Original Article by Phil Santefort
Treasured by some and lamented by others, the Carolina Rig is a tried and true tool for locating pre-spawn bass during their migration from deep wintering areas to hard bottom, shallow water spawning areas. These pre-spawn groups of fish tend to move in waves. That means covering a lot of water to locate these schools. The “old ball and chain” (AKA Carolina Rig) is a perfect tool for this task.
I like to begin my search on main lake points adjacent to river/creek channels, especially if that point happens to touch an area where the channel swings in towards the bank. The same principle applies to secondary points that lay just inside the mouths of creeks and major spawning bays.
It is also essential to check roadbeds and ditches that lead to these areas as well. I like to think of these channels, ditches, and roadbeds as pathways to the spawning areas, and the main lake and secondary points are only stopping points along the way. It is crucial to keep in mind the direction the fish are heading so that you can maximize your search time. If you have been catching fish on main lake points in front of a spawning cove and suddenly lose contact with the fish, you can assume that they have moved toward the back of that cove. Focus now on any secondary points along that route to continue your search. The reverse can be true if there is a sudden onset of extremely cold weather, which can, in some cases, cause the fish to pull back and reverse direction.
My Carolina Rig tackle consists of mainline 17 lb fluorocarbon spooled onto a Daiwa Tatula SV reel with a ¾ ounce tungsten weight followed by a plastic bead to protect my knot. I then attach a swivel and add a 24-36 inch leader of 15 lb monofilament, which helps to float my bait up off the bottom. My hook size and type are always relevant to whichever soft plastic bait I am using. The lures that I usually use in pre-spawn include the old stand-by 6-inch lizard, a 5-inch Senko, or a Fluke-type bait. I fish this set-up on an ALX Zolo Series “Dragger.” This rod was designed specifically for this purpose, and it is by far the best that I have found. It serves double duty for all of my “bottom contact” techniques, so I carry 2 of these rods in my boat at all times. Fishing the rig involves making a long cast and waiting for the weight to hit bottom. I then drag the bait 3-4 feet, reel up the slack, and repeat. The bite can be anything from a tell-tale “thump” to a dull sensation of ”heaviness’’. In either case, I set the hook by reeling up slack until my rod starts to load and then sweeping my rod laterally while turning my hips away from the fish.
The Carolina Rig is a simple but entirely effective tool for locating and catching pre-spawn bass. It allows the angler on the opportunity to maximize his/her time on the water by covering large areas in a short time, as well as giving the angler instant feedback in regards to the bottom content. It is for this reason that I will ALWAYS have an ALX “Dragger” rigged and ready with the “Old ball and chain”……Good Fish’n and God Bless!
About Phil Santefort:
Phil is an ALX Rods Pro Staff member based in Illinois.
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