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Using 27 Carolina Rig Fishing Strategies From The Pros – Learn How To Fish A Carolina Rig Like A Boss!

Top Bass Anglers and Fishing Guides DON’T Want You To Know The Secrets To Fishing A Carolina Rig For Bass [We Show You How Today!]

One of the all-time iconic deep water bass fishing rigs is the Carolina rig (also known as a “C-rig”). Anglers of all ability levels can use the Carolina rig, which can be fished from both the bank and from a boat. 

But over the past 10 years it seems most anglers have forgotten about the Carolina rig. Simply put, no one is talking about it.  You’ll hear most of the professionals and fishing guides will talk about other deep water techniques like fishing deep diving crankbaits. However when it comes to talking about Carolina rig fishing – **crickets**

But does that mean the Carolina rig is dead? Simple answer is heck no!

One of the biggest tips I’ve learned with bass fishing is if no one is talking about a particular technique and companies still continue to make baits for it, then that technique still works like magic! 

The concept behind fishing a Carolina rig for bass is simple. The C-rig flawlessly retains your lure on or near the bottom of the water, creates lifelike action, and it can cover a large amount of water in a short period of time. 

The sinker enables you to cast further while also keeping your presentation close to the bottom. 

Set up your Carolina rig and hang on if bass are hunting for a snack near the lake’s bottom and you want to traverse water fast to find them.

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Why Does Carolina Rig Fishing Work?

The lifelike action created by the Carolina rig is one of the main reasons for its success. The fish mistake the subtle movements of your lure for a living prey and strike with voracity. There are a few other key reasons for the success of the Carolina rig. They include:

  • Ease of use: You simply toss it out and bring it back in as slowly or as quickly as you like. That is the most basic strategy you will ever come across. It’s suitable for anglers of any skill level, including children.
  • Constant bottom contact: We’re putting quite big weights on the rig, which makes maintaining contact with the bottom a breeze. This gives you essential information about the area’s composition and hardness. It’s also an excellent rig for casting in severe winds because of this.

How To Make A Carolina Rig For Bass

There are a few different elements involved in a Carolina rig set up. You will need:

  • A weight
  • A glass or hard plastic bead
  • A swivel
  • A leader
  • A hook
  • A soft plastic lure

Learning how to rig a Carolina rig is pretty simple if you follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Add a one-fourth to one-ounce bullet weight to your fluorocarbon line.
  2. Add a glass or rigid plastic bead to your line. 
  3. Tie your swivel in. 
  4. Tie the leader line to the other end of your swivel. 
  5. Attach the hook at the end of your leader line using a strong Palomar knot. 
  6. Slide your chosen bait onto your hook, and you’re good to go!

Best Basic Presentations/Retrieval Techniques For Fishing A Carolina Rig For Bass

Knowing how to fish a Carolina rig seems pretty simple to most anglers: cast and drag. It can pay dividends to take a slightly more tactical approach to the presentation and retrieval of your C-rig. 

Of course, the classic method of dragging your C-rig across the bottom is a highly efficient method of snagging bass all year long. However, if you switch up your tactics just a bit depending on the bottom structure and type of cover targeted, you’ll see even more success.

Here are a few different presentations/retrieves to try based on the structures and covers you are fishing in:

  • The steady drag: Simply pull your rig along the bottom of the water at a constant speed. This technique is great when fishing over sand bars or barren clay points. You’ll simply make a more extended cast, then steadily and slowly reel your C-rig in, keeping the rod tip low. This will allow the weight on your line to regularly bump the bottom, stirring up silt and sand. 
  • The sweep-n-snap: After casting, sweep your rod at the 10 o’clock position for about three-fourths of your retrieve, keeping your Carolina rig close to the bottom. As your rod nears your boat, snap the rod to the 12 o’clock position, jerking the lure and weight from the bottom. Let your rig fall back to the bottom, pop it again, and let it fall once more. If your bait is being trailed by a bass, the strike will likely occur during one of the pop-ups, as this action mimics a fleeing crawdad.

Can You Carolina Rig a Crankbait or Any Other Hard Plastic Bait?

