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Crazy `bout the Carolina
on Monday 05 May 2008
by Jared867

An in-depth look at fishing the Carolina Rig.

The carolina rig artwork by jared pease bass fishing bassmaster egg sinker centipede french fry leader swivel glass bead flourocarbon bass fishing


Crazy 'bout the Carolina

By Jared Pease 2004


        Decades ago, on Lake Wylie, South Carolina, anglers began using a technique never before seen by the fishing world. More importantly, those anglers were catching high numbers of fish and some very large ones at that, employing this technique. It wasn't long before everyone was tying a swivel and a length of line between their plastic bait and a large egg sinker and the Carolina Rig was born.

        While living in Connecticut I very rarely used a Carolina Rig. My presentation of choice was a Texas rigged worm, with a jig and pig holding the number two spot. To this day, a Texas rigged worm, is still my favorite presentation but since moving to South Carolina ten years ago, the Carolina Rig has moved it's way up to take over my number 2 spot for presentations of choice. It naturally makes sense to use a Carolina Rig in the Carolina's but there is more to the reasoning behind my choice that made the Carolina Rig my second favorite presentation.

        The gift of the Carolina Rig is that it allows you to work soft plastic baits over vast areas, while keeping contact with the bottom, in relatively quick time. All thanks to the large, usually one ounce, sinker. Furthermore, it allows the soft plastic bait to swim, rise and fall at its own rate, regardless of the large weight on the line. This creates a very natural looking presentation on the business end of the rig and bass can't resist it.

        The rigging of a Carolina Rig is quite simple. One only needs an egg sinker, a bead, a swivel and a hook. First, tie your swivel to your line. After it's secure and you have clipped your tag, aim your cutters about 2 feet up the line, above the swivel and cut. Now, slip on your egg sinker (or large bullet sinker) and your bead and flip the swivel around and tie it to the new end of your line, leaving the extra 2 feet of line, coming off of the swivel, dangling free. Once this is all set, tie your hook to that dangling piece of line on the swivel. You're now ready to go Carolina Riggin'.

        I find an eighteen to twenty inch leader to be the most productive 90% of the time. However, during times when the weather has made fish position themselves closer to the bottom and its features, a shorter leader, such as twelve inches, can be necessary. Also, when bass suspend, a longer leader will keep you in the strike zone more effectively. A Carolina Rig with a 4 foot leader is not unheard of and is especially effective over grass beds. Generally though, the eighteen inch leader will be all you need and is what I recommend to any newcomers to this presentation. Feeling a fish pick up your bait on a Carolina Rig is a trick in its own right. Making the leader longer makes it even harder to detect pick ups and my advice is that you not extend the leader until you are familiar with how the pick ups feel on the eighteen inch leader.

        Without doubt, one of the most crucial factors in successfully fishing this rig is your rod. Use the most sensitive rod you can afford, preferably one of seven feet in length or better. Even on a cheap rod you will be able to feel the large weight bounce and crawl its way along the bottom, however, it's also this large weight we are feeling that makes pick ups on Carolina Rigs, sometimes very hard to detect. The reason behind this is because our line is running freely through the large weight, and we normally have quite a lot of line between that weight and the end of our rod. When a fish picks up the free floating bait, it very rarely disturbs the weight, but instead simply draws the slack out of our line. This is where the super sensitive rod is a necessity, because, while we do want to pay attention to our weight and what it's making contact with, we also, need to pay close attention to what our line feels like. Sometimes a bite will feel the same as a Texas rigged worm, other times, you will not even feel the hit, but instead only experience a mushy feeling on your line, as if you were dragging your bait through molasses. And even yet, other times, nothing at all will be felt, and you will only see your line swimming away. Therefore, watching your line is as important as feeling your line when fishing the Carolina Rig.

        Once you have detected a pick up, the reasoning behind the seven foot plus length rod comes into play. More than likely we have a free sliding ounce of weight, in eight feet deep or more of water, at the end of thirty plus feet of line. That's a lot to move on a hook set. The longer rod helps us take up as much slack as possible to ensure solid hook sets.

