June 14, 2015 Share

Carolina Lite Rig Penetrates Bass Jungle, Fishes Fast

Old standby used in ways never considered…to quickly fish submerged weeds

By Steve Pennaz

The roads I’m taking lately tend to end at boat ramps descending into waters so fertile the only thing greener than the grass is the water. You know the ones I am talking about—a seemingly permanent algae bloom and grass growth that starts at the water’s edge and extends all the way out to the first break.

It wasn’t that long ago that I would cringe when facing these waters. Rooting out fish from the heavy weed growth is tedious, and with weedlines that extended as far as you can see, finding them took way too long.

My go-to presentations were usually heavy jigs or pegged plastics flipped to holes, or stick worms fished over the weed tops. Spinnerbait, topwaters and swim jigs were also part of the arsenal, but none were truly consistent or fished efficiently enough. It seemed like I spent more time cleaning off my baits than actually fishing.

Then came one of those ah-ha moments!


Origin of “Carolina Lite”

The format for Lake Commandos television show is unique. For one, we never prefish a lake; we are either fishing brand new waters or waters we haven’t been on in years.

Also, the featured presentations are not pre-determined. Rather, both my guest and I make educated guesses about high-probability fish locations after surveying available contour maps and visual clues available at the ramp, and then decide what baits we’ll use and how we’ll fish them. Seasonality, current weather, water clarity, available structure and forage base are also considered in the decision process.

We then “Go Commando;” fishing one presentation the first two hours, and then switching to the second for the next two. The presentation that produces the most fish is then used the rest of the day. The angler who catches the most fish is the “winner” for the day.

Of course, one of the challenges faced weekly is finding patterns versatile enough to fish shallow or deep, and cover water quickly. It’s not a simple task with one rod on the deck.

While no-one would fish this way in the real world, being forced to fish one presentation for hours under competitive conditions has led to some amazing discoveries. For example, most baits are way more versatile than most anglers realize. Ever burned a bass jig over weed tops? You should try it!

How about fishing square bill cranks like the new Sebile Bull Crank on a reel geared 7.9:1 or even 9:0.1 (Abu’s new Revo Rocket). Speed killed during a recent day on the water, as in producing twice as many bass as the same baits fished on a reel geared 5:4.1.

If you truly want to learn how to fish a particular bait, leave the rest of your tackle box in the truck and commit to fishing it exclusively for a half day or however long you can stand it. After a awhile, especially if you aren’t catching anything, you’ll find yourself doing things you’d never considered trying…and catching fish because no one else is doing it either!

With today’s pressured bass, you either show them something new or present baits in ways they have never before seen.

Like fishing a (modified) Carolina rig in dense, shallow, sub-surface weeds.

Maybe it’s just my background, but to me a live bait rig and Carolina rig is the same thing. One typically features a heavier sinker than the other and maybe a bead between the sinker and swivel, but the rest of the components are essentially the same—leader, hook, bait.

The thing I like about the Carolina rig is its versatility. You can tweak the sinker size, leader length and hook as needed, and there are so many different baits that work on it.

Like most, I typically use the Carolina Rig in deeper water to target fish holding on structure with minimal cover. My standard rig is a ¾-ounce tungsten weight, bead, 35-pound Invisaswivel, 18- to 24-inch leader of 15-pound fluoro, and a 5/0 offset hook. Favorite baits include the 4-inch Berkley Chigger Craw in black/blue or the 4-inch Havoc Pit Boss in Big Texan.

But I also use another version. It begins with a lead bullet weight weighing as light as 1/16 ounce, a 25-pound Invisaswivel, 10- to 13-inch leader of 15-pound fluoro and a 4/0 or 5/0 EWG hook. I call the rig “Carolina Lite” and I fish it in water as shallow as a foot down as deep as 7-8 feet.

What surprises me the most is how well the rig fishes over/through most grasses without hanging up. The key is keeping the weight used as light as possible; achieving bottom is not necessarily your goal.

Read about tweaking the ‘Carolina Lite’ rig to perfection here.