A Carolina rig can be used with a variety of different hard baits. The major benefit is that lures that are generally for use in shallow to medium depths may now be employed in considerably deeper water.

For example, on a Carolina rig, you may easily utilize an floating wakebait, floating propbait or a very shallow diving jerkbait. The key is to use a lure that floats. 

Fishing a crankbait can be difficult because they are made to dive and may get hung up.

Best of all there is really no limit to the depth you fish these floating baits. 

Unfortunately, open hook lures that sink such as lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, blade baits,  and spoons, do not work nearly as well as the floating hard lures.

How To Cast A Carolina Rig The Right Way

Casting your Carolina rig with a long leader requires the correct equipment and technique. 

Most professionals opt for long baitcasting rod, typically 7-5 or more with a medium-heavy back bone and a fast tip. 

Using a longer rod gives you extra casting distance and having a sensitive flexible tip provides you the sensitivity to detect subtle bites in deep water. 

There are several ways to cast your Carolina rig, but the easiest is going to be a strong figure-8 side-arm/underhand cast. 

Step 1:  Start the cast with the rod pointing forward toward your target.

Step 2:  Next you want to swing the tip back which will put a small amount of tension on the spool

Step 3:  Almost as if you were doing a figure-8 accelerate your cast forward and release tension on the spool allowing the Carolina rig to be cast to your target 

This type of technique is better than an overhead cast for multiple reasons:

  • If cast overhead, there is no tension on the spool so you may snap the bait off the leader line, or it may create a jerking motion on the spool causing it to backlash.  
  • Furthermore, casting overhead will notoriously cause the bait and weight to ‘helicopter’ around each other and get tangled up on the leader line.  That overhand knot that is created makes a weak point in the line and breaks off when you set the hook on the fish.  

Some anglers will even stop the Carolina rig (with their hand) right before it hits the water, so the momentum will carry the bait straight out, thus further reducing the chances of the bait getting tangled up.

Once the Carolina rig hits the water do not engage the reel until it hits the lake floor.

Best Locations And Structures To Fish A Carolina Rig For Bass

This rig can be used pretty much anyplace you’re confident there will be bass to catch. 

Heavy cover regions are the only sites you might wish to avoid. Steer clear of those places with lots of trees or substantial, tough plants that can take hold of the rig’s components and snare you.

From the coast to deep water contours and channels, a Carolina rig can be fished anywhere that has a generally obstacle-free bottom. They’ll also work on weedy or grassy flats if you stretch your leader a little to keep the bait above the weeds.

Always concentrate your efforts around major structures such as:

  • River channel bends
  • Points
  • Ledges
  • Humps

The Carolina rig also works whenever there is any isolated structure that is not “snaggy” such as:

  • shellbeds
  • rockpiles or boulders
  • old laydowns
  • debris/concrete from the construction of a nearby dam or bridge

Pulling a Carolina rig over a point’s tip or through deep-water channel bend can be pretty efficient nearly anytime of year.

Carolina Rig Leader Length

The most common length of the leader can range from 18 inches to 6+ feet. 

  • Spring: During spawn most of the fish are up shallow and can be very finicky.  And if you’re fishing a Texas rig sometimes the weight alone will spook the bass. So use a smaller 1/4-3/8 ounce weight with a shorter leader 15-18 inches. 
  • Summer and into the fall: You cannot go wrong with using 3-4 foot leader.  Anything shorter you may as well be fishing a Texas rig.
  • Winter: Use a leader length 4-6 feet.  Bass can be very timid at this time and prefer to see subtle movements of a small finesse lure. The long leader length gives the small lure the same presentation as if you were fishing it unweighted especially when there is current.
  • Submerged grass: Anglers that commonly target submerged weedbeds  frequently lengthen their leaders to 5 to 6 feet to keep their lures above the weeds while pulling the rig.
  • Clear water conditions or heavily pressured fish:  A long leader line of 4-6 feet will typically will put bass in the boat.

Other factors to consider:

A bait in a natural tone like the forage they’re grazing on will trick them into biting in cleaner water and on clear, sunny days.

