Though more than a decade had passed since “Sweet Baby James” topped the charts, I couldn’t keep the tune out of my head as I heaved a weighty worm rig over an expanse of stumps and hydrilla at Lake Seminole, Georgia in the mid-1980s. Carolina rigging was coming into prominence and was unbelievably effective. A hefty sinker and red bead were matched with a prerigged worm, labeled a “dumb” worm by those too sophisticated to try it. Catching was so easy, it seemed like cheating: Cast it out, hum a tune, and haul in bass.
Today, one hot tournament trend is to find a shallow bite and beat it to death. Anglers insist that bass can always be found in shallow cover, and you can make them bite by deftly flipping baits into pockets in wood and weed. That’s good news for deepwater fishermen who know how to locate groups of big bass on structure and can catch them one after another on this rig, while most other anglers are fishing shallow.
“I call Carolina rigging power-fishing with finesse,” says Kyle Mabrey of Birmingham, Alabama. “Your basic setup, a 3/4-ounce weight, swivel, leader, and lure, calls for a 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod and a main line from 15- to 20-pound-test. That’s power for setting hooks at long range and hauling big bass off the bottom.
“Yet the action of your lure is subtle,” Mabrey maintains. “The bait appears natural because it’s free of any other tackle. It glides along and slowly settles to the bottom when you pause the retrieve. If a bass picks it up, it feels no resistance. That’s finesse for fooling big fish that may not be in a feeding mood.”
PHYSICS AND CAROLINA RIGS
Though Carolina rigs have a substantial history, confusion continues about how these rigs really perform. Ralph Manns, long-time In-Fisherman contributor and expert on all scientific aspects of fishing, comments, “You often see illustrations with the lure floating above the bottom. This doesn’t happen unless the lure and hook combination is lighter than water. Once heavier-than-water lures reach the bottom, they tend to stay there.
“If you rig a floating lizard or other floating bait, it rises whenever the retrieve is paused. Slightly buoyant lures rise slowly, while highly buoyant baits ascend at only moderate speeds because the leader resists upward movement, and the weight of the hook slows the rise. A slow retrieve with many pauses allows floating baits to rise above the bottom. The longer the pauses and the longer the leader, the higher a bait rises.
“Standard plastisol lures or Berkley Gulp! baits sink when rigged on a hook. And each retrieve motion pulls the lure downward, keeping the bait on the bottom or in contact with weeds or other cover. Lengthening the leader doesn’t change basic laws of physics, so lures don’t ride higher with long leaders. Combined with floating lures, however, long leaders mean different arcs of up and down movement. But with sinking lures, long leaders only extend the time the lure falls after the sinker first contacts the bottom. Once on bottom, standard baits stay down until the entire rig is lifted off the bottom.
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