How to Set Up and Fish the Carolina Rig: Tips for 2023

An all-time classic, the Carolina Rig is a tried and true rig for beginner and expert anglers alike. I’ve caught countless fish on this rig, and in this article, we’ll go in-depth about setting up a Carolina rig and choosing the right lures, hooks, weights, and lines. Last but not least, we’ll talk about when, where, and how to fish it.

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What is a Carolina Rig? 

Carolina rig

In its most basic form, a Carolina rig consists of a lure on a leader, dragged behind a weight. The Carolina Rig differs from other popular styles, like the Texas Rig, in that the weight remains fully separate from the bait via a long leader. 

One of the advantages of the Carolina Rig is how versatile it can be. Various different hook styles, weights, beads, and baits can be used to target bass effectively.  

Carolina Rig Set Up

Starting from your main line, a Carolina Rig will have a weight, followed by a bead, then a swivel, and finally a leader. 


Egg sinker weights

An egg sinker or bullet weight is the way to go when fishing the Carolina rig. These weights have the ability to slide up and down the line and their tapered profile makes them less likely to snag on the bottom. 

Generally speaking, the Carolina Rig is a heavy setup. The whole goal is to be fishing the bottom so weight sizes can range from 1/4 oz all the way up to 1 oz.


Below your weight of choice, a bead is slipped onto the line. These small glass or plastic beads act as a noise maker and attractor.

Many anglers will swear by a specific color bead, but I personally don’t think it matters that much. Bass are going to be looking to bite the lure, not the rig.

In addition to a plastic bead, I like to add a ticker to give the rig a little more noise making ability.


A barrel swivel

Nothing too fancy here. I like to tie a simple barrel swivel underneath the bead and weight. These are crucial to ensure your bait doesn’t twist your line. Just make sure you get a big enough swivel that the bead and weight can’t slip over it. 


The leader length on your Carolina Rig should be at least 18” long and tied to the end of the swivel. It’s important to keep some distance between the bait and the hardware on the rig. 

Though the noise and movement of the weight will attract fish, a short leader can spook them. 

Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon

Fluorocarbon line is the way to go for leader material. Its abrasion resistance and invisibility underwater make it a clear winner for the leader line. I like to tie my leaders with the 10-12 lb test Seaguar Blue Label.

As a rule of thumb, I choose a leader that’s one size down from my main line. This way, if the lure snags on the bottom, I’ll tear off just the lure and the hook but keep the rest of my rig.

Peg The Weight?

There are different opinions on whether or not you should peg the weight on a Carolina rig. Pegging the weight is simply adding a stop, like a bobber stop or a swivel to prevent the weight from riding up the main line. 

Most commercially made, pre-tied rigs are made this way. Though I think it all boils down to personal preference, there are pros and cons to each method. 

Pegged rigs will quickly get the bait to the bottom and limit tangles. 

Unpegged rigs allow the bait to fall much more naturally, but slack between the slid weight and the bait can mean missed fish. 

Carolina Rig Baits

Soft fishing baits of different forms and colors

One of the advantages of using these rigs is how versatile they can be with bait selection. Almost any of your soft plastic bait styles will work well.


Plastic worms and bass fishing go hand in hand. When fishing a worm on a Carolina rig, I like to go with larger body sizes ( 6”+) and curly tails. 

The tails have great action underwater, especially while dragging across the bottom. 


Zoom Super Salty Fluke bait

Soft plastic jerk baits are great to use with a Carolina rig. Since the weight is positioned so far from the bait itself, the lure has a much more natural look. 

Some of my favorite jerk bait patterns are Zoom Super Salty Flukes in Green Pumpkin and ZMan StreakZs in Baby Bass

Creature Baits

Creature baits are perfect for a Carolina rig. Using a craw pattern or brush hog with these rigs is a great way to fish for big bass in deep water. 

Keitech Crazy Flapper soft bait

Few presentations look more natural than a crawfish moving across the bottom.  


Lizards are another fantastic option to be used in Carolina rigging, particularly in deep water with a lighter weight. The legs and tail on the lizard patterns have incredible action while falling.

