The Caroling rig, a bottom-dragging rig for offshore structure-fishing originally intended for largemouth bass, has become popular when used in conjunction with live or cut bait for catching big blue catfish, especially on Badin Lake.

Dennis Leonard and Dillion Kerrick from Harrisburg, and Chris Fraley of Mt. Holly used Carolina rigs to catch three great blue cats from Badin recently. Their biggest fish weighed 52.69 pounds, their second biggest, 37.59 pounds.

“We used Carolina rigs baited with shad,” said Leonard. “We fished the rigs on the bottom of a flat in 25 feet of water.”

The Carolina rig consists of a weight, an optional bead, a mid-size barrel swivel, leader and hook. The only difference between a Carolina rig for largemouth bass and a Carolina rig for catfish is the beefed up components of the catfish rig.

For the main line, fishermen are spooling 30- to 50-pound Berkley Big Game monofilament or the equivalent in braided line. A slip sinker weighing up to 3 ounces is placed on the main line, with the weight determined by the fishing depth.

Egg sinkers once were the popular choice, but recently, the no-roll, tear-shaped sinker with a hole in the middle has gained a large following. Whatever the sinker design, it should get the bait to the bottom.

A bead is added to the main line to serve as a buffer between the sinker and the Palomar knot that attaches the main line to the barrel swivel. Some anglers omit the bead, arguing it’s not necessary with stout knots. To the other end of the barrel swivel, a 2- to 3-foot leader of 20- to 30-pound test line is attached with a 6/0 or 8/0 circle or Kahle hook at the business end.

Unlike flatheads, which prefer live bait, blue catfish devour live or cut bait, whether it’s white perch, bream, or shad. 

For snaggy lake bottoms, fishermen add an inline float slightly above the hook to reduce the number of hang ups.

Fishermen often target blue cats by anchoring and fan-casting a number of different rods around the boat, or by slowly drifting or trolling to locate the fish.

With the weather warming in recent weeks, Badin’s blue catfish are moving to the creeks and holing up in 10 feet of water or less. It’s time for fishermen armed with Carolina rigs to make their move, too.