Every angler should know how to tie a Carolina rig. Follow these easy instructions using quality tackle to get it done right the first time.
When I was growing up, we didn't have the Internet and, consequently, didn't have access to tons of fishing information like we do today.
Now it seems that we have the opposite problem: there's too much information out there!
It's all very confusing, and that's why I made this guide to tying a Carolina rig to cut through the clutter and get straight to the good stuff!
Carolina Rig Instructions For Saltwater Fishing
Just as there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, there are many ways to tie a Carolina Rig and many different parts used to do it.
So, with that in mind, let's keep it simple and use the below recommended list for tying a Carolina rig used for inshore fishing.
Then we will jump into more variations to include those used for for speckled trout, redfish and flounder using live bait and artificial lures.
Carolina Rig Parts List
The very first thing you are going to need are all the necessary pieces of tackle.
After all, any rig is only as good as the parts used to tie it and the person tying them together, right?
So, let's get started with a list of good tackle you can use:
- 20lb test monofilament leader line
- size 5 barrel swivel
- 1/0 kahle hook
- 3/8 oz lead egg sinker
- 8mm glass bead
20lb Test Mono Leader Line
You really want to use monofilament as a leader line – and not fluorocarbon – because it tends to float (or is neutral buoyant).
Fluorocarbon is heavier and tends to sink, which would (in theory) make your Carolina rig less attractive because the bait wouldn't be floating up off the bottom, where it is more easily seen and eaten by fish.
Yes, there are exceptions (there always are) but for now we are keeping it simple, right?
The guide at this link reveals more about the differences between the two line types.
There are many good manufacturers of monofilament fishing line out there, but I've used Stren and Trilene for years.
Size 5 Barrel Swivel
Look, it's a barrel swivel, not a nuclear reactor.
Sure, the "recommended" size listed is a size 5, but if all you have is a six or eight then that is fine.
All you need is something not obnoxiously large (or small).
1/0 Kahle Hook
The hook type and size will change with your style of fishing and individual needs, but for all-purpose inshore fishing you will find that a 1/0 kahle hook will serve your needs well.
Not sure what all this 1/0 talk is about? This guide breaks down hook sizes.
Treble hooks really aren't a great option because they tend to snag.
Do what suits you, but I don't use treble hooks for Carolina rigs and catch fish just fine.
3/8oz Lead Egg Sinker
Just like with hooks, sinkers can vary and tend to change with your specific fishing needs.
For the sake of simplicity, it's recommended you use a 3/8oz egg sinker.
It's not too light, not too heavy and does a good job of keeping your bait glued to the bottom.
Above all, they are cheap and readily had anywhere fishing tackle is sold!
With that said, you should have the following weights ready in your tackle box:
You'll see why later on in this guide.
8mm Glass Bead
You want to use a glass bead to not only protect your knot from the sliding weight, but to also protect the weight from the swivel.
Lead is soft, and will form itself around the swivel over time, causing it to get stuck and ultimately ruining the action of the Carolina rig.
Your main line must slide freely through the sinker!
Instructions For Properly Tying The Carolina Rig
Take a minute to co-locate all your tackle in one spot so everything is easily in reach.
Cut a length of leader line that is 24 inches long.
Tie your barrel swivel to one end of the leader line and your hook to the other.
Slide the egg sinker over your main line, followed by the bead.
Finally, tie your main line to the remaining side of the barrel swivel.
You now have a bonafide Carolina rig to catch speckled trout, redfish and flounder with.
Continue reading for other tips to include the best knot to use, bait selection and more.
Extra Tips & Tricks
There are some final things you want to know about Carolina rigging, so here they are:
Which knot is best?
The one you are good at tying.
I am proficient at tying an Improved Clinch, so that is what I use for pretty much everything.
If you're better at tying a Palomar knot, then tie a Palomar knot.
Otherwise, I don't think there is much use in stressing over knots because they play such a small role in finding and catching fish.
