It ain't the sexiest way to catch a bass, so if Bassmaster Elite Series pro Marty Stone is going to drag a Carolina rig, he's going to make sure he has the right bait for the given scenario. Using what he terms a "three-pronged approach," Stone lets the spawn dictate what he runs at the end of his rig.
Hailing from Fayetteville, N.C., Stone commonly works a C-rig in Southern lakes, particularly the TVA reservoirs. His preference is hard bottom — rock or shellbeds. A 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight with a 6- and 8- millimeter Tru-Tungsten Force Bead creates plenty of noise to grab a fish's attention. What bait the fish see when they come to investigate the sound depends upon the time of year.
Right after the spawn, when the fish are in the 4- to 10-foot range, Stone knows the fish are not in the mood to chase, and they're looking for quick, easy meals. Here, a 5-inch Zoom Mag Finesse worm fits the preferences for most. Productive colors are green pumpkin candy, junebug and green pumpkin.
Moving farther past the spawn, Stone works deeper — out to about 15 feet — and switches to a 7-inch Zoom Mag Trick Worm in the same colors. Big females are quickly recuperating from the spawn and increasing appetites push them toward more aggressive feeding.
"The fish are getting out there, and they're really starting to feed up on shad," he said. "I want to throw something different. A lot of people are throwing something short, but I like the little bigger profile of the Zoom Mag Trick Worm."
The bigger worm, Stone said, requires a little more moxie in the fish, but it's easy to tell when that time has come. Also, the larger profile tends to attract more quality fish and weed out the little ones.
"You can tell when the fish [are ready to] go from the Mag Finesse worm to the Mag Trick Worm. With the Finesse Worm, you really have to drag it, and you can barely feel the bites. As those fish get used to being out there, the bite gets more and more aggressive."
Once the fish settle into their summer patterns and commit to the deeper spots, Stone switches to his third Carolina rig bait — a Zoom Baby Brush Hog. Dragging his rig in 12 to 25 feet, his favorite colors for this bait are watermelon red, green pumpkin and (especially) root beer.
"I can get more bites with other baits, but I can throw that Brush Hog out there and get better quality fish," Stone said. "Something about a root beer bait that time of the year really turns on the big fish for me. I think the root beer imitates a bluegill and that's something a bass can't stand. They're already mad at them because the bluegill have been around their beds picking at them all through the spawn, so if you throw something out there that looks like a bluegill, they will flat smoke it."
Stone fishes his C-rigs on a 7 1/2-foot American Rodsmith Magnum Casting rod with a Browning 6.3:1 reel carrying 17-pound Vicious fluorocarbon. He rigs 24 to 36 inches of the same fluoro for his leader and ties on a 5/0, 4/0 or 3/0 offset wide gap hook for a Mag Finesse Worm, Mag Trick Worm or Baby Brush Hog.
Intrinsic to maximizing his bait choice is proper rod work. Stone prefers a rod posture that's just about parallel to the water. Standing sideways towed the area he's working, he'll pivot at his hips and use the full range of his body's motion to move the rod in one long lateral sweep. This keeps his bait scooting along the bottom where the sound of the weight and beads rings the dinner bell.