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Carolina-rigging….the basics and adapting it
By:  Glenn Walker

During the summer months countless bass are caught and tournaments are won by anglers using this technique to probe underwater humps, wood, points and breaks. 

Over the past two seasons I have played around with this technique and employed it day in and day out on the water and it has now become a key part of my arsenal.  By adapting the tackle used to put together a Carolina-rig, an angler can employ this technique in situations on their local body of water that they may have not thought to use it before. 

Here is a sample picture of a standard Carolina-rig:


The purpose behind this rig is to effectively cover water in a short amount of time.  That is why the large sinker is used; it is also beneficial to determine the bottom content that you are fishing.  The bead protects the knot from being frayed and battered by the sinker hitting it.  A swivel attaches the main line to a leader, which then lets a plastic bait to be suspended above the bottom.

The exact components of the rig are up to the angler to choose.  Many anglers, including myself prefer a brass sinker.  I like the brass because I can feel the bottom make up very well and it has a distinct feeling when it hits underwater structure.  It is important to pay attention to your line where the bead sits, because many times the sinker will break the bead after continuous use.  This can easily fray the line and could potentially cost you a bass.

Another common component that is debated by groups of anglers is what kind of line should be used for the main line and the leader.  Some anglers prefer to use a braided line for the main line, while others like to use fluorocarbon.  The line I choose to use is Seaguar Inviz X fluorocarbon, for several reasons.  The first is that it is very easy to cast, which allows me to cover a lot of water.  Fluorocarbon is also very abrasion resistant, which is important because many of the areas I am throwing this rig is filled with rock, gravel and other objects that can easily fray a standard mono fishing line. 

The accepted leader material for a Carolina-rig is fluorocarbon.  This line was originally created for the purpose of using it as a leader.  Again here I go with Seaguar fluorocarbon, but other brands will work as well.  It is just important in my opinion to use a leader that the pound test is less than your main line.  This way if you do become snagged and have to break off, you hopefully will just be breaking off the leader and hook and not have to retie the entire rig.


Certain ways that I have adapted the Carolina-rig to fit my style of fishing, which predominately occurs on the Mississippi River deals with the sinker and leader length.

When selecting the weight for my brass sinker, I select the least amount of weight as possible.  Many of the situations in which I use a Carolina-rig are in areas that have some current and have three to ten feet of water; this is when I use a 3/8 oz. sinker.  If I am fishing areas that have slight to no current, I use a ¼ oz. sinker.  Both of these weights still allow me to cover water effectively and probe to bottom of the river.  I can also quickly determine the bottom content, whether it is rock, sand, mud or standing timber.

Since the water on the river is stained and the bass are not as finicky as on the southern lakes and impoundments that this technique was first used, there is no need to use a long leader.  My leaders usually are about as long as the distance from my elbow to the tip of my fingers.  Depending on what kind of cover I am fishing and how active the bass are will dictate if I shorten or lengthen that leader, but in general I keep my leaders on the shorter side.

Lure selection

There are countless plastic baits on the market that an angler can choose to use on their Carolina-rig.  What you choose depends on several things, such as what the bass are feeding on and what kind of cover you are fishing.  If the bass are feeding on shad, a Fluke type bait works well.  If the water is stained and you are trying to imitate a crawfish, then baits such as Baby Bacon Rind’s or plastic craw imitators are good choices.  If the bass are a little lock jawed or have seen numerous baits, then Carolina-rigging a Senko type bait, finesse worm or centipede are all good choices. 

It is important to use a sharp, light wire hook when using this technique.  An Eagle Claw extra wide gap hook in a 2/0 to 5/0 is what I use for two main reasons, the first being that a light wire hook is much easier to get a good hook set with when you are making long casts with the Carolina-rig.  The second is that if my lure does become obstructed in the cover, a good pull on it and I can usually get the rig back and not have to worry about disturbing the fish producing cover.


The most commonly used approach when fishing a Carolina-rig is to cast it out and just simply drag it across the bottom.  But there are several things that I have learned that you can do to alter your retrieve and things that you can focus on to help improve your catch.

-My common approach to moving my rig along the bottom is to sweep my rod in a sideways motion.  This keeps the sinker in constant contact with the bottom and allows it to disturb the sand or mud.  This could resemble a crawfish or shad fleeing from a predator and attract the bass to your lure.
-If you are fishing around rocks, I have noticed that your sinker will get hung up less if you move the Carolina-rig by lifting your rod tip up, instead of sweeping it to the side.
-Pay careful attention to when you get your strikes.  Many times a strike will occur when your sinker bangs off a large rock or when your bait is ripped through the vegetation.  If this is the case, be sure you have visuals on shore or a marker buoy in the water to help you keep your boat in position so you can repeat that cast and hit the cover in the same way.

In this off-season take the time to think about situations on your favorite body of water that you may be able to employ the Carolina-rig next season.  Figure out ways in which you can adapt this popular technique so you can effectively cover water and probe cover to give you the chance to increase your catch.  To keep up-to date on tournaments and articles, be sure to check out, .

Good Fishin!!