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Best Carolina Rig Setup for Bass: The Ball & Chain Rig
Tackle & Gear

Best Carolina Rig Setup for Bass: The Ball & Chain Rig

Steve Raath
Co-founder

The Carolina rig remains an incredibly powerful technique for offshore fishing. Many bass anglers consider it an all-season lure, as it can be applied in almost any condition. Personally, I think this technique really shines in offshore conditions, so let’s talk about the best setup for this classic technique in deeper scenarios.

Best Carolina Rig Setup for Bass: Ball & Chain Rig

The Carolina rig remains an incredibly powerful technique for offshore fishing. Many bass anglers consider it an all-season lure, as it can be applied in almost any condition. Personally, I think this technique really shines in offshore conditions, so let’s talk about the best setup for this classic technique in deeper water scenarios.

 

Best Carolina Rig Setup for Bass


Best Rod for the Carolina Rig

Rod selection is very important when it comes to fishing a Carolina rig. Generally, we’ll be fishing this rig in deep water in offshore scenarios, so we’d ideally want a longer baitcasting rod so that we can cast further as well as take up more line when we’re striking. 

The reason why I say a baitcasting rod is because there is significant weight added to the Carolina rig, which is ideal for a baitcasting setup.


Length

7’2” and up is ideal for the Carolina rig. This will give us the ability to cast further and cover more water efficiently. 

Longer rods also play a huge role in taking up more line when we strike - critical for a good hookset when the bass is far away from the boat. This is often the case when we’re fishing deep water offshore. 


Action & Power

A fast/extra-fast action will do the job just fine for the Carolina rig. Faster actions mean less bend from the rod tip, ensuring more line is taken up quickly when we strike, resulting in a cleaner, more penetrating hookset. 

A medium-heavy power will do the job of casting your rig out efficiently. A heavy power may even be more comfortable for making accurate casts.

Remember, you always want to match the weight of your rig with your rod power. We’re often throwing a heavier tungsten weight with a Carolina rig, so a heavier rod is necessary. 


Best Reel for the Carolina Rig

Reel selection doesn’t need to be too specific for the Carolina rig. A baitcasting reel with a slightly faster gear ratio is pretty important, and a larger spool will ensure more organized line lay/management. 

A faster gear ratio should be from 7.1:1 and up. This helps with taking up any slack quickly that might be caused after a bass eats our bait. Having a reel that can get rid of any slack as quickly as possible will help with getting a cleaner hookset and reduce the threat of losing a fish. 

Because we’re generally casting further and covering more water with a Carolina rig, I generally like using a larger spool baitcasting reel. This ensures much better line management - very important when fishing with fluorocarbon. The Tatula 300 is an awesome reel for the C-rig in my opinion - mainly due to the larger spool size.


Best Fishing Line for the Carolina Rig

Line selection for the Carolina rig is pretty simple in my eyes, the best line for the Carolina rig is going to be fluorocarbon. In terms of weight, one should look to 15-20lb fluoro for the mainline. This will provide the necessary abrasion resistance. Here’s why fluoro is the best for the Carolina rig: 

Abrasion resistance

Modern fluorocarbon offers incredible abrasion resistance which is crucial when fishing offshore rocky areas. This type of cover is some of the best for the Carolina rig, so fluoro is a great choice. 

We’re also going to encounter various forms of shell-life down on the bottom such as mussels and zebras. These can do some serious damage to our line, so an abrasion-resistant line is vital!

Abrasion resistance is also a slight problem for where our bullet weight sits on our rig. This weight is rubbing on the line and can eventually wear it out, bringing about a breakpoint in our line. Fluoro helps combat this. 


Sensitivity

Fluorocarbon plays a key role in determining what’s on the bottom and what types of cover we’re fishing. It’s considered one of the most sensitive types of lines, so any bump or cover transition (or bite) will be felt through the vibrations transmitted. 

Having an idea of the type of cover we’re fishing can give us a great idea on where our potential strikes zones are. 


Minimal line stretch

We’re often fishing deeper water when we’re fishing a Carolina rig, meaning we’re going to get bites from bass that are pretty far from the boat. Having minimal line stretch helps ensure we can get a direct hookset are feeling any kind of bite. 

Invisibility

We’ll often be fishing clearer water conditions when fishing a Carolina rig, so having a less visible line is important for our most natural presentation. 