Live Bait

It’s not just soft plastics that work well on Carolina rigs. Natural baits such as shiners or other baitfish are extremely popular with this style of fishing. 

Сheck your local laws and regulations before using a natural bait of any kind. 

What Hooks to Use for Carolina Rigs

Carolina rig

Any of your straight shank, standard worm hook, or extra wide gap (EWG) hooks work well with these rigs. I prefer using EWG hooks as they can be rigged weedless to avoid snags. 

As with any hook selection, be sure to match hook size with bait size. Smaller worms, for instance, might only need a size 2, while big creatures need a hook in the 4/0 range. 

Rod Selection for a Carolina Rig

Rod selection is an important thing to consider when Carolina rig fishing. Since the rig is already long, having a longer rod is crucial in order to feel confident casting such a heavy rig. 

I prefer a rod at least 7’6” long in medium heavy with fast action.

Typically you’ll be fishing cover or debris deeper in the water column and having a long rod in medium heavy will really help pull bass out of where they’re hiding.

The length of the rod and fast action rod tip will also help when setting the hook. After a long cast, the extra length will really come into play while moving all that line during a long, sweeping hookset.

Line Selection for Carolina Rigs

Heavy cover and heavy weight mean heavier line. The main line for Carolina rig fishing should be in the 15-20lb range. 

Sufix 832 Braid 15 lb braided line

Though the monofilament line is fine, most anglers prefer to break out the braided line. Its increased castability and lack of stretch make it perfect for this type of fishing. 

Also, since you’ll probably be using a fluorocarbon leader, you won’t have to worry about spooking the fish with the braid. 

How to Fish a Carolina Rig

Carolina rigs are a great option to use while fishing new waters or searching for fish. The heavier weight allows an angler to feel the bottom as it slides over rocks, timber, and weeds. 

I like to start with long casts, typically beyond where I think the fish may be holding. The rig is kind of big and ugly, so gently bringing the bait into where the bass are feeding is better than having it land like a cannonball on top of them. 

Next, I allow enough slack to make sure the bait is on the bottom. Once there, I reel the line tight and give the bait a long, slow drag. 

During the drag, you should feel the changes in the bottom cover and always be ready for bites. At the end of every few drags, I like to give the rig a couple of small jerks or pops. Just enough to give the bait a little more action. 

If I’m trying to target fish in the middle of the water column, I’ll change out to a lighter weight and fish without a peg. 

The soft plastic lure will have a much more natural, slow descent and oftentimes bass will bite as it falls. Just be sure to keep enough tension that you can feel when a fish eats. 

Feel free to play around with varying depths and leader lengths until you start to catch fish.

When to Fish a Carolina Rig

I like to use a Carolina rig when bass fishing in the summer months. Hot weather means warmer water and fish (particularly bigger fish) will swim deeper in search of cooler water temps. 

If the bass are being lazy or lethargic, slowing down your retrieve may help. Sometimes they just need a slow bait put right in front of them. 

Dirty or cloudy water conditions are an excellent time to use a Carolina Rig as well. The noise of the glass beads and weight clicking together can attract bass to the lure when they otherwise wouldn’t see it.  


Why is the Carolina rig so effective? 

The Carolina Rig is effective as it allows you to present lures naturally to fish in deep water. Its design can also help you get an idea of what the bottom cover consists of.

What kind of fish can a Carolina rig catch?

Though it’s typically thought of as a bass fishing rig, the Carolina Rig can be used effectively to catch saltwater fish too. I like to use these rigs when I’m chasing Redfish, Flounder, and Trout inshore. 

Why use a Carolina Rig?

A Carolina Rig is a great option when fishing new, deep water with heavy cover. The rig is great for feeling out the bottom to find where fish are holding. 

What’s the difference between a Carolina Rig and a Texas Rig?

A Carolina Rig has a weight separated from the bait with a leader, often with beads, tickers, and swivels. The Texas rig has the weight touching the lure.

Forrest V

Forrest V

Forrest V has been a professional fly fishing and kayaking guide since 2016. He specializes in Western trout fly fishing in Montana and inshore saltwater fly fishing in Florida. Connect with him and follow his fishing adventures on Instagram.

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