How to Setup a Carolina Rig

Lake Fork Trophy Bass Fishing with Pro Guide James Caldemeyer


The Carolina Rig


In a never-ending quest to catch more and bigger fish, so we have learned to embrace a multitude of baits and fishing techniques. The Carolina rig is one of the most popular ways of presenting and fishing a lure for catching a boat load of big bass. The rig itself is a simple one to put together.

To your mainline add a sinker using an egg type or bullet type weight. Behind that add a bead then tie to a swivel. Decide on a leader both in type and length.

At the end of your leader tie on your hook which should be at least a 3/0 worm hook. My preference is a wide gap offset worm hook.

The lure is typically any soft plastic bait you think a hungry or aggressive bass in the given conditions is going to go after. Popular choices are lizards and worms but you can find success in crawfish and other creature baits. You can also use topwater lures or crankbaits to really lift your lure from the bottom and provide action that you won't get out of soft plastics.

When should you use the Carolina rig?

Well, anytime you want to catch fish.

If you mark fish holding on a point or hump this is going to get you a bite. Even if you don't have a sonar, work these areas from one side to the other. You can cover a lot of ground quickly and either catch fish or make the decision to move on and try another spot.

The Carolina Rig is great place to start with when you decide to target bass. It's a very productive way to set up your line for bass fishing and very simple. Give it a try and see how well it works for you.

Let's look a little more in detail at the Carolina Rig and how to use it.

What you'll need:

A Medium Heavy, Fast action rod at least 7' foot long. This is the ideal spec for a Carolina Rig rod so that you can get the best performance using this setup. You can rig this on any rod you like and still fish it, you just may be sacrificing action, comfort and even fish.

A bait cast reel is preferred and should at least be a 6:1 gear ratio but you can still use a spinning set up if that is what you are comfortable with. The 6:1 gear ratio helps you pull in line quickly which is needed when fishing the Carolina Rig on such a long rod with an 18" to 30" leader, especially if that bass makes a run towards your boat!

Egg or bullet style sinkers from 1/2 to 1 ounce. You'll use bullet style when fishing through grass and other areas that might get an egg sinker snagged.
Plastic beads. Some will go with glass but my personal preference is plastic. The bead protects the knot from the abuse of the sinker sliding up and down the line. It also provides a noisemaker to help attract curious bass

Swivel - Appropriate to the size tackle you are using.
3/0 - 5/0 Worm hooks. I prefer the offset style.

Leader Material - This can be the same line you have on your reel but my suggested set up is Fluorocarbon coming from your reel with a monofilament leader.

How Do You Fish It?

The Carolina rig is used by casting then dragging the rig across your target area. You will drag by positioning your pole parallel to the surface of the water and use a sweeping motion to move the lure over the structure you are fishing. Don't jerk the rig, just a nice smooth sweep will work.

So. How Much Do You Drag the Lure?

A good rule of thumb is with your rod pointing at the 12 O'clock position move to the 2 o'clock position. Then take up the slack and repeat. This is one of the reasons to use a rod 7' or longer. This small sweep will move a lot more line than one less than 7' so if that's what you are using just move it to the 3 or 4 position.

Remember while you are going through this motion to take note of what your rod is telling you about the bottom. You will feel the difference in the composition of the bottom of the lake as you move across grass, sand, and gravel. Learn what each piece of structure feels like.

Where do you use the Carolina Rig?

You can use this rig pretty much anywhere you feel confident there are bass to catch. The only places you may want to keep away from are heavy cover areas. Places where there are a lot of trees or other solid, tough vegetation that can grab a hold of the components of the rig and snag you up.

Other than that the lake is your Carolina Rig playground. Make sure you drag it across and up and down points. Hit up those humps and underwater grassy areas.

Pay extra attention when you feel the structure change. If you feel this you should stop moving your rig and let it rest in the area for a bit. You just may be over a gold mine. Bass will hold in the one area that is different than everything around it. Work this area over again and it should prove to be fruitful.