The Carolina rig is thought by many anglers to only be a summer fishing technique. However, the Carolina rig can be extremely deadly on lethargic largemouth bass during the winter months. The secret to using the Carolina rig in winter is to fish it slow and to use small baits.
Some anglers clearly love to fish the rig and it has become a mainstay of their angling arsenal. However, most of those anglers do not utilize the rig during the winter months. Other anglers despise the rig, claim it only catches small fish and they do not use it during any season. Many anglers would rather use the drop-shot rig, which is also an excellent rig throughout the year.
I fall into the group of anglers who love the rig and who depend on the rig to produce bass throughout the year even during the winter months. I have used the Carolina rig since its infancy for better than 30 years and I have found it to be one of the most versatile tools I have for catching largemouth bass.
It is an excellent search bait during the summer but the same can be true in the winter. Once I find bass during the winter using the Carolina rig, I often switch to a jigging spoon.
As for the notion promoted by some anglers that it only catches small bass, I can personally dispute that idea. My largest largemouth bass caught in Lake Sinclair weighed more than eight pounds and was caught on the Carolina rig. I have caught numerous bass more than 5 pounds on the Carolina rig.
I will agree with anglers who say that the Carolina rig will catch a lot of small bass, but believe me, it will also catch bigger bass even during the winter months if used with the proper lure and fished in the right places slowly.
The winter angling season is here now, and the largemouth bass are schooled up and located in their typical winter hideouts like creek/river ledges, creek/river channels, deep points and humps. The Carolina rig will dredge them out of those winter hideouts.
Winter angling generally requires a slower presentation and when using the Carolina rig during the winter, S-L-O-W is definitely required. As stated earlier, the two most important factors when fishing the Carolina rig during the winter is a slow presentation and choosing a small plastic bait.
The Carolina rig has undergone and continues to undergo many refinements and it continues to catch fish when other lures fail. My first introduction to the Carolina rig was in the early 70s and the rig then consisted of a 7 1/2-inch floating plastic worm fished on a 12-inch leader behind a 1/4 weight. The rig wasn't referred to as a Carolina rig back then but it had most if not all the same ingredients.
I still have a few of those "Super Sportsman" floating worms as they were called back then. That rig was fished in relatively shallow water (1 to 4 feet deep), during the warmer months and was much different from today's Carolina rig which is used in both deep and shallow water and can be used year-round.
Today's basic Carolina rig means spooling the reel spool (either baitcasting or spinning reel) with 10- to 14-pound test line, thread on a 1/2- to 1-ounce sinker, follow that with one or two glass beads and then tie the main line to a barrel swivel.
To the other end of the swivel add on a 2- to 4-foot leader of 8- to 12-pound test line, tie on a 1/0 to 3/0 hook and then add your favorite s-m-a-l-l plastic worm, lizard, crawfish, or other plastic concoction. This basic Carolina rig will catch bass if it is fished in the primary winter locations where largemouth bass are found and fished slowly.
Remember, the keys to fishing the Carolina rig in winter is a really slow presentation and a small bait like a Zoom finesse worm. Give the Carolina rig a try this winter and see just how effective it can be for winter bass.
Good fishing and see you next week.