Hard, relatively horizontal bottoms are where the Carolina rig shines, offering everything an angler wants in a soft plastic setup.
Covering a lot of water quickly, and relying on enticing motion that’s hard to match with any other technique, the Carolina rig is a staple of pros, though it’s often overlooked by less experienced anglers in preference for the Texas rig.
That’s a mistake you don’t want to make, as the Carolina rig is vastly superior where there is less cover and the bottom is clear and clean.
Want to know more about the Carolina rig?
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Related: Best Fishing Rigs
What is a Carolina Rig?
The Carolina rig is a technique for rigging a bottom-hugging soft plastic that’s dragged behind a weight.
While similar to the Texas rig, the Carolina rig moves that weight well forward of your soft plastic, essentially creating a length of leader between the two.
Pros like Mike Iaconelli prefer the Carolina rig to the Texas rig when the bottom is relatively flat and cover is sparse.
Iaconelli gets more bites with the Carolina rig in these conditions, but as many anglers will tell you, this rig also allows you to use a heavier weight in conjunction with a worm or creature bait without deadening its action. You can rig a craw and run it along the bottom like the real thing, for instance, while still using enough weight to sink it quickly.
That makes this a deadly pre-spawn option when the bass are holding tight to deeper water or transitioning to spawning beds.
Another nice thing about the Carolina rig is that you can drag it over a lot of bottom pretty quickly, allowing you to cover a lot more water than a Texas rig. That’s just gravy on open bottoms, but when you’re looking hard for the fish, you’ll really appreciate that advantage.
It’s got sound and vibration, too, because the addition of a bead below the weight also creates some rattle as you work it.
For my Carolina rigs, I like two styles of sinkers: bullets and barrels.
My favorite bullet sinkers are Reaction Tackle Tungsten Worm Weights. Available in a nice range of colors, they’re as heavy as ½ ounce, allowing me to get down to the bottom quickly. Iaconelli really likes barrel sinkers, and they’re definitely a good choice if you get hung up a lot.
Reaction Tackle Tungsten Barrel Weights are available in sizes ranging up to 1 ounce, so if you need to punch through the water column in a hurry, these are the way to go.
A sharp hook is essential for any worm technique, and my favorite offset is definitely the Gamakatsu.
How To Set up a Carolina Rig
The Carolina rig is easy to set up, and if you do it just once or twice, you’ll have it mastered for life. But you need to think carefully about your rod, reel, line choice, and knots to get the most from this awesome choice.
Rod, reel, and line
You’ll be dragging your Carolina rig across the bottom, and like most worm techniques, you'll want a stiff, sensitive rod that gives you plenty of hookset power.
For my Carolina rigs, I’m looking for a 7-foot rod in heavy power with a fast action. Dobyns’s XP is just perfect, offering premium quality for less than you’d expect, but there are plenty of good rods at every price point for this technique.
My casting rod will be armed with a premium reel like a Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R 100HS, but again, you’re pretty much spoiled for good baitcasting reels, and plenty will get the job done.
The important point for a good Carolina rig reel is speed: you’ll be working the rig with the rod, and when a strike happens, you need to eat up slack as fast as possible.
It’s important that you run a lighter leader than your main line. If you do get your hook hung up, you'll want to be able to break it free without losing your expensive tungsten sinkers.
You want a really strong connection to your barrel swivel and hook.
For my braid connection to the barrel swivel, I like the Improved Palomar. It’s easy to tie, very fast, and extremely strong.
For my fluorocarbon connections to the swivel and hook, I use the Uni or Improved Palomar.
These knots are going to get the job done!
You’ve got your rod, reel, and line. Your hooks, weights, and beads are ready to go, and it’s time to talk about soft plastics.
Carolina rigs keep your soft plastic low to the bottom, and because they’re pulled at a relatively quick pace, you want lots of action as they swim through the water or skip along the bottom.
When big females are feeding on crawfish to fatten up for spawning, nothing beats a Strike King Rage Tail Craw. I love colors like “Falcon lake Craw” and “California Craw,” but I wouldn’t limit myself to the reds.
You get lots of enticing flutter from those arms and the Rage Tail, and skipping this craw over the bottom is realistic as it gets.
Nothing says “Carolina rig” like a lizard, and when that’s my choice, I reach for a Zoom 6”.
I’ve used these lizards to hammer bass shallow and deep with Carolina rigs, and they really up the ante on action with four legs and a tail.
Another reliable option is the Zoom Brush Hog. I don’t know what bass think this is - maybe a hybrid frog/lizard? - but its general shape and gyrating appendages ring the dinner bell.
Another Carolina rig classic is the ribbon-tailed worm. When worked properly, you’ll have a long worm swimming inches off the bottom, writhing a dangling tail behind it. If you choose to pause, it’ll slowly flutter to a stop, and the bass just can’t resist that movement.
Like legions of other anglers, I keep a bag or two of YUM ribbon tails handy, and they never disappoint.
When bass are keyed in on shad and other small baitfish, I’ll arm my Carolina rig with a fluke.
I’m looking for a long, spindly tail that moves very freely, and I think the best option is Zoom’s 5 ¼-inch Super Fluke.
This is a deadly combo post-spawn. All summer long, and when the bass are holding deep to beat the heat, you’ll find me working a fluke on a Carolina rig where the bottom is clear.
To assemble a Carolina Rig, follow these steps:
- Slide a bullet or barrel sinker onto your main line.
- Follow this with an 8mm plastic bead to protect your knot.
- Attach a barrel swivel using an Improved Palomar. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
- Cut approximately 18 to 24 inches of leader, but adjust this length to float your soft plastic above the available cover.
- Using a Uni Knot, attach your leader to the barrel swivel. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
- Using an Improved Palomar Knot, attach an offset shank hook to the end of your leader. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
- Pass the point of an offset hook through the tip of the worm’s head. You want to run the hook about an inch into the worm.
- Push the worm up and over the eye of your hook. You want to get the worm to lay straight, using that offset to your advantage.
- Rotate the point back toward the worm. Stretch the worm out along the hook.
- Measure the bottom of the curve of the hook on the worm’s body. That’s where you want to bury the point in the next step.
- Push the point back into the worm’s body, bringing the tip through to the opposite side.
- Push just a bit of your worm onto the hook, creating a weedless rig.
How to Fish a Carolina Rig
The Carolina rig is at its best where the bottom is hard and relatively flat. In conditions like this, it’ll beat the Texas rig hands down.
It’s pretty easy to fish.
After the cast, let it sink and settle, and take up your slack. Then start using your rod to drag your rig sideways, being careful not to get out of position for a hookset.
Keep the slack out of your line - but don’t use the reel to create motion.
The Lift and Glide
After your Carolina Rig has settled, use your rod tip to lift your soft plastic and take up the slack. It’ll settle in a fluttering motion that drives bass wild.
Keep your rod tip at about 10 o’clock.
With either technique, the most effective hookset is a side-sweeping motion, not the typical overhead.
The Carolina rig is simply murder where you’re fishing a relatively clear, flat bottom. It’s also a great way to get your soft plastic down to the bottom quickly without sacrificing fantastic action.
Easy to rig and just as easy to fish, it’s a technique every bass angler should know and throw.
We hope this article has taught you a thing or two, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.
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