        Working the rig is not much different than working a Texas rigged worm. After we have cast our rig out and let it settle to the bottom, there are basically two major types of retrieves used. The first, and probably most popular, is to gain contact with the weight, by taking up slack with your reel and then raising your rod tip, until you feel the weight, at around the 2 o'clock position. At this point, raise your rod tip even higher, to about 12 o'clock, to lift the wait off the bottom. Once you feel the weight leave the bottom, drop your rod to around 1 o'clock, taking up slack as you do so. Keep your rod in this position and as little slack in your line as possible, while the weight sinks back down. Once you feel the weight hit the bottom again, keep your line slack free while you reel down, lowering your rod tip and taking up slack until you once again feel the weight. Repeat this all the way back to yourself.

        A few notes on rod positioning during the retrieve I should probably go over. The reason behind not keeping your rod at 12 o'clock high once you have pulled the weight off the bottom is that this position gives you very little effecting sweep distance for a successful hook set. Assuming that 3 o'clock is straight ahead of you and 9 o'clock is directly behind you, the effective sweep of a hook set, for any bait, ends at around 11 o'clock. Starting our hook set sweep at 12 o'clock gives us very little distance in our effective sweep. Best case scenario is starting our hook set sweep at 2 or 3 o'clock. Of course this isn't always possible. Perhaps some of you may be thinking, "Why not drop the rod tip to 2 or 3 o'clock once we feel the weight leave the bottom? Why the 1 o'clock position when 2 or 3 gives us a maximum hook set sweep?" The reason is simple yet crucial in successfully fishing the Carolina Rig, sensitivity. The closer to perpendicular we can keep our line in relation to our rod the more we are going to be able to feel what's happening on the business end of our line. With a Carolina Rig this is the single most important factor.

        The second widely used method of retrieve for the Carolina Rig is to drag it slowly over the bottom. This is done by keeping your rod parallel to the surface of the water and sweeping it slowly to your side. As you sweep the ride to the side, you want to stay in mental contact with the weight at all times. Quite often, with this retrieve, your weight will disappear. When that happens it's time to set the hook. I use this retrieve a lot around brush piles and submerged stump fields. I find that it allows me a better mental visualization of the structure on the bottom. The heavy weight transmits different signals back to me for each different type of bottom or cover I drag it across. Dragging the heavy weight through wood will send back sharp knocking sensations. Across rocky bottoms, a rough scratchy signal will be sent back. And if I feel a sluggish nothingness during my drag, I know that I have located a soft bottom. Of course these are only a few examples of what kind of signals the large weight can send back to you, as far as bottom content is concerned. However, I hope you see my point. Retrieving the Carolina Rig this way is a very powerful tool for discovering the bottom content in an area. Even more so, it allows you to be sure of your strike zones and effectively stays within them, maximizing your chances and keeping the odds in your favor.

        Without doubt the single most difficult aspect of learning how to successfully fish the Carolina Rig is detecting bites. Bites on this rig can vary from nearly having the rod ripped out of your hand, to a simple weightless nothing feeling. The majority of bites you receive will feel like nothing more than a change in the tension on your line. Rule of thumb is, if it feels different, set the hook. In the beginning you may set the hook often only to find nothing but the bait on the end. Yet you will be surprised how many times you set the hook to a different feel and realize it's a fish. It goes without say that the more you fish the Carolina Rig, the better you will get at hit detections.

        Many anglers seem to hold off on using the Carolina Rig until the fish aren't biting their usual presentations. While the Carolina Rig can be deadly when the bite is slow due to frontal conditions or suspending bass, and other tough times, it can be even more productive when the bite is on. The true gift of the Carolina Rig is its versatility. It can be fished in two feet of water as easily as it can be fished in twenty two feet of water. Its retrieve speed can be varied from a crawl that barely moves to a high speed hopping action. Spawn, pre-spawn, dead of summer, winter, any weather Mother Nature wants to toss at us, there will always be someone who caught fish on a Carolina Rig. I have every intention of being one of those people until the waters dry up and the bass grow wings. Pro's such as O.T. Fears, who put 5 fish, each 7 - 8 lbs plus, one morning on Santee Cooper, to set a BASS record, Carolina Rigging, I feel confident in saying, share my enthusiasm, for this magical rig.

        Next time, you're out on the lake, don't forget your Carolina Rig rod and more importantly, don't forget to use it. You'll be happily surprised what you find down there. I know I was.

Tattered Thumbs n Big 'Uns, Jared


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