Everything you Ever Wanted to Know About the Carolina Rig

Everything you Ever Wanted to Know About the Carolina Rig

By: Roger Holtsclaw         


         During the recent Major League Fishing (MLF) Pro Circuit event, several anglers were very successful using a Carolina Rig (C-Rig). Some of the MLF hosts on the show seemed somewhat surprised by anglers using this technique, and even more surprised it was successful. I also found it very interesting that they thought throwing a lizard on a C-Rig was somehow “crazy” (more on this later in the article). The announcers along with many people in the fishing community often refer to the Carolina Rig, also called the “old ball and chain”, as an “old school” technique. Well, it is an old school technique, but as long as it catches fish, who cares right?

        That is the thing about C-Rigs, they do simply catch fish in many situations. In fact, if one asks many experienced anglers, one may find the “old ball and chain” is used quite often in many areas around the country, because it can produce catches when other techniques do not. When in tournament situations, the C-Rig could be the competitive advantage you need to separate yourself from the rest of the field.

         Also, consider this – as bass continue to learn and see the latest, popular techniques everyday from almost every angler, they become conditioned to those lures and presentations. We hear it all the time from professional anglers around the world - when bass see the same lure every day, multiple times a day, that lure becomes less effective.

          Experienced anglers also tell co-anglers to show the bass something different from your boater. Many times, an angler can address both of these issues with a C-Rig. Many newer anglers may not be using it because it is “old school”. Plus, many of the weekend warriors and casual anglers will rely heavily on what is currently popular, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if one wants to show the bass something they do not see from almost every boat that passes by, perhaps “old school” can be the right answer and give you the edge. So, here are a few tips to help you be successful with the "old ball and chain."

How to rig

         Some anglers may actually shy away from the C-Rig because they do not know how to rig it properly or they believe it is too much trouble. It is actually not that bad, and in fact there are even short cuts for those of you who do not want to set the entire rig up yourself.

        First, for the typical C-Rig setup, one needs between a 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce weight. I personally use a 3/4-ounce majority of the time, but I do downsize to 1/2 in some situations if I am getting hung too much due to the bottom structure. However, sometimes a larger weight may actually help you get lose from a snag. It just depends on the structure you are fishing. Between 15 and 20 pound fluorocarbon line is what most anglers typically use. The fluorocarbon provides more sensitivity for bite detection and to provide a good feel of the bottom through your weight. This can help you know when you are in the sweet spots such as on a shell bed, rock, or other rough bottom.

       Next, you need a small plastic or glass bead. The bead serves two purposes, it protects your knot, and it also provides some clicking noise as it hits your weight. The plastic or glass can provide different sounds, so test each and determine what works best for you. Different color beads can also be tested. I typically throw a clear or red. I have not seen any noticeable difference since the bead is far away from the lure, but I wanted to mention it here since some anglers do think it may make a difference.

       Next, you need a swivel. It should be a standard one that swivels on both ends. One can try different colors on the swivel as well. Be sure to use a swivel that can handle about 20 to 25 lbs. but is small enough to not attract unwanted attention.

        Finally, you need a leader and hook. Many anglers use a fluorocarbon leader, however, there are also some that use monofilament for the leader. The leader should be between one and three feet long. I personally opt for a two-foot long fluorocarbon leader in most situations. However, there are times when mono is the better option. If you are in a situation in which the bass are more suspended and you want to keep your bait up off the bottom a little longer, then you should opt for mono as it sinks slower than fluorocarbon.

        For the selection, there are many different preferences. I personally use a 4/0 EWG hook. It has performed best for me in regard to hook up ratio. I found myself in a situation once where I was out of 4/0 and had to use a 3/0. I lost several fish that day. The smaller hook may work for some, but for me personally, the 4/0 was the way to go. I rarely lose a fish on the 4/0. Some anglers even use a 5/0, so I do not think there is a huge difference here other than what works best for you. Also, do not be afraid to try a straight shank hook if you prefer.

        I mentioned a short cut method for those who do not want to take the time to rig this up. Especially, if you are in a tournament and need to re-tie one after breaking off or damaging your line. You can have pre-rigged leaders so all you have to do is add the weight and tie one knot to the swivel. Also, there are some pre-rigged options that are available that already have the weight, bead, and swivel ready to go and you just add the leader and hook, and tie the main line. The weight is fixed to a bent wire with a built in tie loop, so it does limit the movement of the weight some. However, it can add some additional noise if you need it. I have used these in tournament situations and they have worked very well.

