BoatUS ANGLER: Bait and Tackle
Say What? Fishing Rig Terminology
Lee McClellan, Kentucky Afield Magazine
Terms such as "Texas-rigged worm," "Carolina-rigged lizard" or "wacky rig" are part of a bass angler's everyday lexicon. But to a beginner, the experienced anglers might as well be speaking Chinese.
The Texas rig is probably the most popular fish-catching innovation in the evolution of bass fishing. The term stems from Nick Crème and Crème Manufacturing, the company given credit for inventing the plastic fishing worm. Crème created a double-hooked plastic worm with a straight tail. He tied the hooks to a leader, and then added a couple of red beads and a propeller out front. People called it the "tourist rig" because it was so easy to catch bass with it.
The rig worked great in open water, but snagged logs easily. Crème introduced an improved version of this rig in 1964. He replaced the propeller with a slip sinker and a bead, and the double hook with one large hook. Crème embedded the hook point into the worm to make it weedless. He called this the Texas rig.
The basic design hasn't changed much since.
The Texas rig shines for bass around stumps, submerged trees and in weeds, because the hook is nearly snagless and the sinker punches through the cover. A medium to medium-heavy rod with a stiff tip is needed to drive the hook point through the worm and get the fish out of heavy cover.
A Carolina rig is an evolution of the Texas rig. It employs a ½- to 1-ounce egg or bullet-shaped slip sinker slid onto the main line from the reel, followed by two red glass beads. Brass is the preferred material for the weight. Brass makes a better clicking sound than lead when it contacts the glass on the retrieve.
The main line is tied to a barrel swivel. An 18- to 36-inch leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon line goes on the other loop of the swivel. The leader material is usually a lighter pound test than the main line, such as a 17-pound test main line with a 12-pound leader. A wide-gap offset worm hook goes on the business end.
This rig is versatile because it presents soft plastic worms, jerkbaits, lizards, creature baits and even live bait to hungry bass. The heavy weight of the rig allows the angler to follow contours of the bottom while covering water quickly. The Carolina rig is highly effective for fishing large mud flats, channel drops, ledges, sandbars and submerged humps. It is the go-to bait for many bass anglers fishing deep water, especially in summer and early fall.
You can also toss a Carolina rig onto a brush-covered flat or in the middle of a large weed bed. The heavy sinker on the front of the rig punches through the weeds and brush down to the bottom with the soft plastic bait hovering just above it. This method works wonders for bass on Kentucky Lake.
The wacky rig is a departure from both the Texas and Carolina rig. Several theories abound on the origin of the wacky rig, but one of the most often cited involves two novice anglers bass fishing one of the large reservoirs in Texas. They didn't know how to thread a plastic worm onto a hook properly, so they impaled the middle of their Crème Scoundrel worms and let the ends dangle. The worms hung on the hook like a clown's frown.
The pair threw their worms over weed beds and caught large bass after large bass. When they returned to the dock, a couple of onlookers asked how they did. The two anglers opened their livewells and showed off some huge bass. The onlookers asked what they caught them on and the anglers held up their funny-looking worm rigs.
After some mighty guffaws, one of the onlookers exclaimed that it was the wackiest looking rig they'd ever seen. This was the birth of the wacky rig.
The wacky rig is great for fishing docks and up and under overhanging or flooded trees because you can skip it across the water. The undulating action of the worm drives a bass hanging under a dock or in a flooded tree crazy.
Soft plastic jerkbaits such as the Senko work great for this technique. They also draw strikes fished over weed beds or stumps by pulling the worm up and allowing it to flutter back down.
Don't let terminology stand in the way of learning to fish for bass. Get out this summer and toss one of these rigs in a lake near your home. You'll soon become addicted.
-- Lee McClellan
McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.
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