swivels and hooks you can find – the swivel is going to take a lot of pressure and you’re going to be setting that hook with a lot of line out. Make sure it’s light but strong and very sharp. Touch up the tip every now and then, and make sure you also check your line and your knots frequently. It’s a pain to retie, but it’s a lot more painful to lose a big fish.



Carolina rigs work everywhere.

Carolina rigs work everywhere.

A lizard is a classic Carolina rig bait, but it’s not the only bait you can use. In fact, your choices are almost limitless. Townsend likes Brush Hogs as well as lizards, and you can also use worms and craws. One bait not a lot of people think about using is a big tube. They have a good bulky profile, but since they are hollow they float up well. In fact, you can stick a piece of Styrofoam peanut inside and they’ll float up even better. When you pull on the rig, the tube will dart down and forward, then float back up when you stop. Put a bit of dye on the tentacles to make the waving even more noticeable. A super floater worm is also great, but make sure you test them in the water to make sure the hook you’re using doesn’t overpower the buoyancy of your lure.

   Inactive, suspended fish can often be tempted by these floating baits that stay at their level.  In addition to the tubes and super floaters, you can use a floating lure like one of the super plastics. You can also add a Carolina Floater from Betts Tackle to your regular plastic to make it float up.  (The Carolina Floater looks like a sinker, but it floats the lure up instead of weighting it down.  Peg it next to the hook). Senkos can also be killer on sluggish fish.



   The key to fishing this rig is to remember where the lure is.  When you feel the sinker hitting a tree or a rock, you have to keep in mind that the actual lure may be four to six feet behind it, depending on your leader length. Never jerk the sinker out of a tree or a hang-up--pull it loose slowly, and let it fall.  That way, the lure will follow along behind and stay in the cover where the fish are.

   The great thing about a C-rig is that you can cover water very quickly, but still keep a subtle presentation. Long points, flats, channels, even submerged islands and trees are great places to fish the C-rig, and it’s a dynamite choice for fishing grass. When fishing grass, a weight with more of a point to it will slip through the grass more easily than an egg sinker. Townsend approaches a point from the side first, and pulls his bait over it at 90 degrees, shallow to deep. He slowly moves around toward the tip of the point, casting and retrieving so he covers the entire point.

   The best way to move the rig is to pull it by moving your rod to the side. You don’t want to just let the boat pull it around because that’s the perfect way to constantly snag. Sling that rig out, then let it free spool until the line goes slack and you know the sinker is on the bottom. Take up any slack, and once you can feel the sinker, start moving it by pulling your rod to the side. You’ll be able to feel it move along the bottom, hit and climb over rocks, and even crawl up tree stumps. When it does crawl up something, push the rod forward to give it slack as it falls down the other side, so the lure stays close to the structure instead of yo-yoing out away from it.    


   The bite might be a definite thump, or it may just feel like you’ve hooked a rubber band. While you are pulling the weight with the rod, the lure itself is pulled down and forward through the water.  It gets closer to the bottom as it goes, but when you pause and begin to wind up the slack, it allows the lure to pause, then drift upwards until you start to drag the rig again.  A lot of times a fish will grab it just as it pauses, and when you start to drag the rig again you will simply feel extra weight.  When the rig feels heavy, set the hook, and don’t give the fish any slack when you’re hauling it in. This is where the fast reel comes in handy.



The slower the bite, the longer the leader. In very dirty water, a shorter leader can make it easier for the fish to find the bait. Townsend often adds a rattle to his C-rig baits, especially lizards. Townsend also uses a permanent marker to black out the last few feet of line in front of the lure, and he sprays his lures with scent just about every other cast. On long banks, he fishes the rig at a 45 degree angle. He says the fish seem to like it best that way.

   A Carolina rig is one of those classic presentations that seems to work in any season, at any depth, on any body of water. Make sure to keep one tied on!

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