Fishing the Carolina Rig

Fishing the Carolina Rig

Whether competing in a bass tournament or simply fishing a weekend afternoon, all anglers are constrained by one element: time. This time constraint has led to the strategy known as “power fishing,” epitomized by the run-and-gun approach introduced by Kevin Van Dam, who recently retired with the best track record in competitive bass fishing history.

Power fishing is not just fishing fast; rather, it’s about covering water with improved time management and efficiency in order to get a sense of how the most active bass are behaving on a given day. Once located, an angler can slow to a more methodical means to catch more bass located in an area.

What if you could utilize a technique that offered the best of both worlds: long casts to cover water relatively quickly but also a means to efficiently probe the lake bottom and surrounding cover for bass? Such is the appeal of the Carolina rig, aka the “ball and chain.”

The Carolina rig shot to the national spotlight in the 1985 Bassmaster’s Classic when Jack Chancellor dragged it across river sand bars for the winning catch. He called it the “Do-Nothing Rig,” which is appropriate given the simplicity of the technique.

The Carolina rig is a heavy barrel weight, such as Epic’s ¾ or 1 oz Tungsten Barrel Weight, separated from the hook and an 18-36” leader by a barrel swivel. Most anglers will include a series of plastic or metal beads above the swivel knot to cushion it from the heavy sinker and add an audible component to attract a bass’ attention.

If you want extra cushion and less clack, use the XL Blue-Colored Weight Peg from Epic. Place the peg right above the swivel so that when the weight comes down, it will bounce back. If Epic’s Tungsten Bead is on there, then it will have a different sound than glass beads.

Soft plastic choices for the Carolina rig are a matter of the angler’s imagination and preference, with creature baits and craws a popular choice, as are the more subtle 5-inch “french fry” worms or even the ubiquitous Senko. Choices in hooks can include a 3-4/0 EWG (extra wide gap), such as the AlphaPoint® Assault Tactical Wide Gap Hook, or the offset round bend hooks in the same size.

Typically, the Carolina rig uses 30-50# braided line to eliminate stretch on a long hookset. The leader material is usually 12-15 pound fluorocarbon to reduce underwater line visibility and increase abrasion resistance.

The Carolina rig can be fished on the bottom from shallow to deep, stirring up sediment as the heavyweight drags along the bottom with short bursts from the rod tip. The efficiency of the setup comes from the ability to bomb the rig great distances with long casts due to the heavy sinker. The sinker also impacts structure along the lake bottom as it drags, which draws fish to the commotion. It also offers feedback to the astute angler about the composition of the lake bottom. One can feel the tactile change in feedback through the rod tip as the sinker drags through the muted feel of a silty bottom to the more “crunchy” sensation of gravel or shell bottom. These little patches of gravel and shell are what is known as a “hard bottom” among accomplished offshore anglers and is considered “the juice” when searching for schools of feeding bass.

Among all the components of dragging a Carolina rig effectively, the rod is front and center. The technique requires a specialized rod long enough to heft the heavy sinker and extend leader a great distance while also maintaining the sensitivity to feel those subtle bottom changes through the rod tip. The new KastKing Assegai “Sweet Caroline” is aptly named, as it checks all the boxes for defining the perfect rod for lobbing and dragging the old ball and chain.

At 7 ‘6”, the Sweet Caroline has the needed length to fire the Carolina rig to its maximum range, as well as move a lot of line in a hurry on the hookset with a sweep of the long rod. Considered a “fast/medium/heavy” action, this technique-specific rod from KastKing also offers the tip sensitivity to feel the bottom and detect the bite, but has the power to drive the hook home on bass from a great distance.

Want a wide spool reel that eliminates backlashes and also lets you know the distance of your last cast? You can pair the Assegai rod with the new KastKing iReel, which is an incredibly smooth reel that casts the Carolina rig a country mile. At ICAST ’23, all the buzz centered around the iReel’s ability to provide audible feedback for the casting distance, as well as retrieve speed, both important metrics when fishing any lure. Should you choose to turn off the audio capability, the iReel records all the casting data to your phone via the KastKing app for your review at a later time.

The Carolina rig is a versatile technique that can be fished fast or slow, shallow or deep, regardless of the season. When searching for schools of bass away from the shoreline, drag ‘em up with the “ball and chain.”

By: Shane Beilue


Dena Vick