Carolina Rig

Carolina Rig Materials Diagram

The Carolina rig presents a soft plastic bait in a weightless fashion that is extremely natural to bass and other predatory game fish. It is an excellent rig for bottom fishing in both fresh water and salt water environments.

The Carolina rig, also known as the C-rig, is a long-standing favorite bait presentation for anglers for bass fishing. It’s easy to create and extremely versatile. It’s one of the few fishing rigs that performs as both a fish catcher and fish finder. It is the go-to rig when you need to cover a lot water quickly. The C-rig is a bottom fishing rig and can be fished from shore or boat. It is all-time classic rig for bass fishing.

While similar to the Texas rig, most anglers feel the Carolina rig provides a more natural presentation. With the Carolina rig the lure and hook are attached to the leader line that trails behind the weight. As the C-rig is retrieved along the bottom, the lure and hook dart behind the weight which stirs up silt and sediment as it clacks along the bottom attracting the attention of feeding fish.

Another big advantage of the Carolina rig over the Texas rig, Whacky rig and similar presentations is that it can be fished faster. You can drag the Carolina rig across the bottom without compromising the weightless presentation. This not only allows you to cover more area, but you can also get your bait in front of more fish in less time.

The Carolina rig is often used for fishing deeper water, but it can also be used in the shallows. In fact, in a Bass Master Open bass fishing tournament on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi the winner was using a Carolina rig in just a few feet of water. The C-rig be fished in the shallows from shore, or from boat off shore.

The Carolina rig is simple and straight forward to setup. The are 7 components to a Carolina rig. The main line, leader line, weight, plastic bead, swivel, hook and soft plastic bait.

Carolina Rig

Main lineYou can use either braided or fluorocarbon abrasion-resistant line. Some anglers prefer a strong braided line for fishing deeper water and when the bottom is rocky. A 15-25 lb test fluorocarbon line will also work and provides great hooksets.
Leader line1' to 4' of 12- to 15-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon. When fishing clear water you want a leader line that is not going to be visible to fish. For clear deep water use a longer leader line. For grass beds, or when there is a little cover, use a shorter leader line.
WeightA heavier bullet style or egg slip weight usually between 1/4 oz and 1 oz for freshwater fishing and 1/2 oz and 3 oz for saltwater fishing. Using a bullet style weight will help prevent snagging. A hollow bullet style with a rattle inside is also available for maximum sound. (For best performance use a higher density tungsten weight.)
Bead(s)You can use glass or plastic beads, but plastic beads are preferred. The bead protects the knot connecting the main line to the swivel from being hit by the slip weight. It also creates a clacking sound to attract fish. A 6mm holographic orange plastic bead provides flash.
Bobber stopWhen using a hollow bullet weight with a rattle inside, a bobber stop can be used instead of a bead to keep the weight from sliding down the main line into the knot.
Swivel#7 barrel swivel or roller swivel. The roller swivel is designed specifically for the Carolina rig. Use a heavy duty swivel that spins freely. Note: If you want to simplify your C-rig presentation, a swivel sinker can be used in place of a traditional swivel and weight.
HookThe go-to hook for the Carolina rig is a size 2/0 to 5/0 extra wide gap hook (EWG), but a traditional/off-set worm hook or straight shank hook will also work. Hook size will be determined by the size of your soft plastic lure and target fish.
Soft plastic baitPlastic worms (6-10 inches) and Ribbon Tail Worms are most common. The C-rig can also be equipped with a variety of creature style baits. When fish are finicky, a reaper or grub will often get a bite. Floating baits can also be used on a C-rig and create a unique presentation effective on muddy bottoms or in grassy areas where a suspend bait works well.
Clacker (optional)A clacker can be added to C-rig to produce additional noise as the rig is retrieved. When a bullet weight with a rattle is used, a clacker typically isn't necessary.

The following are detailed steps for setting up and rigging a Carolina rig.

Step 1. Add your weight to the line. Slide a 1/4 to 2 oz bullet or egg weight onto your main fishing line. For freshwater fishing, you’ll want to use a heavier weight (3/4 oz or larger) for deeper water (over 8 feet) and a smaller weight (1/4 – 1/2 oz) for shallower depths (under 8 feet). The weight should slide up and down the line.

Step 2. Add your bead or bobber stopper. Slide a 6mm glass or plastic bead to the line behind the weight. The bead will protect the knot from being hit by the sliding weight and produces a noise to attract fish as it clacks against the weight. (An optional bobber stopper can be used instead of a bead to inhibit the weight from slidding down and hitting against the knot.)

