Toss a Carolina Rig for Post-Spawn Bass

The calendar said June 1, but the cold northeast wind, chilly rain and leaden skies seemed more like a bad day on the opening weekend of the April Keeneland meet.

June finally arrived in Kentucky and water temperatures in lakes across the state inched their way up toward the high 70s.

“Black bass are in post spawn now,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They should be completely done with spawning.”

After undergoing the rigors of reproduction, black bass move offshore. “As water temperature rises, they move out on the drops,” Ross said. “You can still catch big fish shallow, but you have a much better chance out deeper. You can also avoid the bank beating anglers.”


Creek channel drops, long points that extend out to the channel, drop offs at the end of flats and submerged humps all attract summer bass.


Some anglers attack these areas with heavy jigs, jigging spoons and deep running crankbaits, but a Carolina rig gives anglers more options and is easy to fish.

The constant rush of new lures and techniques in the bass fishing world dulled the luster of the Carolina rig a bit over the past few years, but it remains one of the best summer presentations you can throw for bass.

Use a medium-heavy power 7-foot long casting rod spooled with 17- to 20-pound test line. Onto this main line slide a ½- to 1-ounce egg or bullet sinker made of lead, brass or tungsten with ¾-ounce being a good all around choice.

Slide on two glass, plastic or metal beads to protect the knot and make clicking sounds that attract bass. Tie a barrel swivel to the main line. Make an 18- to 36-inch leader of 12-pound clear fluorocarbon or copolymer line. Tie one end of the leader to the bottom ring of the barrel swivel and another to a 3/0 wide gap worm hook.


A shorter leader works best for fishing shallower lakes, heavy cover or stained water. A longer leader is better for clear lakes, weed beds and deeper water.

A 5-inch Senko-style soft plastic lure makes a great choice to thread on the business end of a Carolina rig. A 7-inch straight-tailed worm commonly used on a Shakey head presentation is another great choice as is a 6-inch lizard. Four-inch creature baits or double-tailed skirted grubs work well in rocky areas.

Green pumpkin, junebug, watermelon candy, bold bluegill, plum glitter, motor oil and black and blue are good color choices for summer.


The Carolina rig gives an angler constant feedback from bottom, not only transmitting the bottom composition, but also keeping you on your toes and attentive. With little practice, you can quickly discern if the bottom is rock, mud, or laden with weeds.

The Carolina rig is an open water presentation and an angler can throw one a mile. Fish the Carolina rig where the bank beating anglers usually position their boats. If you are in a boat with someone who wants to fish the banks, cast the Carolina rig in the opposite direction. This often produces big summer bass.

Cast the rig across the deeper end of mud flats where they drop off into deep water, those with weeds hold more bass. Let the rig sink to the bottom, keep the rod tip at about 10 o’clock, slowly reel, and let the sinker bang bottom.

Some days, bass prefer an occasional pause in the retrieve, other days they like a steady presentation. Let the fish tell you.

The edge of the submerged river or creek channel, well off the bank, is another fantastic Carolina rig spot. Some anglers tie on a shallow running crankbait to the end of a Carolina rig for creek channel fishing, allowing them to fish smaller, minnow-shaped baits as deep as they like.

The Carolina rig also shines for fishing deep, submerged humps often found in the middle of the lake or major creek arm. The heavy Carolina rig keeps you in constant bottom contact on these difficult to fish structures. Humps make one of the best summer spots for smallmouth and spotted bass.

The natural presentation of this rig fools bass grown squeamish from fishing pressure. The soft plastic lure floats just above bottom, moves subtly and sinks slowly. It isn’t nose heavy like a Texas rig or Shakey head, the soft plastic lure is basically weightless, moving more like natural prey.

Anglers must employ a long, robust side sweeping hook set with the Carolina rig. Make sure to keep the rod tip down to keep a large bass from jumping and shaking their head. A bass that gets the heavy weight moving side to side can pop the hook loose.

Many anglers believe summer is the toughest fishing time. Fishing a Carolina rig in the heat will change their mind.

Editor’s Note: Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

Mustad

Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Mustad

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

Lipless crankbaits are versatile & effective; fish them right this spring. Bass

Give 'Em No Lip for Spring Bass

Ken Duke - May 11, 2020

Lipless crankbaits are versatile & effective; fish them right this spring.

Walleyes are shallower now than at most other times of the year. Go light and think simple. Walleye

The Skinny on Shallow Walleyes

Matt Straw

Walleyes are shallower now than at most other times of the year. Go light and think simple.

Tie one on this spring to tempt sluggish bass in cool waters. Bass

Suspend a Jerkbait (Patiently) for Spring Bass

Matt Straw - April 29, 2020

Tie one on this spring to tempt sluggish bass in cool waters.

See More Fishing How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now