A couple years ago I wrote an article that included a tip from a friend of mine about using a Carolina Rig to target deep smallies in summer. What I’ve found since then is that there are a variety of presentations and seasons to catch big smallmouth with a Carolina Rig, and the fall is no exception. When you think of fall bass fishing you think reaction baits, fish gorging themselves and generally being rather easy to catch. But sometimes bass fishing can be really tough, and that’s when these presentations can be key to landing those GIANT smallmouth bass that people dream about!
When I found myself in one of those slow days, it was a Carolina Rigged Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube in green pumpkin that finally got the bite going. Set up on a Trokar TK180 (which is a slightly different way to rig a tube, but a great way to rig a small tube that you want to sink slowly) with a 4 foot mono leader. The key was knowing where the fish were, how deep, and reeling the bait as slow as I could and have it come through the grass line. The extra long leader helped to keep that bait up off the ground a little bit longer and actually get hung up in the weeds a little bit because once you popped it through, that was when the bite came. I wasn’t using your typical Carolina Rig, because I didn’t want to make any noise. So I left out the glass beads, and used just one piece of brass with my swivel. I only wanted the Carolina Rig to work as a form of weight displacement, not as a noise generating tool. I could see these fish were getting pounded by crankbaits, jerkbaits, and they weren’t interested, so I wanted the absence of noise to try to be as different as I could.
This is probably the single most underrated aspect of your entire day on the water when bass fishing. How you present the bait makes all the difference in the world. The speed, angle, and depth combine to make the difference between getting bit and getting skunked. For instance, smallmouth bass position themselves a certain way based on the forage, habitat, current, and time of day. So if you cruise into a great spot and don’t get bit, make sure you’ve thoroughly covered it from all angles before you leave. When Carolina Rigging, presentation also means having to use the right baits at the right time to provoke the right bites. On this particular outing the fish were suspended and really lethargic. The water temp was between 49-55 (F) and I was in a part of the lake that had very clear water (15+ feet of visibility) surrounded by dirty water, and I could see fish migrating into that clean water, swimming at about 8 feet. The key was getting as far away from the fish as I could and still reach them with my cast, and working that Carolina Rig just as slow as I could through the grass, at a 45 degree angle from the bank to the deep water.
A little help goes a long way
We all get help. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t fooling anyone. This day didn’t start out crazy good for me. I hadn’t caught a fish for about 5 hours and reached out to my good friend Bill Lortz, who operates a Lake Ontario guide service called NY Northcountry Bassin (click here to see his website), and he gave me some great insight that helped me a lot. Bill has spent years studying these fish and is the only guide I would recommend to someone looking to take the trip of a lifetime for some really giant bass. Speaking of which, there’s a great opportunity for you to enter contest that has nearly $3,000 in free gear including a free trip with him! Be sure to check it out and please share this story with people you know!