Lake Fork Fishing Tips
From Lake Fork Guides
Springtime Shallow Carolina RigsArticle: April, 2011
When bass first move shallow and onto beds in the spring, the fishing can be ridiculously easy. While bed fishermen pluck bass off of beds with a few casts, others catch big sacks of fish by flipping shallow cover or by working weightless soft plastics. But what do you do when the shallow fish have been hammered for a few days and become tough to catch, or when strong winds make sight fishing and casting weightless soft plastics nearly impossible? In these situations, I reach for my favorite back up plan in the spring—the finesse Carolina rig (C-rig).
Why It Works: The finesse C-rig is just a smaller, lighter version of a standard C-rig. The C-rig’s weight allows you to make long casts in the wind and still get the bait down to the bottom, which can be hard with weightless soft plastics like Hyper Sticks or Magic Shads. Best of all, once the C-rig’s weight hits the bottom, the lure will still fall very slowly to the bottom, just like a weightless soft plastic jerkbait. As a result, you still get the tantalizing wiggling and gliding drop of a weightless bait, even in deep water or on windy days. In addition, when shallow bass are getting pressured, the finesse C-rig allows you to fish slightly deeper water for less pressured fish more efficiently than using weightless soft plastic rigs or wacky rigs. By working your bait out a little deeper where most of the other boats are sitting, you’ll find fish that’ll often bite when the shoreline fish have lockjaw, plus have a better shot at a lunker too.
How to Rig: I throw finesse C-rigs on FluoroHybrid Pro line because it sinks quickly, is less visible to bass, and is more sensitive due to its fluorocarbon component, yet its mix of mono allows for much easier handling than 100% fluoro. Most of the time, I spool up with 15 lb test for my main line and leader. In very clear water without much cover, I’ll drop as low as 10 lb test, while 20 lb test is required for pulling big bass out of thick wood cover. As for the rig itself, it simply consists of a sinker, bead, swivel, leader, and a hook, just like a normal C-rig. Depending on the depth and cover, I’ll use 1/8 to 3/8 oz bullet weights, with ╝ being my favorite. The lighter sinkers work better in heavy grass because they won’t bury up quite as much. If I’m working water that is deeper than 8’ or if the wind is howling, the 3/8 oz sinker works best. In contrast to a normal C-rig where I’ll use an 18” to 48” leader, finesse C-rigs cast better and have better action with an 8” to 18” leader. Finally, finish your rig with a 1/0 to 4/0 hook to match the size of your bait.
Unlike ultra-light split shot rigs, finesse C-rigs cast easily on baitcasting tackle and withstand hard hook sets and big fish around cover. I throw my rigs on a 7’8” Dobyns Extreme DX784C Mike Long jig rod and it loads perfectly with this little rig. The fast tip and ultra sensitive Extreme series graphite paired fluorocarbon line allows you to feel even the slightest tap, with enough power to drive big hooks through bulky soft plastic baits on long casts. And long casts with the nearly 8’ rod results in more fish from wary lunkers that are in the shallows.
As for baits, I rig my traditional spring favorites on the business end. I use Lake Fork Trophy Lure’s Hyper lizards, Magic Shads, Live Magic Shads, Baby Fork Creatures, Ring Frys and Twitch Worms; experimenting with different profiles and colors until I find what is working best on that particular day. This past year, the new Hyper Stick has been my go to bait with its tail shimmy combined with the swimming action of a swimbait due to its segmented body. In clear water, shades of green pumpkin or watermelon normally work best, while junebug, Bama Bug and shades of black perform well in stained water.
Where & How to Fish It: Finesse C-rigs work well both in spawning flats and in prespawn staging areas. In spawning areas, back off and fish a little deeper than the depth that you can see the deepest beds and you’ll catch bass that sight fisherman can’t find. At Lake Fork, most beds are visible in 2’ to 4’, so fish finesse C-rigs in 4’ to 10’. Fishing deeper beds with finesse C-rigs is a great way to catch bass when the shallow bite turns off. Moreover, it’s also a great way to catch a big bass because they not only catch spawning fish, but also lunker females that are waiting to move up to spawn. These rigs also shine when fishing points and creek channels leading into and away from spawning flats. Throw a finesse C-rig in these staging areas and you’re likely to catch lots of big bass before and after they spawn.
Depending on the conditions and the mood of the bass, I’ll employ a couple different retrieves, but the key is almost always to let the bait sit with long pauses. Some days, dragging the bait forward and keeping the sinker on the bottom works best. Most of the time, I like to lift the sinker up off the bottom though. This lift allows the soft plastic bait to rise up off the bottom and then slowly settle back down, just like a weightless soft plastic jerkbait. The dying flutter of the bait, followed by a long pause, is enough to trigger fish on even the toughest days. Furthermore, a big lift with or even a snap of the sinker is often required when fishing heavy grass to free the bait.
The finesse Carolina rig is a staple of my spring fishing arsenal. Give them a shot this spring when the fishing gets tough and you’ll likely put more fish in the boat.
Fishing Tip by Lake Fork Pro Tom Redington