By Capt. Steve Chaconas
For most of his 30-year career, Ranger Evinrude pro Peter Thliveros has thrown a Carolina Rig. This simple rig has helped him catch or find fish in just about every tournament no matter the time of year or fishery.
Peter “T” fishes the C-rig where other anglers fish a Texas rig or crankbait. He says guys fish the Carolina rig because they have to, not because they want to.
According to Thliveros, the Carolina rig is easy to fish. Lighter presentations, including Texas rigs are harder for a lot of anglers to use. They lose contact with baits and don’t keep them in contact with bottom cover enough to get strikes. Peter “T” fishes the C-rig from up on the bank, down to 35 feet deep.
He makes long casts, especially in clear shallow water. Often, he casts on the bank and drags into the water when fish are shallow and spooky. Other targets are cuts or holes and edges of grass beds. He throws it year-round with a longer or shorter leader depending on water temperature.
When dragging, weights hit cover first and attract fish to strike his bait. In warmer water or higher activity levels, Peter “T” goes to longer leaders. When water is colder and fish aren’t as active, he shortens the leader down to a foot to keep baits closer to cover. Fish are more lethargic in the wintertime and not as willing to travel a great distance to get the bait.
When Peter “T” fishes a bait caster, he uses a 7-foot rod with 17-pound test Fluorocarbon. In current and tidal situations, he prefers a 7-foot spinning rod with 14-pound test. He drops down in line diameter to cast farther and to reduce drag in the water.
Leaders are tied to regular crane swivels to eliminate line twist. He downsizes line strength on leaders. If hooks get snagged, he wants to break leaders and not lose weight, swivel and beads to make it easier to re-rig.
Rather than glass, he opts for two plastic beads. Glass can crack and get sharp edges to cut line. One bead is oval or flatter with a wider hole to protect the knot on the swivel. The other is a red faceted bead between the weight making noise by clicking against the first bead.
In rocky or wooded areas, he uses an egg or round weight. In grass, it’s a cylinder type or bullet weight. Depending on depth and current, he uses weights up to 3/4 ounce. He uses 1/0 hooks almost exclusively even in big baits.
As far as baits, Peter “T” says there are no limits. He inquires what locals are using on a specific fishery but sticks to basics when choosing plastics. “From California to New York, from Florida to Canada… there are only 4 colors that you have to have…green pumpkin, watermelon, something dark with blue flake in it, something with red flake…depending on water clarity.”
Warm weather fish feed harder or more often because of a higher metabolism, so he goes to larger baits. In cold water, when metabolism is slow, they’re not feeding on big stuff, so he fishes smaller baits.
Bigger, bulkier baits work in muddy water to displace a lot of water and provide a bigger profile. Another time he goes larger is when he’s catching similar sized smaller fish on smaller baits, he upsizes before leaving a spot, seeking bigger bites.
While most of Peter “T’s” approach to Carolina rigging appears to be standard, his presentation and hookset are not.
Rather than dragging the weight to the side, he positions his rod from 9 to 11 o’clock so he can see the line and have control of the bait without letting the weight leave the bottom. He believes his hands in front are more natural and give him a better feel than with his hands and rod down near the water. When a strike is detected, he drops his rod to the 8 to 9 o’clock position and sweep-sets up and to the side nearly over his shoulder.
The key to Carolina rigs is to fish them slow.
Peter “T” says, “Be very methodical with it. I have great success fishing behind other people. I am much more attentive to everything I feel on the bottom and I fish it very, very, slow…I seine an area with it to feel everything…when I come in touch with the right stuff…the right-feeling bottom, rock gravel, stumps…I know I can keep my bait in the strike zone a lot longer with the Carolina rig and I keep it there and fish it as slow as I can to get the fish to bite.”