Carolina Rig Fishing, Tackle, Tips, and Techniques!
The topic of this article will be Carolina rig fishing. The Carolina rig is a versatile fishing rig that anglers can use to catch a variety of species. It is most often used with an artificial lure, however live bait can be presented using the Carolina rig as well.
The Carolina rig consists of several components. A sinker with a hole in the center allows the running line to slide through it. A swivel stops the sinker. A leader then connects the other end of the swivel with the hook.
The main advantage of the Carolina rig over other rigs such as the Texas rig is that it allows the sinker to crawl over bottom structure while presenting the lure or bait slightly off the bottom. This is very effective on finicky and suspended fish. The combination of the sinker sliding across the bottom and over obstructions while the lure floats seductively a foot or so above the bottom is extremely effective.
Carolina rig fishing components
The basic components of a Carolina rig are a sinker with a hole in the center, a swivel, a length of fluorocarbon leader, and a hook. Some anglers add a bead between the sinker and the swivel. This can help protect the not as well as adding a little fish attracting noise. Anglers can even add a float near the hook to suspended off the bottom even further.
The Carolina rig is simple and effective. There are many instances when game fish feed right on or near the bottom. Anglers using the Carolina rig present their lure or bait right in the strike zone in this situation. For the most part, a slow and subtle presentation is best. Again, often times the fish being pursued are in a less than active mood. They will often find a slowly moving bait dragged right in front of their face impossible to resist.
As with all fishing, there are nuances and details that will make this rig more effective. Sinker choice is important. In most cases, anglers should use the least amount of weight required to fish the determined depth. Most anglers opt for conical shaped worm sinkers while others prefer sliding egg sinkers. A quality #10 black swivel is a good all-around size.
The leader between the swivel and the hook is a very important component in the Carolina rig. The length of the leader will to some degree determine the action and the distance off the bottom that the bait will be presented. 24 inches to 30 inches is a good all-around leader. The leader strength will depend on the current fishing conditions. Clear water will dictate a lighter leader while dirty water will allow anglers to go heavier. 20 pound test fluorocarbon leader is a good place to start.
Best artificial lures for use on a Carolina rig
The Carolina rig was designed to be used with a soft plastic fishing lure. The selection of this lure is only limited by the angler’s imagination. Anglers fishing in shallow water for bedding bass have found that a salamander or creature bait is extremely effective. Largemouth bass in particular seem to get very angry when a salamander gets near the nest and will attack the bait with vengeance.
Plastic worms are often the bait of choice for anglers fishing a Carolina rig, particularly in deeper water. Crawling the Carolina rig over sloping points, channel edges, and other submerge structure is a very productive technique. Standard 6 inch to 7 inch worms are usually preferred, however there are times when the smaller finesse worms are a better choice. As with all fishing, successful anglers experiment with different baits and colors until a productive pattern emerges.
Read more about Finesse Fishing in this article by Capt Jim
Just about any soft plastic bait can be used in conjunction with the Carolina rig. Smaller grubs and curly tail lures are very effective on smallmouth bass and walleye when fished over gravel bottom. Larger worms and creature baits can be used to target the largest bass. Most anglers choose a strong but thin wire finesse style hook which matches the size of the lure that they are using.
Capt. Jim’s two favorite soft plastic fishing lures to use with a Carolina rig are the Zoom Trick worm and Yamamoto Senko worm. The Trick worm is long and slender and undulates very naturally with the slightest movement. It is also a floating worm, which rises up above the bottom on the Carolina rig. The 4” Senko is an excellent choice when conditions are tough and fish are finicky. Green pumpkin is his favorite all-around color.
Best rod and reel for fishing the Carolina rig
While anglers can use spinning tackle with the Carolina rig, conventional or bait casting outfits are usually a better choice. Bait casting rod and reel combinations offer anglers more power when setting the hook and pulling a fish out from heavy cover. These rigs are also heavy enough that they are easy to cast with a bait casting rod and reel. Most anglers use braided line for the strength and sensitivity.
Spinning tackle can certainly be used with the Carolina rig as well. This is true for anglers using smaller rigs for panfish and other species as well as anglers who use a Carolina rig to present live or cut bait.
Carolina rig fishing techniques
The Carolina rig is a versatile rig which can be used in both shallow and deep water. As mentioned earlier, it is an excellent way to crawl a salamander or creature bait through a nesting bed. It also works well in bottom vegetation where the sinker will be in the grass while the worm works just above it.
The Carolina rig really shines when fishing deep water structure. This includes sloping points, channel edges, submerged rock piles, deep vegetation, and any other cover that will hold fish. The best approach is to anchor a cast away from the structure, cast to it, then slowly work the rig back in. In most cases, this works better than a vertical presentation.
Whether fishing shallow water or deep water, the presentation with a Carolina rig should be quite slow. The most productive technique is to drag though weight through and over the cover as opposed to hopping it as one would with other presentations. The dragging of the sinker not only makes noise which attracts fish, but he can kick up dirt and sand, mimicking a fleeing crayfish or other forage.
The take is often quite subtle when presenting a lure on the Carolina rig. Often times the fish will simply inhale the lure and anglers will only feel an increase in weight or resistance. The old adage, “when in doubt, set the hook” applies here. Better to set the hook on nothing then to miss an opportunity. It is very important to real up all slack and come tight before setting the hook, particularly in deeper water.
Fishing live bait with the Carolina rig
While most anglers using the Carolina rig for bass are using artificial lures, the Carolina rig is an excellent method to present live or cut bait as well. Any fish that feeds on bait on or near the bottom can fall prey to a bait with a Carolina rig. Anglers fishing for catfish and freshwater and surf fishing and saltwater as well as many in between use variations of the Carolina rig quite successfully.
The Carolina rig has several advantages when used with natural bait. It allows for the sinker, which is often times large, to be separated from the hook and bait. As with artificial lure fishing, the bait can be suspended up off the bottom with the use of a small float near the hook. Finally, this rig allows the fish to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker as the line will slide through the center hole.
Just about any fish species in freshwater or saltwater can and has been caught by anglers fishing live bait or cut bait on a Carolina rig. Anglers chasing catfish have been using this simple rig for many years. Surf casters use a slight variation called the fish finder rig. Saltwater anglers bottom fishing for a wide variety of species use this simple but effective rig to catch everything from snapper and grouper in the south to cod and tautog up north.
In conclusion, this article on Carolina rig fishing will hopefully encourage anglers to use this very versatile and effective fishing presentation!