Fishing the Carolina Rig

The Carolina Rig is probably one of the most well known rigs used in catching bass both by professionals and amateurs alike.  However, many amateurs find it to be too complicated to use on their recreational fishing excursions, and so they tend to go with more simple lures.  However, it is not that complicated (check this article out at Wikihow).  In fact, it is quite simple and the benefits and results of using it should not be missed by any level of fisherman.  Why it gets the persona of being so complicated is because each component that makes up the Carolina rig has been so overly analyzed and debated that one becomes overwhelmed, thus they feel it’s “too complicated.”  Don’t go down this path. Its uses are versatile and without it you are missing a very powerful arsenal in your fishing tool box.  It’s a simple rig with big benefits, so let me show you how to make it simple for you.

First, we have to get down to the nitty gritty and simply define what makes it up.  Once you understand what components are included in its make-up, then it’s just a matter of understanding what each components role or job is individually.  After that, it’s a piece of cake.  So let us begin.  Take a look at the diagram below:



As you can see, the rig is made up of the following components in order from the hook proceeding up to the line going to your pole.

  1.  Off-Set Worm Hook – No need to get into the exact size hook to use for what particular bait.  Simply, the hook size should complement the size of the bait you will be using.  If you want to get all scientific about it, a quick search online can give you what exact size hook you need for a particular brand of bait.  My recommendation; use common sense.  Keep it simple.

  2. Bait – Only soft plastic bait.  Which one is up to you.  If there is a particular one that you have good results with, then that’s the one.  A tip is to pay attention to the conditions of the water and use light colors when the water is clear and darker colors when it looks murky.  This is just a generalization though.  The main thing about the bait is that you want present to the bass their particular food of choice at the time.  No fisherman really knows for sure what that is, but by experience, trial-and-error, and sometimes just a little luck you can come darn close.

  3. Leader – Should be about 12 to 48 inches.  This is the line going from the hook to the swivel.  What is important to know about the length of the leader is that whatever length you make it, this is the distance from the bottom that your bait will float.  So, if the fish are hanging around at the bottom at about a 1 ½ feet (18 inches) from the bottom, then make your leader 18 inches in length.  This will present the bait right at their mouth, just where you want it to be.  A fish finder could tell you that information and I highly recommended the Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X Fishfinder with 83/200 Transducer .  If you don’t have a fish finder then a good rule of thumb is 18 inches and if the water is really deep then go higher.  It also needs to be invisible to the fish and able to withstand some tough terrain.  A minimum of 17 lbs with low stretch is a good rule of thumb.  Monofilament line floats so it is the best choice to allow your bait to float without any inhabition.  To summarize it all up, the leader line should be 12-48 inches in length (18” rule of thumb length), minimum 17 lb test monofilament line that has excellent invisibility characterisitic.

  4. Swivel – Everyone knows that the function of a swivel is to keep the line from twisting.  Well, that’s true.  But on the Carolina Rig its main purpose is as a stop for the weight.  Therefore, when selecting a swivel the most critical feature to look for is one that makes it invisible in the water to the bass.  For stealth it is best to use the black colored swivels. The smaller the more invisible, but not too small to do the job.  I like to use about an 80 pound crane swivel, black colored.  You don’t have to be so particular though.  If that’s not what you currently have in your tackle box, then use what you got because it’s not that critical of a factor.  Let’s just keep it simple.

  5. Glass Bead – It should have a hole in the center.  It serves 2 functions:  1.  knock against the weight and ring the dinner bell for the bass to come and eat; 2.  Protect the knot form being damaged by the weight- sort of like an insulator.  Both of these functions are minimal to the overall effectiveness of the rig in its entirety.  Therefore the bead’s use is not required.  If you really need the stealth factor in clear water, then don’t use it.  However, if the water is dark, murky, and not clear then add on that bead to attract the bass over to the bait.

  6. Weight or Bullet Sinker – The main function of the weight is to drive your line to the bottom and keep it there until you willingly move it by maneuvering the pole.  The weight is important here and its best to use between a 3/8 to 1 oz bullet head tungsten sinker.  If the water depth is around 15 feet or less use the lighter weight and go heavier in deeper water.   If you find it hard to figure out, just use a ¾ oz weight, which will be sufficient. This is what is important to remember about the weight.  When you are holding your pole you become connected to the bottom of wherever you are fishing.  Communication starts at your hands and stops at the sinker.  You are connected by the sense of feel.  Much like a blind person uses a cane as his eyes to feel what path needs to be taken (his sense of feel is heightened), you too will use the fishing pole as your eyes to feel the bottom of lake.  You can feel the rocks, logs, weeds, etc.  The tungsten sinker will enhance this feel factor better than others.

This makes up the components to the Carolina rig.  There are a lot of intense debates and discussion concerning each one individually.  If you want to keep it simple and yet still have excellent results with the Carolina Rig, just follow my guide above.  Don’t get drawn in to all the different talk that analyzes the rig to the point of complication.  Keep it simple.


The only other fishing gear you will need will be of course your fishing rod, reel, and line.  If you got a good rod and reel already then use it.  I find that the best poles are at least 7 feet long or a little longer for the technique you will be doing with the rig.  The best kind of reel is one that is of good quality and has a fast retrieve.   The line should be the same line that you used as the leader.


The key to fishing this rig is to move the bait very slowly.  Again, the key to fishing this rig is to move the bait very slowly.  So slow that you cannot achieve this slow movement with the retrieve of your reel.  You will have to move it “very slowly” with the movement of your pole.  This is where your 7 foot pole comes in handy.  Basically you are going to slowly drag the weight across the bottom very slowly.  You can do this by moving the tip of the pole slightly over to the left or right (about a 45 degree angle) and forward only slightly at the same time, while keeping the line tight.  A good tip is to every once in a while give the tip of the pole a quick snap to move the bait quickly which may provoke the bass to strike.  When you think you have a bite then quickly reel in any slack and then side sweep your pole tip to set the hook.  It’s important to keep the line tight before setting the hook. When you cast again you want it to land at a distance of about the length of your leader from the last landing point.

Advantages of the Carolina Rig

This rig is the best method to keep bait on the bottom, period.  In addition, with changes in the leader length, it allows you to present the bait right at the bass.  You can cover a lot of ground with this method.  Because of this a lot of experienced fishermen use it as a “finding” tool.  Find where the bass are located quicker by using the rig and then once found switch to a bait that works best for that situation.  Just remember though, if the bass are not on the bottom, then this rig will simply not work.


Hopefully by reading this guide you have learned that the Carolina Rig is not complicated and simple to set up and use.  It can cover a lot of ground but you have to move slowly using your rod only.  Don’t use your reel like I see a lot of others do all the time.  Using the reel to move the bait is very ineffective.  Follow this guide and you will be a Carolina Rig fishing expert in no time.

Below are some other resources to further your knowledge:

Wikipedia – Here you will find more basic information about the rig.

Berkley-Fishing – You get some tips and tricks for fishing the Carolina Rig.

Excellent video that shows you how to tie a Carolina Rig by Trails below:

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