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How to Setup and Fish a Carolina Rig

What is a Carolina Rig

A Carolina rig consists of a weighted main line attached to a weightless leader line where a soft plastic is rigged. This allows your bait to move naturally along the bottom while maintaining contact bottom.

This presentation is incredibly enticing to fish, particularly those lurking near deep structure seeking an easy meal. Carolina rigs allow you to reach those deep structure and cover water quickly.

Carolina rig with dark purple worm

How to Setup a Carolina Rig

  1. Begin by sliding on your barrel weight on your line
  2. Next thread bead on your main line
  3. Finish off your main line by tying on a barrel swivel
  4. Next tie your leader to the other end of your swivel.
  5. Tie your offset hook to your leader.
  6. Rig your soft plastic of choice on the hook.

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.

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. Deep Structural areas like creek channels, flats, humps and drop offs are prime targets.

The Carolina rig is particularly effective when fishing in deep waters. In such scenarios, it’s important to be patient and allow the fish ample time to take the bait. By resisting the urge to set the hook too soon, you give the fish time to swallow the bait fully, increasing your chances of a successful catch.

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 that most other techniques. 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, you need to reel in all the slack until you feel the resistance of the fish. Once you feel the fish you will be able to get a much better hook set. Using a long sweeping motion to your side 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.

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.

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Carolina Rig Components

Carolina Weight

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 oz10-15 ft
1 oz15-20 ft
1 1/2 – 2 oz20+ 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.