The Best Soft Plastics for Carolina Rigs

There are Better and Worse Lures for Setting Up a Carolina Rig; Here’s How to Do it Right.

Carolina Rigs by Ben Team

Although anglers have been using Carolina rigs for decades, they’ve been undergoing a bit of a resurgence in popularity lately.  Because Carolina rigs are great for getting your lure deep quickly and covering a lot of water in a short amount of time, they’re especially effective for catching summer bass, once they move back out of the shallows.  Additionally, because summer bass may retreat to the depths to find the dim light levels they prefer, Carolina rigs are often productive throughout the day.

 Carolina Rigs a Quick Review

Before going further, let’s review the basics of the lure and technique.  Rigging up a Carolina rig entails threading a large sinker on the line, followed by a plastic bead and terminating with a swivel.  On the other side of the swivel, you attach a 12- to 60-inch leader, tied to an appropriate hook and a soft plastic bait.

Carolina rigs have a bit of weight to them, so a stout rod is preferable.  Additionally, because it can be somewhat tricky to cast such a long leader, most anglers using Carolina rigs opt for rods in excess of 7 feet.  You can use a spinning set up or baitcasting gear; both work equally well.

Most commonly, the lure is cast out into the water and allowed to sink all the way to the bottom.  Once there, the angler retrieves the lure by dragging it forward about 2 or 3 feet and then letting it pause for a second before continuing.  Usually, the plastic bait stays close to the bottom, but you can impart some up-and-down motion to the bait by repeatedly lifting and dropping the sinker.

Plastic Lizards

Plastic lizards may be the most popular choice for Carolina rigs, and the reason for this is simple: they’re darn effective.  It’s unlikely that their efficacy comes from imitating a specific prey type.  North America is essentially devoid of aquatic lizards, but bass do feed on aquatic salamanders.  However, few salamanders hang out at the depths at which Carolina rigs are used.

Instead, it’s probably a combination of the considerable action these lures produce when pulled through the water, and the fact that these legs may cause the lizard to sink more slowly when pulled up off the bottom.

Creature Baits

Like plastic lizards, creature-style baits feature lots of appendages, skirts and tails.  These produce a lot of action and help slow the plastic bait’s fall in the water.  Most creature baits are relatively bulky lures, which may be another part of the reason for their success – they look like a big prey item.

Plastic Stick Baits

Although plastic stick baits are generally fished in a vertical fashion while wacky-rigged, they also work well on Carolina rigs.  You can rig them Texas-style as you would a lizard or creature bait, which will cause the lure to glide around behind the weight.  Alternatively, you can hook them up wacky-style, to create more fluttering action.


Flukes dart behind a Carolina rig very well, and they often elicit strikes from fish that won’t hit anything else.  Use a slightly larger hook than you normally would when fishing a fluke in shallow water, to help keep the fish hooked up while pulling it back to the boat.

While these plastic lures are really effective for Carolina rigs, they aren’t the only baits that work.  In actuality, you can use virtually any soft plastic bait you like with a Carolina rig.  Let us know your favorite bait in the comments below.

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One thought on “The Best Soft Plastics for Carolina Rigs”

  1. Tom says:

    I mainly use a Cristie Critter creature bait and a Zoom Trick Worm when I throw the Carolina Rig. Both are deadly on the ledges in summertime.