Carolina Rig for Floating Dough Bait
I'm starting this section with something called the "Carolina Rig" because it is great for beginners (as well as veteran anglers), is pretty easy to use and to understand, and because it is one of the most popular and successful bait-fishing rigs throughout the Sierra. Even if you have no prior fishing experience, you can successfully use this rig. You can purchase the leader component (the hook and light line that ties to it) pre-tied for you, so that you need only know how to tie a knot in order to get to fishing right away. It's great if you can master the (much simpler than it sounds) Double Improved Clinch Knot, but in a pinch, a simple overhand (square) not will do.
About the Carolina Rig
The figure below illustrates a typical "Carolina Rig" for presenting a floating dough bait using a treble hook. Typical baits fished with this rig would be floating cheese or dough baits such as Power Bait or Zeke's Floating cheese bait, or even a mini-marshmallow.
A treble hook is used because it tends to hold dough-type bait better. Substitute an appropriate single work hook on this rig for fishing inflated worms or nightcrawler.
You can purchase pre-tied cheese rigs, but I recommend learning to tie your own. This tends to allow you to use a lighter, less visible 2# test leader, as well as tying the leader to the exact height you wish -- and this makes a real difference. For example, you may need a longer leader to float the bait above a weed line, or a shorter leader when fish are "biting softly" or you are encountering a lot of "short strikes".
How It Works
When you cast your line out with a Carolina Rig at the end, the egg sinker can easily slip up and down the line, but is stopped before reaching the end of the line where the hook and bait are, by the snap-swivel (or the optional bead stop, if you've added it). The line runs through a hole in the egg sinker, and can slide through easily. This means that when a fish bites, it will not feel the weight of the sinker, which might otherwise spook the fish, and cause it to release the bait (if it hasn't completely swallowed it).
The swivel is free to turn and twist around and around, so if your line or the bait twirls around in the water or when casting, the line will not get all twisty-tangly. The snap swivel is like a safety-pin or jewelry clasp. It can be clipped open or closed. We open it to clip it onto a loop at one end of the leader (the light line that connects directly to the hook), and then close it so that the leader cannot just fall off. This is really handy, because if the leader breaks off, we can quickly replace it by just clipping on a brand new leader. You can purchase pre-tied leaders (the ones like the one shown in the figure, which have one treble hook at the end are called "cheese rigs"). It's fun, useful, and money-saving to learn to tie your own cheese rigs, but even veteran anglers will usually keep a few "store-bought" leaders in their tackle box, for convenience. And if you are just learning, or simply prefer the convenience of the pre-tied leaders, that's perfectly okay!
We typically bait a "cheese rig" with a floating dough bait. Often, these have a cheesy component, and are whipped or mixed with marshmallow in order to make them float. Not all bait floats, and it doesn't have to. But you can imagine what a nice presentation this rig makes with that tasty, cheesy ball of bait, floating up off the bottom of the lake or stream, just waiting to be gobbled-up by a hungry fish!
When a fish bites or "strikes" the bait, the line will be pulled -- usually in a sharp jerk, as fish tend to swipe at or attack the bait in a quick motion, once they decide to "bite". The main line, sliding easily through the egg sinker will telegraph this "tug" to the end of your fishing pole. For this reason, it's important not to allow too much loose or "slack" line while you are sitting and watching for the bite. Some anglers like to keep the line very tight -- so that they can see the bounce in the end of the pole when the fish strikes. Others like to keep just a bit of slack in the line, and they actually watch the curve in the line from the end of the pole to where the line enters the water -- and when they see the slack disappear, or the line go straight, they know they have a bite. I like this latter method, as I feel that I detect more "soft" bites or "nibbles" this way, but whatever works best for you is the "right" way. Also, if there is a lot of breeze or wind, or if there a lot of wavelets on the water from passing boats or wind, you may need to adjust accordingly.
- Adding the small bead stop is optional, but I highly recommend it for two reasons. First, small snap swivels can get stuck inside the egg sinker, so that the sinker no longer slides along the line. It's really important that the fish not "feel" the weight of the sinker when they pick up your bait, as this can make them shy away. Also, if the line can slip easily, you will feel (and see) the strike more clearly. I've seen many times when the difference between fishermen catching fish or not catching fish came down to how well they could tell when they had a bite! Secondly, the bead can serve as an "attractor". In my experience, red is the best color for this, but you should experiment and find what works best for you!
- You can buy snap swivels that have an angular bend, or those that have a rounded bend. I prefer the rounded ones as the leader tends to settle into the angle of the other type, and I think this alters the presentation subtly. Science, or superstition? I'm not sure, but that's what works best for me.
- If possible, use a black snap swivel and black treble hook (which should be completely out of sight in the bait, anyway). I used to use gold, until a fellow at the dock store told me to try the black, and that they worked better. I tried it -- and now I'm convinced; it makes a difference.
- Take a few minutes - before you get to the water, if possible -- to look over your egg sinkers when you buy them. If they've been well molded, the ends will be clean and smooth. If not, take a file or emery board, and smooth them. They'll work better, and you'll be happy that you did.
Or if you are tying your own cheese rigs: