By Marc Rogers
How to Fish a Carolina Rig
When the term “Carolina Rig” is said most anglers think of a soft plastic lizard on 2 – 3 foot leader behind a ½ to ¾ ounce sinker. The leader is usually 8 – 12 pound test line while the main line is 14 – 20 pound test. This presentation has been very effective for catching bass for many years but the Carolina rig doesn’t have to be limited to lizards.
The popular Senko style baits as well as tubes, worms, grubs, crawdads and flukes are very effective when used with the Carolina rig. Generally the presentation is the same with these lures as it is with the lizard. However, the Carolina rig gives these baits a different look than their regular presentations.
The Senko style baits on a Carolina rig allows the angler the dead-stick presentation in the deep water of extended points and submerged humps. A lift and drop presentation with the heavy sinker causes the bait to rise from the bottom quickly and slowly fall similar to a dead shad. Rig it on a light wire hook wacky style for a dead-shad look.
Tube baits are generally fished on a jig head for open water or Texas rig for flipping to heavy cover. Anglers should not pass on tube baits for the Carolina rig. I have had great results fishing 3 – 4 inch tubes on a Carolina rig on long points and flats. A light wire hook inserted in the head of the tube and brought back outside like a Texas rig has proven the most effective for this presentation. When fishing clear bottoms with mostly rocks I leave the hook point against the side of the tube but do not insert it back into the bait. If cover requires, I rig it weedless by skin hooking the bait just under the outside of the tube. For added action from a tube place a foam ear-plug (or small piece) inside the tube to add flotation to the bait. A tube rigged this way will move erratically when retrieved with a lift and drop motion. However, make sure the foam material doesn’t interfere with the hook finding its mark when a fish bites.
Many anglers think plastic worms are for Texas rig presentations. However, a small shaky style worm (the ones with a flat side create more darting action) on a Carolina rig is ideal for sluggish bass. This worm can be used with the lift and drop presentation as well as a slow-dragging motion for quick side-to-side action with this worm.
Grubs are also a great choice for using with the Carolina rig. A 3 – 5 inch grub is a great way to imitate a swimming shad. Again, a light hook and light leader will allow the bait to look more realistic to the bass. When using a grub I have found a lift and drop presentation has proven the most effective.
The fluke (soft plastic jerk bait) is very effective for imitating shad just below the surface. This same lure can be used on a Carolina rig and create the same action well below the surface. It should be rigged the same as traditional methods for sub-surface use but on a 3 – 4 foot leader for increased action in deep water.
The soft plastic crawdad is traditionally used as a flipping lure on a Texas rig. When swimming to escape from a predator the crawdad with jump off the bottom and swim a short distance with the claws up in the defensive position. The Carolina rig creates this exact action with the crawdad when used with the lift and drop presentation. Most strikes occur on the fall as soon as the sinker makes contact with the bottom.
If your choice is generally a lizard you should not forget about the floating lizard made by Gene Larew Lures. This special formula of soft plastic will float a light wire hook on an 8 – pound test leader well off the bottom. This particular lure is great where submerged weeds are present. You can adjust your leader length to keep the bait just above the top of the weeds.
I have even experimented with using floating jerk baits like the original floating Rapala minnows on a Carolina rig with some success. Once, I located spotted bass holding just above the bottom on an extended main lake point holding close to large boulders. The fish were too deep for a crank-bait to reach and I was having no luck on any lures that would reach the depth. This method is difficult to cast and can be dangerous if care isn’t used. This particular situation called for a quick dragging presentation but was effective in catching fish from the school in about 45 feet of water.
There are many advantages to using the Carolina rig but the best one is that an angler can cover a lot of water more quickly with soft plastic baits and greater depths than other methods. This isn’t to say the Carolina rig is the best soft plastic presentation, but when fish are scattered on long points and flats and are biting on soft plastics there isn’t a better way to cover the large areas quickly and thoroughly. However, don’t be afraid to experiment with the Carolina rig.