The old ball and chain

No, I’m not talking about my wonderful wife, Tracey. She’s not a ball and chain. She’s a liberating force that affects my life in a positive way every single day. I’m talking about the Carolina rig.

It’s one of the greatest fish-catching tools we have, especially when the water’s down in the fall and early winter. But, I fear it’s fallen out of favor with a lot of recreational anglers. That’s not a good thing.

My first experience with it was many years ago on one of my first fishing trips down South. It was fall. We arrived at the reservoir to find the water down. The shore looked like a swimming beach. There might have been a half-dozen sticks lying around but that was about all. My flipping and pitching stuff was useless.

As a practical matter I was in a panic. We pitch and flip where I come from. What was I going to do? Then I remembered the ball and chain technique I’d been reading about. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a try. I used my flipping rods. I didn’t have anything else.

In short order I started catching fish, lots of them. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan. And now, with more experience, I think I know why it catches fish and why so many pros use it, even if they don’t talk a lot about it.

There’s nothing that looks more natural than a weightless plastic lure hopping, skipping, crawling and floating along the bottom. It looks like the real thing. Regardless of how much we talk about reaction bites and what we think a bass sees when he or she looks at one of our lures, the truth is that nothing replaces something that looks like the real thing.

As I write that, however, I am reminded that it’s common for a bass to grab the sinker, not the bait. So maybe the “bait that looks real” part of what I said is a little bit too strong. It might be the movement along the bottom that kicks up sand, muck and makes noise that’s responsible for the bite. (If that happens more than once, you should try a Texas rigged worm.)

I suppose it really doesn’t matter what’s going on or why. What does matter is that the bass bites it and we catch them. That’s been my story here in Ohio this fall. I’ve been tearing them up with a Carolina rig. That should continue until almost Thanksgiving unless the weather turns suddenly cold and stays that way.

I’m writing about this now because I sometimes get the feeling that a lot of anglers think they shouldn’t fish with something that’s simple or that’s been around forever. You know, some guys think that real anglers fish with the newest and most sophisticated lures around. Nothing else is good enough.

For what it’s worth, I’ll tell you that’s nonsense. Bass are hard to catch under any circumstances. Do what works. That’s what the pros do.

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