Step 3. Tie your swivel to the main line. Tie a #7 barrel swivel or heavy duty roller swivel on the end of the main line behind the bead or bobber stopper using a palomar knot. The palomar knot will ensure the swivel stays in place. Cut off any excel line from the knot.

Step 4. Tie your swivel to the leader line. The leader line is now attached to the other end of the swivel using a palomar knot. The leader line can be anywhere from 1′ to 4′ in length depending on fishing technique and conditions. You’ll want to use a shorter leader line for shallower depths.

Step 5. Attach your hook. Attach your hook to the end of the end of the leader line to your hook. Recommended hooks include an off-set worm hook, straight shank hook, or extra wide gap (EWG) hook. For soft plastics a 3/0-5/0 EWG or round bend worm hook is ideal. If you’re using live worm, a small 1/0 round bend hook is recommended.

Step 6. Attach your soft plastic bait to your hook. Run the hook point through the nose 1/4 an inch and out the belly. Continue working the hook through the body until half the hook is in the bait body. Now rotate the hook 180 degrees and continue to work the hook through body until the bend of the hook emerges. Finally, run the hook point back through the bait until the point almost emerges from the opposite side and runs parallel with the bait skin.

After you’ve finished baiting your hook, you bait should lay perfectly straight.

The most basic method for fishing the Caroline rig is a simple cast and retrieve technique. Cast out the rig, allow it to fall to the bottom, then slowly reel it in, letting it drag across the bottom. This is a perfect technique for testing the waters and covering a lot of water fairly quickly.

When retrieving the rig, position your rod directly in front of you parallel to the surface of the water at the 12 o’clock position. Now move the rod horizontally to the 2 o’clock position and take up the slack. Repeat this motion dragging the C-rig along the bottom as you continue to retrieve.

If you’re using a rod shorter than 7′ you’ll want to move your rod to the 3 or 4 o’clock position instead of the 2 o’clock position in order to cover as much ground during each drag.

From my experience a Carolina rig can really be fished year round. But this rig undoubtedly shines under certain conditions. The Carolina rig is the ideal presentation for fishing the following.

  • Open water. Fishing open water when you want to cover a lot of area quickly, such as a large flat or long point.
  • Fishing heavier weights. Deep sea or deeper water fishing with heavier weights in the 2-3 ounce range.
  • Cold weather. During cooler winter months when fish have moved toward the bottom of the water column. (Although, the C-rig will also work during the spring and summer.)
  • Pre- and post-spawn. During pre- and post-spawn seasons when fish are migrating to and from spawning ground fish the C-rig through the migration path.
  • Testing an area. The C-rig is ideal for fishing a large area quickly to find where fish are hold up and if they’re biting.

You can fish a Carolina rig pretty much anywhere, but there are a few places you’ll want to avoid. It’s better to keep away from matted vegetation, trees and other underwater cover where your rig can snag.

You can fish a Carolina rig with just about any rod. But there are few rods that are easier to fish than others for certain conditions. Generally, I recommend a 7′ to 7’10” medium-heavy, fast action rod when fishing a Carolina rig. This rod provides the following benefits.

  1. A rod over 7′ in length is going to provide you the leverage to cast longer distances. When fishing a Carolina rig you really want to get your bait out there so you can cover some ground. A slightly longer rod also helps create a good hookset when you feel a bite.
  2. A medium-heavy (to heavy) rod is your best option for fishing a Carolina rig, especially when fishing deeper water or in salt water. A rod with a strong backbone is important for casting using heavier weights, setting the hook, and when you’ve got a lot of line out to reel in.
  3. A fast to extra-fast action rod is only going to bend the top third or less of rod tip. This higher tension will assist with both casting and hookup strength. It will also help keep bigger catches on your line as you real in. An extra-fast action rod is recommended when fishing deeper, salt water environments with heavier tackle.

The best reel setup for fishing a Carolina rig is a baitcaster reel with a minimum 6:1 to 7:1 gear ratio. With a 6:1 gear ratio, every time you turn the handle one full 360 degree revolution the spool will will turn 6 times. A higher gear ratio will ensure you can reel in line quickly when using a 7′ plus rod with a 1-3′ leader. A spinning reel setup with the same gear ratio will also work if that’s what you prefer.