The ‘Disappearing’ Finesse Rig
May 9th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified May 9th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Livebait is powerful medicine for big bass. As an overwhelmingly tempting and delicious offering, nothing can touch it. Nothing, that is, except perhaps those super-finesse Carolina rigs. When bites go south and bass lock snouts shut, virtually every top angler reaches into his bag-of-tricks for one of these premium life-mimicking rigs. The idea, and a remarkable one among bass presentations, is to hover, suspend and seductively quiver a soft plastic bait in the face of stubborn bass for extended periods of time. Sooner or later, snoots snap, debris erupts and a soft piece of plastic disappears. Pitch the rig out, give the bait occasional movements, and good things inevitably happen.
And yet, as productive as Carolina rigs can already be, enhancements and wholesale improvements perpetually enliven the game. Refinements in tackle, key components, and finally, bait selection, translate into major boosts in bites.
At first glance, it might be tempting to call a swivel the most trivial piece of any Carolina rig. Such a notion, however, is not only inaccurate, but can keep you from attaining finesse-rigging bliss. While we continuously refine presentation via camouflaged lines, leaders and sinkers, we often overlook the swivel itself. If you haven’t already read about the InvisaSwivel, it’s likely because it was originally developed to fool selective, saltwater snipers like bonefish, tarpon and snook. If it holds up in crystalline saltwater environs, it’s hard to imagine any possible freshwater limitations to the InvisaSwivel.
Made from a fluorocarbon-based material called Fluoro-Clear, this singular device not only matches the refractive index of water, but perhaps more importantly, enhances rather than impairs the rig’s performance. While serving as a superior line-twist eliminator that actually “self-lubricates” in water, an InvisaSwivel offers a bonus advantage: it hovers underwater with near neutral buoyancy. These key elements set it far apart from traditional metal swivels that sink and detract from the overall performance of a Carolina rig. In addition, this stealthy little swivel pivots smoothly to 90-degrees-plus in all directions, giving a soft plastic lizard or worm freedom of motion.
Bass pro Chris McDonald concurs: “The InvisaSwivel’s buoyancy properties impart amazing action to a Carolina rig. When I first tested this distinctive swivel, I was throwing a Carolina rig into shallow water so I could watch how it influenced performance. With the InvisaSwivel tied on, it was plain to see that the soft plastic fluke I was throwing danced back to the boat with more action than I have ever seen using a conventional metal swivel.
“Not only does an InvisaSwivel give your softbaits more action on a Carolina rig, but it also purges your line of those horrible twists. This tiny tool is a great choice for anglers who like to fish braid with a fluorocarbon leader. Simple improved clinch knots solidly connect the two lines. And the InvisaSwivel even has two innovative line-slots that totally hide and protect your knots, keeping your rig arrow-straight so it always performs naturally. It’s hard to believe a swivel can make that much difference, but this is one of those ‘little details’ that puts more bass in the boat.”
As we continue to build the ultimate Carolina rig, it’s appropriate to resume our “subtle and invisible” theme. A company called Red Buoy now offers a transparent bullet sinker they call the B2 Stealth Bullit. Composed of a lead-free crystal material, these clear bullet shaped slip-sinkers completely close the visibility gap. The inevitable result is bass whose attention stays locked onto the business end of the deal-the softbait itself, rather than the rest of the rig.
Two bait types of superlative action, appearance, and bass appeal stand above other traditional softbait offerings. When bass are feeding on baitfish, it’s often best to give them something that hovers and rides above bottom, as opposed to sinking and grinding into cover. Select tournament anglers have learned to employ a floating jighead, such as a 1/0 Mister Twister Floating Jighead or 2/0 Northland High-Ball Floater, to keep their softbaits aloft. Simply slide the floating head inside a hollow tube or swimbait, such as a Basstrix Fat Minnow or Northland Slurpies Baitfish Jiggin’ Tube. The baits’ hollow bodies even allow for the insertion of extra scent, or rattles, such as a pair of Danielson Rattle Beads. Rod jolting strikes often occur as the bait pauses and just begins its ascension.
Pull and twitch these baits along bottom for an unbelievably realistic subtle swimming action, buoyant baits slowly rising and hovering on the pause. To perfect the presentation, a longer, moderately fast action casting stick, such as a 7’3″ St. Croix Legend Tournament Carolina Rig rod yields effortless casts with 18 to 36-inch rigs, while crisp, ultra-sensitive tips work baits and detect bites with unmatched precision.
Another “insider” Carolina rig bait delves deeper into the realm of customization: a 6-1/2 inch Trigger X Nightcrawler. Word is just beginning to leak regarding the phenomenal appeal of this soft, tasty morsel. But anglers who’ve used the bait in extreme finesse or pressure situations find themselves permanently designating one rod for its use. Wacky rigged or Texposed with a 1/0 VMC 7316 Wide Gap Riggin’ Worm Hook, once bass bite a Carolina-rigged Trigger X Nightcrawler, they rarely relinquish their grip.
While tournament angler McDonald often employs similar advanced Carolina riggings, he’s recently also refined his drop-shot presentations. “It seems like most of the time when I used to fish a drop-shot,” he reports, “I fought line twist more than I fought bass. The InvisaSwivel has changed all that; it’s really enhanced my drop-shot fishing. I now use a spinning combo to drop-shot a small (12-pound test) InvisaSwivel with 6 pound test fluorocarbon line.” Since fine-tuning both of his two favorite finesse bass rigs, McDonald has never looked back, forever eliminating twisted rigs, as well as significantly elevating his catch rate.
One might even say that the whole approach has begun to feel a little like finesse rigging with real live bait . . .