Use The Right Tackle For Carolina-Rigging

I recently competed in a Pro/Am bass tournament where professionals are teamed with amateurs and then fish together as a team. One of the strong patterns involved is fishing deep, milfoil edges with Carolina-rigs. Unfortunately, my amateur teammate had very little experience with this technique and had improperly set up his rod/reel/line combination. This improper set-up cost him three fish and consequently, several hundred dollars in winnings.

Jim Moynagh

For those who don’t know what a Carolina-rig is, it is any type of soft plastic bait attached to a hook one to four feet behind a sinker. The rig is presented to the bass simply by casting it out and slowly dragging it back to the boat. As simple as it sounds, proper choice of rod/reel/line will maximize your Carolina-rigging

Back to my partner’s rig: he had an extremely stiff, 7-foot muskie rod spooled with braided line. This combination simply overpowered the 14-pound leader he used. The muskie rod was designed to cast lures weighing several ounces, and for jamming heavy-shanked hooks into bony jaws. The braided line, having zero stretch, added to the shock delivered to the leader upon hookset. In fact, the stretch found in monofilament line may have saved him from breaking the leader three times. A softer hookset may have also saved him, but that wasn’t his style. He had been taught to really blast the fish when they bite.

Selecting The Right Length Rod
So how do you pick out a Carolina-rigging rod? Most rod makers today hire experienced bass pros to help them design specialty rods including those used for Carolina-rigging. So just grab a catalog from your favorite line of rods and see what they have built for this technique. Most Carolina-rig rods are longer — in the 7-foot and 7-1/2-foot range. This added length helps with the casting of longer leaders and also by taking up line when a bass has grabbed the bait and carried it towards you and the sinker.

There are a couple of rods that I use in the G-Loomis brand that have proved themselves well. First, is a rod they make specifically for Carolina-rigging — the MBR 864x made of the GL3 material. If I only had one rod for Carolina-rigging, it would be this one. It has the right action for easy casting, and the right action for solid hook-ups without overpowering my line. My second choice is a lighter rod that I like to use in more finesse situations where my sinker may be 3/8-ounce or less — the MBR 843c in the IMX material. This rod weighs less than the 864x, and has a gentler action for casting lighter-weight rigs. It also is better matched to the smaller hooks used for finesse.

Choosing a reel is less critical than your choice of rod and line. The most important feature to look for (beyond quality and dependability) is the retrieve ratio. A reel with a ratio of 6:1 or higher is best for Carolina-rigging. Why? Simply because you need to take up line quickly when a bass takes the bait and swims towards you. Occasionally, I won’t notice a pick-up right away, but only after the fish has grabbed the bait and dragged the sinker towards me. At this point, you may need to rapidly retrieve up to 10 feet of line before setting the hook.

Reel Choice: Shimano Curado
My choice of reels is the Shimano Curado. If you follow my column from week-to-week, you’ll notice that this is the only reel I mention. That’s because it’s the only baitcasting reel I use bass fishing. The performance and dependability of this reel has proven itself to me since I first began using them a few years ago.

How about the best fishing line for Carolina-rigging? Is it braided or monofilament? My choice is mono basically because it’s what I’m most comfortable with. The stretch that mono has is more forgiving when the line is stressed. Braided lines just seem so overpowering, however they do provide the best “feel” of the bottom and bites.

I like to spool my reel with 20-pound to 25-pound test when using a heavier Carolina-rig. I will match this to a 14-pound to 17-pound leader. It’s a good idea to use a lighter leader because it will save you time and tackle when the bait snags. The leader will break before the main line. On the smaller weight Carolina-rigs, I will spool with 14-pound or 17-pound test and tie the leaders with 10-pound to 14-pound test depending on the situation.

Matching gear to technique is not only important for Carolina-rigging, but with any technique. Unfortunately, it’s one of the fundamentals of fishing that is often overlooked by beginners and too often learned the hard way as told in the opening story.

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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on Visit Jim on Facebook at!/pages/Jim-Moynagh/167413610047622?fref=ts He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. In 2012, he finished in fourth place for Angler of the Year honors. He also finished in fourth place two-straight times in FLW events in 2012. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include M&M’s, All-Terrain Tackle, Chevy Trucks, and Ranger Boats.

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