Terminal Tackle for the Carolina Rig

The Carolina rig most probably has the most components of terminal tackle out of any other rig in the sport. This can make the rig slightly more frustrating to set up, but once set up, it’ll last you long days on the water. Here are the necessary components: 

1. Bullet Weight

The ‘ball’ of the ball & chain rig. The weight keeps our bait cruising along our desired path on the bottom. Weight selection can vary here. 

1-ounce is probably the most versatile for the Carolina rig when fishing deep water. I’ll use a 1-ounce weight when fishing between 10 feet and 20 feet of water. 

One can look to a 1.5-ounce weight when fishing even deeper. Such as 20+ feet. 

One can also go below 1-ounce if they’re looking to fishing 5-10 feet of water. 

Tungsten is the best option in my opinion. This provides a bit more feel on the bottom, plus it’s also less harmful to our waters. 

I absolutely adore the VMC tungsten bullet weights

Carolina rig bullet weight
The classic bullet weight shape

2. Bead & Clacker

Including a bead in your Carolina rig isn’t a necessity, but more a thing guys will do to add a bit more noise to the rig as it moves along the bottom. 

Glass beads will make considerable noise when hitting rocks, or even just against the tungsten weight. This is thought to catch the attention of nearby bass.

Clackers are more important in my opinion and should be included. This is a small metal piece that ensures the knot by the swivel is protected from the bouncing tungsten weight. 

These knots can easily wear out when fishing offshore rocky cover, so it’s wise to add some sort of protection through a clacker. 

The Eagle Claw Brass Clacker does a great job.

Clacker for Carolina rig fishing
Clackers sit between your bullet weight and swivel

3. Swivel

The swivel is the link between our mainline and the leader. One doesn’t need to be too specific when choosing a swivel, but here are two of my favorites: 

Swivel for Carolina rig fishing
The swivel is a key component in the Carolina rig setup


 4. Leader Line

The leader length for a Carolina rig should generally be from 2 to 2.5 feet. This is the most versatile length, but it can go up in length if you’re fishing clearer water conditions and slightly more pressured fish

In terms of which line to use, you should generally use lighter fluorocarbon than your mainline. For example, if you’re using 20lb as your mainline, you should consider using 16lb for your leader

Some of my favorite fluorocarbon for Carolina rig fishing is the Gamma Edge. This line is incredibly strong and provides ridiculous abrasion resistance. 


5. Hook selection

Because we’re rigging up our bait Texas-style, I’ll generally use a hook that I’d use for my go-to Texas rig setup

I generally prefer a straight-shank hook as I tend to get better hooksets when fishing deeper water. It’s also better-shaped for smaller soft plastics which I often prefer for a Carolina rig. 

Best hook for Carolina rig fishing
Classic straight-shank hook


Best Baits for the Carolina Rig

One doesn’t need to be too fancy when it comes to bait selection for the Carolina rig. I actually like to simplify the process and keep my baits more natural and reasonably motionless in the water column. 

Color selection is obviously very important, and this should be based on numerous factors.

Here are some of the best baits for the Carolina rig:


1. Gary Yamamoto Senko

Big surprise here, but the Senko just gets the job done on the Carolina rig. With unlimited colors and sizes, there’s a senko for any scenario when fishing the Carolina rig. 

Read our full review.

Senko for the Carolina Rig


2. Zoom Brush Hog

A little more limbs and movement, the Brush Hog will add a bit more flare to your Carolina rig. This bait simply looks epic on the bottom and it really is one of the favorites for the C-rig. 

Read our full review.

Brush hog for the Carolina rig


3. Big Bite Baits Coontail Worm

A unique selection, but the Coontail Worm just gets a crazy amount of bites. Its ribbed body looks epic when being worked on the bottom, and it just seems to get bit in any condition. 

Read our full review.

Bait selection for the Carolina rig


Wrapping Up

Choosing setup for the Carolina rig can be a tedious and frustrating process, however, once figured out it’s a reasonably simple rig to get going with. 

Understanding all the elements of the rig will go a long way in mastering the Carolina rig.

Steve Raath
Co-founder

Steve is a complete bass fishing maniac. He is constantly looking for creative ways to catch bass, and is always throwing some interesting lures out on the water. Steve has always been fascinated by bass. Whether it's their eating patterns, behavioral changes, or just their moody nature. Every time he fishes, he aims to learn something new about their habits and how he can trick them into planned strategies. He is however a topwater freak, and will always throw at lily pads if he spots any.

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