Tie on a brilliantly colored lure in dark or muddy water or on overcast days to boost exposure, or use a darker solid color to optimize profile visibility. Soft plastic in black and blue is excellent.

Environmental Factors To Consider

Carolina rig fishing can be easily fished all four seasons due to its adaptability. You’ll only have to tweak it a little depending on the season and the fish’s behavior.

  • Spring: Bass spawn in the spring. Set your bait immediately over shallow-water spawning grounds or lower it to the open water to catch bass on the rugged bottom with a Carolina rig.
  • Summer: Lower your Carolina rig to the floor with a large worm in the summer to catch slow bass trying to get away from the hot water closer to the surface. Ensure the lure is seen well above long bottom vegetation by using a longer leader line.
  • Fall: For rising smallmouths in the fall, throw your C-rig near troughs and ledges found in the midwater.
  • Winter: Use the Carolina rig in the winter to entice fish that are nearing hibernation along the bottom.

Other factors to consider:

A bait in a natural tone like the forage they’re grazing on will trick them into biting in cleaner water and on clear, sunny days.

Tie on a brilliantly colored lure in dark or muddy water or on overcast days to boost exposure, or use a darker solid color to optimize profile visibility. Soft plastic in black and blue is excellent.

How Deep Do You Fish A Carolina Rig For Bass?

The Carolina rig works best in water depths of 10 to 20 feet, but they’ll catch fish in deeper or shallower waters as well. 

If you’re fishing in shallower water, shorten your leader and use a lighter weight (we suggest using Carolina rigs with a one-fourth-ounce weight in very shallow water). On the other hand, deeper water will necessitate a bigger weight and a longer leader.

How To Set The Hook When Fishing Carolina Rig For Bass

Setting the hook demands a lot of power with that much line out and such a large weight. One thing we’ve learned is that speed equals power. 

Set the hook forcefully as soon as you feel the heaviness by rotating your body and yanking your rod to the side simultaneously. This is called a sweeping hookset

Continue reeling aggressively to avoid giving the fish any leeway. 

It pays to have solid, sharp hooks and quality line when a fish is at the end of your Carolina rig.

So, what’s the best lure to use on your Carolina rig?

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So you can fish Carolina Rig with any soft plastic bait in your tackle box.

That’s what makes it so unique. There isn’t a hard and fast rule like ‘you only can use worms’ or anything like that.

You might need little curly tail worms as bait, but you can also utilize big and fat creature baits.

Lizards and other beaver-style baits are one of the most common items to fish on Carolina Rigs.

Learn More: What Is The Best Carolina Rig Bait? Worms, Lizards, Creature Baits, or Something Else? [The Answer Will Blow You Away!] – Click Here

Best Lure Colors For Carolina Rig And Why

Bass have excellent vision—their eyes are nearly identical to ours, so they can see many of the same shades humans can. When choosing a color, the two most important factors to consider are 1) the clarity of the water, and 2) the hour and kind of day.

On sunny, clear-water days, opt for light, natural-colored lures, such as natural browns and greens. 

On cloudy, murky-water days, string up a dark or brightly colored lure, such as white, black, or dark blue. 

Explore with an array of colors until you figure out what works on your local waterways to become a successful bass angler. Begin with shades that have previously worked for you or colors that locals have recommended, and then venture out. Through experimentation, you’ll finally figure out the proper method for unlocking the bite.


How Do You Carolina Rig for Smallmouth?

The switch to pursuing smallmouth bass on your Carolina rig is simple; just change out your baits! Switch to small crayfish, creature baits, or ribbon-tail worms. Just be sure to add enough weight to counter the smaller lures.

Can a Carolina Rig Use Live Bait?

You’ll perform well with a Carolina rig, whether you’re fishing a lively minnow, leech, or nightcrawler.

Is the Fish Finder Rig the Same as the Carolina Rig?

The fish finder rig varies from the C-rig in that it often employs a weight that secures itself to the bottom, whereas the Carolina rig’s sinker moves more freely.

What Would I Use to Make a Carolina Rig Float?

Using floating lures or adding corks or floats to your line will give your Carolina rig a bit of lift. It’s a very common practice for walleye fishermen that has crossed into bass fishing. 

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