Catch More Fall Fish on Florida’s Big Bend, Rig “Carolina Style”!

From Capt. Rick Burns:

This week I’ll share one way of how to go about catching our sometimes sluggish Autumn fish with live or cut bait.
I love the thrill and challenge of fooling fish with plugs and artificial lures. But, when these times can render some fish “lockjaw lethargics”, you sometimes have to revert to live or cut bait fishing, or what I call chunking. (Chunking chunks of dead bait to em.) And, especially right now, these holes, depressions, and channels, can hold fish that are trying to find a more “comfort” zone. Say, from 8’ to 25’. And tossing something natural to them can be more productive.
Here’s the reason being. When you have fish that are trying to stay cool or warm or just trying to survive, they  aren’t wasting a lot of energy by moving a lot. They wait for the tide to bring it to them. Therefore, not burning, not needing. But they still have to eat.
Most fish a lot of times, especially at ideal conditions (72 to 78 degree water temps) are happier and more active, and strike or bite artificials out of instinct, reaction, or curiosity.  Yes, you’ve caught fish simply because they wanted to check out that weird color “electric chicken”, or “rootbeer” this, or flashy that. Nothing wrong with that. I’ll keep tossing it to em.
But for now, we’re talking about fishing dropping water temps. So, one of the best setups for bottom fishing is a “Carolina Rig”. This simple but effective rig has been utilized for years and won a lot of money, catching alot of fish in the Bass world. Working worms, lizards and crawdads off the bottom. And, also fished a lot in saltwater situations. Most all of my bottom Grouper digging is fished utilizing this setup. But naturally, you don’t go bottom fishing for Grouper with one rig. They’ll send ya home.  We had at ready several rigs that we pre-tied the night before a trip.
Tip: (You can have at ready, several rigs tied up in various lengths, tests, and hook size, safely wrapped and secured on a piece of cardboard or wrapped around a piece of 1 ½ ” PVC about 12”long and secured with a rubber band.) With the capped PVC application, (accessible at 1 end of course), you can even have extra swivels, beads and hooks stowed inside the tube ready at your disposal.
However, this particular rig can be utilized from everything from Sharks, Cobes and Grouper, to Trout, Reds and Flounder. Just try to size your rig according to the depth and species you intend to target.
Its effectiveness comes from putting your bait in the strike zone, being near the bottom. Sometimes above the grass, or fluttering with the tidal movement. The egg sinker application allows near zero resistance, which coupled with braided line, allows you to detect the very slightest nibble.
Here’s how. First, slip on an egg sinker (The weights with the hole in the middle), or, a bullet weight in (3/8, ½, or 1 oz.), depending on depth, to your running line. Rule of thumb, don’t use something too heavy for too shallow. It just needs to get to the bottom, not anchor your boat!
Next, an orange bead is optional but a good idea. It simply protects your knot, rather than the weight pounding on it.
Then, tie on a good barrel swivel to your running line. (I like the “Sampo” ball bearing swivels.) It keeps your line from twisting all up.
Next, tie on 18” to 24” of fluorocarbon leader. Tip: I always like to have my leader a little less test strength than my running line strength. Reason being, if I get snagged, it will break down at the swivel, losing only my leader rig, instead of breaking off up by my reel.
(Keep in mind; I’m using braid, which may be 8 lb. diameter, 20 lb. test.)
Now, at the end of your leader I like to tie on either #1/0, #1, to even #2 “Kayle” live bait hook depending on species. If nothing else, just tie on a #1 “J” hook and let’s go. “J’s” are what’s used for jigheads and they’ve caught plenty of fish. Circle hooks work as well. (Some people try and split hairs, when the main mission is to just catch fish). And I could write a whole article on just circle hooks.
Tip: To add some “sound” advantage to your offering, tie on a “woodies rattler” rattling hook. Now you have sound and scent! These are awesome! Go to . And tell your tackle store to stock them.
So, now let’s put our offering of, but not limited to, shrimp, (Live or fresh is better, but dead will work. (Just not frozen and thawed more than once. Gets too mushy.) Mullet heads or chunks, fresh again are better. Cut ladyfish. Live or cut pinfish, even cut lizardfish, Squid, or Crab. You get the idea. Something that looks, feels, smells and/or tastes, NATURAL to them.
And the last tip: You can even put a strip of “Fishbites” synthetic alternative to cut bait on your hook alone, or with the offering to really entice the fish. This product really puts out the scent trail. And it comes in shrimp, squid and crab flavors. Go to if you can’t find in B&T’s. Usually an offering like that and all a sluggish fish has to do is open mouth, insert bait. They’ll be more apt to do that then chase down a plastic “electric” what, or “rootbeer” who??

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