As with most fishing techniques, popularity spawns innovation. In many ways, Carolina rigs parallel livebait rigs for walleyes — sliding sinkers, swivels, beads, and leaders. But while walleye anglers often adjust sinker weight and color, add beads, and adjust leader length, most bass fishermen tie on a 3/4-ounce weight, a single red bead, and a 24- to 30-inch leader.
Match your leader length to the season or type of cover you’re fishing. Shorter, 1 1/2- to 3-foot leaders work well during portions of fall and winter when bass often hold tight to the structure and precise presentation is required. But for bass holding along steep ledges or suspended outside a break, as often happens in summer and fall, a longer leader shines. Leaders up to 7 feet long allow baits to drift slowly, giving bass a longer look at the bait.
Check the flotation of your plastic baits. Most sink slowly on a standard 4/0 hook, though some may float a small hook or achieve neutral buoyancy with a large hook. To float baits higher above weed clumps, stumps, or other cover, try a floating jighead, styrofoam floats, or thicker diameter leader material.
Brass weights have gained popularity with Carolina rig enthusiasts. Brass is less dense than lead, but clicks more sharply against rocks and beads. To maximize the clicking sounds that may help attract bass in deep clear water and shallow murky water, some anglers add a brass collar between the sinker and the bead. To minimize the flash that may spook bass, some manufacturers have painted their brass weights black.
Rattling lures sometimes catch more bass than non-rattling versions. Plastic and glass rattle chambers filled with shot slide into soft plastic baits. Rattles are activated when the bait hits bottom or when it’s shaken. Snap-on rattles of similar design can be attached to or removed from a hook shank in seconds. Some manufacturers also offer brass weights with shot inside to produce both rattling and clicking sounds.