In the world of bass fishing, there is always a new rig, a different lure, or some new technique for getting fish in your boat. The pros who win tournaments learn all these techniques and discard all but the ones that consistently land them big bass.
One of the techniques that many pros use regularly is the Carolina Rig. It has been around for a long time, and it is proven to consistently work in multiple settings. The C-rig is a great way to give a static bait some movement and mobility while allowing you to place it where you want it.
The Carolina rig is a fairly simple rig to set up on your line, and it allows a ton of customization options. This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to set up a Carolina rig, as well as tips on the when, why, and how to use one.
The Carolina rig is basically a swivel attachment for your hook, paired with a sliding weight and beads. The beads protect your knots, and the weight slides against them to make noise and attract curious bass.
Although the Carolina rig is simple, it does provide flexibility that is almost unmatched.
How to Tie a Carolina Rig
The Carolina rig can be tied with a few simple steps.
- On a fluorocarbon line, add a ¼-1 oz bullet weight. Egg weights can be used but bullets will give you better clearance through the undergrowth and are less likely to snag. The weight will need to slide so you can’t use a split shot, and don't pinch the weight to lock it in.
- Add a bead. The bead will serve two purposes. It acts as a clacker to attract bass, but it also protects your knot from a heavy weight knocking against it.
- Tie in a swivel. The swivel will give the bait end of the leader freedom to move, so don’t tie it in any way that is restrictive. A good knot to use here is the improved clinch (*instructions further down the page).
- On the other end of your swivel, tie a leader line. This should be at least 12-18 inches, but realistically can be more like 24. The longer the leader, the more play your floating bait can get. Since the point of the rig is to give that bait natural floating action, avoid cutting your leader so short that it inhibits the action.
- At the end of your leader, attach a hook. A palomar knot makes a good strong connection for this rig.
Things to Remember When Tying a Carolina Rig
There are some important details to note that will make your C-rig more effective.
Your weight can be brass or tungsten. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Brass is less dense than tungsten, so your weight will be substantially larger with brass. Tungsten will be smaller, making it less likely to snag and better at dropping down into cover.
Brass weights are bigger and can add a bit of metallic flash that tungsten does not have. Brass will tarnish eventually, so that should not be the sole deciding factor, but it is a nice bonus when fishing a new rig. If you want to use glass beads, you will want to use brass weights.
Your beads can be either glass, ceramic, or plastic. Glass and ceramic will ring better, making more noise when the weight slides. Be careful pairing glass or ceramic beads with tungsten weights. The increased density of these weights, paired with the fairly high weight used in this rig, means that breakable beads can get cracked by your weight on cast.
While a broken bead on the bottom of the lake isn’t that big a deal, a bead that chips on the edge get sharp. Sharp things sliding around on a fishing line creates frays and weak spots. It doesn’t matter how effective your rig is if the line breaks as soon as that big bass takes off with the bait.
The leader length is important. The purpose of a Carolina rig is to get your line settled down into bedding areas on the bottom of the water and float your soft bait above it as if it were swimming.
If the grasses on the bottom of the water are 24 inches tall, your leader should be about 24 inches tall. If they are shorter, or you are fishing a bare rocky bottom, cut the leader shorter than that, but keep enough length that the bait can move in the current. Without that movement, the whole purpose of a Carolina rig is lost.
The bait you use is very flexible. This rig is designed for bait that floats, but it does not have to be any particular shape to be effective. You can use creature type baits like lizards and frogs, but big worm baits can bring in huge bass in the right environment.
Knots to Use
The two knots recommended are the improved clinch and the palomar.
To tie the palomar:
- Take your chosen leader length, and add about 1 foot for the knots at each end.
- Fold the last six inches of the leader back on itself.
- Pass this loop through the eye of your hook.
- Tie a standard overhand knot with both sides of the doubled line, trapping the hook eye in the middle of the loop of the knot.
- Take the small loop you started with, and pull it to the other side of the hook.
- Moisten the whole knot, and tighten it all down
To tie the improved clinch:
- Pass the tag end of your leader through the eye of your swivel
- Fold the line about six inches from the end, putting the eye of the swivel in the fold of the loop
- Spin the swivel so the line twists around itself six to eight times.
- Pass the tag end of the line through the small loop between the twists and the swivel eye
- Pull the tag back up and pass it through the loop that runs from top to bottom of the knot.
Fishing With A Carolina Rig
A Carolina Rig is a fantastic set up for summer when high surface temps drive bass into deep water. You can use it to draw sluggish bass out with the appearance of easy prey. Cast into deepwater around breaks and ledges, and let it rest in thermal updrafts where the current is flowing.
If your Carolina rig isn’t getting enough action on the bottom, or if the water is too still, you can wiggle walk it back to you on the retrieve, sending movement through the bait.
Another great place to use a c rig is in coastal shallows where largemouth may be nesting. In this case, you will probably be more successful with creature baits like lizards and frogs.
For shallows Carolina rig fishing, make sure your leader is a little shorter. You are going to want your hook to sit right at the top of the grasses since they usually are just below the surface. Use a bait that has a color attraction and some attractant like garlic to help the bass find it in the grass. Wiggling it through the weeds can help your bead click, and attract the bass.
Seasons for Carolina Rigs
Due to their versatility, you can fish a Carolina rig all four seasons. You will just have to change it up a bit depending on what season and how the fish are behaving.
In spring, bass will be spawning. Use a Carolina rig to set your bait right above shallow water widemouth spawning grounds, or drop it to the deep water to catch smallmouths on the rocky bottom.
In summer, Drop the rig to the bottom with a long worm to catch sluggish widemouths escaping the hot water near the surface. Put a longer leader line on it to make sure the bait is visible above the long bottom grass.
In fall, drop your Carolina rig near ledges and troughs in the midwater for rising smallmouths.
In winter, use your Carolina rig to attract the fish in near hibernation near the bottom.
Regardless of how and when you are bass fishing, a Carolina rig is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to catch big bass.
It will allow you to put your soft bait at the perfect height for wherever the fish are feeding, and it is easily adjustable when conditions change, whether it is a shift in water temp requiring you to adjust fishing depth, to a change in weather justifying a different soft bait.
The Carolina rig is the perfect way to up your fishing game, regardless of your skill level.
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