Winter Fishing

Carolina Rig Tips for Cold Water Bass | Part II

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Many of today’s anglers are infatuated with fishing quickly and covering water. While this method will absolutely lead to some great days on the water, sometimes conditions call for us to take a deep breath, slow down and present our baits in a methodical fashion. Although the Carolina rig has been around for years, we seem to overlook this technique when fishing gets tough. Learning about and correctly fishing the C-rig, however, can totally change the way you fish and exponentially increase both the size and quantity of your catch.

In part-one of this Carolina rig series, we talked about the individual components that either “make” or “break” the C-rig. Without quality gear, it is nearly impossible to have an enjoyable experience with this technique. While the aforementioned gear is certainly important to successful Carolina rigging, there is an even larger element to this technique that is so important we had to set it apart from the rest—line selection.

In cold water conditions, we exclusively use a 5-foot leader when fishing the Carolina rig. As the water cools, bass are much less likely to aggressively chase prey, making a natural, slow presentation essential. A long, 5-foot leader allows for just that—a slow, gliding action that presents your offering in a non-threatening fashion. Although a long leader is fairly standard for cold water C-rigging, it is important to understand the different applications for each type of line.

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Monofilament

Years ago as I was just beginning to experiment with the double-splash rig, I made a fatal error in my line selection when I used monofilament for my main line. When you’re setting the hook from long distances, nothing is worse than using monofilament. With the stretch that mono possesses, it allows for too much play between you and the fish which results in more missed opportunities.

While monofilament isn’t ideal for main line use on a Carolina rig, don’t write it off completely because it definitely has its place in the C-rig arsenal. Whenever you find yourself around submerged vegetation in grass lakes such as Guntersville and Lake Seminole, a monofilament leader is indispensable.

Monofilament is more buoyant in the water, and when paired with a heavily salt-impregnated lure, such as a Zoom Brush Hog, it allows the bait to glide and sink much slower as you move it. It may sound like a small, subtle difference, but the added buoyancy gives the bass a much better look at your bait. If your bait is dredging the bottom of a grassy area, you will constantly pick vegetation off, resulting in lost fishing time. Monofilament allows the bait to sink much slower, almost float off of the bottom, aiding in a natural presentation in areas with thick vegetation.

Braid

Braided line can be a Carolina rigger’s best friend in many situations. It’s not effective for leader line, but it is outstanding when used for main line in deep, lightly stained water. Many anglers tend to shy away from braid when throwing the rig due to its high visibility, but we have had great results with it. When using a 5-foot leader, it is important to realize that the bait will be a long way from your weighted main line. This distance allows the fish to focus on the leader-end of the rig, instead of the main line. For this reason, we aren’t afraid to use braided main line in fairly clear water conditions.

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Braid is also outstanding for getting a solid hookset on deep water bass. A long, wintertime leader puts a lot of distance between you and your bait, making it difficult to transfer the full power of your hookset to the fish. Jason believes that braided line allows the angler to “close the distance gap” on fish with ease, as its lack of stretch allows for optimum energy transfer.

There is one caveat to be mindful of, however, when using braided main line on a Carolina rig. When fishing around gnarly structure such as rocks and shell beds, A heavy weight can cause the line to fray on the sharp edges of structure. To combat this issue, use the lightest weight that you can get away with. Heavier weights will drag your line across the crud, resulting in premature line wear.

Fluorocarbon

When it comes to Carolina rigging, it is nearly impossible to go wrong with fluorocarbon line. Whether you’re targeting fish in ultra-clear water or in stained water, fluoro is up to the task.

When faced with gin-clear water clarity in highland reservoirs, we always use fluorocarbon main line on our rigs. Although there is a large distance between the main line and the bait on wintertime C-rigs, clear water bass can become unusually spooky, especially in cold water. Fluorocarbon main line allows the angler to present the bait naturally while also aiding in long, deep hooksets due to its limited stretch. Fluorocarbon and braided line both share a similar disdain of sharp structure, so it is also important to avoid a weight that will dredge your line through any line-cutting structure.

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Fluorocarbon is an ideal selection for leader line when the fish are relating closely to the bottom. Because it sinks, fluoro keeps your bait glued to the bottom when lethargic wintertime bass are positioned on deep rocks to obtain heat in cold water conditions. When rigged up with fluorocarbon for both main line and leader line, anglers have the ability to naturally present their bait while maintaining the power necessary to hook and land big wintertime lunkers.

It may sound like we threw a lot of information your way, but the best way to learn and understand the fish catching abilities of the Carolina rig is to get out on the water, have fun and experiment. As with any unfamiliar technique, we suggest hitting the water with only a Carolina rig rod. This will force you to throw it throughout the day while familiarizing yourself with its intricacies while also learning to detect deep water bites. If you get on a hot bite with another lure, try pulling out the Carolina rig to build your confidence with the rig.

To help keep things simple while learning the C-rig this winter, here is a succinct outline of proper line selection:

  • Monofilament:  Use for leader line when fishing submerged vegetation or when the bass are slightly suspended off of the bottom.
  • Braid: Not for leader use. Use for main line when targeting bass in stained or lightly stained deep water.
  • Fluorocarbon: Use for main line when fishing ultra-clear water. Also great for leader line when bass are positioned tightly to the bottom or to add a clear leader to braid or otherwise more visible line in clear water.