Carolina Rig

Soft plastic lures come in an almost bewildering variety of sizes, shapes, colours and rigging styles but they all have two things in common; part or all of the body is soft and they catch fish.  They are in common use in the US and becoming common among UK sea anglers but coarse anglers have been slow to add them to their lure arsenal.

This is the second in a series of guides I am writing to explain a bit about how soft plastics work, why they work, and which ones are likely to fit your needs on a particular water.  Links to the others in the series are at the bottom of this article.

The Carolina Rig along with the Texas Rig are the two standard methods of rigging plastic worms.  The C-rig is designed to get your lure to the bottom quickly and to keep it near the bottom as you retrieve.  It is a good search rig since you can effectively cover quite a bit of water fairly fast and so is probably about as good as it gets for fishing the deep parts of gravel pits with their usual low stocking density.  It can also be very effective on just about any water with a fairly firm bottom that is clear of major weed beds or brush.

In essence, a C-rig has a free running weight on the mainline and a plastic worm attached to a swivel and a longish hooklength.  The hooklength can be from 2 feet long in really murky water to as much as four or five feet in clearer conditions.  The longer hooklengths are needed when the fish are not in a feeding mood, when the bottom has largish rocks, or when the water is really clear.

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Mainline:
If you are using mono, you will need at least a 10lb line and with really rocky bottom, moving up to 15lb or even 20lb  is probably a good idea since part of your mainline will be on or very near the bottom most of the time.  If you use braid, I’d suggest 40lb or 50lb to get the needed abrasion resistance.

Hooklength:  
. Mono is probably the best for most conditions and it can be lighter than your mainline since it only has to deal with the light lure and any fish you might catch.  I would not suggest any lighter than 10lb and heavier is fine if you wish.  
. If you want to keep the lure as close to the bottom as possible, use fluorocarbon line to take advantage of the fact that it sinks.
. If you want to add a bit of buoyancy, use braid since it floats.
. If the water has pike, you will need a 2-3 foot length of wire to attach the lure.  I like the 49 strand because it is flexible and has the least effect on lure action.

Weight:
. Use a weight of ½ oz to 1oz for most conditions.  Deeper water of 15 feet or more will do better with the heavier weight.  If you will be fishing deeper than 30 feet, you should move up to 1½ oz.
. For bottoms with largish rocks, a rounded shape (rugby ball) is the least likely to become wedged in the rocks.  . For general use I like a modified bullet weight (fat, short nose) if there are rocks or snags and a normal bullet weight for more open areas.

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. Use brass or tungsten weights since lead deforms too easily and may cause abrasion problems with your line.  The harder materials have an added advantage in that they make noise when hitting solid objects and this tends to attract the pred species in all but gin clear water.  For those conditions, I prefer to simply use a longer hooklength rather than switching to lead weights.
. Use one to three free running beads between weight and swivel to protect the knot.  Glass is best because it make the most noise when the weight bangs into it.  Plastic is next best and rubber is a poor third choice.
. A variation to use when fishing for pike is to attach the lure & wire directly to the swivel and use a stop knot up the mainline to create your hooklength.  You will still want a bead to prevent the weight from fixing itself on your stop knot and also to provide that nice clicking sound as you retrieve.

Retrieve:  
. After you cast and feel the weight hit bottom, bring the rod to a horizontal position at about 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock depending on which is most comfortable to you.  Retrieve by sweeping the rod slowly to 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock and then winding to return it to the original position without slack in the line.
. The horizontal position is important for several reasons.  With an overhead sweep you will tend to move the lure too far each time and more importantly, you will tend to strike overhead when you feel a take.  Since the fish has already taken some line, and overhead strike will pull the lure downward toward the weight and probably result in not hooking the fish.  A horizontal sweep is much more likely to result in a fish to the net.  Simply sweep the rod to make your hookset and then play the fish normally.

Rod: 
You will want a lure rod of no more than 7ft or 8ft length with 7 ft being ideal.  A longer rod has a tendency to cause overlong movements of the lure when you move your tip from 10 to 9.  A slow rod (one that bends equally from tip to handle) will not have really good "feel" when retrieving to help you understand what the bottom structure is like or when you have a take and will not do well at putting on enough pressure to make a good hookset when you sweep the rod.  A good lure rod will have either a medium action (flexes mostly in the tip 1/3 of the blank) or a fast action (bends mostly in the tip 1/4 of the blank) and is ideal for fishing a C-rig.   I don’t suggest using an extra fast action rod and medium is probably ideal for this style of fishing.

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Reel: 
Fixed spool and multiplier work equally well for a C-rig.  If you have the option, use a reel with a fairly slow retrieve rate since in almost all cases, speed is not your friend and it is easier to have a slow reel than to keep reminding yourself to slow down.

Lure:  
. Almost any plastic worm of 4" to 12" will work but in most cases, longer is better so 9" or more is going to be best for most conditions.
. You want the fish to be able to locate your lure but not to see it clearly so in clearer water (where you can easily see the lure when it is down 3 feet) stay with translucent colours and move to darker, opaque colours if the water is less clear.  For really murky water, a ribbon tail design is good since it creates vibrations that a fish can use to locate your lure when they are too far away to see anything.

Hook: 
Use a high quality worm hook sized to match your lure.  As a very general rule, 2/0 is good for 6" lures 3/0 or 4/0 for 8"-9" and up to 5/0 with the longer ones.  Rig them weedless.

Editor’s note: Newt sells a range of bits and pieces on Ebay, some of which you won’t often see on sale in the UK. Click here to visit his current listings.