Lakecaster Online

By Len Fairbanks

It was back in March of 1991 when Jimmy Nolan first turned the local area onto the Carolina Rig, when he won the BASS Top 100 event here on Big Sam. He and his amateur partner averaged weighing in 20 lbs. each for four days in that event. That should give you some idea of just how productive that a Carolina Rig can be. They found their fish ganged up on the inside moss line on the edge of an old ditch just south of the Hwy 147 bridge. At that time, it set the BASS record for the highest weight in a 4-day 5-fish limit tournament. And coincidently, that area between the Hwy 147 bridge and Indian Creek is really being productive again this year.

The Carolina Rig isn't much to look at. Just a 3/4 or 1 ounce weight separated from a soft plastic bait (usually a lizard) by a barrel swivel and a leader about 2' long. But like my grandma used to say to me, "Don't worry son, looks ain't everything." And so it is with the Carolina Rig, not much to look at, but an incredibly productive bass catching setup when used at the proper place and time.

Let's go into this proper place and time thing just a little deeper. The proper time is right now. On Sam Rayburn right now, all of the bass are either on the beds, moving towards the beds or moving away from the beds. The Carolina Rig really shines at catching those bass that are moving towards or away from the beds. These bass usually stop and spend some time at secondary points or creek channel bends as they are moving in or out of the backs of the spawning coves. While these bass are stopped or "staging" they are highly susceptible to being caught with a Carolina Rig. Go to these areas and the outside brush line, then the inside moss line and then the outside, the bass should be located at one of these places, maybe at all three.

My normal method of fishing these areas at this time of year involves covering the area first with a Rat-L-Trap or 3/4 oz. spinnerbait and trying to catch the more active fish. Then I follow up with the slower moving Carolina Rig. Many times the bigger bass will let that Rat-L-Trap go by but they just can't resist that Carolina Rig. The way that I normally fish my Carolina Rig is to make a long cast and allow the rig to settle to the bottom (I can tell when it's on the bottom from the slack in my line). Then I usually turn my rod roughly perpendicular (or sideways) to my line and I begin slowly reeling my rig in. I try to keep my reeling slow enough so that my rig maintains constant contact with the bottom. If I am reeling too fast or if I am fishing on a fairly steep slope, then I will have to stop my retrieve occasionally and allow my rig to sink back the bottom. Strikes sometimes feel just like they do on a Texas Rig, which feels like someone lightly thumping the end of your rod, but usually the line just gets heavy and it feels like you are dragging an old dishrag through the water. When you get this heavy feeling, just stop reeling but keep some pressure on the line, most of the time the bass will betray his presence by trying to swim off with your lure. When you detect a bass on the end of your line, give him a little bit of slack and then set the hook hard with a sideways "sweep" hookset. With the slack involved with the leader, many times if you set the hook by bringing your rod straight up you don't get a good hookset because you aren't physically moving enough line. If you will rotate your body and "sweep" that rod sideways you will move a whole lot more line and usually get a much better hookset.

Let's touch on terminal tackle. I usually use a VMC Vanadium Carolina Special hook in a 2/0 or 3/0 size depending on the size of the lure that I am fishing. This hook may look a little weird at first because it has an extremely wide gap and is based roughly on the old Kahle style of hook that has been around for ages. The main advantages of this hook are its light wire construction that allows the bait to float up off the bottom easier and makes for easier hooksets and that Kahle design that almost insures that once a fish is hooked, it stays hooked. Anyway, try this hook, I think you'll like it. I usually tie this hook to a 2'-3' leader of green 14-17 lb. monofilament, like Berkley Big Game or Trilene XT. I then tie this leader to a barrel swivel that is tied to my main line, which is usually 50 lb. braided line like Spiderwire. On that main line, immediately above my barrel swivel, I thread a 3/4 or 1 ounce brass weight (depending on the wind, more wind=more weight), followed by a glass bead (usually black). This bead is very important because it adds a clicking sound to the rig, which the bass seem to find attractive, and also it keeps that heavy brass weight from beating up the swivel knot. Let me give you a few small tips here that may help. First, when you are tying your rig, tie the leader to the swivel first. This will allow you to tie Palomar knots on both sides of the swivel and the hook. Remember to use a double Palomar knot for the Spiderwire or it will slip on you. I feel that the Palomar knot is the quickest, easiest, strongest not that we know about today and I try to use it whenever possible. Second, when buying swivels and beads, try to buy black ones and take a black magic marker and color your weights black. Many times you will feel a good strike, set the hook, miss the fish and reel in only to see no teeth marks on your lure. Usually these phantom strikes are small black bass or Kentucky spotted bass either hitting your weight or swivel or your glass bead. Making these items black will help minimize these problems.

I almost forgot to talk about the soft plastic lure to use on the business end of this rig. I usually use a Berkley Power Lizard in some variation of pumpkinseed or watermelon with a chartreuse tail. Some days the bass prefer a smaller, subtler bait and I will use Berkley's version of the french fry or centipede that is called the Power Noodle in the same color. Try this Power Noodle bait if you get a chance. It looks like a small hunk of plastic about the size of an old fashion crinkle-cut french fry, no wiggly tail, no legs, no whiskers, no claws but for some reason the fish really seem to like this bait above all others at certain times.

I usually use a 7'6" heavy action Fenwick flippin' stik (model GTC 775-2) for all of my Carolina Riggin. Also, I use like to use a quality, high-speed baitcasting reel with a thumb bar release like an AbuGarcia 4600C4 or TP3000C.

I sincerely hope that at least some of the information that I have provided was enlightening or maybe entertaining but most of all helpful and educational. If you would like some first hand instruction on black bass fishing on Lake Livingston or Sam Rayburn, I guide full time on both of these lakes and can be reached at (936) 327-1932 or you can email me at If you get a chance, check out my web site at and let me know what you think. Between now and next month, catch all you can and release all that you catch. Good luck, be safe out there and may God bless.

Sponsored by: Ranger Boats, Motorguide, Pro-Kon-Trol, Lowrance Electronics, Fenwick, ABU Garcia, Berkley, Energy Batteries, Turbo Props, Dual Pro Battery Chargers, Plano, VMC Hooks and Ocean Waves Sunglasses.

Back to Lakecaster Online contents