Killer Carolinas

Four ways to fine-tune this popular rig and catch more bass now.

fishing, bass fishing
Catch more bass on your next fishing trip.Field & Stream Online Editors

For some bass anglers, the basic Carolina rig just isn't good enough. "Whether you're casting for cash in a tournament or trying to perfect your skills on the local lake," says Tennessee bass pro Charlie Ingram, "fine-tuning your rig will help you catch more bass under a variety of conditions."

Most experienced anglers rely heavily on the standard Carolina rig, which comprises a 1/2- to 1-ounce sliding sinker, a swivel, an 18- to 24-inch leader of 12- to 20-pound mono, and a twist-tail worm or lizard with a rattle insert impaled on a light-wire offset or wide-gap worm hook. Fished properly-basically dragged across bottom structure-this versatile setup will catch postspawn bass under most circumstances, in both deep and shallow water.

Ingram has four tips for modifying this popular presentation, however, when the original recipe doesn't appeal to early-summer bass.

(1) Downsize it. "When your 6- to 8-inch lizard or worm fails to garner any attention, try a smaller, less active lure, such as a small tube bait or french-fry worm. Also, switch to a leader of 8- or even 6-pound-test. This will usually result in more bites, especially in clear water."

(2) Lengthen the leader. "By early summer, aquatic weeds may be growing several feet off the bottom, necessitating a longer-than-normal leader. When I first pull up on a point or hump, I use a diving crankbait to snag some grass so I can determine its length. Then I make my leader 6 inches to a foot longer than the vegetation, so my lure floats above the grassline. I also switch to braided line for the leader and use a smaller hook to make the presentation more buoyant. I've caught bass from weedy lakes on a Carolina rig with an 8-foot leader."

(3) Blend in. "In spring, when the water is apt to be murky due to runoff, most anglers choose chartreuse or hot-orange lures for their Carolina rigs. But bright-colored baits can turn cold in early summer. Most lakes are at their clearest now, so it usually pays to switch to natural colors like pearl or translucent green."

(4) Lose the rattle. "In my opinion, bass fishermen have overdone the rattle thing. I'm convinced that bass in highly pressured waters can become conditioned not to bite a rattling bait. When bass seem finicky, try leaving the rattle insert out of your worm or lizard."

Most important, Ingram says, be willing to experiment. Keep modifying the basic presentation-until the fish start biting.