​​How to Fish a Carolina Rig for Trout

Fishing for trout with a Carolina rig is a great way to spend your weekend out on the water. These fish can be large and very beautiful, not to mention …

Fishing for trout with a Carolina rig is a great way to spend your weekend out on the water. These fish can be large and very beautiful, not to mention they taste delicious, which makes them a great fishing target for both novice and experienced anglers.

Using a Carolina rig is also a great option as it is a very versatile way to present your bait to speckled trout no matter what season it is. These fish love to feed deep in the water, which is where the Carolina shines, but if you notice trout staying higher up as well, the Carolina can reach them there too.

Can You Use a Carolina Rig for Trout?

Absolutely! The Carolina rig is a very versatile rig that is perfect for trout fishing. Whether you find trout being more active near the surface or down at the bottom, the Carolina rig is versatile enough to reach them in the areas of the water where they are most comfortable.

While the Carolina rig takes your bait down low towards the bottom of the lake or reservoir, it doesn’t bury your bait in the dirt. Trout love to feed low, but will rarely take bait and lures right off the bottom of the water. The Carolina paired with a lightweight or floating worms makes a perfect presentation for trout feeding deep.

Is a Carolina Rig Good for Trout Fishing?

If you are fishing in an area where trout are commonly feeding deep in the water near the bottom, the Carolina is a great choice when used correctly. If you pair your Carolina rig setup with a bait or lure that sinks, you won’t have as much success.

However, put a floating worm or lure on the Carolina rig and trout will take notice. The rig itself will sink low in the water, but the bait will remain above the mud and silt at the very bottom giving trout the perfect area to strike at your presentation.

Carolina rigs are also versatile in how they’re used. This means you can either be a passive angler and just let your Carolina rigs sit in one spot for a while, or you can pop and retrieve the rig to make your bait and lures dance to get the attention of nearby fish.

How to Tie a Carolina Rig for Trout

Necessary Materials

  • 10 pound braided main line
  • 6 pound fluorocarbon leader line
  • ¼ ounce sliding egg sinker
  • Plastic bead
  • Barrel swivel
  • Size 12 single hook

Step by Step Guide

  • Thread the ¼ ounce sliding egg sinker onto your main line.
  • Thread the plastic bead onto the main line behind the weight.
  • Add the barrel swivel to the main line so the bead is between it and the weight.
  • Cut about 2 feet length of your fluorocarbon for a leader line.
  • Attach one end of the leader line to the barrel swivel.
  • Attach your size 12 single hook to the other end of the leader line.
  • Attach your chosen bait, such as power worms, to the hook.

Slip Sinker Rig vs Carolina Rig vs Split Shot Rig

Both the Slip Sinker and Carolina rigs can work equally well when fishing for trout near the bottom with larger-sized plastic worms. However, the Carolina gives a bit more versatility to catch trout in that you can adjust the size of the weight near your swivel in order to control the sinking speed of your big worms and put it right in the strike zone.

When it comes to Split Shot rigs, using big worms and artificial lures for trout is not going to work. In fact, the Split Shot is specifically designed to present small bait in a variety of ways to smaller fish in the area. When trout fishing, the Split Shot rigs will likely be ignored or prone to snapping due to the much smaller size.

What is the Best Carolina Rig Bait for Trout?

When it comes to adding worms to your Carolina rigging, one of the best options is the Classic Power Worm. Whether you go with straight tails or ribbon tails, the bigger worms will get the best results from large fish. Look for worms in the 8-inch range to really get these fish excited.

Additionally, if worms are not your preference or if they don’t seem to be getting the results you want, consider trying creature baits or lizards. These two styles can be extremely successful for both trout and largemouth bass.

You can also give crayfish a try on your rig, though they may fall under the creature baits category depending on who you ask. These crays are great for you to catch trout in clear water where the fish are holding a bit low in the water column looking for meals.

While minnows and shad might be something to think about, they are often not the best choice with a Carolina. The biggest issue is it changes the entire profile of your rig and just doesn’t offer the same presentation as another rig would offer.

Carolina Rig with Floating Bait or Jig Head

When fishing in lakes with the Carolina for trout, using a worm that floats or a floating jig head is very important. Speckled trout will rarely dig into the mud and silt on the bottom of the lake to grab a bait, so if anglers are using sinking worms or lures on their setup, it won’t be getting the attention of nearby fish.

Instead, use floating lures and give it about 2 feet of line for the hook to float above the Carolina. Trout and other fish will easily see this bait and be able to strike it without getting a mouthful of mud in the process.

How to Fish a Carolina Rig for Trout

There are a few different ways you can fish your Carolina to get excellent results from trout. If you’re trying one technique and not getting the results you want, give another one a try and see if it’s getting more attention from nearby fish.

Slow and Steady

This slow dragging is very simple and has no special moves. Start by casting far from the boat or shore and letting your rig sink to the bottom. Then, slowly start retrieving it while also keeping your rod tip low to the water.

This creates a scooting motion on your worms making them stir up sand and silt from the bottom. This is excellent when using craws or other creature baits as it gives a natural presentation and makes hungry fish curious about what is moving nearby.

Heavy Shake

This is a good technique when fishing around sunken trees and heavily weeded shorelines. It’s an aggressive motion that can scare some timid fish away, but will entice the more aggressive and larger-sized fish into striking.

Let your worms and sinker fall through the water and as soon as you feel it make contact with something, give it a quick and sudden shake. This will smack your sinker into nearby trees or rocks making vibrations in the water that trout will notice.

Quick Snap

This is a great option for fish that are extremely aggressive and love to chase. If you’re feeling fish slamming on your bait, the quick snap can give them a bit of a chase before they are able to strike.

You’ll cast the worms out into the water as normal, and let them drop. But during your retrieval, you will be sweeping side to side in left and right motion until it gets closer to the boat. At this time, you’ll start the quick snap motion along with some bottom hops to get fish going wild for your presentation.


This is good for use in water that has a rocky bottom. It’s not only a very useful movement for preventing your worms from getting snagged on rocks, but it also mimics smaller baitfish and crayfish popping and diving along the bottom in search of food.

Keep your baits down at the bottom and simply pop it up a few inches to move it over and through the rocks. This erratic motion will have fish taking notice quickly and will get you some excellent and quick strikes from nearby fish.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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