The Carolina rig is one of the most versatile leader configurations for catching freshwater and saltwater fish. Carolina rigs employ a leading inline weight, followed by a swivel, leader and single hook. Although there are endless variations, all Carolina rigs feature those design elements.
The Carolina rig is best known for rigging eels, minnows, crayfish, shrimp, and other live baits. Carolina rigs are also used in conjunction with artificial lures, especially worms, slug baits, and other soft plastics.
Carolina Rigs for Freshwater Fishing
Carolina rigs are popular for catching largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, yellow perch, striped bass, pickerel, and other freshwater species. A typical freshwater Carolina rig will utilize the lightest possible weight, coupled with a light leader.
As an alternative to Texas rigs, anglers often use Carolina rigs for artificial worms and other soft plastics. One advantage of the Carolina style is that the configuration separates the weight from the lure or bait, giving it a more natural movement. The free moving properties of Carolina rigs are especially useful when a bait or lure is being slowly worked over bottom structure, by drifting or slow-trolling.
When fishing live minnows, some anglers use a floating jig head in combination with a Carolina rig. This variation allows the weight to maintain contact with the bottom while the bait floats just above.
Carolina Rigs for Saltwater Fishing
In saltwater, Carolina rigs are essential tackle for several Mid Atlantic fisheries. Saltwater versions are similar to the smaller freshwater rigs, although the exact techniques for attaching the weight can vary. With most configurations, the leader and hook can be changed along with each new bait.
Medium to heavy setups often use an egg sinker, followed by a plastic bead and snap swivel. The bead is included to protect the knot from being damaged by the weight during casting and fishing. When properly rigged, egg sinkers will allow the line to pass thru as fish to move away with the bait.
Another variation uses an inline weight with rings or snaps on each end. Some inline weights have a built in snap-swivel. These weights allow anglers to quickly adjust sizes while fishing. The disadvantage is that fixed weights do not allow fish to swim away with a bait.
The Carolina rig is considered the only viable option for drifting live eels for striped bass or cobia. Some anglers prefer Carolina rigs for catching flounder. When targeting flounder with these rigs, anglers often use kahle or circle hooks, combined with strip baits and colorful skirts.