18 Nov Peter Thliveros on Fishing the Carolina Rig
Technique: Thliveros is probably the best known Carolina rigger in the Bassmaster Elite Series. He sees the method as an extreme bottom worm fishing technique. At its core, the Carolina rig employs sinker; plastic, glass or metal bead; swivel; leader line; hook; and plastic worm, lizard or other bait. It is designed to give the angler separation between the weight and the lure to allow the lure to look more natural in the water. Because the weight is not attached directly to the lure, anglers can get away with larger weights (sometimes an ounce or more) to make longer casts and maintain better bottom contact.
History: Thliveros maintains that no one is exactly sure of the origin of this rig, but he and others speculate that it came about in the Santee Cooper reservoirs in South Carolina as a means of fishing a worm more effectively in deep water. It first came to national prominence in 1973 when Bill Dance used the technique to finish second in the Bassmaster Classic on Clarks Hill Lake. In 1985, Jack Chancellor used a Carolina rig to win the Bassmaster Classic on the Arkansas River. Though widely used by professionals and amateurs alike, the Carolina rig has a mixed reputation. Many rely on it in warm weather while others disdain it, calling it the “ball and chain.
Highlights: Thliveros Carolina rigged his way to win the recent Southern Open on the St. John’s River in Florida. He also credits the rig for much of the nearly $2 million that he has won as a professional angler.
When to Use: Warm water is best for Carolina rigging, according to Thliveros. He uses the rig when the water is between 55 and 85 degrees. In water temps below 55 degrees, he goes to a jig. Referencing seasons, Thliveros uses the Carolina rig from mid-spawn through postspawn and until the water turns too cold.
Where to Use: Open water lends itself exceptionally well to this presentation, especially when the bottom is hard or covered with cover, as the rig allows the angler to “feel” the bottom. When fishing the Carolina rig, Thliveros keys in on points of all kinds, humps, creek channels and other underwater structure. He notes that the Carolina rig is best suited for loosely fishing structure, as it is hard to cast the rig accurately. He also uses it to find fish on large, shallow flats.
Tackle: Thliveros’ rod of choice is a 7-foot 2-inch American Rodsmiths Mag Strike Magnum Carolina Rig rod with a medium-heavy action and a fast tip. The action gives it good hook setting strength while the softer tip lets him cast the rig far. He likes a Revo 6.3:1 reel with 12- to 20-pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line. The abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon is a necessity when probing structure, according to Thliveros. Other pluses he cites are the refractive properties, low stretch and good sensitivity of the line.
Lures: Thliveros’ Carolina rig is pretty standard. He uses a Tru-Tungsten sinker followed by a Tru Tungsten Force Bead and a craft bead, then a No. 4 crane swivel. He will use anywhere from a 1/2- to 1-ounce Tru-Tungsten bullet weight, depending on current, depth and the density of the cover he’s fishing. Thliveros prefers tungsten weights because they are denser, louder and translate the bottom structure better than lead. Thliveros’ bait will be one of four Zoom products on a 3/0 offset shank hook: a Super Fluke, a Finesse Worm, a Trick Worm or a Baby Brush Hog.
Basics: Long casts help Thliveros cover water more effectively. He casts past his target, then employs a slow, steady, dragging retrieve while keeping the rod at the 10 o’clock position. When he feels a fish hit, he will quickly determine which direction it is headed, points his rod in the same direction, take in the slack with the reel, then set the hook with a horizontal sweeping motion.
One More Thing: Thliveros says the most common error fishermen make when fishing a Carolina rig is not having enough weight. This means the sinker may never hit bottom and stir debris up and make noise, effectively defeating the purpose of using the rig. He always errs on the heavier side if there’s any uncertainty about how much weight to use.