The Carolina Rig...
The Carolina rig is simple yet very deadly in catching bass. This technique is not very complicated to use. However, it seems as though it has fallen to the bottom of many tackle boxes. The average fisherman considers this only a deep water method of fishing and since most recreational fishermen like to beat the shoreline, the Carolina rig goes unused or not used effectively.
Rods, reels, line, weights, leaders, beads, and swivels make the topic of this rig seem confusing. But, the experienced fisherman knows that this rig should be considered under many different circumstances and remains one the oldest yet best choices.
It seems to me that however the Carolina rig came about; learning to tie and use this simple technique should be on your list of things to learn, NOW! It has always been extremely successful in all depths of water and should be considered at any time of the year. Popular belief is that this tactic is best used during early spring or in winter. This is true but it is also great all year long and its use should not be limited to cold weather.
Being that the Carolina rig is so great in the deeper water, why wouldn’t it work in the hottest summer months when bass are schooled up on deep structure? The fact is, IT DOES!
How about shallow water? Here again, used correctly it can be great. I like to shorten the length between the weight and the hook and I am not afraid of throwing this at spawning beds.
The only real limitation to this tactic is the fact that it can be very difficult to use in heavy cover and areas of extremely heavy vegetation such as heavy hydrilla or milfoil. Another tough situation is anyplace there are brush piles. The way the worm or bait hangs from the hook and the fact that the weight is above the leader will lend itself to many snags. It is much better and more effective to use a jig in these areas.
Let’s take a look at the tools you will need for this technique…
The first thing to consider should be the rod. I recommend a longer rod (7 to 7.5 feet), with a good back and a fast tip. Attached to the rod should be a fairly fast reel. I always like to spend a bit more for a quality reel and save a buck or two on the rod. Get one that feels good and has a good retrieval speed. Most of the time you will be making longer casts with this rig and you want to get that big bass back to the boat as fast as possible.
The line you put on this reel will depend mainly on where you are fishing. Here in Minnesota, while the fish are strong, they are not nearly as big as the ones in Florida. I can get away with using 10 - 12 pound test but I recommend bigger line if you have bigger fish in your area. I am a bit old fashioned and still like to use mono but line is really a personal choice.
The weight you choose will also depend on several factors. Just remember that the weight needs to make contact to the bottom at all times to be the most effective. Wind, water depth and structure you are fishing will also play a part in this decision. I like to use a bullet style or an egg shaped weight in the smallest size I can get away with and still feel the bottom.
The next thing to ponder is the leader. The length of the leader and the type of line you use is also a personal preference and you will develop your own style as you experiment on the water and find what works best for you. Do not let anyone sway your decision just because they think their way is the best. I like to use 12” to 18” of leader for ever 8’ to 10’ of water depth. I also like to use a leader that is a bit smaller then my main line, if I am spooled up with 12 pound line my leader with be 10 pound or even 8 pound. This is just once again; my preference and you will make your own choices as you learn to use this rig. One thing to keep in mind is that the fish you see on your locator are holding three feet off the bottom; you will never get to these fish with a shorter leader. Rig the carolina rig to the conditions for your best success.
The next thing to consider is whether or not to use a swivel. Swivels can be the weakest link in this set up. Often times I will use one of the new pegging systems available and peg my weight at what ever length fits that situation. If you do use a swivel make sure it is of good quality and as small as possible. Do not skimp on your terminal tackle.
The last thing to think about before you tie this up is if you are going to use a bead or not. I will use a bead only if I am using a swivel. The reason for this is the bead protects the knot from the weight. If I am using a pegging system, I do not like using beads. This is just my personal preference. You may have and should have your own ideas!
Putting it all together…
Now its time to tie your first Carolina Rig up!
First take your weight and slide it on to you line. Then slide your bead on the same line under the weight. Then take the swivel and tie it to your line with a simple and easy trilene knot. Then take your leader material in what ever length you have decided on and attach that to the other end of the swivel. Finally, tie your hook onto the end of the leader. This is as simple as it seems.
An easier method is to slide your weight onto your line. Then tie your hook onto the same line. Take your weight and slide it up to the desired length of your leader would be and peg your weight in place. Very simple!!
What do you put on the hook? A better question may be “what can’t I put on the hook?”. You can develop your own favorite but I like using senko type baits. They have great action and the slow sinking can be deadly. My fishing buddy swears by the lizard. It is all up to you.
Let’s get it in the water…
The best way to use the carolina rig is to throw it as far as you can and slowly pull it back in. Make sure you can feel the bottom at all times. Use the rod to move the bait and then reel back up tight. Move this rig slow. Many people use this technique to actually figure out what is on the bottom. Is it rock, sand, gravel or maybe a shell bed?
When a fish hits the carolina rig, it can be like a pan fish “tick” or a violent strike. It all depends on the mood of the fish. If you feel anything but the bottom, SET THE HOOK! One very important thing to remember here is, if you catch one fish make sure to get back in that spot. There may be a school down there and you just found it.
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