What is a Carolina Rig
A Carolina rig consists of a weighted main line and a weightless leader line where a soft plastic is rigged. This setup allows soft plastics to be fished at deeper depths on the bottom while still being effectively weightless. The big advantage of this rig is being able to cover large areas of deep cover quickly. This is essentially a finesse technique so it should be fished slower when you find deep structure.
Carolina Rig Setup
The carolina rig is simple to setup but does require a little more work than your typical setup.
- Begin by sliding on your weight followed by a bead on your main line.
- Finish off your main line by tying on a barrel swivel.
- Next tie your leader to the other end of your swivel.
- Tie a hook to the other end of the leader.
- Rig your soft plastic of choice on the hook.
Now lets break down each component.
The weight in a carolina rig serves three primary purposes. The first one being allowing you to fish at any given depth without having to wait forever for your bait to sink down to the bottom. The second is for you to be able to feel what is on the bottom. A tungsten weight will do this better than lead. Thirdly to generate noise from the weight and bead clicking together and along rocks. This noise will help attract fish. If you want even more noise you can add a second weight to your setup. Carolina rig weights are better to be on the heavier side rather than going light. An issue with going too heavy though is you risk getting hung up more on debris since your weight will be larger. This is another reason tungsten is the way to go. Tungsten is much denser so it has more weight in a smaller package. I recommend Swagger Tackle’s Carolina weight, I typically use green pumpkin but the color doesn’t really matter for a carolina rig. For weight size refer to the chart below.
|Weight (oz)||Depth (ft)|
|1/2 oz||10-15 ft|
|1 oz||15-20 ft|
|1 1/2 – 2 oz||20+ ft|
Carolina Rig Hook
You will want to use an offset worm hook but a straight shank hook will work too. The hook size you choose will depend on the bait you are using on your carolina rig. Typically you will be using a 1/0 or 2/0 sized hook.
The swivel is used to connect the main line to the leader. The main purpose of the swivel is to allow the bait to spin and prevent line twist. I use Owner Micro Swivels size 8.
Don’t worry too much about the bead. The bead is only there to protect your knot from being damaged by the sliding weight and to produce sound. Most of the sound will come from the weight though so again dont worry too much about this. You can buy beads in bulk cheaper from a non fishing specific store. My one suggestion is to avoid glass beads. Tungsten weights can break them causing your line to be cut. Any other material is fine. For size you want stay close to 8mm.
When fishing a carolina rig I use braid for my main line. For my leader I use either fluorocarbon or monofilament. Braid line has the most sensitive so being connected to the tungsten weights will give you the most feel. Also since we are using a leader with the carolina rig braid being more visible doesn’t really matter. For leader use what you have, both fluoro and mono will work fine. Fluoro has better sensitivity than mono and is nearly invisible. Mono is more abrasion resistant and has some stretch that can help prevent hook bend outs.
I like Power Pro for braid, Maxima Ultragreen for mono, and Seaguar Red for fluoro. For your braid main line use whatever lb test you already have as the diameter is so much smaller than the equivalent mono or fluoro. For your leader keep it under 15lb.
Carolina Leader Length
The leader length of your carolina rig will be determined by the conditions you are fishing that day. 12-36″ is most common leader length for the carolina rig. Longer leaders are better in clear water or when bass are being finicky. In stained water or when bass are very active a shorter length will be better. Longer leaders are more natural and less threatening to fish but are more likely to get hung up and make casting and detecting bites harder. Shorter leaders will help hookup ratios and get hung up less but again are much more threatening to a fish.
Best Carolina Rig Baits
Practically any type of soft plastic baits will work with the carolina rig. Lizards and worms are the most common bait choices.
- Lizard & Creature Baits
How to Fish a Carolina Rig for Bass
To fish a carolina rig you want to cast out and let the bait to sink to the bottom. For the retrieve you want to use slow and sweeping motions off to your side. This will slowly drag your bait along the bottom. Every time you reset, reel up the slack before starting your sweeping motion again. Your primary focus during the retrieve is to locate bottom features like gravel, rock piles, brush, or elevation changes like humps and drop offs. You will be able to feel all these things with the carolina rig, especially if you’re using heavy weight.
Once you find these features underwater make a mental note where they are and make multiple casts to them. As you drag your bait across them slow down or even pause for a few seconds. Most of your bites will come from these structures.
Setting the hook on a carolina rig is a bit different too. Since your bait and leader are weightless there will be a lot of times you get a bite on slack line. Before setting the hook make sure to reel in all the slack until you feel the resistance of the fish before setting the hook. Setting the hook off to the side using a long sweeping motion will help compensate for an extra slack in the line.
Casting a Carolina Rig
Casting a carolina rig is a little different from your typical setup. Because of the extra weight and long leader you cant use the typical whiplash casting motion. To cast a caroling rig you want to use an off to the side slow and steady pendulum motion. This motion will help cast the bait up and out. For this cast start with your weight several inches below your rod tip. You want a slow and steady take back and as you bring it forward accelerate slowly and fling the bait. The large weight will do all the work from there.
Where to Fish a Carolina Rig
You can fish them anywhere but it does best at targeting deep water structures. The heavy weight used in this technique offers incredible feel and gives you a good idea what is below you. Because of the amount of weight and bulkiness of the carolina rig you want to target deep open water. So structural areas like creek channels, flats, humps and drop offs are prime targets.
When to Use a Carolina Rig
The carolina rig is primarily a summer bait. The reason for this is bass tend to retreat to deeper, cooler water during the summer. The carolina rig can also be used in the spring during less active phases. For example during pre-spawn cold fronts and post spawn when bass are in recovery mode. Early fall is another candidate for the carolina rig as bass migrate along points.
Best Rod & Reel for Fishing a Carolina Rig
The carolina rig is a finesse presentation but the setup is actually quite bulky so it is important to have the proper gear. You want to use a longer rod (7′ – 7’3″) to help with the long leader, cast farther, and set the hook. You also want the rod to be pretty stout to be able to handle the heavy weight. A medium heavy rod is ideal for this. Finally you want a fast action tip to help with feeling the bait along the bottom which is critical with the carolina rig. A fast action tip will also make detecting bite easier.
You want to us a high speed reel. You will be mostly fishing deep water which uses a lot of line. A high speed reel will allow you to get as much slack reeled in as possible with every turn.
Top of the Line Combo: Shimano Expride 7’2″ Med Hvy paired with a Shimano Curado DC HG
Budget Combo: Shimano Intenza 7’2″ Medium Heavy paired with a Shimano SLX 150 HG