By Alton Jones

With so many ways of rigging soft plastics that have been developed over the years, it’s easy to get caught up trying the latest thing. While most specialized techniques have useful applications, often it serves us well as anglers to go back to the basics. The two most classic rigs for soft-plastic baits, a Texas rig and a Carolina rig, remain two of the best rigs around for catching fish.

Both rigs are weedless, which allows you to fish them in a big range of situations, and are easy to rig and to fish effectively. They also can be use used to present almost any type of soft plastic lure.

A few of my favorites for Texas rig fishing are a Christie Critter, Christie Craw, YUM Dinger and of course a Ribbontail Worm. For Carolina rigging, I again like Christie Critter, but I also like the 6-inch version of the new Sharp Shooter finesse worm. Don’t be afraid to experiment, though. I once did very well in an Elite Series event fishing tubes on a Carolina rig, and I’ve used virtually every style of soft-plastic lure with one of these rigs at some point.     
A Texas rig, which is the rig that got the whole soft-plastics craze started back in the ‘70s, consists simply of a bullet weight strung onto the line and a soft plastic lure, rigged weedless on an offset hook.

The weight, which can be lead, tungsten or brass, commonly ranges from 1/8 ounce all the way to 1-1/2 ounces. Determining factors include the water depth, the amount of current, and the thickness of the cover. As a rule, I try to use the least weight that I can fish effectively, given conditions. I always peg my weight, so when the weight sinks the bait stays with it and gets to where I want it to go.

The terminal end of a Carolina rig is the same as a Texas Rig. Instead of being tied to the main line, though, the hook is tied to a leader, which separates it from a sliding weight. To rig, begin by stringing a sinker on your line. Next, add a bead (which protects your knot) and tie a barrel swivel to the end of your main line. Finally, add your leader, hook and soft plastic.

I almost always use a 1-ounce barrel sinker for Carolina rigging. Even if the water is shallow and I don’t need that much weight to get the rig down, it makes casting easer and keeps me in solid contact with the bottom. In addition, the heavy weight kicks up sediment as it drags along the bottom, and when a fish comes to investigate it finds an easy meal swimming along behind it.

The biggest variable with a Carolina rig, beyond the bait itself, is the length of the leader. I rig them anywhere from about 1 to 5 feet in length, depending on current, bottom structure and the mood of the fish.
One trick for Carolina rig fishing is to use leader material that’s about 5-pounds lighter than your main line. When you snag a Carolina rig, re-rigging robs time. With the lighter leader, as long as it’s the hook that gets snagged, you can break off only the hook and leave most of the rig intact.

Rigging the lure on the hook is the same for a Texas rig or a Carolina rig. Insert the point of an offset hook into the front of the bait, run it through roughly 1/4 inch, and push the hook point back out of the plastic. Thread the plastic all the way up the hook, around the offset bend, and over the hook eye and knot.

Next, hold the hook by the shank and let the bait hang naturally to see where the point naturally lines up with the side of the lure. Bend the bait up a bit to push the hook through so the point ends up in that natural position and insert the point in the skin of the plastic. You want the hook point covered so the bait is completely weedless, but you don’t want a bunch of hook buried in plastic, which inhibits hooksets.

Whether you choose a Texas rig or Carolina rig, it’s important to work it with the rod, not the reel. I work a Texas rig with lifts of the rod tip, lifting the rod maybe 6 inches at a time and dropping it back down. For a Carolina rig, I use slow, sideways rod sweeps, moving the rod tip about 18 inches, returning the to the starting position while reeling to take up line, and sweeping it again.

A Texas rig and Carolina rig are different tools, each with strengths. A Texas rig tends to work well for hitting specific targets, while a Carolina rig is often better for making long casts and covering water. That said, when I have ether rigged on my deck, both are often there, and I’ll fish both to see what the bass prefer. Some days they have a very clear preference. Other times, both do the job similarly well.

As a final note, a Carolina rig has become quite popular in the last decade or so, and I think that has made the Texas rig even better because fish don’t see it is as much. The most classic of all soft-plastic rigs has become the rig to use to show the fish something different!