Here is a good image of the rig. **Please note, most anglers do not use a circle hook as in the image**

So, now you are rigged up, how about which baits to use?


Lure Selection

              Ask 100 anglers what the best lure is to use on a C-Rig (or any rig for that matter) and will likely get 100 different answers. So, I will share with you you the basics and then my personal choices and let you decide what works best for you.

              Typically, a soft plastic creature bait or worm is the ideal choice for a C-Rig. The most common is probably something that imitates a crawfish. Though, do not limit yourself to thinking that is all that will work (back to the lizard I mentioned earlier). One of my favorite baits to throw in a C-Rig is the 6 -inch Lunker Lizard from Tennessee Lunker Company (TLC Fishing).


        In fact, I probably throw a TLC Lunker Lizard on my C-Rig more than any other option. Most often I am throwing Green Pumpkin, or Pumpkin Chartreuse. However, there are times when I opt for the Junebug color.

        A few other go-to options for me are the TLC Brushpile Bandit in Green Pumpkin or the TLC Structure Bug, which has become my favorite on a Texas Rig, but is starting to really become a strong option for me on the C-Rig as well. Green Pumpkin has typically been my favorite color option for the TLC  Structure Bug, but TLC just released the TLC Craw color option, which I believe is going to be hard to beat! 


         Finally, I will sometimes opt for a big worm. If I feel I need a straight worm, I choose the TLC 7” Lunkerstick, which I typically drag slowly on the bottom. In situations where I want a little more action, I will choose the TLC 10” Lunker Worm which has a unique ribbon action down the body and tail. I choose this one when I want to drag, but then pick up and drop the C-Rig. (This presentation is also when I opt for a mono leader.) Do not hesitate to use a smaller profile bait if you find yourself in a high-pressure situation that requires a little more finesse.

So, what about your gear?

 Gear Selection

              This again is a question where personal preference plays a big role. The C-Rig is more of a heavy-duty technique, so you need heavy duty gear. Most anglers choose between a 7’4” and 8’ Heavy or Med Heavy action rod. I personally use a 7’6” Med-Heavy Enigma Ippon Series rod. It has plenty of backbone to fight those lunkers. If you plan to use a longer leader, you may want to try a longer rod to help with casting. This again goes back to personal preference.

              For reels, I prefer at least a 7:1 ratio or 7.5:1 ratio. This allows me to keep up with any bass who may decide to swim toward the boat once he grabs the bait. You may even choose a faster ratio of desired. Since the majority of the time with this technique you are using your rod and not the reel for the presentation, it will only matter once you get the bite.

              So, how do you fish it?

How to fish the C-Rig

              The C-Rig is much more versatile than many think. It can be fished extremely deep offshore in 30 to 40 feet, on shallow banks in less than 10 feet, or even very shallow up tight to cover. It can be very effective in almost any situation.

              Rocky transitions on the bottom are a very good place to fish the C-Rig. I especially like it on deep primary points with lots of rock on the bottom. The ideal situation is when I can throw past the rock drag it into the transition. Once I feel the rock, I slow down because I know this is the sweet spot.

              Another great place to throw it is along underwater ditch lines. In lakes where there are significant winter drawdowns, rainwater run-off can create ditches that become bass highways when the water level returns to normal. Throw the C-Rig either across or parallel down these ditch lines. Also, do not hesitate to throw across a creek channel in the middle of a pocket. We often fish the cover or the banks in pockets or drains. But do not overlook that channel that often runs down the middle. This can be a great place to pick up a nice lunker with your C-Rig.

          Most of the time with the C-Rig, you will throw to the desired target and slowly drag the lure along the bottom, pausing in between pulls and when you feel something different on the bottom. Pay special attention when you feel the “rough” stuff. However, there are situations where you will want to “hop” the C-Rig picking your rod tip up to the 12 o’clock position and dropping it back down. Your bait will slowly sink back down (especially if you use a more buoyant soft plastic) and trigger strikes for those bass that are little more apprehensive or suspended around cover such as stumps or brush.

          The C-Rig is great in the summer, but also it is a very effective technique in pre-spawn. So, you should be tying one on right now!

Final Thoughts

         At the end of the day, the main goal for every angler, whether you are a casual weekend angler or a hardcore tournament angler, is to catch more fish. This “old school” technique will do just that. So, do not listen to those who think the C-Rig is outdated and “crazy”. Just keep this weapon secret and let your results do the talking for you.