It’s funny how some techniques fall out of favor when new ones come along. Take the Carolina rig, for example. It has kind of taken a backseat to drop-shotting and other trendy techniques over the past couple of years.
I ran into a young angler the other day who told me he hardly fishes the Carolina rig, replacing it with the football jig. I love the football jig, too, but it’s not as versatile as the Carolina rig.
I’ve heard others say the same about drop-shotting. Sure, you can cast a drop-shot and work it back to the boat, but it’s more of a vertical presentation and not as versatile.
The Carolina rig allows you to use a variety of lures and presentations on main-lake structure while covering water quickly and effectively. The rig shines best when fished over long points, ledges, breaklines, roadbeds or drop-offs. You can make long casts and drag the bait around to find the fish in less time than it takes with a football jig, drop-shot or a Texas-rigged worm.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m rigging my Carolina rigs with the same gear I used 30 years ago. I still use the 1/2- to 1-ounce egg-style sinker on the main line with a bead and a swivel. The egg sinker does a better job of stirring up the bottom than any other sinker I’ve tried.
Now, if fishing up North and over a hard, rocky bottom, I prefer the Rock Hopper sinker made by Mojo. It’s the one sinker that won’t hang up in rocks, which is a major problem that you can have with egg or bullet-style sinkers on that kind of bottom.
I also tie a monofilament leader (usually 36 inches) onto a swivel and attach a wire hook onto the end of that. About the only time I vary my leader length is during a severe cold front or when there is a lot of grass and I need to get my bait a specific length above the grass.
I don’t use fluorocarbon line because it sinks, and I want my bait to float. However, I will use 30-pound superline as the main line because it helps me feel the strikes better. My leader is no more than 14-pound mono, but I’ve gone down to 8-pound mono in open water and with small baits.
That’s an important aspect anglers overlook. You want to do all you can to make that lure stay above the bottom. You can do that by choosing buoyant lures and using light-wire hooks. Heavy hooks will sink or overpower a small bait, so match your hooks to the lure size.
The lizard is my favorite lure for Carolina rigging unless I believe I need a smaller-profile bait, like a worm. The lizard catches more fish, although I can’t explain why.
When fishing for smallmouth bass, I use smaller worms and will even use a tube bait. To help the tube suspend off the bottom farther, I stuff a piece of Styrofoam into the cavity, and the smallmouth just devour it.
The retrieve is another important aspect of this technique. I never use my reel or lift the rod to move the bait. I prefer to sweep the rod to the side while dragging the sinker along the bottom. That allows me to control the speed and duplicate it after I get a bite. Speed is critical because some days the fish only want the lure moving a certain way. Make a note of it when you get a bite.
Finally, just remember that Carolina rigging hasn’t lost its appeal. When your buddies begin touting new trendy techniques, don’t forget that the old ones still work, too.