Beef It Up For Bull Reds
Bull redfish are tackle breakers! If you want to land them successfully you'll want to toughen up your tackle, to include parts used to tie your Carolina rigs.
For this I recommend a size larger barrel swivel, 30lb test monofilament and – very important – a 3/0 extra strength kahle hook.
Do you really need the bead?
No, not really. I find myself re-tying so often that the lead sinker never really gets a chance to deform.
The bead can be extra tackle that gets in the way, but before you take it off consider what else there is to know about beads and Carolina rigs below.
Glass vs Plastic Bead
Some beads you'd use for a Carolina rig are plastic and others are glass.
So, why glass?
Glass is denser and tends to "clack" louder against the sinker, which is a great way to attract fish.
Brass Clackers & Tickers
Speaking of ways to use noise to grab fish's attention, inserting a brass clacker between the bead and sinker is a great way to make extra noise.
Remember how sheepshead and black drum feed: they use their teeth to crunch on barnacles and oysters.
Tungsten vs Brass vs Lead
Lead is a go-to for inshore anglers because it's cheap and widely available, but you should know that there are other options as well.
Tungsten is harder than lead and tends to be louder when dragged across oysters or used in conjunction with a glass bead or brass clacker.
The downside is that it is more expensive and that's why some anglers use brass instead.
When should you change sinker weight?
Choosing the correct sinker weight depends on how deep you are fishing and how fast the current is moving.
This is a real problem to consider, because if your Carolina rig is not heavy enough it will never reach the bottom of the water.
Instead, it will be swept up and over the heads of biting fish and they'll never see it in the first place!
Go too heavy and you'll leave your bait stuck on the bottom, instead of flowing with the current to the waiting mouths of hungry fish.
So which weight is best? It depends and that's why I created this free course detailing how to effectively fish each spot you cast a line, so you never miss biting fish.
Best Main Line To Use With A Carolina Rig
This is a good question and years of experience have proven that 20lb test braided fishing line is the best to fish with a Carolina rig for inshore species.
Consider moving up to 30lb or 40lb for bigger bull redfish.
A good brand to consider is Daiwa J-Braid.
Recommended Rod & Reel Setup For Saltwater Carolina Rig
Spinning tackle is recommended!
For a spinning reel you should consider something rated for saltwater use and in the 2500 to 3500 size.
For this I use a Daiwa Saltist 2500.
For a rod I use a Daiwa Saltist SIN76MHXS.
Best Baits To Use
Live shrimp will be your best all-around live bait to use. Use these tips to keep them alive.
Cracked blue crab is a great choice for bull redfish and big black drum.
Live cocahoe minnows tend to work better for flounder, and live croakers are excellent for targeting big speckled trout.
Ditching the bare hook for a Berkley Rattle Shrimp or DOA Shrimp is also a good choice.
Where To Fish Your Carolina Rig For Specks, Reds & Flounder
This is a very broad topic as there are so many factors to consider:
- time of year
- wind strength
- primary forage
- river water
- and more
This entire website is dedicated to locating fish, so I suggest you start with this seven step process to finding fish from scratch.
Storing Carolina Rigs For Future Use
These handmade rigs are great because they are easily stored in ziplock bags, where they can be tucked away and kept tangle-free for future use.
What about pre-rigged carolina rigs?
I don't see the point in these other than having something else for tackle stores to sell.
It's far more economical to tie your own, especially seeing that tying them is not difficult or time consuming at all.
Sometimes less is more, and that is why I don't fish with pre-rigged carolina rigs.
That and these won't allow the line to flow as freely through the sinker because the sinker is restrained to the wire.
So, you're better off tying your own.
What do you think?
While the guide here for tying a Carolina rig is pretty detailed, it cannot possibly cover every tip and trick used for fishing in every part of the world.
So, if you have your own special way of tying a Carolina rig, or something you'd like to add, then please mention it below in the comments.
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Tight lines, y'all!